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California- J-1

California- J-1

Old Feb 5th 2012, 11:12 am
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Default California- J-1

Hi guys,

Been a few months since I've posted but I have a bit of an update. A VERY LONG UPDATE SORRY!

After living at my parents home (I'm 24) and scrimping and saving (selling my car and cycling in the snow to work!) I managed to get a job offer in the U.S. ( went out last December for interview) for a sales training program in a legitimate company- I've had experience of all those terrible MLM, Pyramid scheme companies. The training program also gives a reasonble salary with a little bit of commission on top- from what I've seen in the city data forum and on here, I should just about get by...

The training program is why I'm going on a J-1 trainee visa and have my embassy interview in a few weeks. The position starts off in Los Alamitos for the first 2-3 months to learn about the company's operations and then I will hopefully move to the office in San Francisco for the remaining 15 months.

The point of the J-1 is to gain career training, so I'm aware I have to reassure the embassy my intention is to return to the U.K. after the 18 months.

Now after that spiel, I have a few questions/thoughts about heading over:

Plane ticket - Due to the nature of my visa I'm concerned an open return would be frowned upon, would the checkpoints guys refuse my entry if I only have an open return and not a set date return?

Health insurance- As a legal requirement, the J-1 requires Health insurance which is included by the company I'm using (they are on the government J-1 sponsor list). I'll read the policy this weekend in more detail but the jist I get is I'm covered for emergencies but standard Dr's visit I'll be paying out...
I'm healthy, 24 with no medical history so I'm not hugely concerned, particularly as after 3 months of the training scheme I am covered on the company's medical (I'll be receiving the policy from them on Monday). If anyone's had any experience switching medical insurance in this way then your advise would be most welcome!


Renting - I'll be looking for a room to rent in a house/apartment in Long Beach/ Seal Beach/ Huntington Beach/ Los Alamitos area. I'm signed up for roomates.com, craiglist has places (I know I have to be careful with Craigslist!). As I'm only temporary in the area this may be a sticking point. If anyone knows of any LA County/ Orange County temp affordable (700-800 a month) accommodation then please let me know! I have friends in the area who's places I can stay at whilst I find my feet also which is a help.


Car - By far my biggest concern! I haven't driven in a year (i know, i know) so im getting temporary car insurance on my father's car just to get the feel again. I've been on the roads before in l.a./orange county so i kinda know what to expect- but will prepare as best i can.

My j1 sponsor said not to buy a car for the first 10 days as my SSN won't have come through so I'm looking at renting a car for the first couple of weeks before buying a 2nd hand 'banger'.

I'll also be spending my w-end reading about buying a 2nd hand car (getting a mechanic to check, slimy dealers etc) but if anyone could recommend any reasonably reputable 2nd hand dealers in the Orange County/ LA County area then that would be great!

As you may of read, I'm planning to move to San Francisco after 3 months so be without a car won't be a disaster but as I'll be working in South San Francisco I think it would be inconvenient for me not to have one.


I'm incredibly excited but also very nervous- particularly about the car! If anyone has any pointers or general advice (for the above!) then I would be very appreciative! I'm quite informed about other areas such as banking but please feel free to mention key points you believe I've missed.

Thanks alot for reading!

James
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Old Feb 5th 2012, 2:02 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

Plain ticket is fine.

Company policy for insurance is whatever they say, there often is a period before it kicks in so if they offer emergency cover that's good.

No idea about when to buy a car, that won't matter but you'll not be able to get a license within 10 days, but do get the temp license and try sort it as soon as. Don't go for the SSN till 10 days after entering the country.
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Old Feb 5th 2012, 5:52 pm
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Default California- J-1

Thank you Bob,

I'll be entering the country 14 days before my J-1 visa program is supposed to start- I guess I'll have to ask my visa company whether it's 10 days after entering the country- or 10 days after the program starts?

I wasn't aware you could get a temporary license? It said something on the DMV about it being ok to drive on your foreign license:

"If you are a visitor in California over 18 and have a valid driver license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California driver license as long as your home state license remains valid."

Under the guidelines on the DMV I don't think I'll be counted as a "resident" as I won't be voting, paying resident tution etc...

Before buying a car i'll have to rent... Would anyone know any reasonable car rental companies baring in mind I'm 24 years old! Avis and Auto Europe are coming up on Google as the best value for money- does anyone have any experience with these guys?
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Old Feb 5th 2012, 6:15 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

Hi it's 10 days after entering the country. You need a US address for your SSN as it is posted out to you initially.

On a J visa you fall under the resident category in California for driving so you MUST get a CA licence. You can drive on your UK one for the first 10 days but after that you need to have a CA licence. If you make an appointment at the DMV and pass the written test they will issue you a full temp licence based on your UK licence. You still have to do a behind the wheel driving test to get this converted to a normal drivers licence.

When renting a car please be aware of CA insurance requirements. If you don't have any insurance of your own the likelihood is you will need to urchase insurance from the rental company, this can be about $30 a day.
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Old Feb 5th 2012, 6:59 pm
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Default California- J-1

Hi Gilly, thanks for your advice.

I have friends houses/apartments I can have the SSN sent too, which is good.

As soon as I get the SSN I'll have to visit the DMV right? It's going to be tight for me as I'll arrive about 14 days before I'm going to start work and will need transport.

Am I correct in thinking the temporary license lasts 90 days and you only need to take a written test for it?

Also, Is it possible to buy a 2nd hand car/ register it/ insure it without huge hassle on a temp license? Well, as much free hassle as there is when buying any 2nd hand car!

Thanks again for your help!
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Old Feb 6th 2012, 12:25 am
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Default Re: California- J-1

Originally Posted by BKKJames View Post
Before buying a car i'll have to rent... Would anyone know any reasonable car rental companies baring in mind I'm 24 years old! Avis and Auto Europe are coming up on Google as the best value for money- does anyone have any experience with these guys?
You might be stuck with Enterprise because a lot of rentals won't rent a car to under 25 year olds, not without being even more stupidly expensive.
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Old Feb 6th 2012, 12:27 am
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Default Re: California- J-1

Originally Posted by BKKJames View Post
Also, Is it possible to buy a 2nd hand car/ register it/ insure it without huge hassle on a temp license? Well, as much free hassle as there is when buying any 2nd hand car!
Depends on the state, but buying it shouldn't be a problem, no idea about registering and plating it, but insurance shouldn't be a problem, just a lot, lot more expensive than you'd be used to, especially till you get a local license.
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Old Feb 6th 2012, 4:06 am
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Default Re: California- J-1

Originally Posted by BKKJames View Post
Hi Gilly, thanks for your advice.

I have friends houses/apartments I can have the SSN sent too, which is good.

As soon as I get the SSN I'll have to visit the DMV right? It's going to be tight for me as I'll arrive about 14 days before I'm going to start work and will need transport.

Am I correct in thinking the temporary license lasts 90 days and you only need to take a written test for it?

Also, Is it possible to buy a 2nd hand car/ register it/ insure it without huge hassle on a temp license? Well, as much free hassle as there is when buying any 2nd hand car!

Thanks again for your help!
The following is the California Drivers Handbook which which has all the information that you need to know for the written test. You don't need an appointment for the written test but you can just show up at any DMV to take the test.

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/driv...oc.htm?lang=en

When you later take the driver's test, I'd suggest that you make an appointment at one of the DMV's in some quiet suburb so that when you go on the road, the streets will be wide and the traffic light. Also schedule the appointment in between the rush hours but not during the noon hour when people are out at lunch.
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Old Feb 7th 2012, 2:02 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

Hi James,

Exciting times ahead for you!

When I was in California on a J1, I was told that I did not need a CA licence, as I wasn't a permanent resident. I checked with a number of people and everyone agreed.

Now they may all have been wrong, but I never had any problems not having one, and rental companies were quite happy to rent to me etc.

Apologies if I'm giving you the wrong advice here, but it's probably worth checking about the DMV before you go applying for one.
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Old Feb 7th 2012, 2:08 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

Originally Posted by lucelib View Post
Hi James,

Exciting times ahead for you!

When I was in California on a J1, I was told that I did not need a CA licence, as I wasn't a permanent resident. I checked with a number of people and everyone agreed.

Now they may all have been wrong, but I never had any problems not having one, and rental companies were quite happy to rent to me etc.

Apologies if I'm giving you the wrong advice here, but it's probably worth checking about the DMV before you go applying for one.
The word "resident" for driving license purposes means resident as in living in the state and doesn't refer to immigration status.
The OP may be able to get away with using his UK license but problems may arise with insurance, especially if he's unfortunate enough to get involved in an accident.
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Old Feb 7th 2012, 4:15 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

We have had this argument on here before. In fact it is far from clear what the California DMV means by resident. If I remember correctly there is an obtuse sentence in the drivers handbook that describes it as e.g. registered voter etc etc. Its not clear to me that the OP would be a resident by the DMVs obscure standards.
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Old Feb 7th 2012, 6:25 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

Originally Posted by lucelib View Post

When I was in California on a J1, I was told that I did not need a CA licence, as I wasn't a permanent resident. I checked with a number of people and everyone agreed.

Now they may all have been wrong, but I never had any problems not having one, and rental companies were quite happy to rent to me etc.
The issue would be finding out after a accident that your insurance cover had been voided because the company deems you to be driving without a valid license and all the ball ache of a fall out that comes from driving without a license.
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Old Feb 7th 2012, 8:02 pm
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Default California- J-1

Thanks all for your kind responses,

As mentioned, I'll be hiring a rental car for the first 10 days before the SSN comes in. My friend recently came back from the U.S. and he used these guys http://www.supercheapcar.com/rates.html- had no problems with them and he's used them 3 times before... if anyone has any experience then please let me know! (I'll google them and dig a little further also).

I really don't want to take any risks when it comes to insurance so when possible I'll get the temporary drivers license as soon as the SSN comes in!

I know L.A. is bad for public transport but I'll try and get by with just using that for a couple of weeks before I get the temp license (I'll be living in Long Beach/ Seal Beach/ Los Alamitos area) and buy a 2nd hand car

Maybe a naive question, but is there any DMV phone line that answers queries such as these? Ideally if I had a headed DMV letter saying this would that be acceptable ? Or would a policeman/insurance company/ hospital not see it that way?
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Old Feb 7th 2012, 9:17 pm
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Default Re: California- J-1

Originally Posted by lisa67 View Post
The word "resident" for driving license purposes means resident as in living in the state and doesn't refer to immigration status.
The OP may be able to get away with using his UK license but problems may arise with insurance, especially if he's unfortunate enough to get involved in an accident.
+1

No, the DMV isn't very clear about their definitions of resident; they actually say

'Residency is established by voting in a California election, paying resident tuition, filing for a homeowner’s property tax exemption, or any other privilege or benefit not ordinarily extended to nonresidents.'

That last part is nice and vague.

Maybe if you're just here for the summer you can argue that you're just a visitor, but if you're moving here for several years -- if you rent an apartment, own a car, pay bills -- then I don't think you'd have much luck claiming to be a visitor. Every other J1/2-holder I know has a CA license. The 10-day thing is a pain, but apart from that it's a simple process, plus the card is invaluable ID.

(I wouldn't expect the DMV to be much help with issues like this. The people who are going to give the issue close and serious scrutiny are a) your insurance company, if you need to make a claim, or b) a police officer in an exacting mood.)

Glad to hear your plans are going well, James.
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Old Feb 16th 2012, 8:06 pm
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Default California- J-1

Thank you Moshi!

Yes it's a bit of a more realistic offer this time hah! Although it's becoming stressful planning for how much everything is going to cost.

I know they say you can't survive without a car in LA/Orange County but I've found a few places very close to where i'll be working!

I see there's a few car threads out there at the moment so I won't bring up an issue already being discussed elsewhere...

I know this a tad vague but just to get a hint... does anyone have any experience for car insurance costs for a new citizen in the U.S.- baring in mind i'll be driving a safe Japanese Old Honda circa 98 or equivalent (probably) just so I can get a rough idea...

Thanks again for your help!
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