Documents you must have when you become a US Lawful Resident

Documents you must have when you become a US Lawful Resident

Are you curious what documents you will always need to have with you if you are/become a U.S Lawful Resident or Citizen?  

Well, in this blogpost, we will provide you with the list of those required to have documents and put them in different categories based on priority, need, and use. 

Some Documents may or may not be applicable to you, depending on age, need, situation, or place of residence.


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NOTE: This Article will be updated based on public verified recommendations as well as newly legislated laws. 

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So, are you ready? Let’s jump into the details!


Priority #1 

1- Social Security Card

• Once you arrive to the U.S, you will automatically be assigned a social security number, and you should receive your SS Card no later than two to four weeks. I recommend you to visit the nearest Social Security Administration Office to check your SS Card delivery status if you didn't receive it in that timeframe. You can always ask them to print for you an official document that shows your SS Number in it to use it temporarily till you get your SS Card in the mail.

• You will always need your SSN to prove you are permitted to work in the U.S. You will also need your SSN to apply for any government/state benefit, apply to school, apply for  a credit card etc. This document is confidential, so be-careful who you share it with.  

2- Green Card

• Once you arrive to the U.S, you MUST pay the $220 USCIS Immigrant Fee online unless you meet one of the exemptions.

• Once the fee is paid, you will automatically receive your Green Card in the mail no later than two months. You can always call USCIS for an update if it is taking longer. 

• You will always need your GC to prove your lawful immigration status whether to get a job, admitted to school, open a bank account or re-enter to the U.S. This document is also confidential, so be-careful who you share it with.  

3- Selective Service Registration

• If you are a Male U.S Citizen or Male Lawful Resident, whose age 18 through 25, you MUST register online for the Selective Service once you arrive to the U.S. 

4- Phone + SIM Card

• Having a smartphone in the U.S is a necessity. Your life and integration will get a lot easier and faster if you get a phone with data as soon as you get to the U.S. For instance, you can use your phone to:

+  Keep in touch with friends and family.
+  Use your phone number utility bill as one of the documents to prove your home address.
+  Provide your contact number to the Bank, School, Work, Insurance, DMV, and all other services
+  Google translate if you are having a hard time understanding someone.
+  Use different productive apps for work, school, transportation, and other services. 
+  Navigate around the city using a GPS.

• You can check the following blogpost for the list of Major & Affordable Phone Carriers in the U.S, if you want to find what Phone+SIM-Card fits your budget and needs. 

5- Bank "Checking" Account 

• Most financial transactions happening in the U.S are electronic transactions or debit & credit cards payments, cash is rarely used now days; therefore, opening a bank checking account is important once you arrive to the U.S. You can use your account / debit / credit card to:

+  Pay your bills (rent, phone, internet, water, electricity, insurance, car, education ...)
+  Shop online.
+  Pay for your groceries, gas, bus/train pass, dining, and other services.
+  Transfer money to friends and family electronically.
+  Use your bank account statement as one of the documents to prove your home address.

• You can check the following blogpost for the list of Major & Popular Banks in the U.S if you want to discover more about their different accounts, services, bonuses & offers, as well as how to open an account.  

6- Bus & Train Pass 

• If you are new to the U.S, you need to have a mean of transportation either to go to work, grocery shopping, school, or run errands. Having a friend to help take you to these places is great, but relying on yourself is better to be able to learn faster, and become more responsible. Therefore, I recommend buying a monthly or weekly bus/train pass at first, especially if you live in a big city like Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. Once you have a job, and can afford a car, then buying one will save you more time navigating around.

• You can buy your Bus/Train Pass at most Train Stations, sometimes you can buy them from 7-Eleven Stores and local Grocery stores or Pharmacies, depending on the city where you live.    

7- Identification Card " ID "

• You need to get your ID as soon as you get to the U.S, since it is the document everyone asks for to verify your identity. In the mean time you can use your passport as your ID.

• You can get your ID from the nearest Department of Motor Vehicle facility "DMV" or Secretary of State. The facility name is different form state to another.

• Most states require you to have some documents to prove your immigration status and 2 documents to verify your residential address. And for that you can use:

+  SS Card, Passport with yours DV-Visa, Green Card
+  Bank Account Statement
+  Phone Bill
+  Pay a fee (between $10 - $35) 
+  A friend to cosign for you 

• Search on the internet for more and accurate info about ID card requirements. Make sure you only read government websites (URLs always end with ".gov").  

8- Driver License  " DL " 

• You need to get your DL as soon as you get to the U.S if you are planing to drive a vehicle. It can also be used as an identity verification document (with the new REAL ID rules, YOU CAN ONLY HAVE ONE IDENTIFICATION DOCUMENT, EITHER an ID OR a DL). Most states will allow you to drive in the U.S with your foreign DL temporarily (the period depends of the state of residence) till you get your U.S DL issued. 

• You can get your DL from the nearest Department of Motor Vehicle facility "DMV" or Secretary of State. The facility name is different form state to another.

• Most states require you to pass two assessments, a writing test plus a driving test. But before that, you need to apply for a DL by providing some documents to prove your immigration status and 2 documents to verify your residential address. And for that you can use:

+  SS Card, Passport with yours DV-Visa, Green Card
+  Bank Account Statement
+  Phone Bill
+  Pay a fee (between $10 - $35) 
+  A friend to cosign for you 

• Search on the internet for more and accurate info about DL card requirements. Make sure you only read government websites (URLs always end with ".gov").  


Priority #2 

1- Address Change

• Every time you move to a new place, even if it is across the street, or even in the same building but different unit, you are REQUIRED to submit your Address Change Online or at the Post Office "USPS". That will allow them to forward all your mail to the right address.

• Every time you move to a new place, you are REQUIRED to Change your address with the USCIS. Changing your address with the U.S. Post Office will not change your address with USCIS. Please update your information with both USCIS and USPS.

2- Health Insurance

• Health Insurance is Optional in the United States; however, I highly recommend all of you to get health coverage, since healthcare services are very costly.

• Check  to calculate an estimate of how much your Health Insurance Plan may cost you.

3- Tax Return

• Individuals are Subject to a Calendar Tax year beginning Jan 1st and ending Dec 31st. Tax returns in the U.S are usually due on April 15th of the following year covering the calendar year period. You should Always file your tax return on time to avoid IRS tax penalties.

• You can always Signup for an IRS account, to check the Status of your Tax Return Refunds, Make and View your Payments, Access Tax Records, or even get your Tax Transcripts.  


Priority #3 

1- Apartment Lease/Rent Agreement

• Most states require home owners or apartment complexes to issue a Lease/Rent Agreement for their attendants. 

• It is always recommended to have a Lease/Rent Agreement, in case there is any issues that may arise, you will always be protected. 

• You may always rent a room/apartment/house without an agreement or contract at your own risk.

• Read the following blogpost to Learn more How and Where to Search and Find a House/Apartment/Room for rent, and Discover Important Factors you Should Always look for in your next apartment hinting

2- Rent/Property Insurance

• Some states/cities/properties require you to have insurance the day your lease starts. Some others are flexible about it and consider it optional.

• If you want Recommendation on some of the Affordable Rental Insurance Options, read our linked Blogpost

3- Electric/Gas/Water Billing Account

• Some properties require you to setup water, gas, electricity accounts under your name; some properties ask only for electricity or gas accounts; Whereas, some other properties don't ask for anything since rent already include all utilities.

• If utilities are on you to pay, ask your landlord to provide you with the name of the utility companies he is using, then call them directly to setup an account with them. Be prepared to pay a utility security deposit if you don't have a good credit score

4- Vehicle Title

• This is the legal document that proves your ownership of the vehicle. It is to be stored in a safe place at home. You will get your vehicle title once you register your car the first time.

• If you bought a used car, you and the seller need to fill out the seller's vehicle title and both sign it, then you can take that seller's title with you the day you register your car at the DMV to apply for a new vehicle title under your name. The vehicle title looks like this.

5- Vehicle Registration Card

• To show that the vehicle is registered under the owner's name. Need to be renewed every year

Some states and cities provide you with a front windshield sticker; others, have a license plate sticker; however, some others require both stickers to be posted on your vehicle to legally drive it.

• You can get your vehicle Registered in the nearest Department of Motor Vehicle facility "DMV", Secretary of State, or County Tax Office. The facility name is different form state to another.

You should always have your registration card with you when driving

Most states Require you to get your Auto Insurance and your Vehicle pass Emission Testing before you can proceed with your vehicle registration. 

6- Auto Insurance Card

• The majority of the states require you to get your vehicle insured before you can drive it on public road. Only two states, New Hampshire and Virginia, that don't require car insurance, and let you drive at your own risk, but it's highly recommended to always have your auto insurance.

• Different states have different Insurance policy minimum coverages.

You should always have your insurance card with you when driving.

• If you want Recommendation on some of the Affordable Auto Insurance Options, read our linked Blogpost

7- Vehicle Lease/Rent Agreement

• If you are only renting the vehicle, this document is required to prove you are leasing/renting that vehicle, in case you were to be pulled over by a police officer. You will be provided with this document by the dealership or car rental company on the day you rent/lease the vehicle. Please make sure you pay rental insurance or use your existing auto insurance. 


Priority #4

1- Passport

• You need to always make sure your passport is valid for at least six month before you plan to travel with it. 

• If you are using a non U.S passport, you need to always take your Green Card with you when traveling abroad.

• You can Apply for your U.S passport online or at any USPS (post office) if you are/become a U.S Citizen.

2- Naturalization Certificate

• Once you go through the naturalization process, and pass your interview, you will be required to attend the Naturalization Ceremony, where you will officially be sworn and become a U.S Citizen, then be handed your Naturalization CertificateIt is the legal document proving your U.S Citizenship through Immigration.

3- Birth Certificate 

• Anyone born in the U.S can get their Birth certificate from the state vital records office or County Clerk's office of the city where they were born. It is the legal document proving your U.S Citizenship.

4- Marriage Certificate

• You can get your marriage certificate from the U.S state vital records office or County Clerk's office in the city where you live/got married. It is the single legal document proving your marriage to your partner.

5- Consular Registration Card 

• Some countries require you to register yourself at the Embassy/Consulate of your origin once you establish your residency in the state where you reside. That will allow your Embassy/Consulate to handle all your civil matters and documents such as renewing and obtaining your passport, ID, birth certificate etc.



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