As I prepare to move to Mountain View, California to work at Google, I have come to the realization that working in USA starts with a flowchart of applications and the unfortunate conundrum of cyclic requirements.
Of utmost importance, one needs a social security number to start work, but you are advised to wait 10 business days after stepping foot in US before applying. That practically means you have to arrive two to three weeks at least before commencing employment.
Do not kick off your shoes and relax until the 10 days are up. You can take your time to open bank accounts, which typically require a local mailing address. The local mailing address that you do not have because you have only just arrived.
No problem, you seek out a rental apartment, which often have landlords that want to see your credit history and bank account, that you do not have because (1) you do not have a social security number so you do not have a credit history, (2) no bank will allow you to open an account because you do not have a mailing address (that you are currently negotiating to get) and (3) heck! you have not even started working in the US yet!
Speaking of credit history, as first-time worker in US, you have zero credit history even after getting your social security number. As it turns out, this interesting omission means you cannot apply for credit cards. Well, not the usual ones in Singapore at least, where the bank gives you a credit limit without any collateral based on salary information. No, you got to earn that right. You start with a level 1 weenie credit card - a secured credit card.
However, I am sure I will get by as countless of individuals have. Here's my plan:
1. Open Citibank Singapore CitiAccess - this US$ checking and saving accounts gives me access to my (pathetic) US funds without having to resort to Traveler's Cheques (1% commission + conversion commission!) or carrying hordes of cash into US.
2. Go to US.
3. Find a rental apartment, show Citibank account and pay cash upfront for security deposit and first month rent.
4a. Apply for bank account, most likely from Citibank USA.
4b. Apply for driving license from your state (in my case, California DMV) - you need an address for this
5. Apply for SSN
6. Kick off shoes and relax for 30 minutes before heading out for first day at work.