A guide for Mexicans
When you immigrate to the USA from Mexico, it’s natural to have a lot of questions. How do you find a place to stay? What’s the best way to find a job in the USA as a foreigner? What are the essentials you need to arrange and what can wait? There will be a lot of practical things to figure out before you’re fully settled, and that will take time. There’s nothing you can do to change that. But being successful in the new country will go much smoother for you in the long run if you invest time and energy into the right things immediately after you immigrate to the USA. What are the right things? Learn or perfect your English, get connected with the right local Mexican community, and start working on your credit score. Here’s how you can get started with those.
Let’s make it clear - you don’t need to speak English in order to have a good life in the USA. Especially if you’re moving to Texas or California, where there are large Spanish-speaking communities. However, depending on your educational background or age, poor English skills may significantly limit your work options. Not to mention, they can rob you of valuable negotiating power for wage raises and working condition improvements. That’s why it’s a good idea to start working on your English skills from early on. Here are some resources to help you learn English online free:
La Mansion del Ingles: This can easily be your one and only source of English learning materials. It features grammar and vocabulary exercises, as well as podcasts and free courses for all levels. The website is in Spanish, so even if you’re a beginner you’ll easily find your way around.
Blabbinit English: This YouTube channel is for English learners from beginner to intermediate level. All video lessons are aimed towards Spanish speakers, making this channel a great place for you to start after immigrating from Mexico to the United States.
ELSA Speak App - Your American English Accent Coach: The ELSA Speak app is an English learning app you can use in Spanish, so you can benefit from it even as a beginner. The app’s true advantage is its Pronunciation and Accent Coaching tool. If you're struggling with pronunciation, this tool can help you improve quickly.
If you don’t know anyone when you move to the USA from Mexico, a good place to start is the local Mexican communities. They will have answers to the questions you’ll have at the start of your life in the United States. That can help accelerate your integration in the country. However, make sure you’re not just seeking out any Mexican out there. Maximize the return of your time investment by finding relevant Mexican communities in the USA. For example, by targeting Mexicans who work in the field you’re interested in. Or, Mexican entrepreneurs, if that’s what you aspire to be. Here are some good places to start when you’re looking to find a relevant Mexican community in the USA:
Ayuda: This non-profit organization is focused on helping low-income Latino immigrants in the USA. Their services include legal, social, and language learning support. You’ll find them in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Ayuda can be a good start for your first months in the USA, and a source of connections with the local community.
Latino/a Business Networking via Meetup: Via the Meetup platform, you can find Mexican and Latino groups and events happening near you. Filter by interest or topic to make sure you’ll find a crowd there that’s relevant for you. Even outside the Mexican community, this is a great way to start establishing your local network after you move to the USA.
Sooner or later, if you want to buy a car, a home, take a loan, or undertake any major financial activity in the USA, you will need a good credit score. That’s the reality of living in the United States, and you should make sure you’re prepared for it. One of the best ways to build your credit score is having a credit card that you pay off regularly. However, when you move to the USA, you may not be able to get a classic credit card right away. If you have a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), you may be able to get a credit card with no credit history. These types of credit cards are known as starter credit cards. If you don’t have your papers sorted yet, though, a classic credit card won’t be an option for you. In that case, you can look into alternative ways to build your credit score, or delay it while still enjoying the benefits of a credit card. Here’s how:
Get a prepaid credit card: To get most prepaid credit cards, you don’t need a US ID or Social Security Number. And while a prepaid credit card won’t help build your credit score, it also won’t hurt it. At the same time, it will make your online and offline payments in the USA much more convenient than without any credit card. Some prepaid credit cards, such as the Visa gift card or Mastercard gift card are accepted in all places where you can pay with “classic” Visa and Mastercard credit cards. That gives you full flexibility until you have a longer-term solution.
Reach out to credit unions or advocacy groups locally: If you’re an undocumented immigrant, starter credit cards won’t be an option for you. However, you may be able to get help building your credit score from local credit unions. Some may even be specialized in working with undocumented immigrants in the USA. How do you find them? Organizations such as Ayuda can help you get started. And, of course, this is where the efforts you put into building a local Mexican network start paying off.
While immigrating to the USA from Mexico will always be a challenging experience, you can make it work for you, as long as you are well-informed. Focus on building the right local connections and learning English from the start. And if you’re smart with building a good credit score early on, you’ll have a solid foundation for success with your next challenges, such as your USA job search.