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Desis in New York: A guide for Indian newcomers in New York City

Moving from India to New York City? We've got you covered. Check out tips on everything from finding an apartment to managing your taxes as an NRI and transferring your Indian credit history

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New York City houses one of the highest populations of Indians in the United States, with at least 711,174 Indian residents as of 2017. Moving to the Big Apple might seem daunting, but in NYC alone, there are several enclaves or “little Indias” that are home to a large Indian population, such as Manhattan’s East 6th Street, affectionately known as “Curry Row” in and Liberty Avenue and Flushing in Queens.

Traveling from India to NYC is becoming easier due to frequent flights from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Flight tickets from Delhi or Mumbai to NYC average at $760, with direct flights made available by the likes of Indian airline carrier Air India and U.S. airline carrier United Airlines.

Finding an apartment in New York City

NYC’s Statue of Liberty is a symbol of welcome for many tourists and immigrants in the Big Apple. Although home to 3.2 million immigrants (and around 6 million American residents), New York City still has various real estate options available.

New York City has five boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and The Bronx. There are three main types of apartments in NYC:

  1. Pre-wars have been around since before World War II. These apartments are characterized by thicker walls, higher ceilings and smaller windows.

  2. Postwars, on the other hand, were built after World War II and have modern heating systems and bigger closets.

  3. New developments refer to apartments built in the last two decades, often with oversized windows, modern finishes and smaller rooms.

Renting an apartment in NYC typically requires identification, proof of income, a U.S. guarantor and a U.S. credit history. If you don’t have a guarantor, you may opt for services like TheGuarantors, which offers third-party lease guarantee services. If you don't have a U.S. credit history yet, you may also ask your landlord if they use Yardi, Intellirent or First Advantage, rental screening companies that partners with Nova Credit to help landlords assess your application.

Before moving into your chosen apartment, make sure to clarify the coverage of your rent. Which utilities does your rent cover? Does it cover parking, telephone, internet and cable fees?

In addition to rent, as a new tenant, you may also be asked to pay for broker fees, which usually range between one month’s rent to 15% of a year’s rent. If you’re renting a condo instead of an apartment, you may also be charged a move-in deposit and move-in fees.

Use your international credit history as part of your rental application

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Getting around New York City

Traveling within NYC usually means taking the subway, which runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Subway tickets cost $2.75 from one station to another. Trains run every 2 to 10 minutes during rush hour, but expect some occasional delays, as well. Always be sure you’re taking the right train—“local” trains stop at every station on their path while “express” trains” skip certain stations for a quicker trip.

Have an Indian driver’s license? Then you can drive around New York--unless you’re planning on becoming a New York resident.

According to state laws, foreign national visitors may use a valid driver’s license from any U.S. state or foreign country to drive in New York. However, if your license is not in English, it might be helpful to apply for an International Driving Permit, as it makes verification easier for police officers who only speak English.

If you’re moving to NYC permanently, you must obtain a driver’s license within 30 days of becoming a resident. View the requirements and procedure of exchanging your out-of-state license at NYC’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Managing your finances

Below we highlight how you can manage your taxes, explore banking options, send money home and transfer your credit history if you're an Indian newcomer to the U.S.

Taxes for NRIs in the US

For non-resident Indians (NRIs), your income is only taxable (a) if it was earned or accrued in India or (b) if your salary goes into an Indian bank account. Therefore, any income made in the U.S. is not taxable in India. However, NRIs must file an income tax return in India if their income exceeds Rs.2,500,000 ($35,122 as of February 2020).’

Banking options for NRIs in NYC

If you have a bank account with a multi-national bank, you can inquire about transferring your Indian bank account to a different country, like the U.S., Canada, Australia or others. You could also maintain an Indian bank account if you prefer. There are different account types specifically for NRIs:

  • Non-resident ordinary (NRO) accounts are savings or current accounts used for income earned in India, such as rent, dividends or pension. Foreign currency deposited into this account is automatically converted to Indian rupees.

  • Non-resident external (NRE) accounts let you send and receive money from another NRE account or through remittance from your current country (e.g. the U.S.). Interest accumulated on your balance is exempted from income and wealth taxes.

  • Foreign Currency Non-resident (FCNR) accounts hold your money in foreign currency (e.g. dollar, pound, etc.). Money in an FCNR account does not depend on the fluctuations of the Indian rupee.

You can also open a U.S. bank account. Ask your preferred bank about their requirements and prepare by having your passport as well as your social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) on hand.

Sending money back to India may be possible through bank transfer if your bank allows it, or you can try digital money transfer services like TransferwiseRemitly or WorldRemit which let you send money with bank debit, wire transfer or a debit or credit card.

Transfer your Indian credit history to the U.S.

Years ago moving to the U.S. meant having to build your credit history from scratch—which can be difficult since you need a credit score to rent an apartment, get a job, obtain a credit card or take out a loan. Now, however, you can transfer your Indian credit history to the U.S. with the help of Nova Credit. Nova Credit helps you apply for the following U.S. credit cards with your Indian credit history:

  • American Express

  • Applied Bank

  • Deserve

  • OpenSky

  • Petal

  • Primor

Moved to the U.S. from Australia, India or the UK?

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Feeling homesick?

NYC can feel like home if you want it to. Jackson Heights in Queens is home to a large population of South Asians, including Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. Here, you can find vegetarian restaurants, temples, mosques and Indian jewelry, furniture and saris.

You can also catch The Cricket World Cup at bars such as The Cricketers Arms (57 Murray Street), The Australian (20 West 38th Street), Greenwich Village Bistro (13 Carmine Street) and Trini-Gyul (112-16 Liberty Avenue).

There are Indian restaurants all over NYC from The MasalaWala (179 Essex Street) to Bengal Tiger Indian Food (58 West 56th Street), Malai Marke Indian Cuisine (318 E 6th Street) and Pippali (129 East 27th Street).

For quiet nights at your new apartment, you can catch up on South Asian news at The Juggernaut or stream your favorite Bollywood movies online.

The takeaway

Learn more about products available for Indian newcomers to the U.S. here. For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., you can visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything from renting an apartment to finding the best credit cards for noncitizens.

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The ultimate guide to the F-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the H-1B visa

The ultimate guide to the J-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the L-1 visa

The ultimate guide to the O-1 visa

How to check your USCIS case status

How to read the Visa Bulletin

How to build credit after moving to the US

How to get a social security card

How to get an apartment with no credit history

How to immigrate to the United States

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