Moving to the United States of America
America’s great melting pot is famed the world over for its diverse landscapes, world leading economy and incredible culture. Home to the world’s third largest population spread across the third largest country.
Home to nearly 330 million people, the population of America is made up of people from all over the world. Thanks to the job opportunities promised by the American dream, hundreds of thousands plan to immigrate there every year.
A nation of immigrants, relocation to America has always been a popular choice. It remains predominantly populated by those of European descent — approximately 77% of the population. However Hispanic and Asian populations have been the fastest growing groups in recent years. Ethnic diversity continues to be a defining characteristic of the country.
Geographically America is made up of more than 9.8 million square kilometres occupying 40% of the North American continent and several island territories. With so much territory, its renowned diversity extends to nature. It’s also one of the planet’s 17 mega-diverse nations, hosting an astounding array of natural and geographical features.
While the U.S. has the second largest manufacturing sector in the world, its economy is now mostly focused on post-industrial service and knowledge economies.
Given its size and diversity, there is something and somewhere for everyone. You can encounter a stunning variety of natural and historical sites, enjoy theme parks, take road trips, visit famous places and experience a wealth of culture across the USA. The U.S. contains many regional and subcultures whose diversity is reflected in elements like its cuisine: Western European with heavy Native-American, African, Mexican and Asian influences.
Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, and there are local and regional specialities of all types of spirits. You must be at least 21 and be able to provide identification to drink alcohol. State and local governments also create their own alcohol laws, and their differences can be quite extreme. Some areas are completely dry – including Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniels itself. This means that alcohol cannot be purchased within the State.
There is no official requirement to speak fluent English in order to obtain entry to the country or a green card. However, English is the first language of the country with Spanish spoken by around a third of the population. That said, thanks to the varied immigration there are hundreds of languages spoken across the country.
The food in America is as diverse as the population. There is a culture of eating out at restaurants, as well as large cookouts. Depending on where you move, there will be local ‘traditional’ foods, varying from Creole and BBQ in the south, to the famous Philly Cheesesteak and everything in-between. The only thing that’s consistent is the very generous portions!
Ever the land of opportunity and variety, there’s a range of accommodation available across each State. However, cost and availability vary widely depending on type and location. Main cities offer older properties, as well as a mix of ultra-modern and luxe homes. Elsewhere you can find traditional wooden homes, as well as large ranches and lake houses. What’s available to you is largely controlled by the area and State you are moving to.
Thanks to the country’s young age, American housing trends remain largely shaped by the phenomenon of suburban developments and other extra-urban planned communities. If you move to this kind of area, you’ll benefit from great road links, but often less of a traditional community feel/set up.
If you are looking to rent in America, you can deal directly with housing agents or homeowners directly. Both individuals and agencies rent out property, with large agencies being common especially amongst apartment/condo complexes. An estate agent is not required to rent, but in crafting an easy international move we do recommend engaging with a professional.
In the most popular cities (New York, San Francisco etc), the property market is incredibly fast moving, properties are in high demand and prices are high. In city locations, engaging a real estate agent will help you get access to and secure your dream home.
If you’re moving to the USA without friends or a family member to stay with, we recommend arranging temporary accommodation for the first month. This could be a short-term rental (ideally furnished) or a hotel. This gives you the flexibility and freedom to see a number of properties and get to know/test out the area before you settle more permanently in a new home.
Many people moving to America for the first time are blown away with the space and amenities your money can buy or rent in comparison to their home country. Thanks to the large geographical space available, homes outside of major cities do tend to be large.
All school-aged children have access to public education in the US. Most children in America attend public schools, with only around 10% attending a private. School enrolment procedures vary, so you should contact your school of choice ahead of time. Age brackets are 5 to 11 for elementary school, 11 to 14 in middle school and 14 to 18 in high school. The U.S. does not have grammar schools, but there are magnet, charter and vocational schools.
Around 25 states have international schools for those looking for that kind of educational system. And scholarships exist for both international and private schools, but these are limited with specific qualifying rules. If you choose an international school for your family, it’s important to check which leaving qualifications they issue.
For children whose first language is not English – which most schools teach in – there is additional support. State schools offer additional linguistic help and support: English as a second language (ESL) classes are provided. This support will make it easier for your child to quickly learn English.
Equally, if you are moving to the USA as an adult with limited English language skills, you can enrol on adult education courses and ESL courses in your new neighbourhood. They are usually offered at adult education centres or community centres and are mostly free of charge.
Colleges in the USA are many and varied. The costs involved in sending your children (or yourself) to college in America varies hugely depending on where you are choosing to attend.
Working and living in the United States of America
In order to move to the United States, you must obtain a visa or green card. There are multiple visas available for immigrants to America, but the process may be easier if you are being sponsored by an employer and obtaining a work permit. It’s important that you start the visa application process as early as possible, as it can take several months. And the help of an expert will ensure you complete the right paperwork, helping avoid delays.
Once you arrive in the US you will need to obtain your social security card, American driver’s license and health insurance. Having a form of ID will make setting up an American bank account and day to day life much easier. Your social security card is required by law for all immigrants, and also provides a form of ID. You also will not be able to work until you have your social security number. To get your American drivers licence you will have to pass a written and practical driving test at the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) in your State.
Also important is arranging your health care. In the United States, medical services are extremely expensive without insurance. What’s more, significant changes to U.S. healthcare laws by the government have been ongoing since 2010, creating additional complexities for those who must obtain or change their health insurance or method of care. If your employer provides health insurance, the process may not be so difficult, but if you must seek insurance on your own you might want to do so with assistance from an expert.
One of the most surprising facts about the U.S. is that it has no official language, though some states have established one. English and Spanish are the most widely spoken. The U.S. measurement system doesn’t use the Metric system but the Imperial system: feet and inches to measure length and pounds for weight. Temperature is measured by the Fahrenheit.
It is important to know about tipping: a 15-20% tip is a social obligation in restaurants, salons and spas, food delivery, taxis, and other services. Restaurants often automatically add gratuity for large groups. Tipping is also socially obligatory in bars, where a dollar tip per drink is the norm. You may see communal tip jars in places like cafes, but these are optional.
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