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Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Old Oct 28th 2015, 3:33 pm
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Default Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

As I am half way through the very long and protracted move from the UK to Texas, thought I'd share my experiences and some of these are thanks to great advise on here.
In summary I work for BT and they are moving me to Texas on an L1-A, family on an L2 for "three years". I work in Cyber Security.
Visa:
BT have engaged a third party to help with this. Basically they did an OK job, but I have had to correct some of the DS160 material they had created before it was submitted. This process is actually not much more painful than an ESTA, there is just a few more questions.
I will say though, that do not necessarily assume the US Embassy "photographer" list is any good. The lady who did ours took great pictures, they passed the test, BUT she made the digital copies too big a file size to upload, so I had to convert to a smaller format. I would have expected a basic test of competence on their preferred list!
Our interview is Friday. I have been briefed and it sounds like lots of waiting around rather than talking as its a blanket agreement for BT, so normally the process is interview light, waiting around heavy.
Car:
I have used International AutoSource and got a Ford Escape for $350 a month for 20,000 miles, three years. Pleased with that. My US colleagues who can buy locally said that's an exceptional deal for someone with "bad credit". The process was simple and they registered me with the AIG inbound programme which has helped elsewhere!
Bank Account:
Said inbound programme got me a Bank Account, prior to SSN and move with a credit union called Advancial. They are used to dealing with expats in the Dallas area and have specific programmers and products. So one bank account has been opened (they accepted my companies address in the short term). I picked up our Debit Cards last week whilst we were over for a family visit. (just need to activate them, which might be fun on the phone bill!)
Schools:
As stated we had a family visit last week. I "refactored" a holiday to Florida to take in 8 days in Frisco TX where we want to live. The ISD there is one of the best locally and both schools my kids will go to let us look around and even started the process for my 16 year of grade assignment. As it happens he was given 14.5 credits and can get 3 more by exam when he starts. This puts him ahead, at this time, of the 26 point target Frisco set (24 is the national average). My daughters school were brilliant and did a tour like she was a celebrity!
House:
We'd picked the schools out, which picked the area we could live in. I have had a Realtor engaged for some time. I paid a visit in August to get an idea of what we could afford and what we wanted, briefed the Realtor and this time we went to make a pick as we are near the sharp end.
The Realtor is working for free (well she isn't she gets her money off the landlord!). This is normal.
So the first house we picked out the Landlord's Realtor was a bit of Richard and wanted all sorts of monetary and company guarantees. It was a lovely place, but had been on the market for 120 days. He'd dropped the price several times. Our Realtor sensibly told us not to go behind his back and in the end he wouldn't accept that I was solvent and had a great job...
The 2nd house was completely different. Owned by an actual property company, which I think made the difference, the lease contracts were drawn up in a day and the landlord even threw in a Fridge and a Washer/Dryer, which will save us $2000 when we move over. Also accepted an 18 month lease. Having our own realtor to draw up the contract was great as she negotiated a few changes, including a longer snagging time on the house, plus fixing a few things we'd spotted on the initial view. As its also season end, we got a good rental price.
Best thing is they will take direct deposits/transfers and we can do this from the UK if we need to.
The nightmare was they didn't tell this to start with and getting a money order over there is not helped by UK banks fraud protection and prevention processes. Long Story short, Buying a Money order is actually an ATM transaction so you get your daily ATM limit... *SIGH* Luckily I had four cards, and by taking money out before 6pm CST and then after 6PM CST we got our deposit... Watch that one if you need to do a Money Order!
To Do:
I have a quote for moving the Mutt over and its with a company that comes recommended. PetairUK. Its run by vets.
The company has paid for airfreight and has engaged Galleon. These are white glove movers. I am impressed by the fact they came to check every item and work out the cost. BT is paying, and although we were over our shipping limit, its being covered (which is great!).
I'm using emoov to sell our house. Everything, where possible, is done remotely. So light touch on time. Mostly email. Pay on result. Only the booked viewing (my mum has handled whilst we were away) is awkward. All the Conveyancing is email/electronic or by courier.
We've got medical cover from BT for the first two months and then my payroll insurance cuts in. There is however the "Blessing" of having to pay for the kids to be immunised to be able to go to school. Waiting for that bill! (not!). BT won't pay for that!
Once our visa is confirmed BT will let me book our flights and our first week of accommodation. They were will to pay for two months, but I wanted to be in an area where there are no suite type hotels and actually keep the kids in the same school that they will be in for the next few years. I also get a car for 6 weeks until my Escape arrives.
We are moving over the Friday before thanksgiving week, so that we have time to settle in before the kids start school.
Best thing is that I've introduced the wife to Nebraska Furnitture Mart on our last visit so that we can go there on a mission to furnish the home, not spend all day gawping...
And AIG have got me the same status with T-Mobile as someone with a credit history so phones to pick out without restrictions! Plus all the insurance that they do is a cinch to get. The forms even make sense for US ones!
Again thanks for all the help, advice and words on here.
Happy to answer any questions if people going through the same process.
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Old Oct 28th 2015, 3:50 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Well done!
AIG are brilliant - even if you end up paying for them yourselves you'll be saving money somewhere that will more than cover it. We got the advancial credit card with them and it did the job - although you can't get that untilyou have a social security number.

2 things I will mention:

get a currency exchange service set up to avoid the whole "money order" or transaction fees from the bank. Services like Worldfirst will take a couple of weeks to get going but it's worth it. Do it now before you leave the UK. Bear in mind that if you transfer money with a bank unless you negotiate the rate beforehand you will get whatever rate they are offering and it may well be a lot below the market rate. Use a FX company ( bears repeating!)

Empty house insurance - you must notify your current house insurers if your house is going to be un-occupied. Premiums will almost definitely go up and we had to install a security service with cameras/sensors and remote access with neighbours/friends they could contact.
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Old Oct 28th 2015, 5:01 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Advancial are excellent. Within 9 months of being here I have managed to get $25k worth of credit cards which I absolutely would not have got without Advancial starting the credit call rolling for me.

AIG are also excellent. Really helped us.

One thing I would say is that we use Cricket Wireless for our phone. $60 a month for unlimited everything, but also 1000 minutes and 1000 texts to the UK a month

Good luck with the move!
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Old Oct 29th 2015, 4:50 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Originally Posted by markcst View Post
The ISD there is one of the best locally and both schools my kids will go to let us look around and even started the process for my 16 year of grade assignment. As it happens he was given 14.5 credits and can get 3 more by exam when he starts. This puts him ahead, at this time, of the 26 point target Frisco set (24 is the national average).
Did your Son get GPA points awarded to him for all those credits as PF recommended? When we moved here in 2000 although my daughter was awarded credits which enabled her to graduate early (awarded, she earn them) they didn't give her the GPA points which affected which university she attended. That was standard at the time and is still true in a lot of school districts but PF has indicated that is not true in your ISD. As your son wants to study Physics, his GPA will be important as will be the university he attends - UT is best for studying and future jobs if he wants to stay in state.
PF will be able to advise you on how to obtains scholarships (she has very recent experience and is very knowledgeable on the subject)as for visas or even GC holders they are not readily available. If you are still on a visa once he start applying to college, he might be able to study in the UK despite the residency rules as a visa is considered a temporary absence. If your son does decide to study in the UK, read the going home forum as there are several ways to argue against the residency requirements.
Also I noted in your 2nd post on the forum you say your Son wants to work part-time but as far as I am aware, children of LI visa holders cannot work. Someone who is a more recent LI holder will no doubt say if that is true or not.
Well done on the car loan, working on that myself at the moment. Getting the loan will be fine but getting the right price for the car is an art apparently. Getting there though.
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Old Oct 29th 2015, 6:34 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Sounds like you have everything well under control.

Having a refrigerator, washer and dryer included as part of the rental is perfectly normal so I'm not sure that your landlord actually gave you anything there, but who cares - you got the house.
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Old Oct 29th 2015, 7:29 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
..... Having a refrigerator, washer and dryer included as part of the rental is perfectly normal ......
Fridge, stove, and probably a microwave, yes, I would expect, but not laundry appliances, at least not around here. Maybe it's a regional thing?
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 3:56 am
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Wow, I have just moved to Dallas too.. well Plano to be specific so I am literally just the other side of the 121 to you! I moved here with my company in mid September, also for 3 years, also on a L1, and I also have got a Ford Escape from IA and a tMobile contract through AIG!!

Definitely recommend getting a FX account set up I have one with TorFX and it is brilliant, literally the transfer comes through to my Wells Fargo account in a matter of a few hours.

In terms of the interview there was some waiting around but honestly it was pretty quick, we were through and out in less than 2 hours. I found the same in terms of the SSN. For that I suspect you may have some advice but my company organised for a local relocation agent to support me through the process and she took me to the office on 10824 N Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75231. It was only about 30 mins to drive there down the 75 but they are quick and efficient - when you go in go through the first room and down a corridor to your right and then book in at the machine there. We waited about 30 minutes and my SSN arrived exactly a week later.

In terms of my experience so far we were preoccupied about how the kids would settle especially as my son is not a big fan of change. Well so far they have settled brilliantly (apart from a few tears on day one and some major confusion over maths homework involving coins!) and the school have been absolutely fantastic. I agree on the immunisation front though - my kids have a permanent fear of nurses. And when we got here my son had to have another DTap injection (diptheria and tetanus) as in the UK they give it between 3 - 5 years (he had it at 3.5 years old) but in Texas the school rules are after the age of 4 and the school wouldn't accept the difference. One to watch out for. It only cost $23 to have so no biggie but after all the Hep A/B he definitely did not want another injection!!

Anyway just wanted to say good luck with the move and how nice it is to hear someone else relocating to Dallas! PM if you want anything else (we have flown our dog over on PetAir too btw!!)
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 1:02 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Originally Posted by jjmb View Post
Did your Son get GPA points awarded to him for all those credits as PF recommended? When we moved here in 2000 although my daughter was awarded credits which enabled her to graduate early (awarded, she earn them) they didn't give her the GPA points which affected which university she attended.
Could someone please explain this GPA credit thing, and why it's important?

My son has just moved high schools, having done his freshman year in AZ. He's been giving credits for his AZ classes no problem. He might even have been given GPA credit, as they talked about how his letter grades would transfer (old school does straight A=4, B=3, etc; new school slices it down further into eg 91%= A- = 3.725, or some such). His Honor level classes have also been recognized as such.

But even if they start his cumulative GPA from 10th grade, presumably that's only important if he got stellar marks as a freshman, but then starts going downhill after that, so loses the 'buoyancy' benefit of the high grades in those early classes? And I imagine the same thing the other way round - it might be useful for some kids to 'lose' a mediocre 9th grade along the way.

Is this right? I'm a little hazy in cumulative GPA overall, only being a year or so into parenting a high schooler. I'll probably know more when the semester reports come out.
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 2:14 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Originally Posted by markcst View Post
And AIG have got me the same status with T-Mobile as someone with a credit history so phones to pick out without restrictions! Plus all the insurance that they do is a cinch to get.
Just buy the phone outright. You are clearly of means, I doubt $500-700 is going to make much of a dent in the grand scheme of things.
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 2:44 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

this page gives a good explanation What is a GPA?

When my daughter attended high school, it was a combination of class position, GPA and SAT. Since then AP and IB have also become more common (even in TX) She actually did some AP and dual credits (school/college) but still her GPA was not high enough for UT because of the credits she was awarded without a GPA when she moved over here. PF will be able to give you more guidance as she has recent experience of the system.

Basically from the time your child starts High School you should be considering which University they want to go to and what the requirements are for that university. Unless you are a high achiever who is for applying mega scholarships and the elite universities, everything is down to your application as no one is interviewed, so for a good university, your application has be above the standard of others to guarantee a place and also your standing within the university. Although my daughter missed out on UT as she was outwith the 10% group (which we didn't know about until she started applying for college), her GPA was high enough to get her on the honors class which meant throughout her college years, she got first choice on all her subjects and didn't have to wait on the alphabet surname system. By the time you get to the senior classes in university, spaces are limited and often you have to wait around for class if you are unfortunate enough to be a popular class and the last on the registration group list, which means you are there for more than 4 yrs if you have wait a semester to do a class.

We have friends who have planned out their kids schooling from Kindergarten to ensure they get into the right middle and high schools to get into a university that is highly ranked. Obviously if you move around, you end up being disadvantaged and not all credits are excepted from one state to the next, let alone another country.
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 3:19 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

kodokan, reading through your post again, doesn't seem like your son will have a problem. The only reason I mentioned it to the OP is because if the son is a high flyer he might be wanting to go an elite school and scholarships but if his credits have not been awarded the GPA points, he might find it difficult but as PF daughter proved, its not impossible.
Until my daughter started work she really didn't appreciate how important the college you attend affects your first placement at work and how it affect how you work your way up the ranks. As we live in Austin, this particularly true about UT graduates. Don't get me, wrong she went to a good university but it was not an elite school of which TX has several. However, if you are patient type (my daughter is not particularly that type) what college you went to will eventually fade to background as she is now finding. Picking the right subject is equally important in the sciences, unless you want to be doctor, biology is not going to do you much good.
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 3:31 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

Hi......just want to say that I have lived in Frisco, Texas for 17 years now and would be happy to answer any questions.
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 3:56 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

kodokan, the GPA is a bigger thing in Texas.
It's not just "GPA" that counts - it's the weighted GPA that puts your kid into the top 7% in their Rank in Class at HS. Being within the top 7% means automatic entry to UT and a really good degree at in-state cost.
Also, whilst the "good" universities claim that they pay no attention to weighted GPA, they do look at the RIC as a preliminary screening tool - especially for the heavily oversubscribed courses.

It's all pathetic bollocks and I'm sick of having my kids jump through stupid hurdles when I'd much rather they just went to school to, well, be educated. That apparently is asking too much.
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 5:58 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

So let me see if I've got this straight (and apologies to the OP for thread drift, but hopefully this is helpful to them too).

Let's say a kid takes 6 credits each year for four years, gets As in everything, A grades earn 4.0, and he therefore runs a 4.0 GPA (I'm assuming everything's unweighted). For a regular kid, that would be 96 grade points divided by 24 credits, so 4.0.

Are you saying that sometimes a transferring kid gets completion credit for (in my son's example case) their freshman year at School A, but not the grades? And that then works into the multiplier, so the kid gets 3 years' worth of A grades worth 4.0 each (72 in total), but divided by the entire 24 credits they actually have over the four years, so they only end up with a 3.0 GPA and a vastly reduced class rank?

If so, I see the problem! My son is going to be majorly hacked off if that's the case; he treats the whole GPA thing as one giant game to finesse to perfection, and is looking forward to getting ranked.

I thought either his grades transferred and fed into the cumulative GPA, or only his new school grades would be counted but divided over 3 years, so either way it's a wash. I guess I'll find out at some point.

Still, I've just checked and Ohio doesn't do that auto-intake by class ranking thing, so it shouldn't particularly matter. I imagine universities are aware of this as a thing, and capable of looking at an application that's off the scale as regards SAT and ACT scores, has a fistful of APs and Honors classes with high grades through the Junior and Senior years, yet is somehow running a very low GPA overall... 'oh, there are two transcripts, from two different high schools... got it now...'

I think I'll suggest he takes the requisite AP exams to be admitted at Russell Group unis, and applies to the UK, as a back-up!
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Old Oct 30th 2015, 8:08 pm
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Default Re: Move to Texas. Update(s). House, Car, Schools, Visa, Bank Account etc.

oh, it's waaaay better than that Kodokan.

Different school districts offer different weighting for different subjects. So, it actually all means bugger all except that it affects RIC. University admissions will often just ignore the weighted GPA as they quite rightly see it as gaming by the schools.

My advice for anyone bringing their kid into the US system after 9th grade and intends them to go to "college" here is to get the child to take as many exams as they will pass well. As Kodokan says, GPA and RIC low but brilliant SAT/ACT/IB/AP results will show a true picture. BUT here is the kicker - make sure you go "non-traditional admissions" for the colleges. All the colleges will have at least one person in admissions used to dealing with international kids, kids that have been moved around a bit and you can get them to take the admission form and evaluate it separately from the hordes. Otherwise, as I said, RIC less than stellar and they will put it straight on the "perhaps" pile.

Would it surprise you to know that I know a young woman at a very well known private college in LA - she is studying CS and Engineering and last year she was asked to help out in the admissions office. Yep - RIC above 10 went in the "perhaps but not really" pile. Those kids in the top 10 got to the admissions people. I think this college had about 700 applicants for each CS place.
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