In previous Postdoc Network Issues and Solutions articles, we have covered the visa issues that are important to foreign national scientists. But immigration considerations are not the only issues with which postdocs must contend when arriving in the U.S. This week, we'll review two Web sites that offer advice and information on a whole range of topics important to these scientists.
Fortunately for today's foreign national scientists, a couple of dot-coms have discovered that recent arrivals in the United States represent a potential market for services ranging from credit cards to appliances. For example, one Web site found that over 60% of new arrivals spend hundreds of dollars on long-distance calling. Given that there's money to be made, a number of sites with content (and marketing) aimed at these foreign nationals have started to pop up.
Two such resources are foreignborn.com and new2usa.com. Both launched about a year ago and cover many of the logistical basics of living in the United States. New2usa.com is updated daily and its content is a mix of expert advice and--a format near and dear to the Next Wave-- first-person accounts of experiences in the United States. At foreignborn.com, much of the content is written by freelance writers and other experts. For example, their coverage of visa and immigration issues was developed with the help of a former Immigration and Naturalization Service official.
To help you get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of both sites, we'll take a quick look at their navigation before moving on to see how each covers three major topics of importance to foreign nationals--credit cards, taxes, and health care. But don't just take our word for it. ... Although we hope you'll find this brief overview of the two sites to be useful, it would be well worth your time to check out for yourself the cornucopia of free information and advice that each offers.
From the new2usa.com home page, you can move through the site in several ways. The recent articles and newest content is in the center of the page. If you are looking for more information about a given topic area, look at the Departments listing on the left-hand side of the page. The site has eight departments from Careers to Travel & Transportation. If you can't figure out which section might address your particular question, no problem. Just scroll down to the bottom of the home page to see an extensive list of topics covered by new2usa.com.
However, one of the foreign nationals contacted by Next Wave found it easier to navigate foreignborn.com than new2usa.com. From the foreignborn.com home page, a reader can immediately get to the visa and immigration content from the topic listings at the right side of the page. And, like new2usa.com, there is a list of major sections at the left, starting with Banking. At the bottom of foreignborn.com's home page, you'll also find a list of all of the site's topics in scroll-down menus.
Foreignborn.com's credit card section covers establishing credit, the types of credit card accounts, choosing a card, and other basics in an easy-to-navigate index. On new2usa.com, you need to delve into their Money section to find the credit card coverage. The topics covered are not as plainly laid out as they are at foreignborn.com, but there is some great content, like the glossary of credit card terms and a personal account of how a psychiatrist from Argentina was able to get the credit he needed.
Most Americans can barely figure out their taxes. And for a foreign national, we can only imagine the difficulty of mastering the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms, let alone simultaneously satisfying any home-country requirements.
New2usa.com's tax section includes articles like How2 Complete Federal Tax Returns and It's Tax Time!, which give you a basic overview of the hows and whys of the tax process. However, the information on foreignborn.com is much more extensive. And according to foreignborn.com founder Patricia Codescu, the site's tax information comes from the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche. From the sections in the 1999 Executive Summary, you'll be taken to very extensive information on a variety of tax-related topics, from tax bases for resident and nonresident aliens to tax treaties.
Like taxes, the American health care system is a quagmire. (I am still trying to figure out whether or not I need to make a co-payment when I visit the doctor.) To foreign nationals who come from countries with universal coverage, the system can be daunting.
Foreignborn.com covers health care issues in two sections, Medical Care in the U.S. and the Health Insurance Guide. The Medical Care section covers issues like choosing a doctor and what to do in medical emergencies; the Insurance Guide covers how to pay for it all: why you need insurance and what the options are. New2usa.com's section on Health & Safety covers some of the same health care ground; insurance information can be found on a separate page that covers all types of insurance--health, auto, life, etc.
A fun aspect of new2usa.com is its coverage of American culture. While this may not be as useful to a foreign scientist who has been in the States for a few years, the content may help explain the quirks of American life. For example, there is an article about New Orleans and the frenzy that is Mardi Gras. Other pieces cover the basics of American football and explain holidays in the U.S.
While many postdoc associations and offices work to offer their foreign national postdocs some information about navigating the basics of American life, the sheer volume of topics makes it difficult for a single office, association, or person to gather all of the necessary information. We hope that these sites will serve as additional references and tools for foreign national scientists seeking answers to their specific questions and concerns about life in the U.S.