Things to Know When Moving Japan to USA

Moving Japan to America

Wherever you are originally from in this world, moving from Japan to the USA may be a smart move if you are looking for business opportunity, room to grow a family, or a superior college education. America welcomes the innovative and ambitious, or those seeking to join in on the America dream. If you're ready to pledge your allegiance to the flag, here is what you need to know about moving to the US from Japan.

Please note that, due to the recent election of Donald J. Trump, any foreign policy that is referenced within this article may be overturned or revised upon his inauguration on January 20th, 2017. It would be wise to assume that anyone moving in from Japan, Asia, Central America, and the Middle East will have a much more challenging road ahead of them than someone moving from Europe, Russia, or the Caribbean. However, Mr. Trump has made his perspective on immigrants moving in to America rather clear, so I hope he does not make immigration completely impossible.

Where to Start with your move

When you have decided that you want to move from Japan to the United States, before doing anything else, you must begin with an immigration petition (not for a visa) to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS is responsible for everything having to do with immigration, including naturalization. Unlike some countries which require a set amount of years living within the country, you can begin the process of naturalization so that you can start fulfilling the requirements established by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

How to do receive a petition? How do I apply? In order to even begin the petitioning process, you need someone to sponsor your petition. That beneficiary can be one of the following:

・A U.S. Citizen relative(s);

・U.S. lawful permanent resident;

・A prospective employer

The sponsor is the one who begins the petition for you in the USA.

While a prospective employer can fill out the petition for anyone living abroad, U.S. citizens and lawful residents have limited power. Citizens and lawful residents may only bring in family or relatives. In the event of receiving sponsorship from a relative, the Form I-130 Petition of Alien Relative must be used.

The prospective employer will use the Form I-140 Petition for Alien Worker.

The person filing for you-or you may optionally do this too-will then mail the petition to the following address:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
P.O. Box 804625
Chicago, Illinois 60680-4107

If using express mail or another expedited service:
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
ATTN: I-130 (or I-140)
131 South Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60603-5517

What if I am petitioning from outside the United States like Japan? - That gets tricky. You will have to visit a USCIS office in your home country to get the petition and fill it out according to their specific instructions. Unfortunately, not even country has a USCIS office, like Japan for example. If you find yourself without some place to go, a local United States Embassy may be able to provide assistance. Otherwise, you can download the petition and mail it into the USCIS Chicago Headquarters yourself by using the aforementioned addresses.

Note that the type of petition you submit ultimately becomes the type of visa you are applying for-Family or Work Visa.

After Approval

Congratulations, you’ve been approved! When this happens, the USCIS goes ahead and sends your petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. You will receive a letter, an email, or both in accordance to the start of this process.

Immediately refer to the Visa Bulletin on the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs website. This will give you up to date information on when your applications and necessary documents must be submitted for acceptance.

You will be asked to complete the following steps:

1.Choose an agent

2.Pay the fee

3.Submit your visa application

4.Collect and submit financial documents

5.Collect miscellaneous supporting documents

6.Submit remaining documents to the NVC

(Listed adapted from NVC page)

Let's break this down, a little, shall we? Your "agent" can be anyone of your choice: your petitioner, a relative, a friend, attorney, immigration professional , or any other trustworthy person. Upon being formally selected, this person must handle matters on your behalf.

You will then pay to apply for a visa. This is nonrefundable.

Once the NVC receives your monetary payment, you will receive a case number. This case number becomes you key into the Consular Electronic Application Center (also called the CEAC or Immigration Portal website. Accessing the portal allows you to see the current progress of your application, get downloadable forms, and electronically submit information.

Preparing for the Interview

Consider this Step 7 along the route to receiving a U.S. Visa. To schedule an interview, you will need to have 1) paid the fees for your visa application; 2) submitted all required documents, the Affidavit of Support, and supporting documents; 3) received confirmation of completion. You will know when this happens because NVC contacts you or your agent directly to set up an interview date.

This happens one month in advance. Interviews work in a first come, first serve basis. Be prepared to wait.

If you are wondering if you must bring anything to the interview, the answer is yes. Do bring:

・RECENT proof of medical examination and required vaccinations

・Proof of having pre-registered for a courier service (to return your documents)

・Appointment letter

・Unexpired passport

・Two color passport size photographs

・Civil documents - May be any of these: birth certificate, adoption papers, marriage certificate, court records (if convicted of a crime), military record, divorce decree, death certificate (if widowed)

・English translations of legal/civil documentation

There is a downloadable PDF checklist (comes in different languages) that you may find useful <HERE>.

After the interview, you will have either been approved or denied a U.S. visa.

If denied - You will be informed of the reasons for ineligibility. This is most often due to lack of suitable income or not matching the requirements for the visa you are seeking to obtain. Other reasons include:

・Health issues

・Criminal background

・;Previous immigration violations

・National security issues

・Labor qualification or certification

・Lack of supporting documentation

If approved - Again, congratulations! You’ve overcome a huge step in the process of moving to America. Your passport will be returned to you with the immigrant visa that will enable you to move to the US placed on one of the pages. Make sure there are no spelling errors on the visa. You will also receive a sealed packet that must be presented to U.S. Customs and Border Protection upon arrival into the U.S. from Japan.

Preparing to Move from Japan

Although you should never sell your belongings or begin packing until you have received your immigrant visa (as this is the most important piece of the puzzle), you should start budgeting for the move?that means housing, travel expenses, and other costs including the cost for shipping personal items using an international moving company in Japan. In addition to the charges related to shipping and moving, knowing how much money you will have upon arriving in the United States is pivotal.

To set up a moving budget, research real estate in the area where you will be moving to. Decide whether or not you want to buy or rent. For immigrants, renting is the easier step. Start saving for a down deposit/security deposit. This is usually equal to one month’s rent, but it depends on the landlord. Some have other fees, like insurance, attached, so you might end up paying triple one month’s rent in some scenarios.

Also, with regards to what to bring with you and what to ship using the services of an international moving company, it is recommended that you ship only items which you can pack into regular cardboard boxes. Bulky items such as tables, chairs or sofas would require wooden crating, therefor shipping these items would cost a fortune. Besides, it would be cheaper to buy such large items in the USA than shipping all the way from Japan. Be careful with foodstuff whether you are bringing them with you or shipping them together with other personal belongings because shipping foodstuff could cause problems. Also, be careful not to ship a large amount of some particular items as it would not considered that you are shipping them for personal use. If you are shipping a newly purchased item, for example, some electric appliance, you will need to pay import duty on them.

If you are moving to a less urbanized region, mobile homes (trailer parks) are a great way to start a home. These are usually rental properties with a yard and community squares. This is probably the best option for someone moving with children and pets.

Next, you will want to make sure that you can either use the cell phone you have now or purchase one that is compatible with U.S. carriers. Unlike most of the world, a lot of U.S. carriers do not use GSM frequencies (so people from Japan are out of luck).

Another useful tip is to contact your current banking institution to see how they handle foreign transactions, what the cost of foreign transactions may be, and if they will be reporting your international income to your home federal government. This is also a wise move if you have a credit card or investments.

Research some American banking institutions with international acclaim before you move out of Japan. Some of the best are Bank of America, HSBC, and Barclays (UK). The reason they are the best is because there are no foreign transaction fees when traveling?which you might be doing a lot of during the holidays. Your current debit/ATM card will also be accepted at their ATM machines. Some of such institutions have branches in Japan.

Now, if you are moving from a more cash-based society like Japan, you might not know anything about a “credit score.” However, in America, where credit is king, your credit score can determine a lot about what you can and cannot afford. Regardless of whether you already own a credit card or not, I recommend getting a card with one of the previously mentioned banks so that you can build credit wherever you go. Credit can help you with buying cars, renting apartments, and making big purchases that are not affordable but necessary (i.e. buying electrical appliances).

Lastly, I want to mention the U.S. Healthcare system. Many countries around the world have a national healthcare system that is both affordable and provides wonderful coverage. This is one thing that the United States fails in-and every American will tell you that. In order to avoid healthcare issues, research the best provider for you at the best price prior to arrival. That way you will know what you will need to pay outright.

Remember, health insurance is compulsory. If you do not have it, you will get turned down even in emergency situations or be expected to pay out of pocket. And I’m sorry to say this but, unlike in Japan and some European nations, you have to pay for an ambulance in America?and it’s extremely costly.

Culture Shock

Being that I’m an expatriate American who moved to Japan, I understand a thing or two about cultural shock. For those moving into the U.S. fresh from Japan, there are a few things I would like to warn you about so that you are not completely stunned coming right off the plane.

1. National Pride/Patriotism

I really feel like I need to stress this one, especially for those of you who are moving to “Deep South” or more conservative parts of America. In general, Americans are pretty friendly, welcoming people, but they also will act out against groups who have opposed the U.S. or who have displayed some negativity towards the U.S. in the past. You might be confused or even put off by American patriotism at times, but remember that America is a melting pot, and you will find your niche no matter where in the world you move in from.

2. Individualism

America is also not a collectivist society. Americans think about the group after considering themselves and those they care about. Whether or not the “whole” agrees does not usually matter as much as making sure oneself is happy. For this reason, especially to Asians and some European cultures, Americans come off as selfish and greedy. To deal with this, learn to embrace who you are and what you bring to the table.

3. Buying Bulk

Another thing that shocks many people from Japan who have moved to the States would be how much Americans buy and consume in one month. Americans tend to purchase “in bulk.” Most stores are not “specialty” stores (like a bakery or butcher or florist). Rather, everything is jam-packed into supermarkets where you can literally find everything you need all on a single (sometimes two-floor) building.

And yes, the ground floor is called the first floor.

Also, some countries (I noticed Japan does this) include the sales tax in the price tag so there is no surprises. America does not do this. Sales tax is added in at the cash register.

4. Commuting

Many Americans commute to work-but not on foot like they do in Japan. Most own a car and use it often. Not every city or suburban area has reliable public transportation, and only the biggest urban regions, like NYC or Chicago, have extensive subway systems to make use of. Taking trains is also not as budget-friendly as other global examples such as Europe and Japan, so when in doubt, use a Greyhound bus.

5. Weird Measurements

America is one of the few… okay, maybe the only country with its own form of measurement. There are miles instead of kilometers, pounds and ounces instead of grams or stones, inches instead of centimeters, pints instead of liters (although some things do come in a liter), and Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. Remember that when you internationally ship your personal effects from Japan, cubic meter is the form of measurement. If you are shipping your effects by sea, kilogram is used.

So are you ready to embrace the American Dream?

Moving anywhere internationally can be challenging. Coming to America-a country that is diverse in both land, climate, and culture-is a huge step. But with the right amount of preparation, a little insider information, and a plan set up, you will find yourself on American soil faster than anticipated.

Some tips from an international moving expert

If you are moving your personal effects and household goods from Japan to America, it is recommended that you do not ship any large items which you are not able to pack into boxes. Such household goods as dining tables, sofas, chairs, beds would be available in the US at lower prices than the shipping charges. Most of our clients relocating to the USA use the door-to-port service instead of door-to-door service. Customs clearance is quite easy if you go to the customs office in person. It is usually a matter of half an hour to one hour. Once the customs clearance is finished, you can pick up your boxes from the bonded warehouse. If you are moving a large number of boxes, you may need to rent a van or a truck but it would still be cheaper than hiring a local trucking company or some moving company because in the US, the delivery charge is expensive and the minimum charge can be as much as USD300.00 even for a local delivery.