The Biggest Financial Challenges You are Likely to Face as an Immigrant


The biggest financial challenges faced by immigrants

Today, I’m going to discuss the biggest financial challenges you are likely to face as an immigrant in the US

Everyone assumes their lives will change for the better when they move to a new country. This is especially true if you move to the “land of dreams” – the US.

Many years ago, I moved to this great nation in search of greener pastures. But, I soon realized that financial challenges aren’t confined to one continent alone. As an immigrant, you will likely face various challenges unique to those who are foreign-born. The challenges you are likely to face in the US differ from those at home.

So, let’s discuss the most significant financial challenges you might encounter when you move to the US.

What Causes Financial Challenges for Immigrants and other Foreign-born Individuals

You are moving into a completely new system, new rules, new regulations, IRS, new customs, and new ways of doing things. You have to learn to get past the disadvantage of being new very quickly. 

You must understand the financial systems of the US if you are going to succeed. You also must learn how to utilize financial products and services.

Furthermore, you must overcome language and cultural barriers.

What Challenges Do Most Immigrants and Foreign-Born Families Face in the US

It takes immense strength and willpower to move from your native home to a foreign land and find great financial success. Some problems/issues you might have to deal with.

Starting All Over Again

Did you know that several highly-trained individuals and Ph.D. holders who move to the US end up working as receptionists, clerks, and janitors? (1). Unfortunately, many highly qualified candidates have been passed over for jobs they are highly qualified for.

It’s hard to understand what goes on in the minds of hiring managers. Some may not like that you speak with an accent, or you are coming from a certain background or you haven’t used specific products.

Other times, it’s because your home country’s certifications don’t match with the US, even though they could be superior, or the licensing is different.

As a result, you might have to start again when you move to the new country. For instance, you must obtain new certifications and licensure to work as a lawyer or a doctor in the US.

Additionally, you might need to take a licensing exam in English. One way of solving this issue is by applying for jobs early on before immigrating to the US. This way, you will be better positioned to find high-paying jobs upon arrival.

Language Barrier

When you move to the US and you don’t speak the English language, you will likely face various challenges. Beyond socializing, you are also likely to incur extra costs, such as hiring a tutor or a translator.

Luckily, and with time, you can overcome this problem even though it’s challenging to pick up a new language as an adult. You can also turn to free online services to learn English. Better yet, make friends and encourage them to teach you their language.

On the other hand, you might come in speaking perfect English, but find it difficult to understand financial terms in the US.

Your home country’s financial system is most likely very different from the US which presents unique challenges. You are likely looking at issues through the lenses of what you know, which likely clouds issues even more, especially when it comes to trust issues.

Banking Challenges

For many families and individuals, the consumer financial market is full of challenges. It’s not surprising that foreign-born individuals and families are five times less likely to use financial products and banks than native-born individuals (2).

For instance, a native-born individual can quickly pay a utility bill from a checking account from the comfort of their home. On the other hand, an immigrant or a foreign-born individual with no bank is forced to purchase products and services in person.

Research shows, that this slows down your accumulation of US credit scores making it difficult to acquire loans and mortgages. More on the US credit scores and history later.

Building US Credit

Although you might have built a good credit score back home, you will have to restart when you move abroad. Building credit in the US is one of the biggest challenges facing many immigrants and foreign-born residents.

Building credit history from scratch takes a tremendous amount of work, ranging from getting, secured credit cards to asking relatives and friends with established credit to become authorized users.

I have seen this question come up so much, that I have created an eBook that shows you how to build your US credit score from scratch when new in the country. 

Sending Money Back Home

If your loved ones back home rely on you, you must send money back The challenges you are likely to face have to do with figuring out the best way of doing this. Watch out for a blog post on this soon.

This is especially true if you don’t have a bank account. Without a bank account, you will incur high service fees. Sometimes, sending money home without a bank account is almost impossible. Although multiple transfer services are available in the US, you still have to sift through each service until you find one that works best for you.

How Foreign-Born Residents and Immigrants Can Overcome Financial Challenges

You’ll face challenges as a newly arrived immigrant, but don’t let these challenges hold you back or stop you from pursuing your dreams and goals.

All you need to overcome these challenges is determination, hard work, and the right financial expertise in your corner.  My firm, Financial Elgon Advisors, is ready to work with you and help you make the most of the financial opportunities available to you. 

I’ve been down the same path, and I’m thrilled to make it easier for you while helping you avoid what could be major financial traps. Check out some case studies of the work we do.  

Need Help Figuring Out the US Financial Landscape?

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Disclaimer:  This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for the purchase or sale of any security, investment advisory services, or legal advice. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Jane Mepham and all rights are reserved. Read the full disclaimer here.

Jane Mepham, CFP® is a Fee-Only financial planner who loves simplifying the complexities of the U.S. financial system for immigrants and foreign nationals on work visas and those in tech. She’ll work with you to map out a personal strategy that addresses all areas of your financial life while avoiding key financial mistakes that could derail your American dream.

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