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Two Brits moving to California

Two Brits moving to California

Old Aug 15th 2011, 4:25 pm
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Default Two Brits moving to California

Hi everyone, great forum you have here

I've tried to find as much relevant info I need both on here and on the USCIS site before posting about our situation, so hopefully there shouldn't be too much retreading over old ground.
However, there are a few finer points I would really appreciate clarification on.

My long-term girlfriend (both of us of English descent, and British Citizens) and I are considering moving to Los Angeles as she has been offered a significant promotion at work and is highly/specially-skilled in what she does.
I am currently a freelance creative.
We are likely to be married before the end of September this year, and the Visa applications would be submitted as soon as we are married.

I can drive (current UK Licence), she can't. She might learn, if pushed, one day!

Her company is dealing with her (L-1B) and my (L-2) Visa applications through their Attorney in the US. They are a large American company.

Taking it that the above goes smoothly, onto my reason for posting here:

The things I was hoping for advice/clarity on are the practicalities of setting up 'life' as soon as we arrive in the US, and work out the best order in which to do things. My apologies in advance...

- I intend to work in the US (either on a freelance or employee basis), so will require an Employment Authorisation Document, and am aware that it can take ~90 days to process.
Some threads on this forum advise filing the I-765 on paper rather than online. How exactly is this done - by post, or in person?
What is (and would I need to book) an InfoPass appointment to apply for my EAD?
Should I be applying for my EAD as soon as I arrive in the US?

- Some threads also state that I must await my EAD before applying for a Social Security Number.
I have read that it is advisable to wait a fortnight or so before applying for our SSNs as it will give our identities time to propagate the system.
It sounds like we will need SSNs to get basic Utilities.
Should we file our SS-5s online, in person, or by post? Is there a preferred option?

- I have also read that California DMV require me to apply for my State Driving Licence within 10 days (!) of becoming resident there if I wish to drive in Los Angeles, and that I need an SSN to apply for that - though I couldn't find anything confirming this on California's DMV website.
Is it possible to buy, insure and drive a car in LA for the first few weeks on my UK licence, and without an SSN?
If not, are there covering notes / forms I can use to circumvent the problem?
I would be buying a cheap used car, privately (Craigslist or similar), with cash.

All advice gratefully received!

Thanks, Neil
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 4:45 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Are you getting married in the US or UK?
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 4:49 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N-B View Post
Her company is dealing with her (L-1B) and my (L-2) Visa applications through their Attorney in the US. They are a large American company.

Taking it that the above goes smoothly, onto my reason for posting here:

The things I was hoping for advice/clarity on are the practicalities of setting up 'life' as soon as we arrive in the US, and work out the best order in which to do things. My apologies in advance...

- I intend to work in the US (either on a freelance or employee basis), so will require an Employment Authorisation Document, and am aware that it can take ~90 days to process.
Some threads on this forum advise filing the I-765 on paper rather than online. How exactly is this done - by post, or in person?
What is (and would I need to book) an InfoPass appointment to apply for my EAD?
Should I be applying for my EAD as soon as I arrive in the US?

- Some threads also state that I must await my EAD before applying for a Social Security Number.
I have read that it is advisable to wait a fortnight or so before applying for our SSNs as it will give our identities time to propagate the system.
It sounds like we will need SSNs to get basic Utilities.
Should we file our SS-5s online, in person, or by post? Is there a preferred option?

- I have also read that California DMV require me to apply for my State Driving Licence within 10 days (!) of becoming resident there if I wish to drive in Los Angeles, and that I need an SSN to apply for that - though I couldn't find anything confirming this on California's DMV website.
Is it possible to buy, insure and drive a car in LA for the first few weeks on my UK licence, and without an SSN?
If not, are there covering notes / forms I can use to circumvent the problem?
I would be buying a cheap used car, privately (Craigslist or similar), with cash.

All advice gratefully received!

Thanks, Neil
Hi Neil, welcome.

Firstly get your girlfriend to learn to drive, living in LA without driving is virtually impossible and will make life extremely hard.

You have to send a load of paperwork off to get your EAD, I think this is why it is often quicker to file by paper than online, if filing online, you still need to mail the paperwork and I think extra time is added to match the documents up to the application.

Filing by mail is just a case of mailing off your form and documents, you will get a confirmation back, followed by an appointment for your biometrics which is when you will go into a USCIS office and have your fingerprints taken. I have also read conflicting advise on SSN's, I applied for my EAD first and then got my SSN, but have read of people doing things the other way around.

To get your SSN's you go to the SS office and do it in person.

It's impossible to get your driving license within 10 days, as you won't even have your SSN by then. As soon as you get it, you can go to the DMV show your UK driving license and take the written test, they will then give you a temporary license, valid for 3 months, in which time you will need to take your road test.

Yes, its possible to buy and insure a car on a UK license, but its a hassle and expensive. We did it and used AIG International to insure the car.

What part of LA will you be moving to? We spent 3 years there and have recently moved to SF Bay Area.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 4:49 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by Boiler View Post
Are you getting married in the US or UK?
UK, local registry office.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 5:01 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N1cky View Post
Hi Neil, welcome.
Firstly get your girlfriend to learn to drive, living in LA without driving is virtually impossible and will make life extremely hard.
What part of LA will you be moving to? We spent 3 years there and have recently moved to SF Bay Area.
Thanks for such a detailed response, all useful stuff!

We've just returned from a 2-week 'recce' there in which I must have driven about 1500 miles and covered most if not every potential area of Los Angeles for us to live in.
As we're Londoners, arty and under 40, everyone was sending us over to Los Feliz and Silver Lake, both of which had their pros and cons, bearing in mind that the lady can't yet drive. They still seemed that little too far from her workplace though.
She will be working in Downtown LA from the get-go, and in typical 9-5 commuter hours, and looking to do plenty of exercise on weekends.
So a friend-of-a-friend from Pasadena (with 15 years experience in LA Film production) introduced us to her old neighbourhood... Miracle Mile.
It's perfect. Straight run Downtown, and within a few miles of both hills and beach. Proper LA feel, walkable supermarkets and cafés, and a nice gallery scene. In budget too.

We are both very experienced cyclists here in London, and were heartened to see many folk commuting by bicycle in LA.
I'm not saying my other half will be cycling from the start, but I think a month or so of using Buses & Metro will have her champing at the bit to find a good bike route to work.
I think she'll learn to drive in due course, but for now the move and new work role will be enough to contend with.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 6:55 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N-B View Post
She will be working in Downtown LA from the get-go, and in typical 9-5 commuter hours, and looking to do plenty of exercise on weekends.
So a friend-of-a-friend from Pasadena (with 15 years experience in LA Film production) introduced us to her old neighbourhood... Miracle Mile.
It's perfect. Straight run Downtown, and within a few miles of both hills and beach. Proper LA feel, walkable supermarkets and cafés, and a nice gallery scene. In budget too.
You might want to forget the idea of 9-5. Think more 7-6
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 7:00 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N-B View Post
Thanks for such a detailed response, all useful stuff!

We've just returned from a 2-week 'recce' there in which I must have driven about 1500 miles and covered most if not every potential area of Los Angeles for us to live in.
As we're Londoners, arty and under 40, everyone was sending us over to Los Feliz and Silver Lake, both of which had their pros and cons, bearing in mind that the lady can't yet drive. They still seemed that little too far from her workplace though.
She will be working in Downtown LA from the get-go, and in typical 9-5 commuter hours, and looking to do plenty of exercise on weekends.
So a friend-of-a-friend from Pasadena (with 15 years experience in LA Film production) introduced us to her old neighbourhood... Miracle Mile.
It's perfect. Straight run Downtown, and within a few miles of both hills and beach. Proper LA feel, walkable supermarkets and cafés, and a nice gallery scene. In budget too.

We are both very experienced cyclists here in London, and were heartened to see many folk commuting by bicycle in LA.
I'm not saying my other half will be cycling from the start, but I think a month or so of using Buses & Metro will have her champing at the bit to find a good bike route to work.
I think she'll learn to drive in due course, but for now the move and new work role will be enough to contend with.
Sounds like you have done some good research into areas that will suit you. I'm surprised though that you found lots of people cycling to work, certainly not something I experienced in my time there.

How practicle is using a bike and lugging your laptop around along with a change of clothes and needing a shower when you get into work after riding in 100 heat?
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 7:04 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N-B View Post
Thanks for such a detailed response, all useful stuff!

We've just returned from a 2-week 'recce' there in which I must have driven about 1500 miles and covered most if not every potential area of Los Angeles for us to live in.
As we're Londoners, arty and under 40, everyone was sending us over to Los Feliz and Silver Lake, both of which had their pros and cons, bearing in mind that the lady can't yet drive. They still seemed that little too far from her workplace though.
She will be working in Downtown LA from the get-go, and in typical 9-5 commuter hours, and looking to do plenty of exercise on weekends.
So a friend-of-a-friend from Pasadena (with 15 years experience in LA Film production) introduced us to her old neighbourhood... Miracle Mile.
It's perfect. Straight run Downtown, and within a few miles of both hills and beach. Proper LA feel, walkable supermarkets and cafés, and a nice gallery scene. In budget too.

We are both very experienced cyclists here in London, and were heartened to see many folk commuting by bicycle in LA.
I'm not saying my other half will be cycling from the start, but I think a month or so of using Buses & Metro will have her champing at the bit to find a good bike route to work.
I think she'll learn to drive in due course, but for now the move and new work role will be enough to contend with.
You might want to have a 2nd thought about the cycling in LA I work in LA every month and would not recommend biking other then for leisure...depends how long the miracle mile captures your attention!!

As N1cky said she really really needs to learn to drive, life will be very difficult without a licence.

Good luck with the move.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 7:12 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N1cky View Post
Sounds like you have done some good research into areas that will suit you. I'm surprised though that you found lots of people cycling to work, certainly not something I experienced in my time there.

How practicle is using a bike and lugging your laptop around along with a change of clothes and needing a shower when you get into work after riding in 100 heat?
Nasty.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 7:21 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by Poppy girl View Post
You might want to have a 2nd thought about the cycling in LA I work in LA every month and would not recommend biking other then for leisure...depends how long the miracle mile captures your attention!!
As N1cky said she really really needs to learn to drive, life will be very difficult without a licence.

Good luck with the move.
Thanks - I think she'll get to it eventually, but it's not a priority. I can take care of the driving in our personal life to start with. Miracle Mile was mooted as a great place to start, ie our first year's rental. Still think it fits the bill.

Originally Posted by N1cky View Post
Sounds like you have done some good research into areas that will suit you. I'm surprised though that you found lots of people cycling to work, certainly not something I experienced in my time there.
How practicle is using a bike and lugging your laptop around along with a change of clothes and needing a shower when you get into work after riding in 100 heat?
In LA, it was more the type of people we spotted commuting by bike. People like us, I guess.
As I said, we both expect plenty of acclimatisation and compromise - she's lucky in that she doesn't have to lug anything but a bike lock to and from work, and will have a studio space big enough to store a week's worth of work clothes, should she need to. If she couldn't ever ride to work, she probably wouldn't make the move - seriously.
Public transport is always a last resort for us, even in London.

Driving to work daily when you live just 6 miles across an easily-navigated grid system is... a waste of time and money unless you're tucked away in the hills. Life really is too short for that. We've both done longer bike commutes here.
As long as people remain scared of taking to the roads on their bikes, the roads will be mostly devoid of them. This will change, it seems to be changing already talking to bike store owners (I visited a few). LA has a lot more room on the roads than London, and in the city centre the traffic speed seems comparable.
Will take some getting used to, that's for sure - but I'm game
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 10:34 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N-B View Post
Hi everyone, great forum you have here


- I have also read that California DMV require me to apply for my State Driving Licence within 10 days (!) of becoming resident there if I wish to drive in Los Angeles, and that I need an SSN to apply for that - though I couldn't find anything confirming this on California's DMV website.
Is it possible to buy, insure and drive a car in LA for the first few weeks on my UK licence, and without an SSN?
If not, are there covering notes / forms I can use to circumvent the problem?
I would be buying a cheap used car, privately (Craigslist or similar), with cash.

All advice gratefully received!

Thanks, Neil
Hi Neil, I'm currently living on the Westside -- my husband's got a J1 visa and I'm on the J2. Like you, I had to go through the whole applying for EAD thing. I did it by post, and it took about 90 days. I didn't have to do biometrics or anything, but probably it's different for people on the L.

Anyway, with the SSN and driving thing, your wife will need to go into the SSN office and apply for her SSN about ten days after you get here, and at that point *you* can get a document saying you're not currently eligible for a SSN. (Later, when you get your EAD, that's when you can get a SSN.) If you then take this doc with you to the DMV, you should be able to apply for your license without a SSN. Once you take the theory test (you can walk in and do it), they'll give you a learner's permit and a 3-month temp license, and you can take the behind-the-wheel test later on.

If you have time, I'd definitely recommend getting your DVLA driving record before you leave England. It's fairly straightforward to get, but you have to do it by mail and send a 5GBP cheque, so it's much less hassle to organize while you're still in the country. This will help later on, when you want to insure your own car. You'll still be classed as a pretty new driver, but showing a clean DVLA record may get you some discount (it did for me).

And good luck with the cycling. I admire the principles, but there's not a shot in hell I'd cycle in LA, apart from the lovely coastal path! I think drivers here simply don't expect to see anyone without a car on the road. As a pedestrian, I've nearly been run down countless times on crosswalks even though the goddamn light is in my favour -- you can turn right on a red light here, and so many drivers are so busy checking for oncoming traffic they don't notice me scurrying across the road. But, yes, I do wish there were more of a cycling/walking culture here. LA is the first city in which I've owned a car.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 10:41 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Good luck. We used to live in the Miracle Mile area and it has a lot going for it.

While it's true it's a 'straight run' downtown, I also wonder how easy it's going to be to cycle it. Let us know how she gets on, as a few non-drivers have been on here lately and perhaps we're being unneccessarily pessimistic about the feasibilty of this.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 10:47 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Thanks MoshiMoshi, clear as crystal Will get my DVLA record asap.

Glad to hear of a positive experience in Miracle Mile, Sally. Looks like I'm going to have plenty of time to figure bike routes before EAD comes through Shall keep y'all informed. Early days yet though, I'll be amazed if we're there by November.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 11:03 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

She needs to drive, simple as that, not being able to drive makes life seriously, seriously shit over here...even if in a city with an excuse of public transport.

The EAD, ask the lawyer, they should be doing and stumping for this anyway if they're being serious.

Applying for SSN, doesn't matter which way you do it, just wait the 10 business days and you don't need the number for Utilities, banks etc. It's just so they can run a credit check, you wont' have any so it doesn't matter, you'll have to pay a deposit anyway.

The driving license question, well, there's a thread all about LA, covering it in much detail....just look down a bit.
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Old Aug 15th 2011, 11:07 pm
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Default Re: Two Brits moving to California

Originally Posted by N-B View Post


Driving to work daily when you live just 6 miles across an easily-navigated grid system is... a waste of time and money unless you're tucked away in the hills. Life really is too short for that. We've both done longer bike commutes here.
As long as people remain scared of taking to the roads on their bikes, the roads will be mostly devoid of them. This will change, it seems to be changing already talking to bike store owners (I visited a few). LA has a lot more room on the roads than London, and in the city centre the traffic speed seems comparable.
Will take some getting used to, that's for sure - but I'm game
Drivers are also seriously a lot more shit.

The roads are also seriously a lot more shit.

The heat will be seriously a lot more shit, for much of the year.
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