First Things First: Managing Primary Settlement Concerns
As I have talked about in my previous blog, I left the Philippines last September 2011 not to leisurely spend time in New York’s well-known attractions, but to settle for good with my husband Josh and our son, Joco. So, with my new status as a permanent resident of the United States, I busied myself in my new home–not by wandering and shopping, but by being aware of my rights and my responsibilities.
Here’s a quick list of practical information I have learned and completed in my first few months:
1. Permanent Resident Card
Also known as Green Card, this serves as proof of my legal status in the United States which presents and confirms that I am legally permitted to live and work in this country.
My card was delivered to my home address three weeks after I arrived.
2. Social Security Number
Within three weeks after coming to the United States, I should have already received my Social Security number and card since I requested for it when I applied for my immigrant visa. So, I contacted and visited the Social Security Administration office to follow up on the issuance and delivery. In less than two weeks, I received my card via mail.
This Social Security Number is assigned by the government to keep track of my earnings and benefits. This number is equivalent to my personal information which should be protected from “identity theft.”
3. Health Insurance
Medical care—visits to the doctor, hospitalization and prescription drug coverage are very costly in the United States. Thus, I consider it a privilege to have a health insurance in which a big portion of my medical services are covered by the insurance company. There’s still a small portion of medical bills to be shouldered though, which they call “co-payment.”
Three months ago, I had my full physical check-up just to ensure that I am fit and in good health.
4. Bank account
I regard it as a responsibility to set aside a portion of our current income for future consumption and to have a safe place to keep and store money. Hence, I opened an account. Both the checking and savings accounts help in managing our finances.
5. Credit card
Aside from its main purpose of allowing me to make purchases which I could pay on a later date, a credit card, when handled and managed well, builds a “credit score” or “credit rating” which is a very substantial matter in the United States. A credit rating is crucial in purchasing a home or a car.
6. Driver’s license
For new drivers like me, I applied first for a learner’s permit from Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by completing the application form, by paying the application fee, by passing the vision test, by presenting proofs of my identity—Permanent Resident Card, Social Security Card, etc., and by taking the written test, which I passed with flying colors. Yes, I got the perfect score. And yes, the test was easy simply because the reviewer and sample test is so available online.
I still have to practice for the road test and take a DMV-approved licensing course to finally have my driver’s license.
7. School for Joco
To enroll Joco for school is one of the first things I took care of when we arrived. But when I was researching for schools in our local school district, I was surprised of these two main things: First, thinking it was too early to occupy myself with this, I was surprised when I found out that most schools with pre-kindergarten were already full as early as January 2012. Second, I was shocked to know that a Pre-K tuition fee in a private school here costs a fortune. My God, I could already buy a decent second-hand car in the Philippines with that tremendous amount of money.
As early as February 2012, we enrolled Joco for his September 2012-2013 class.
So, there. With this guide of the first things to look after and handle, I can say that I am on the right track in managing primary settlement concerns.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Citizenship, Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants, Washington, DC, 2007, Revised Edition.
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