San Francisco

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Doing Business in San Francisco

Expats working in San Francisco may not see much of the typical Californian weather. However, the City by the Bay has a lot in store for professionals from all over the globe. Read our guide on working in San Francisco for more information about the economy, social security, business culture, and more.
San Francisco has a lot to offer professionals from all over the world.

Social Security and Pensions: What You Need to Keep in Mind

To work in San Francisco or anywhere else in the US, you need a social security card and a social security number. When to acquire these depends on your visa.

If you will be staying in San Francisco indefinitely, you can request a social security number when applying for your immigrant visa. As a nonimmigrant, on the other hand, you should submit your request online ten days after your arrival in the USA.

In the US, social security consists of retirement benefits as well as survivor and disability insurance. The US Social Security Administration has more information on social security for noncitizens and other issues. To qualify for a US state pension, you must be at least 67 years of age and have contributed to the US social security system for at least ten years. Note, however, that retirement benefits alone are seldom enough to keep up one’s past standard of living. Thus, it is often a good idea to contribute to a company pension fund or make other retirement arrangements.

Does Your Home Country Have a Social Security Agreement with the US?

The United States maintains social security agreements with 25 countries, including the UK, Japan, and Australia. As they regulate how social security contributions between two countries are handled, these agreements can make your expat life in San Francisco a lot easier.

First of all, most agreements protect expats from paying social security taxes on the same income in two countries. Moreover, they help fill gaps in benefit protection if you have spent part of your career abroad. As such, your contributions in San Francisco may count towards your social security account at home.

For a full list of countries and information on each specific agreement, you should visit the Social Security Administration’s website.

How to Find Out Your Tax Status

As an expat in San Francisco, you will have to pay income tax on both a federal and a state level. Income tax is, however, comparatively low in the US. Typically, expats are taxed like US citizens.

How you will be taxed does, however, depend on how much time you have spent in the US during the last three years. See the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for more information concerning taxation of foreign employees working in the United States. If you continue to pay income tax in your home country, you might be exempt from paying federal income tax in case your home country has a double taxation agreement with the US. Keep in mind, however, that this does not affect state income tax.

Taxation and social security are tricky subjects. If you have more questions, read our articles on Social Security and Taxation in the USA to find answers.

Time is Money: Business Culture in San Francisco

In the business world, Americans tend to be very direct, which might require a bit of an adjustment for expats from other cultural backgrounds. There is not much beating around the bush, and most people try to get the job done as quickly as possible. Indeed, the saying time is money rings true here, even in a laid-back city like San Francisco. Of course, being direct and to the point should not be mistaken for being rude.

At the same time, you will soon find that the American business culture is rather informal. Co-workers, business partners, and even your boss may call you by your first name right away and expect you to do the same. Note, though, that lavish business gifts are uncommon. In fact, some may perceive them as bribery, which obviously could cause a lot of trouble.

Make a good impression on your first day of work by reading our article on US Business Culture beforehand!


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Raul Gonzales

"Thanks to InterNations, I quickly found useful tips of where to search for a flat. And I met great global minds at the same time."

Li Wang

"As I already connected with several Chinese women before moving to San Francisco, I quickly felt at home here."

Global Expat Guide