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Washington DC - Registration, Permits & Other Documentation
All expatriates intending to live and work in the US must have a valid non-immigrant working visa before entering the US for work. There are many types of non-immigrant working visas, and usually employers will apply for this visa on your behalf before moving to the US. For more advice about visas, consult the American Embassy in your country of origin. The US Department of State compiles a list of the American Embassies, Consulates and Diplomatic Missions located worldwide. Links to their websites and contact numbers are provided. Since September 2001, there has been a noticeable increase in the processing time for all visa applications, and some consulates will ask you to apply at least 70-90 days in advance of your intended entry into the US.
If you are already in the US and you are looking to extend your non-immigrant status in the US, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a useful downloadable document for your information. The USCIS website has an on-line tracking system to help applicants keep track on the status of their visa applicants. The INS/USCIS receipt number issued at the point of application is required to use this service.
When you have entered the US, it is useful to keep an original copy of the Letter from your Employer indicating your appointment to the US office of your company. Where possible, try to ask for a letter that indicates your name, designation, likely duration of the appointment in the US, and if possible, an indication of your annual salary level. This will come in handy to establish a credit history in the US (when you apply for a US based credit card), and could help when you are opening a bank account, or a utilities account, or when signing a rental lease for accommodation.
Non-US citizens who have been granted permission to work in the US need to have a social security number. A social security number was originally devised to keep an accurate record of an individual's earnings in order to monitor benefits given under the Social Security program. Today, however, the social security number is used commonly nation-wide as an identification number for all sorts of record-keeping systems in the US. US citizens are issued with a social security number at birth, and the number is used for tax filing purposes. The Social Security Administration website offers good information and forms for applying for a social security number by non-US citizens. Alternatively, you can call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (Mondays through Fridays, 7am to 7pm). Expect the initial process to take several weeks before a social security number can be issued, as there is a time lapse for non-US citizens. This is mainly due to the processing time for your entry / working visa information to be captured into the USCIS database. If you do not have a working visa, you are not eligible to apply for a social security number. Most accompanying spouses may not be issued with a social security number, if they do not have a non-immigrant working visa in their own right.
For spouses and family members of expatriates who do not have a social security number but need one for tax purposes, they can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS toll-free number is 1-800-TAXFORM (1-800-829-3676).
The Marriage Bureau Section (Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW Room 4485, Washington DC 20001; Tel: (202) 879-4840; Operating Hours Mondays through Fridays, 830am to 5pm) issues marriage licenses and administers authorizations for marriages performed in DC. The Bureau also maintains a list of officials who can perform civil marriages within the Court. For more information about fees and other requests, visit their website at www.dccourts.gov.
The Domestic Relations Branch (Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW Room 4230, Washington DC 20001; Tel: (202 879-1261) accepts and processes case filings via the Family Court Central Intake Center for a range of arrangements, such as divorce, annulment, legal separation, custody and so on.
Expat Health Insurance Partners
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