Resources > Section 17 > Orientation > Living in the US
#17-172Cell Plan & phone UsagePDFReturnURL
This section has a variety of information that is useful to know when living in the United States.
Cell phone service in the United States is provided by three major carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. While the majority of Americans subscribe directly to AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon, many opt for Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) such as Cricket, Mint, or Google Fi.
Step 1 Choose a provider. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are the main cell providers in the US. MVNOs offer cheaper prices on plans and more features because they don’t have their own network. The downside is that MVNO providers may have their data speeds slowed down during peak traffic times, as the main network operator prioritizes its own customer’s data speeds. Choose a provider that suits your own preferences.

• Verizon Wireless: Best 4G, reliable, but slightly pricy – Click HERE
• AT&T: Free streaming data but relatively more dead spots – Click HERE
• T-Mobile: Best 5G, affordable, but less reliable in rural areas – Click HERE
• MVNO: Great deals but do not own the network, Mint (T-Mobile network, one of the cheapest, free calls to Canada/Mexico, min 3 months) and Visible (Verizon network, arguably the best value) are popular choices among other participants

Step 2 Select a service plan. Subscribe to a qualified US mobile plan that meets the program’s requirements. Of the plan types, most participants choose “prepaid” as other options may require a SSN (applied after arrival) and one/two-year contract. If your phone has a built in e-SIM, you may sign up for a plan prior to your arrival and immediately make and receive calls upon arrival in the US. If not, you may opt to have the SIM card sent to your housing upon arrival or walk into a store to buy it after arrival. Participants are required to possess a fully functioning phone with a valid US phone number and uninterruped and qualified mobile plan (unlimited talk/text + 10GB+ or unlimited 4G/5G LTE speed) throughout their stay in the US.

Types of plans include:
• Family plans (w/ contract): Affordable, up to ~5 lines, possible to argue for more
• Contract plans (w/ contract): Rigid deposit (no SSN required), pay monthly
• Prepaid plans (w/o contract): Affordable, no credit checks, speed throttling

Step 3 During the program. Submit your US mobile phone number via the FUSIA online panel within 72 hours after your arrival in the US as part of the SEVIS validation process. Ensure that you stay connected with us throughout your stay in the US. If your phone is lost/damaged, have it repaired/replaced within 72 hours (if you have a spare phone, bring it to the US). Report any changes of your US mobile phone number/plan to FUSIA within 72 hours of change, followed by the amendment process, which must be completed in the following 72 hours.

• Scams are common in the United States; be sure to lock your SIM card with a PIN to avoid potential unauthorized use
• Report and validate your US phone number with FUSIA within 72 days after landing (if you cannot, apply for a 72 hour buffer)
• Stay connected with FUSIA and report any changes/complete the amendment process within 72 hours

Step 4 After the program. Cancel your US phone plan after leaving the US. If you want to keep your US phone number for future use (e.g., receiving SMS messages), you may port your mobile number to Google voice for a small fee.