Welcome to the United States of America! Being an immigrant is a unique, exciting, and often overwhelming experience. For millions of immigrants here in the U.S., it can also be extra challenging if you need to earn a living to support yourself, while also supporting loved ones back home.
This helpful guide provides information for immigrants who are:
- About to arrive in the U.S.
- Newcomers to the U.S.
- Already settled in the U.S. and have lived here for some time
The most important thing is ensuring you feel at home in this amazing country. So here are just a few things you can do, and where to go for more assistance.
Did you know?
According to Pew Research:
- The US has more immigrants than any other country in the world—meaning you are among many, many friends.
- In 2018, immigrants accounted for 13.7% of the U.S.population (that’s a lot!).
- Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population, followed by China, India, the Philippines, and El Salvador.
- As of 2018, about half of the nation’s immigrants live in just three states: California, Texas, and Florida; and most immigrants live in just 20 major metropolitan areas, with the largest populations in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
Learn (or improve) your English language skills
As an international migrant living in the United States, you can only benefit by knowing how to communicate in English. Not only will it help you settle—over time, it will also help you feel more connected to your new home country.
If you can, start English language training before arriving in the U.S. This will help ease the transition as you look for housing and work, and communicate with others. But if you’re already here, there is still good news: there are lots of local and online services, many of them free or at a low cost, to help you boost your English language skills:
- Internet. Learn English from home or on the go with your smartphone or tablet. Check out https://www.usalearns.org/ for free courses, or look into low-cost apps like https://www.babbel.com/.
- Schools or non-profit organizations. Every state, county, and city has its own English education programs and resources. Look into school boards, community colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations to find local programs.
- Libraries. In some communities, libraries offer English classes and materials to study—sometimes even for free.
Keep in mind, it is easier for younger people to become fluent in a new language, so if you are an adult, don’t be too hard on yourself as you learn—you will get better with time.
Don’t give up: you can do it!
The longer immigrants have lived in the U.S., the greater the likelihood they are English-proficient. About one-half of immigrants living in the U.S. five years or less are proficient. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years or more are proficient English speakers.
If you have lived in the U.S. for some time now, you likely have figured out your housing situation. But if you are completely new to the U.S. or have only been here for a few months, you will need to find a place to live. Many people stay with friends or family members when they first arrive in the U.S. If you are seeking your own place, you have two main options: buying or renting.
Buying a home
No matter what state, city or community you live in, you can be assured there is a real estate agent to help you. Look online, listen to radio ads, and check out local realtors who advertise on billboards. Make sure to do some research and speak to several people before deciding which agent to use—this is a major purchase, so you want to ensure you are comfortable with the person you will do business with.
Renting a home
There are many ways to find a rental unit in the U.S.:
- Look for “For Rent” signs on buildings and public bulletin boards at libraries, grocery stores or community centers.
- Ask friends, relatives, and co-workers if they know of places available to rent.
- Go online to research places—most cities have websites where you can search by budget, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and more.
- Look online for property management companies—these are businesses that rent out apartment buildings and houses.
- Check the Classifieds section of your newspaper (whether print or online).
Make sure to budget for housing
In the U.S., most people spend at least 25% of their income on housing. Keep this in mind when looking for your new home to ensure you can afford it in the months and years to come.
Want to know more about what to expect when buying or renting a new home? Check out the U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Guide for New Immigrants.
Get informed—and involved
Americans are an incredibly proud and patriotic people. Even if you know just a little bit about U.S. history, politics, and current events, this will help you feel more connected to your community. To learn how the U.S. was founded and how the government operates, check out this guide for new immigrants.
Meanwhile, people in the United States also have a strong tradition of volunteerism and engagement in civic life and institutions. If you have time, consider volunteering some of your time to a local cause that is meaningful to you. Volunteerism and community engagement help you build and strengthen relationships with others—because by getting more involved socially, this increases the possibility for bonding with others. Check with local non-profits, community centers and immigration support centers to ask about volunteer opportunities.
Keep in mind: volunteering can also help you build skills, increasing your chances for employment!
Becoming a U.S. citizen?
Knowing your U.S. history and government is especially important if you plan to take the test to become a U.S. citizen. You must also ensure you pass a basic English test. Visit the Citizenship Resource Centre for more information here. (And good luck!)
Other ways to thrive in the U.S.
Find services and programs for immigrants
Take advantage of organizations and service providers that specialize in helping international migrants like you. They have a strong understanding of and respect for different cultures that come from outside the U.S. They should also have a wide range of resources in multiple languages as well as contacts and other resources to point you to, in the event you need more than they can help you with. Plus, they can provide you with opportunities to meet other people from your home country.
Look for a job (or a different job)
Your local immigration center can provide you with a list of places to look for work, may be able to connect you with other people in your field, and even help you build or update your resume.
Stay in touch with loved ones
It can be lonely living away from your home country. So set up your phone plan and internet service as soon as possible. If you are unable to access the internet from home, go to your public library—they may provide free internet services on-site. To stay connected with your home country and also help out your family, consider paying your loved ones’ phone bills using a trusted service provider like uLink.
Trust in uLink
uLink was created by international migrants, for international migrants. We are committed to helping you enjoy your new life in the United States, while also supporting your loved ones back home. We offer the following services:
Get started with uLink today
Download the uLink Money Transfer app to support your loved ones in a safe, fast, and convenient way—when it matters the most.