America is home to 50 states all beautiful in their own way, diverse geography, world-class universities and sport, and a multicultural melting pot of arts, food and people to meet. Whether you’re looking to move to the USA for a small town feel, a change of pace, or a life of adventure, you’re sure to find it here.
Visas and becoming a citizen
While the US is literally built by immigrants of all walks of life, the population of 330 million and counting makes it mandatory to have the right documents to live and work. If you want to visit the States for travel purposes and are one of the 38 countries (e.g. those in the EU, Japan, Chile, New Zealand, Australia) part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you can do so and a visitor (B) visa for up to 90 days.
Thinking of moving to America?
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Obtaining US work visa, family visa or other immigration visa is as ‘easy’ as it is in other large countries; so there are a lot of options to look into and different forms to fill in. Take a look at our more in depth guide to American visas and citizenship for more information.
You name it, we make it. Whether you have experience in IT, education, sciences, healthcare, or virtually any other sector, the US is hiring. The national unemployment rate at the time of writing is 5.5% - the lowest in seven years, with over a hundred thousand new jobs created every month. If you’re multilingual, you will have many opportunities to choose from over bilingual applicants.
Depending on your sector, a simple tidying up of your LinkedIn profile and contacting recruiters should do the trick. For others, you may have to provide evidence of your certifications from your home country and its US equivalent to get a role that matches the level of your experience.
Essential info for the United States
|Official language:||None, technically. English is the main language, with Spanish, Tagalog, and Chinese among the most widely spoken.|
|Capital city:||Washington DC|
|Timezone:||Atlantic UTC-04:00, Eastern UTC-05:00, Central UTC-06:00, Mountain UTC-07:00, Pacific UTC-08:00, Alaska UTC-09:00, Hawaii-Aleutian UTC-10:00|
|International dialling code:||+1|
|Electricity:||110 volts, 2 pin|
|Internet TLD:||.com, .us|
|Drives on the:||Right|
|Tipping:||15-20% for restaurants as most staff don’t get an hourly wage.|
|Unusual fact:||At one point, Spain controlled most of the continental United States.|
As it is with virtually every other country on the planet, if you want to buy or rent property in the heart of a major city, it will not be as cheap as one in suburbs or in a nearby town. For example, a two bed, two bath apartment in Santa Monica, part of Los Angeles, can cost around $600,000), whereas you could buy a spacious 3 bed, 2 bath house for the same price in the LA suburb of Woodland Hills.
Most people moving to the States or out of their family home for the first time rent before they get to know exactly where they want to live. To get a better idea of the rental prices of a city, use online resources like national realtor.com; this will help you suss out what’s a good deal and what’s completely unrealistic.
If you want to move to a location that has other people from your hometown or country, you can safely bet on the major cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.
Cost of moving
Depending on which coast/state you choose to move to, the prices of moving all your belongings may vary. Below are some of the most common routes and their costs, based on the average move for a family of four:
|Sydney to Los Angeles||$2,226 USD|
|Brisbane to Seattle||$2,226 USD|
|Rome to Boston||$2,721 USD|
|London to New York||$2,721 USD|
|London to Houston||$3,339 USD|
|Hong Kong to San Diego||$3,834 USD|
|Sao Paulo to Dallas||$4,452 USD|
|Berlin to Los Angeles||$4,699 USD|
|Cape Town to New York||$6,802 USD|
Rent will most likely eat a majority of your salary, though it’s still cheaper than the likes of London or Melbourne. It isn’t uncommon for a one bed apartment in the heart of Houston to be around $1,300, while it can be $300 more a month for the same in Seattle.
Farmer’s markets are increasingly popular in cities, though you can usually find cheaper produce in the local supermarkets. There are even speciality shops and markets if you are craving certain types of foods, though usually in the cities.
Dining out can be as cheap as $15 for a main dish and drink, but a three course meal for two at a fancier spot can set you back $50 - not including tip (see below). If you fancy some exported beer, be prepared to shell out a bit more.
In most cities, the public transportation system should suffice (some New Yorkers don’t even have a driver’s licence) but in a lot of places having a car will do wonders. In notoriously car-friendly LA, you can pick up a new car for $15,000, or spend around $70 for a monthly transit pass in San Francisco.
Schools and education
In the United States, primary education is broken up into pre-school, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Generally, kids go to one school for elementary school, and then another for middle school and a separate one for high school, all within their local area. These are usually public schools (free and regulated by individual state governments), though there are many private schools and international schools in the cities.
While America has a ridiculous amount of world-class colleges (American speak for universities), they all come with a cost. If you send your child to a school (still means university in American English) in one state and you live in another, you will pay out of state fees. To qualify for in state fee status, you must usually live in that state for around 12-24 months prior to applying.
Driving in America
As there are 50 states with their own laws about almost everything, driving in America depends on where you plan on driving, but there are a few general rules:
Everyone must have a valid driver’s license in order to drive.
Each state has their own requirements, but any US state or Canadian license is accepted across the nation.
If you have a license from anywhere else, you should check the DMV in your state.
Some states may require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your foreign license.
Generally, you must be 25 years old to rent a car, but check with your state.
Always drive on the right and obey all traffic laws of that state.
The beauty of America’s multiculturalism is that you can walk through a major city and hear multiple conversations in different languages. Literally built by immigrants and refugees, America is home to many expat groups and publications, including the clever Mind the Gap. Think you’re the only one in your town from your home country? Check out meetup.com to find others to chat to about your new lives in the States.
Ranking against the world
Since America is so huge, many of its cities have access to the coast and plentiful sunshine, leaving places like Napa and Yorba Linda, both in California, as some of the healthiest cities in the world. Although the US is not currently at the top of the list of happiest nations, the cost of living is lower than the UK, Australia, Ireland, and France, just to name a few.
America is a widely friendly, hugely competitive country, meaning that your new country will offer you plenty of reasons to cheer for virtually any sport (though we haven’t quite figured out cricket or rugby).
If great education is one of your main concerns, 17 of the top 25 universities in the world are in the USA and some of them are even public schools.