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I will soon be moving to the US on an H-1B visa. On arrival, among other things, I will need to apply for a SSN, open a bank account, and rent somewhere to live.

What is the sequence in which these must be done?

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Answering, having found much of this out by trial and error... this is based on my own experience in Washington state, and YMMV.

  1. First, apply for a SSN as early as possible. This requires an address, but it's just a mailing address to receive the card - it does not have to be a permanent residence, so one can use an employer's address or a rented PO box. The application must be made in person at the appropriate office (but fill in the form first), and takes approx 2 weeks.
  2. Find somewhere to live. Strictly speaking this can also be done straight away, but most letting agencies, reference agencies, etc., ask for an SSN before you can move in. They may or may not be able to forgo this if they understand that you have just arrived in the country.
  3. Getting state ID requires evidence of residency in the state. In the case of Washington they would accept an employer's offer letter from a short whitelist of large employers, but otherwise the list of things that they will accept means that for somebody new to the US, you pretty much need to have moved into a house and be able to show evidence of this - e.g. a utility bill.
  4. Getting a bank account is the last step: it similarly requires evidence of address, as well as acceptable ID (state ID would certainly do the trick, but some banks may also accept e.g. a foreign passport) and, for most banks and credit unions, it also requires a SSN.
  • My experience was pretty similar (temporarily in the US on a J-1 visa). The only difference for me was that I was able to open a bank account much earlier: Citibank accepted my foreign passport and driver's license, and opened the account without an SSN. Once I got my SSN (a few weeks later), I went to see them again and they added it to my details. – Joe Malt Apr 29 at 15:21

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