Whether you just landed in US or have been here for sometime, being connected to friends and family is important. Cell phone is one way to go. Before you sign a contract or pick a pre-paid phone, look below for the various options available so that you can make an informed decision.
You can go with one of the two options:
- Contract: You get into a typical 2 year contract at a locked in price and a free
- No contract: You just choose the plan and pay for the device and start using the phone.
Cell phone contract connection:
One advantage of contract phones vs. non-contract phones is the allure of free device (or in some cases heavily discounted price). For example, when I was with AT&T on a 2 year contract, at the end of 2 years, I got to keep my iPhone 4S (I initially paid $199 for the device), now having moved to T-Mobile – I have to pay for my iPhone 5S on monthly instalments as I am on a no-contract simple choice plan. Which is better? Depends on what is that you are looking for. I wanted unlimited everything and don’t mind shelling out a few bucks for the device. My friend hates the idea of paying for device so she renewed another 2 year contract with AT&T.
T-Mobile: I use their simple choice plan with unlimited everything. It is a bit expensive but worth it compared to the peace of mind, knowing that my bill is not going to be jacked up no matter what my usage, is awesome. They just introduced ‘unlimited music streaming’ that doesn’t count toward your regular data plan, if you happen to be on limited data plan. One of the best features is ability to use text and data from over 120 countries. I have not even bothered to ask if they have contracts but included them in this section as they started off as ‘contract based’ service provider.
AT&T: I have used AT&T for 2 years and honestly their coverage is great. What sucks though is their outrageous costs. You sneeze you get charged, you cough you get charged but their customer service is one of the best. AT&T has learned their lesson, in my opinion, as they just introduced no-contract and unlimited plans recently. If you are ok with few extra bucks for good coverage and great customer service then AT&T has it all.
Verizon: Verizon claims to be the best in coverage. You can get an unlimited call and text plan for $45 to $55. Verizon got to top of charts in customer service and coverage in the 2014 poll. If you are more about coverage and always on the go – then Verizon maybe right for you.
Sprint: Sprint’s Framily™ plan helps you save as you add more and more people to your existing line which you start off at $55 for unlimited call, texts and 1 GB data and you can get it to as low as $25 if you add enough friends and family. Everyone gets a separate bill so your personal phone usage details stays personal.
No Contract Cell Phones:
If you want a hassle free mobile phone connection without writing off your estate to the phone company then you have great many options available. Including, but not limited to:
Straight Talk: You can get a basic phone or a smartphone to use Straight Talk. At the time of this writing, they have iPhone which you can get a full price and start using the Straight Talk. Price ranges from $30 to $60. $60 plan includes unlimited international calling, which is an awesome deal to begin with.
Boost Mobile: At prices ranging from $40 to $60, Boost has been picking up. You have the option of adding international calling minutes to your plan. At the the time of this writing, they were offering 20% off on iPhone and $100 credit for switching.
Metro PCS: With their 4G phones for all plan – you get a shot at getting a free 4G Android phone for free. Plans range from $40 to $60 – all of the plans include unlimited calling and texting, nationwide. They have add on text plan for Mexico.
Cricket Wireless: Plans range from $25 (Basic) to $60, including taxes and fees. One added feature is the ‘free text’ to over 35 countries. They also carry a great variety of devices to choose from.
T-Mobile Simple Choice: I had to include this under no-contract section too just in case you forget that even though it is one of the big players – it still offers no-contract mobile services. The plans are comparable to other no-contract plans.
So many choices – what to choose? Depends on what you are looking for. If it is a free device you want – you may get into a contract, if flexibility is what you are looking for, you may go with no-contract plans.
Verdict: In my personal view, T-Mobile wins the race, with Smart Talk closing in.
Happy connecting to your friends and family.
Disclaimer: All of the details as of June 2014. Informational purposes only. Not an advice.
Applying for Social Security number in the United States
Social security number (SSN) is a nine digit number issued by Social Security administration (SSA) which serves as your ‘national’ identification for numerous purposes in the United States.
What is the purpose of social security number?
You will need an SSN for pretty much everything in the US. For instance, SSN is required when applying for:
- Credit card
- Opening a bank account
- Renting a place
- Buying a car
- When you apply to get a mortgage, car loan or whatever in US, you will need to show your credit rating and a credit rating cannot be established without an SSN which ties all your credit aspects together.
Who can get a social security number?
In general, if you are NOT a US citizen, you will be eligible to apply for SSN only if you are authorized to work in the US. The only way someone on an F1 visa (student) can get an SSN is by documented authorization from the school to work on campus, or in case of J1 visa holders with a letter issued by employer in order to pay for the training/work performed in US.
What documents do you need?
You will need at least two documents, including:
- Visa stamp page with an unexpired passport
- Work permit documents, eg: for H1B visa holders this would be Form I797.
If you are US citizen then you will need:
- Birth certificate (you can also use your passport for this purpose)
- U.S. Driver’s license (unexpired)
Can I take copies of my documents?
No. You have to present yourself at the social security office with ALL original documents (copies certified by the ‘issuing agency’ are acceptable. For passport – your passport office in your home country or embassy would be considered issuing agency). Social security officer will verify all the documents against your application.
Note: Even though you may be able to mail your documents – as SSA will need to see original documents we do not recommend mailing. That is why we mentioned the need to visit personally.
Where do I apply and what are the steps involved?
Step 1: complete the application Form SS5. Instructions to complete the form are provided within the form.
Step 2: Print out the completed application, put together all the documents required along with completed and signed application form
Step 3: Schedule an appointment with your local Social Security Office. Visit: www.ssa.gov/locator/ for location details.
Step 4: Visit the Social Security Office and present your application and documents.
Step 5: Wait for the social security card to arrive in 10-14 business days.
Step 6:If your card does not arrive, contact your local social security office.
Step 7: Once the card is received, ensure ALL your details are printed correctly.
What if my details on the SS card are not printed correctly?
If you have a name change or notice that your details are not spelled correctly – contact your local social security office immediately and schedule an appointment. When you visit them – take official documents showing your correct name. You may be asked to apply for a replacement card with correct details Your SSN will not change, in this case, only your details will be updated.
Do not confuse social security number with an individual tax identification number (ITIN):
As stated earlier, you can apply for SSN only if you are eligible to work in the US. If you are looking to claim your kids on your tax returns who do not work, they do not need and may not be eligible for an SSN. In this instance, you can apply for a ITIN with your tax returns by completing Form W7 and attaching copies of passport (including visa page) ‘certified’ by issuing agency OR by visiting your local Internal Revenue Service center (IRS) Tax Assistance Center with your dependents and their original documents. More info on ITINs is here:
Disclaimer: Please note that the above information is provided based on our experience and
research and is NOT intended to be used as an advice. Please consult professionals if you need assistance.
Most countries issue ‘international’ driving license. If your country has this option, it is recommended that you get this before coming to the US. Some states, for example, New Jersey will let you exchange your international driving license for the State driving license. Other States will let you drive using your international driving license. This means, in some States, you can rent a car using your ‘international’ license.
Photo source: mexikids
Most States, however, do not recognize your home country international license and you will need to go through the 3 stage process to get a license.
i) Computer based/written exam
ii) Learner’s permit
iii) Driving exam and regular license
i) Computer based/written exam: Before you go for the written exam, go to the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) and get the State guide. If you don’t want to go personally, you can always grab an electronic copy from the State’s website. My unreserved recommendation is to visit: http://www.dmv.org/driver-handbook.php and select your location for the State’s handbook. You need to familiarize yourself with the material in the handbook before scheduling your exam. Call the DMV (http://www.dmv.org/dmv-office-finder.php) and schedule an appointment for the written exam. You CANNOT drive to the DMV when going for the written exam since you don’t even have learner’s permit.
ii) Learner’s permit: When you successfully finish the written exam, you get a learner’s permit. You need to produce required documentation (Visa document, visa page from the passport, SSN card (if you have one), proof of address) to the DMV officer to issue a learner’s permit. Remember that you cannot drive alone with a learner’s permit, you always need a valid license (not learner’s permit holder) holder present in the car when you drive with your learner’s permit. And, you need to have insurance. It is illegal to drive without insurance in the US. Some States take this very seriously and the consequences may be serious, including, prison and/or deportation.
iii) Driving exam and getting license: The DMV officer will drive with you to test whether you are ready to drive or not. When going to the DMV office ensure that person coming with you has a valid license and insurance. DMV officer checks for these. Your exam starts at the parking lot, the way you sit, put your seat belt on, looking behind when backing up, whether your indicator lights work and whether you ask your passenger (in this case DMV officer) to put on the seat belt on or not, ALL these are part of the exam. Once on road, DMV officer checks for the speed limits and signals (a stop sign means complete halt and go, not slow down and go). It is required that you follow the signals without fail. Once you pass the exam, you need to produce required documents to get driving license, so carry them with you.
You will need to carry your passport, immigration documents, I94, Social security card, proof of birth and proof of address with you. Some DMV offices don’t accept credit cards so ensure you carry enough cash with you. Some DMV offices require you to visit the specific DMV location that serves the county you are a resident of, call the DMV before your visit.
Please note that you need to have a proof of residence before you visit the DMV office.
Click on the http://www.dmv.org/ga-georgia/apply-license.php and change the location on the left hand bottom corner to your desired location for more information on the State where you are applying for the license.
If you have just migrated to the United States for studies or to find a greener pasture, you will definitely experience stress in getting around certain things. One of such hassles is getting a phone without a SSN (Social Security Number). This can be very frustrating since you cannot make any voice call in the meantime.
Is there any option to bail you out while waiting for a social security number? Sure, keep reading to find what options are available.
When thinking about the possibility of getting phone without SSN, the following tips are helpful;
Tip 1: Go for a Prepaid Phone Service
A prepaid phone service plan will work for international students or other immigrants. Alternatively, you can pay a security deposit. You can also take advantage of a local AT&T to obtain a security which is exchanged for a security deposit, and the contract could be as long as one year.
Tip 2: Participate in a Group Plan
One of the ways to overcome the difficulty involved in getting a phone without SSN is to join a group plan. This option is common among students. You will see a group of students flocking together and leveraging family plans. At least, it will enable you to make voice calls, plus the low charges that come with the plan.
The family plan pays better. However, finding individuals to band with is another challenge. But, it is not as hard as you think. Just brace up and ask your friends or someone you know. You will likely come across people who are also looking for individuals to band with.
While these two major ways of getting a phone without an SSN are popular, you may still find other ways out. Ask around, especially from old students, friends or colleagues.