Last Thursday, BAIA, in collaboration with Bank of the West, BNP Paribas Group, brought together a panel of experts to address common questions on personal finance, real estate, taxes, and immigration law that many European residents face when moving to the US.
With guest speakers Elizabeth Shwiff, Randy Delima, Grazia Bennett, James Mayock, and Karen Mayfield, and moderated by Thierry Gabadou, Head of International Clientele at Bank of the West, the event was a big success with more than 100 attendees, all of whom got to try authentic gelato bites from Bacetti, our event’s in-kind sponsor (photo: guest speakers and moderator in order of left to right).
Photo courtesy of Aurora Meneghello Productions
For our international audience in Europe, we have chosen to report on a few select questions and answers which provide a general overview and practical advice on the first steps of the international relocation process to the US.
What’s the best way to transfer funds from Europe to the US?
For this question most of us know the simple, straightforward answer: to send an international wire transfer in US Dollars from a European bank account to a newly opened US account. As Randy Delima, AVP and FX Advisor at Bank of the West, pointed out, a more efficient way of transferring funds is to open a Euro account at a US bank. This means that the currency denomination will remain in Euros and the advantage is that you can decide when to convert Euros into US Dollars.
How do I establish a credit history in the US?
In the US, every time you ask for a loan, be it a bank loan, car loan, or mortgage, the lender will ask you for your credit history and more specifically your FICO score. As Karen Mayfield, SVP and National Sales Manager at Bank of the West, advised us, nowadays lenders and banks have established different methods to establish the credit worthiness of foreign residents who have no prior credit history in the US. In most cases, the bank will ask to see your monthly expenses and evaluate if you pay your bills regularly and on time. As Ms. Mayfield informed us, the best practical advice before leaving Europe is to ask your bank for a letter of credit in English that you can later show to a bank/lender in the US.
How do I choose a realtor and decide when to buy a home in the US?
According to Grazia Bennett, Realtor at Sotheby’s International Realty, the real estate market in San Francisco improved for 2011 and the market accelerated in Q1 2012, soon to become a seller’s market. For a European resident moving to the US, Ms. Bennett advised us that the best solution is to rent since it takes time to assess the “when, where, and why” questions of buying real estate. As Ms. Bennett explained, the next step is in choosing a real estate broker, who should be from a reputable agency, is someone you can trust, is compatible with your communication style, and is willing to do the work for you and go beyond the standard MLS listings.
What’s the difference between a non-immigrant resident and a tax resident?
Yes, there is a difference! The USCIS and the IRS have different definitions for ‘resident.’ In simple terms, for tax purposes one can become a tax resident and still be considered a nonresident in terms of immigration status. On the matter, a follow-up conversation with Elizabeth Shwiff, Managing Partner at Shwiff, Levy & Polo, and with James Mayock, Managing Partner at Elliot & Mayock, is recommended since both taxes and immigration law require specific depth of knowledge. For more information, check out this IRS webpage.
How long does the green card process take?
According to the USCIS, “the steps to becoming a Green Card holder (permanent resident) vary by category and depend on whether you currently live inside or outside the United States.” As Mr. Mayock informed us, the average wait for a European with an undergraduate degree who applies through employment is about 10 years. To put this in perspective and with all else constant, for an Indian resident the process would take an average of 70 years, and for a Chinese resident more than 80 years. However, this is only a narrow example with given inputs. The wait time can be reduced, for example, by obtaining a Master’s degree.
For more information, check out this USCIS webpage.
Moving from Europe to the US has its added complexities. We, therefore, have to make well thought-out decisions and plan accordingly. A special thanks to our speakers and to Bank of the West for organizing this event with us.
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