So I realise after moving to the US that my UK company spoilt me with regards to my Mobile phone…they gave me the latest Windows Mobile device for free, I had decent empowerment to use the phone as I wanted as long as I applied a little common sense, I had no exposure to the Service Provider unless I lost/damaged the phone and the whole process was easy.
Things are a lot more challenging in the US; even though I work for the same company the process across the pond is totally different:
§ You have to purchase your own device
§ Set up your own Service Plan (which is usually binding for 2 years) and thrash out a decent deal with the provider
§ Purchase your own data dongle
Now, there some benefits to the above: you can sign up to your network provider of choice which is nice, you can purchase your own device and get free upgrades etc. And for a native US citizen this process is very simple as you buy your device and then expense the service plan HOWEVER there are a number of challenges I have faced on initial ‘touch down’ in NYC due to me not being a US citizen, here they are:
1. You can’t even entertain the idea of getting a mobile phone until you have a SSN and Bank Account set up…so due to the processes for setting these up you’re looking at 2-3 weeks before you can get a Service Plan set up.
2. As you have no Credit Rating in the US, AT&T and Verizon – who are the big players in the US network provider space, think O2 & Vodafone – demand $500 to be deposited and this will be returned (with interest) when you leave the network provider. So on top of the cost of the device, which are generally $200 it’s a significant amount to put down for just a phone.
Now, here’s how to get around this; as you can’t get Service Plan straight off the bat you can purchase a pre-paid SIM in order to get a number which you can transfer to the new Service Plan once you have your SSN and bank account, these typically range from $50 for unlimited texts and phone calls. I highly recommend bringing over an Unlocked mobile phone so you don’t have to use a basic Nokia device for the pre-paid SIM.
To get around shelling out nearly $1000, T-Mobile are the only operator that waive the $500…I don’t know why they just do, probably because they’re just nice to us Brits J. So I recommend using them. I have heard rumours that you can take in a Letter of Employment and the other Service Providers will waive the $500 deposit but I had no joy when attempting to do this with AT&T, I even unceremoniously name dropped the company I worked for and that didn’t fly J Good luck if you try that approach.
All in all, it’s a little different to the UK but it’s only a minor annoyance in the grand scheme of things… J