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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Boston

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Relocating to Boston

  • Boston is divided into 23 neighborhoods, each of which has its own distinctive atmosphere. Therefore, Boston is sometime referred to as the “City of Neighborhoods”.
  • Extensive gentrification has caused the rental prices to go through the roof. There is fierce competition in the housing market so make sure you start your search in time.
  • If you are moving to the US for a shorter period of time, you need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. Note that there are different types of nonimmigrant visas and make sure you apply for the one that suits your moving purpose the best.
  • If you decide to move to the USA on a permanent basis, you can apply for an immigration visa. The most famous one is probably the so-called Green Card.

Even if you only have a general idea of US American history, Boston’s significance during the formative years of the USA is unlikely to have escaped your attention. New England’s largest city — and one of the oldest in the entire country — played a pivotal role in many events leading up to the independence from Britain.

Boston’s Historical Past

Of course, the local residents of Boston proudly preserve and display this heritage. History buffs moving to Boston are bound to have a blast exploring the city and its past! Since its founding, a steady stream of people moving to Boston, enticed by the promises of the New World, caused the city to experience significant growth throughout the 1800s.

The two biggest and most influential groups who started settling in Boston in large numbers were Italian and Irish immigrants in the first half of the 19th century. The influence of both these groups is still very tangible today. The Italian and Irish communities settled down in North End and South Boston, respectively. The residents of these neighborhoods still value their home country’s traditions, which is why e.g. South Boston is home to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The City of Neighborhoods

When moving to Boston, you have the choice among a multitude of neighborhoods catering to different tastes. Each of these 23 boroughs has its own distinctive atmosphere and demographic profile, earning Boston the nickname “City of Neighborhoods”. Owing to this great variety, there is no single neighborhood that expats moving to Boston prefer. Nonetheless, below you’ll find a short overview of some of Boston’s vibrant neighborhoods which might make your decision a little easier.

Dorchester: Dorchester is the largest and also the most diverse neighborhood in Boston. Residents from Vietnam, Ireland, Cape Verde, and many other countries live together and make the neighborhood one of the most vibrant in the city. The Franklin Park located here offers walking and biking parks as well as numerous picnic areas.

Beacon Hill: This neighborhood is one of the oldest in Boston. Its architecture is reminiscent  of the old colonial times with brick houses and ornate doors. Its location on top of the hill and its historic landmarks makes it one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Boston.

South End: With its proximity to Downtown and the Back Bay, the South End has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods. It is especially popular with young professionals and the gay community. Nonetheless, due to relatively affordable housing and its over 30 parks, more and more families have started to settle in South End.

West Roxbury: Tree-lined streets and single family houses give West Roxbury a suburban feel. The neighborhood is especially desired amongst families because of its youth programs and because you can get to Downtown in 30 minutes and still have a front yard.

Jamaica Plain: “JP”, as locals call it, is one of the most dynamic neighborhoods in Boston. The ethnic diversity, the green spaces and the good connection to Downtown are some of the many reasons why young professionals and families alike love the area.

If you want to know more about one of Boston’s neighborhoods, the homepage of the City Administration offers a detailed breakdown of all 23 of them.

Skyrocketing Rental Prices

Much to the dismay of anyone interested in moving to Boston and, of course, the local population, extensive gentrification has caused rental prices to skyrocket. Today, people looking for homes in the area of the city face fierce competition on the rental market in one of the most expensive cities in the USA. If Boston’s upscale neighborhoods just outside downtown are the only option for you, prepare yourself for extortionate monthly rents. Proximity to the “T”, Boston’s number one mass transit system, is likely to increase your monthly rent even further.

With educational institutions of worldwide renown in and around Boston — such as Harvard University and MIT — the influx of students is considerable, and many opt for off-campus living. Naturally, this makes finding a home when coming to Boston from abroad quite a tricky task. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to jump on the first available housing that appeals to you rather than taking time to shop around.

Timing Is Everything: Your Move to Boston

Boston’s rental market is very seasonal — . September first is known as the traditional move-in date of the year, as this is the day when many leases start. Being too early or too late will both have the same result: fierce competition has a chance of dashing your hopes of finding a decent place to live when moving to Boston. Usually, Boston’s apartments go on the market about four to six weeks before the lease date.

Your financial plan or budget for your move to Boston should take into account the fairly hefty sum of money you likely will have to pay right before moving in. Apart from demanding the first and last month’s rent up front, some landlords also require you to pay a security deposit. With the rental prices in Boston the way they are, this will almost definitely amount to a considerable sum, so keep this in mind when planning your move to Boston.

Boston: Visa and Immigration Legislation

A Multitude of Options

As you might already know, immigration laws in the United States are quite extensive, and there are a multitude of different visa subcategories for different purposes, lengths of stay, and occupations the applicant is allowed to fill. For very detailed information on all things immigration, please consult the website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

While planning your future expat life in the heart of New England, we highly recommend that you take the time to carefully read the information from USCIS. However, below you’ll find a brief overview of the most relevant and popular of the many US visa categories, which is intended to give you a general idea of things. Remember, applying for the incorrect visa usually causes nothing but problems in the US, so come prepared!

Non-Immigrant Visas: Which One’s for You?

The USCIS have two distinct visa categories. If your stay in the country is limited to a predetermined period of time, and you have no intention of permanently settling in the USA, you require a nonimmigrant visa. If you are issued a visa from this category, you are not only restricted in terms of the duration of your stay, but also in terms of its purpose, i.e. your future occupation in Boston.

Specialty Occupations (H-1B)

Category H-1B applies to people working in a specialty occupation, which is broadly defined as occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent thereof. Notable exceptions are fashion models and people involved in Department of Defense research, who are also included in this category. On the website of the US Citizen and Immigration Services, you can find a full definition of specialty occupations.

The H-1B visa is valid for a period of three years. However, there is an annual cap on the maximum number of H-1B visas issued per calendar year; currently it’s 65,000.

Intracompany Transfers (L-1A)

If you have worked in a management level position with your company for at least one year within the three years prior to your transfer to the USA, you will be able to apply for an L-1A visa. If the purpose of your overseas assignment is to set up an office for your company, your visa will be valid for one year; if you are sent to occupy a position in an existing office, your visa will be valid for three years.

Expats with Special Abilities (O-1)

If you are among the best and most highly acclaimed professionals in your occupation (especially in the fields of science, business, sports, art, film, and others), you may enter and work in the USA with an O-1 visa. As with most other visas, the validity of the O-1 is limited to three years.

Treaty Traders and Employees (E-1)

The E-1 visa is one of the most popular with expats. Visa category E-1 allows for nationals of countries with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.

There are two main reasons for its popularity. First, an E-1 visa can be extended an unlimited number of times after the initial two years have passed. Second, family members can join the visa holder without having to apply for a visa of their own. If you are a national of one of the countries on this list, it would be worthwhile to look into this category.

Immigrant Visas: The Famous Green Card Lottery

Apart from the nonimmigrant visas, you of course also have the possibility of relocating to Boston on the basis of an immigrant visa. The most notable and well-known type is undoubtedly the Green Card, which is awarded in an annual lottery.

The Diversity Visa Program, as is the official name, makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US. The selection of these applicants is drawn randomly once a year. For further information on immigrant visas, please read our article on moving to the USA or refer directly to the USCIS website.

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  • Guillaume De Faloix

    Everyone told me I had to attend an InterNations event here in Boston. I finally did, and from then, I didn't miss a single one.

  • Raquel Santos

    Friendly Ambassadors, various local scouts, great events - InterNations is one big happy family of expats here in Boston.

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