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Moving to the USA conjures up thoughts of a hugely diverse country, a melting pot of people from all corners of the earth, and chasing the American dream. But what are the key challenges people face when relocating to the USA?
The key when relocating to the USA is research and preparation. Entry and work permits/visas can be a little tricky. The cost of living in certain cities is expensive and there is also a surprising amount of red tape and bureaucracy. Healthcare, housing and education are all notable considerations ahead of your move to this amazing country.
Fortunately, we cover all this and much more in our ultimate moving to the USA guide.
It’s not only individuals who are born and bred in the USA who are passionately chasing the ‘American dream’. In fact, this is an aspiration shared by 40 million people living in the US who originated from another country. According to the Pew Research Center, one-fifth of the global migrant population migrates to the United States. The same demographic is also so diverse that it’s not difficult to find representatives from all corners of the world here.
So let’s take a look in detail at Moving to the USA as a migrant in 2020.
When moving to the USA, you should know that the 50 US states are considered as separate entities with their own laws, traditions, and cultures. With this in mind, you must consider the regulations of the state you’ll be relocating to.
Another thing to consider is meeting the health requirements for your immigration to the US. For this, you’ll have to arrange a face-to-face appointment with a physician that’s appointed by the US embassy. The doctor will go through your medical history and perform a thorough physical examination.
American culture is probably the most familiar due to the exposure it has in most of our daily lives. Moving to the USA is an adventure, the world's biggest economy certainly offers huge potential to any new arrival.
Many ex-pats arriving in the US should find adjusting to life relatively straightforward, especially if moving to major cities such as New York, LA, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Philadelphia, etc.
Americans are generally friendly and welcoming to new arrivals and polite and tolerant in terms of other traditions, cultures and religions etc. Many Americans are very patriotic and uphold values like equality and freedom. Some may find Americans can be direct and honest. This is generally well-intentioned and should not be considered as rude necessarily.
It is incredibly varied. Whilst there are similarities throughout much of the US, certain aspects of life differ greatly between the urban areas of major cities to the coastlines of the East and West and the more rural parts of the country including the mid-west. The pace of life, landscape, climate, politics, liberal and social views can be quite varied.
Crime is usually a concern for many new arrivals. Once again, the levels of crime differ drastically throughout the country. Some of the larger cities like Chicago, Baltimore and Detroit, are experiencing a crime epidemic but many other parts of the US are very safe. Despite the highly publicised gun culture in America, the chances are in most areas of the US it is highly unlikely you would be exposed to gun crime.
This really depends on which part of the USA you move to. Life in the deep south of the country is very laid back, but move to a city like New York and you will find your life is lived at a frenetic pace. The work ethic is full-on, life/home balance is nothing like it is in western Europe. You get fewer holidays and are expected to work longer hours and be more productive in many work sectors. Americans even invented fast food; who has time to eat, when there is so much going on!
According to numbeo.com, if you live in the United States, it is highly likely that 34.5% of your monthly expenses would be allocated for house rent. 31% is expected to go to food, groceries, and other household expenses, 15% for expenses like clothing and footwear, utilities, sports and leisure, and 11% for transportation.
To provide a better overview of how these percentages translate into dollars, here is a sample cost estimate for the basic expenses of people living in the US.
The 10 most expensive cities in the US are New York, San Francisco, Honolulu (Hawaii), Boston, Washington DC, Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, LA and Miami.
The cheapest are Buffalo, Kansas City. Dayton (Ohio), Birmingham, Louiseville, Memphis, Greenville (S.C), Colorado Springs and San Antonio.
OF LIVING IN THE USA
In the majority of cases, you don’t have to pay duty taxes when moving your household items to the US. Items considered as household effects include professional books, instruments, bed linen, tableware, household electronics, artwork, carpets, and furniture. These items are exempt from payment of duty taxes if:
Aside from declaring the items, you’ll be bringing with you to the US; you need to prepare an itemised list of these items. In some cases, the customs officer requires this information. Also, remember things like jewellery, clothing, and photographic equipment do not fall under the household effects category, and thus might require payment of duty. Then again, duty payments are typically waived if these items are one year old and old.
When moving to the USA from Dubai, importing Household Goods and Personal Effects, you require
For a more in-depth look at documentation please check the International Association of Movers.
Expats aiming to enter the US can apply for either of these two visas -- immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. The visa that you should apply for depends on the purpose of your US travel. L and H-1B visas are two of the most common types of visas issued in the US.
The former is for employees of multinational companies that are invited to transfer and work in the US. The latter visa, on the other hand, is an immigrant visa granted to skilled occupational workers.
Non-immigrant visas are issued to people who reside permanently outside the US but will have to stay temporarily in the country. This type of visa is typically issued to spouses of permanent US residents, journalists, people transiting to another country, students, businessmen, and skilled and unskilled workers.
Immigrant visas, on the other hand, are issued to individuals who want to reside in the US permanently. This type of visa is principally issued to people with immediate families or certain familial relationships with people who are currently permanent residents of the US. Other cases include people going to the US as religious workers or underemployment sponsorships.
If you wish to study in the US, you need to have a student visa. Depending on your school type and course, you’ll either have to apply for an M-1 or F-1 visa. The former visa type is one that’s granted to non-academic and vocational institutions. The latter visa type, on the other hand, is a visa for students taking academic programs in any of the following -- language, secondary, primary schools and university.
You need to show proof that you have been accepted in any of these schools before you can apply for a visa. You will then be enrolled in a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Your school of choice will then provide you with a form called form I-20, a document that you need to fill-out and present during your visa interview.
The US tax system is a complex topic which frankly will require professional financial advice to fully understand it. All you need to know now is that people in the US have to pay separate taxes to the state and to the federal government. There are also instances wherein the taxpayers are also ex-pats pay district or city taxes, too.
Here is an example of the bank requirements you need to comply before you can get a US bank account:
Remember, however, that some banks may require you to present your employment contract or other proof of income to show from where you’ll be getting funds.
Opening a bank account can be quite an issue for ex-pats. This is mainly because banks ask for specific immigration and identification information. And since the documents needed by non-residents to open a bank account vary, an online bank account application can get messy. This is the reason why it’s better to apply for a US bank account in person.
Your financial and credit history is very important in the US. It proves you have a track record of honouring any financial agreements you may have entered into in the past. It confirms you have a history of paying bills on time.
Anyone who is offering credit has the legal right to obtain a credit report on the consumer and there are credit agencies who compile this data and make it available to a credit guarantor.
Having a bad credit score makes it very difficult to set up credit, purchase a car, obtain a mortgage etc.
The climate in the US is generally regarded as temperate, with few exceptions. Alaska’s climate, for example, is Arctic tundra, while South Florida and Hawaii both have a tropical climate. Along the Great Plains, you’ll feel that the dry, and grassy environment turns the western areas into an arid desert and further west still to the Californian coast, the climate is Mediterranean.
Finding accommodation in the US is relatively straight-forward. Once you know the city/town you are moving to you can start to research areas and neighbourhoods that best suit your specific needs. Proximity to work & school for example, or the shops, entertainment & leisure which is close by.
From there it’s a question of looking for places to rent/buy. As usual the internet is a great place, but there are also places listed in local newspapers and also a good local real estate agent can help to dramatically reduce the time your search takes.
Application - Once you have found your ideal place to live, you need to prove to the landlord of your intention to make a serious offer. This may include proving you can afford the rent. This where a credit rating may come into the equation. Also, reference letters from previous landlords might be handy. Some landlords are more particular than others.
Lease Agreement - A lease agreement, unless specified otherwise, will normally last 12 months. It is important to read this document carefully so that you are fully aware of your obligations and that of the owner of the property. Avoid the temptation to just sign this off. Take 5 minutes to read it properly.
Deposit - Once the lease agreement has been drawn up you will need to pay the first months rent in advance, in addition to a security deposit (which can cost another month/or two rent). This Is regarded as a refundable deposit which is returned to you once a final check of the property has been completed by the landlord at the end of the lease agreement. Any damage or repairs will be deducted from this deposit.
Utilities - In some instances, certain utilities might be included in the rent. There are regular things like water and electricity, however, you may also have a gas bill, also there may be a community charge or garbage collection fees. You also want to check there is no outstanding telephone bill which might cause problems after you move in.
The US healthcare system is a bit of a conundrum, to say the least. Most locals can’t quite figure out what’s going on and so what chance do ex-pats have of working it all out.
It is probably best to think of two systems: public health care and health insurance. The US does have public healthcare per se, but it is not universal, which means not everyone can take advantage of it, and certainly not ex-pats.
In the US public healthcare applies only to people of a certain age and those earning below a certain income in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. However, this deals with a relatively small number of the population and certainly does not cover most working Americans.
There are a number of reasons. There is a huge amount of testing which goes into a lot of medicines, there is very little government control which leaves the price-setting largely in the hands of the major pharmaceutical companies, and also the medical staff in the US get paid disproportionately higher than their counterparts in many other parts of the world.
The good news is that American employers often provide some form of health insurance, though it is wise to check exactly what this covers and what it does not.
Any major operation or even having a baby in the US can incur crippling debts if you are not properly covered.
For most children school lasts a total of approximately 12-14 years. Starting with preschool 3-5 years old, (which is optional (not mandatory) , primary (elementary school) 6-10, junior high 11-12 and high school from the age of 13-17. Ages do change between districts and states.
Through primary and elementary education most/if not all tuition is handled by one teacher. Once students reach junior high and through highschool tuition is conducted by a number of specialists teaching staff.
All children in the US are entitled to free education and the public school they attend is determined by the district they live in within their state. If you know where you are moving to in the US, you can check out the best schools in your district.
Public schools generally do not have uniforms, so there is no cost to parents, but also books and transportation to and from school. if required, is generally free.
Extra-curricular activities are incredibly popular with students of all ages, there are numerous sports, art, drama club, music, technology and science clubs. Some of this is free and some activities sponsored or funded by donations. Students might need to invest in certain equipment or materials.
At around 6 years old all children begin their full-time education. Elementary school provides a more structured school day that the pre-school/kindergarten the children will be used to.
Most schools will introduce maths, reading and writing skills, PE, arts & crafts, history and geography )in the form of social studies) and science. Increasingly, schools may also introduce children to a second language.
Following graduation from elementary school and for the next two or three years, students attend junior high. This prepares the students for high school and tuition introduces them to subjects like algebra, geometry, woodwork and IT.
At around 14 years old students enter high school and their Freshman year. Over the course of the next 4 years, students have the option of taking certain subjects and dropping others. The options they do take tend to shape the career they want to follow.
Among the many subjects available the students can study individual sciences chemistry, physics and biology. In addition, things like English literature introduce students to creative writing, classic literature and even journalism. Social studies introduce sociology, politics and economics. Art covers more distinct subjects and courses such as painting, dance, drama, etc.
Students must collect credits over the course of each semester. Each state has its own way of adjudicating performance. However, it is common for students in Grade 11 to take the SAT test which forms part of the admissions process to college and higher learning.
Moving to a different country can be daunting, and if you don’t get on top of things it can become quite stressful. Moving to the United States of America presents its own set of unique challenges, but if you follow the guidelines we have provided, we feel certain you can experience a smooth relocation to the USA.
You can start the ball rolling by completing our simple form, allowing international movers to get started on your quotation, today!
Note: This document is provided as a guide for people moving to the United States of America and for information purposes only. Customs regulations can and do change at any time, usually without notice. Your mover will provide you with more information.