Moving to California

Ah, California. Famed for its golden coastline, laidback stereotypes, tech giant Google, and Hollywood. You can rest assured there’s something for everyone here, whether you’re moving to California alone or with your family.

If you’re planning on moving to The Golden State, check out all the need-to-know information below. We can also offer you free quotes for shipping your possessions over – simply fill in the form at the top of this page, you can see how much moving your life to California would cost.

An idyllic stream flowing through one of California's many nature parks, framed by rocky mountains in the background

Cost of shipping to California from the UK

We’ve calculated the average international shipping rates for some of our most sought-after journeys from major UK cities to California. The rates are sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth £40,000 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance). The durations are sourced from Searates.com.

This information was last updated in August 2020.

Bear in mind these are estimates only. If you’d like a more accurate idea of how much shipping to California will cost you, just pop your details into this form, and our suppliers will get back to you.

RouteCostDuration
London to Los Angeles$1,545.80 - $1,708.5225 days, 1 hour
London to San Francisco$1,575.80 - $1,741.6826 days, 2 hours
Liverpool to Los Angeles$1,502.89 - $1,661.0824 days, 4 hours
Liverpool to San Francisco$1,532.05 - $1,693.3225 days, 5 hours

Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.

Select the size of your move to get free quotes

Cost of flying goods to California from the UK

These rates are also sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the airport-to-airport transportation of much lighter goods – 250kg of household goods, to be precise, worth £40,000, from major origin city to three major cities in California.

Remember: air freight has its advantages when it comes to speed, but container shipping is 12-16 times cheaper than air freight, according to The World Bank – and in this specific case, shipping could save you more than £1,200.

RouteCostDuration
London to Los Angeles$2,333.31 - $2,578.9212 hours
London to San Francisco$2,333.31 - $2,578.9212 hours
Liverpool to Los Angeles$2,333.31 - $2,578.9212 hours
Liverpool to San Francisco$2,333.31 - $2,578.9212 hours

Healthcare in California

The healthcare system in America can take some time to get your head around – especially if you’re used to the NHS in the UK. So, before your big move to California, it’s wise to consider whether you’ll need medical cover for when you’re out there. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of everything you need to know on our American healthcare page

We’ve also partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in the US. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Cost of living in California

Good / serviceAverage cost
1 litre of whole fat milk$0.95
12 eggs$4.07
500 grams of local cheese$7
Bread for 2 people$2.53
1 bottle of good quality red wine$14
1 pint of beer$7
Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished accommodation$2,312
Utilities 1 month$187
1 month of gym membership$55
2 cinema tickets $29

Data from Expatistan

Transferring money to California from the UK

If you’re thinking of moving to California, you’ll probably need to convert some of your British pounds into American dollars.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an easy-to-use online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees.

How much could you save? Well, its service can be up to 8x cheaper than high street banks.

Join more than 7 million people and start using TransferWise today.

the golden gate bridge

Glowing in the afternoon sun stands one of California's most famous landmarks: The Golden Gate Bridge

Finding a home in California

Whether you’re renting or buying, finding a new home in the Golden State can be difficult and stressful. 

That’s where PerchPeek can help. PerchPeek will set you up with an expert support team who are full of local knowledge and available 24/7. They’ll help you with the entire moving process, from finding a property and securing viewings, to sorting the paperwork and getting you settled. 

Just pop your details in this quick form to sign up for a free consultation phone call.

The best places to live in California

If you’re planning on moving to California, you’re well and truly spoiled for choice – so let’s explore the best areas for common interests. 

Camarillo: best for families

Located slightly northwest of Los Angeles,  Camarillo sits just a few miles from the coast. This city is perfect for families that don’t want to stray too far from working city life, but are ready to set up camp in a quaint and quiet neighborhood. 

Plus, you won’t need to fret about your little ones here. A recent report on violent crime in Camarillo stated that rates have dropped to their lowest in decades, with 0.83 incidents for every 1,000 residents in the city. 

Los Angeles: best for students

Los Angeles is a relatively young place, with a sizeable 34% of the city either in their 20s or 30s – ideal for students looking to make new friends in their new college city. Plus, you can expect the streets to be teeming with life – pubs, clubs, restaurants, quirky venues, you name it.

Of course, you’ll probably be interested in scholarly life too, right? Well, LA won’t let you down in that department either. In fact, the Golden State is home to nine universities in the US’s top 50 rankings

San Francisco: best for work

A recent study has found that San Francisco is one of the happiest cities for people who are just starting their careers – based on employees’ satisfaction with coworkers and employers. 

Plus, before the coronavirus hit the US the average unemployment rate in the United States is slightly over 4%, while the rate in San Francisco fluctuates between 3%. Although this isn’t a massive difference, it does show that finding a job in San Francisco is somewhat easier than doing so in other places around the country. 

Thanks to the nearby Silicon Valley, people who move to San Francisco also have a chance to get experience with some huge tech giants. 

Mist rolling in from the sea at the beginning of a golden morning on the Californian coastline

Jobs in California for British citizens

We can understand why you’d want to work in California. The state has an incredibly diverse economy, with Hollywood, Silicon Valley, manufacturing, and agriculture all making significant contributions. In fact, if California was its own nation, it would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

Getting a work visa for California

If you’re moving to California for work, there are several visa options open to you – but remember, the vast majority of work-based US visas rely on you having a job offer from a licensed American company before you move there.

Check out your options below:

  • The Visa Waiver Program – This is a UK-US agreement that gives British visitors the right to stay in the States visa-free for up to 90 days. You can’t use the time for actual employment, but you can use it for job-hunting

 

  • Nonimmigrant visas – If you’re not looking to live and work in California forever, then a nonimmigrant visa should be enough for you. The most popular options within this category are:
    • H1-B Visa (Skilled Worker) for professionally qualified people, lasting for three years but can be extended to six
    • H2-B Visa (Skilled and Unskilled Workers) for people going to the States to perform seasonal work or fill a temporary labour shortage, lasting between one and three 
    • L-1 Visa (Intra-Company Transferee) for people moving to the States within the same company, lasting between five and seven years

 

  • Immigrant visas – These visas generally last for two-year periods before requiring renewal. Once you’ve found a company in California that wants you, it’s down to them to file Petition Form l-140 with the USCIS. Here are the main three work-based immigrant visa options, in order of descending priority:
    • E1 First Preference: People of “extraordinary ability”.
    • E2 Second Preference: Professionals holding advanced degrees.
    • E3 Third Preference: Professionals and other skilled workers with at least two years training/experience, or unskilled workers filling a shortage.

 

Read more on the USCIS website about all the employment-based immigrant visas here.

Average salary in California

As we mentioned earlier, California has a massive economy, and whether you’re hoping to get stuck into some agricultural work or team up with a tech company, there should be plenty available. Though salaries will vary from job to job, the average annual salary in California is $65,539 (£49,305) – miles higher than the overall US average wage of $48,672 (£36,616) per year.

Income tax in California

California has a progressive income tax, which means rates are lower for lower earners and higher for higher earners. In all, there are nine official income tax brackets in California, with rates ranging from as low as 1% up to 13.30%.

Taxable income for single filersRate
$0 - $8,8091.00%
$8,809 - $20,8832.00%
$20,883 - $32,9604.00%
$32,960 - $45,7536.00%
$45,753 - $57,8248.00%
$57,824 - $295,3739.30%
$295,373 - $354,44510.30%
$354,445 - $590,74211.30%
$590,742 - $999,99912.30%
$1,000,000+13.30%

Data from CA.Gov

Job-hunting in California

Searching for jobs is never an easy task but it doesn’t need to be such a hardship. Though the global coronavirus pandemic has affected America like so many others, raising unemployment levels to record levels, there are still plenty of jobs available.

There are also a lot of job boards to help you out with your search too, including the Californian government site CalJobs, and sites such as Monster, Best Jobs USA, and Betterteam.

Climate in California

As one of the largest states in America, California’s climate differs massively depending on where you are – you could be within an hour or two from mountain ranges, beaches, lakes, forests, or even deserts. Ultimately, you can find any climate you want in the Golden State. 

Does it snow in California?

Surprisingly, yes! Despite being famed for golden beaches and sunny skies, the mountainous areas of California get huge amounts of snow during the winter. And we’re not just talking about a light dusting of the white stuff – the peaks of the Sierra Nevada can accumulate to about 38 feet of it. 

Quick Facts about California 

  1. California is home to the “Avocado Capital of the World.” Every year, Fallbrook holds an avocado festival to celebrate this healthy fruit
  2. Death Valley recorded the hottest temperature on record earlier this month – a preliminary high of 129.9F (54.4C)
  3. California is the birthplace of the internet. In 1969, the first ARPANET message was sent from a UCLA site. The message was meant to say ‘Login’ but only managed to reach ‘Lo’ before the system crashed
  4. California is the third-largest state, following Alaska and Texas. It is 1,040 miles long, and 560 miles wide – roughly 1.5 times larger than the UK
  5. The population of California is over 39 million – larger than Canada’s population by about 3 million
  6. The Hollywood sign originally said “Hollywoodland.”
  7. Standing alone, the state has the fifth-largest economy in the world, tying it with the whole country of Italy

Next steps

It’s official – you’re now ready to pack your bags and head for Hollywood (or something a little less cliche than that). Once you’ve sorted the ins and outs of your move, you’ll want to suss out how to get your belongings to the US. 

You can take the next step by filling in this form –  you’ll receive free shipping quotes from trusted specialists who can move your belongings to your new home.