Working in New York in 2021
There aren’t many more exciting places in the world than New York. It’s an enchanting city heaving with skyscrapers, bright lights, yellow taxi cabs and – most importantly – opportunities.
Some seriously ambitious companies and some extremely bright minds gather together in the Big Apple to make things happen.
It’s also a welcoming place for expats. There are over 8.4 million people in New York City, and 36% of them were born in another country (Baruch College, 2019).
We’re going to tell you all about what it’s like to work over there, including living costs, salaries, job hunting tips and key visa info. Enjoy!
What’s on this page?
A cracking view of the Big Apple from the sky
Cost of living
You can’t live in the City of Dreams without paying a premium for the privilege. New York City is famously pricey, offering very little bang for your buck (so it helps to have a lot of buck).
In the Council for Community and Economic Research’s Quarter 1 2021 Cost of Living Index, they analysed 265 urban areas in the United States and – surprise surprise – two districts of New York City placed in the top four.
Manhattan was top, while Brooklyn ranked fourth.
However, in global terms you could be doing worse. In Mercer’s 2021 survey of the most expensive cities in the world for expats, New York dropped out of the top 10, coming 14th – well behind cities like Hong Kong, Ashgabat, Tokyo, Zurich, and Singapore.
Plus, when it comes to buying property instead of renting it, New York is not the most expensive city in America; San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles are all above the Big Apple, according to Money & Markets.
Take a look at New York’s typical living costs (sourced from Numbeo) in the table below:
|Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre||£2,563|
|Monthly pass for public transport||£95|
|Monthly gym subscription||£65|
|Half-litre draught of domestic beer||£5.33|
Once you've got a move to NYC on the cards, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into US dollars.
However, it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate.
That’s why we’ve done our research and compared all the major money transfer services on the market, so you can choose the right one. Check out our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider today.
As New York City’s living costs are so high, it makes sense that its average salary should also be above the national norm.
The average salary in New York City is $79,000 (£57,000), according to PayScale, while the nationwide US average stands at $65,836 (£49,399), according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
If you're looking to start living and working in New York City, it's wise to think about medical cover for when you're out there.
That's why we've partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in New York. 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.
How has COVID-19 affected working in New York?
COVID-19 has changed so much, and New York City is no different.
631,000 people lost their jobs during the pandemic, but with case numbers falling, the Big Apple is on the rebound.
March 2021 was the first month to record more people in work than in the equivalent month before the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, the city isn't bouncing back to the same degree as other comparable cities.
This is partly because many people (especially low-paid workers) are reconsidering whether NYC's various attractions make it worth it to live in this expensive hub.
All of this means that employers will be keen to hire skilled individuals, whether they come from the US or abroad.
New York's not going anywhere, and it'll need plenty of workers to help the city get back to its best.
Nobody goes to New York to relax; the city is loud, fast-paced and intensely competitive. People go over there to make it big, and hard work is the best route. “Working late” is a fairly common occurrence and people tend to check their work emails at the weekend. On the sidewalks, daily commuters like to walk quickly, so it’s wise to speed up or get well out of the way.
New York City’s “enthusiastic” work culture and its sprawling size also goes some way in explaining why its inhabitants work such long hours. All of this means life in New York can get pretty tiring if you don’t look after yourself. It’s not surprising Central Park is so popular with the locals.
Speaking of looking after yourself, it's important that you sort out the right healthcare before you head over to NYC. For more info, check out our detailed guide to health insurance in the US.
The New York skyline glinting in the sunshine
Finding work in a faraway city used to be almost impossible, but the internet has made things so much easier. You can browse jobs from the other side of the world and stay sat down for the whole thing.
The best resources for job hunting in New York City are the names you might expect; Indeed, Monster and Glassdoor all have excellent online NYC job boards. If you’re looking to join the American public sector, check out the New York City Government website.
To make things a lot easier, the UK-US Visa Waiver Program gives Brits the right to a visa-free 90-day stay in the US. This means you’ve got time to get a better feel for the city, apply for jobs in person, visit careers fairs and (hopefully) attend interviews. The New York State website has a great online calendar for all the job-hunting events coming up in New York, such as resume workshops and motivational talks.
For more information, check out our page on job hunting in the United States.
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Best jobs and industries
New York is a “world city”, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s just really good at quite a lot of things. Finance, fashion, retail, healthcare, advertising, tourism: you name it, New York does it well. However, it does certain things better than others, so we’ve taken a closer look at what’s hot in New York right now, even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Fastest growing industry
It’s very trendy nowadays for cities to be crazy about tech, so it’s no surprise that New York’s technology industry is absolutely banging. It all started out on a couple of blocks located around 23rd street, but in the past few years the city’s tech sector has spread all over the place.
A 2020 report from Hired showed that US tech workers receive an average salary of $146,000 (£109,500) per year, and NYC-based employees are benefiting massively from the gold rush. The same study also found that half of tech workers expect a 10% raise once COVID-19's effects have passed. If you want to ride the crest of this exciting wave, hop on New York’s tech bandwagon.
The startup scene
Bright, creative people are starting up new companies all over the world, and New York City is a particular hotspot. It’s got loads of shared office spaces, a stack of keen investors and countless networking events. The NYC startup ecosystem is worth a whopping $147 billion, which makes it the second most valuable on Earth.
SmashVC created a great list of New York’s most exciting startups in 2021, which includes a seriously wide range of industries. You’ll find companies like neuroscience-based recruiting platform Pymetrics, innovative dating platform Cheekd, and BarkBox, a monthly subscription box for your pet dog.
Similarly, Growjo's list of New York’s fastest growing companies in 2021 offers a proper mixture, from cryptocurrency company BlockFi to medical cannabis provider Columbia Care.
The best workplaces
Sometimes company culture is more important than status or salary. Maybe you’re more concerned about finding a nice place to work than just the highest-paying job available. In the fast-paced work environment of New York City, this is especially important.
The 40 best places to work in New York City include corporate firms like Salesforce and American Express alongside some fairly fun picks, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Hulu. You’re spoiled for choice in New York.
Work permits for the USA
Once you’ve got your heart set on NYC and you’ve found a company that want you, your last obstacle is the visa. There are several options open to you, which we explain a little bit here. Please note that the vast majority of work-based US visas rely on you having a job offer from a licensed American company before you move there.
The Visa Waiver Program
We’ve already mentioned the VWP. It’s 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. What’s more, a 90-day stay in New York City will give you a proper taste of life there, and it’ll help you decide if that’s what you really want.
American visas are divided into two categories: immigrant and nonimmigrant. These terms essentially mean ‘permanent’ and ‘temporary’. If you’re not looking to live and work in NYC 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 years.
L-1 Visa (Intra-Company Transferee): for people moving to the States within the same company, lasting between five and seven years.
You can see the full USCIS breakdown of employment-based non-immigrant visas here.
These visas aren’t technically permanent, but you can pretty much extend them indefinitely if you keep meeting the requirements. They generally last for two-year periods before requiring a renewal. The US government releases around 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas every year, which sounds like an awful lot, but there’s normally a fairly long waiting list.
Once you’ve found a company in New York City that wants you, it’s down to them to file Petition Form l-140 with the USCIS. Essentially, the company needs to prove that there are no qualified workers available who are already in the US. 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.
The Permanent Residence Card
Also known as “The Green Card”, the Permanent Residence Card allows you to live in the United States indefinitely. Most people don’t manage to get one until they’ve spent at least a few years working in America on a temporary visa, so you probably don’t need to think about getting one just yet. However, if you want to know more then check out the USCIS page on green cards here.
Hopefully this article has turned your New York dream into a genuine New York possibility. There’s a bit of work for you to do, especially when it comes to finding a proper job over there, but it will all be worth the effort.
If you do seal the deal with a company in the Big Apple, we can help you move your belongings over there. Just fill in the form at the top of this page and our suppliers will get back to you with their best prices. For more info, check out our guide to international container shipping costs.
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