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

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Relocating to Dallas

  • Due to the subtropical climate the summers in Dallas are humid and hot while the winters are mild. In spring and summer severe storms might occur because of the city’s location in the Tornado Alley.
  • The US visa categories are divided into immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. Which one you’ll need to apply for depends on the purpose of your stay. If you are moving with your family, there are also different dependent visas for your spouse and children.
  • The neighborhoods in Dallas are very diverse. You can enjoy live concerts in Deep Ellum or go shopping in Uptown — in Dallas there is a place for everyone.
  • Public transportation is quite affordable and extensive. Nonetheless, many people still rely on their car even though parking costs are high in Dallas.

Moving to Dallas is not at the top of most people’s bucket list. Rather, expats who plan on relocating to the United States usually think of New York, San Francisco, or Chicago. Dallas, however, is a highly underrated city. Not only is the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan economy the fifth largest in the entire country, the city is among the fastest growing in all of the United States.

Location and Climate: Hikes and Hot Summers

Dallas is located in North Texas, about 300 miles (483 km) from the Gulf of Mexico. While the coast certainly won’t be right at your doorstep, the Trinity River runs straight through Dallas, and White Rock Lake is in the northeast of the city. Outdoorsy expats moving to Dallas will be happy to hear that both present many opportunities for long hikes and other outdoor activities. All in all, the city covers close to 350 square miles (906 km2).

Dallas has a subtropical climate, making for hot, humid summers and mild winters. The spring and fall seasons are usually the best for moving to Dallas, as they bring mostly nice warm days without the crippling summer heat. On the downside, Dallas lies within the Tornado Alley, and severe storms can occur particularly in the spring and summer months.

Visa Requirements: The Countless Visa Categories

Securing a visa before your move to Dallas can be quite intimidating. The US visa requirements are very strict, and there is a host of specific visas for different purposes. Below, we will take a short look at the types of visa that are most common for expats moving to Dallas.

Specialty Occupations (H-1B)

Applicants for visas of this category must work in a specialty occupation and have a higher level of education. This includes people working on international research and development projects, highly acclaimed fashion models, and expats cooperating with the Department of Defense. The visa is valid for up to three years and can potentially be extended up to six years. A maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas are granted per year.

Intracompany Transfers (L-1A)

This visa applies to expats who transfer from a branch office abroad or are to establish a new branch office in Dallas for their company. In order to move to Dallas on such a visa, you need to hold an executive or management position or have some kind of specialized knowledge. The visa is valid between one and three years and can be extended up to five or seven years (depending on the subcategory you fall into).

Individuals with Extraordinary Abilities (O-1)

Expats who move to Dallas with extraordinary abilities or achievements in the arts, sciences, education, business, entertainment, or athletics can apply for this visa. You must be able to prove such achievements or abilities with internationally recognized awards or various professional publications. This visa is valid for three years and can potentially be extended by a year at a time.

Treaty Traders/Investors (E-1/E-2)

This category only applies to expats moving to Dallas from countries that have entered into treaties of navigation and commerce with the United States. The E-1 Treaty Trader visa applies to expats who intend to carry on substantial trade in the US, while the E-2 Investor visa applies to expats who plan on substantially investing in a US company. These visas are initially valid for two years, but can be extended as long as you meet the qualifications. Please refer to the Bureau of Consular Affairs for a list of treaty countries.

Relocating with Your Family

If your family will be moving to Dallas with you, they will need to apply for their dependent visas individually. In this case, too, various visa categories and subcategories may apply. For a number of visa categories, children under the age of 21 and spouses can join you on your assignment without too much trouble.

If your spouse is intent on getting a job in Dallas, however, it depends on the type of visa you hold if they are allowed to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which would grant them the right to work in the United States of America.

Note that the dependent visa your spouse and children have to apply for upon moving to Dallas will most likely have a different letter-number code than your visa. For example, the visa for dependents of H-1B and H-2 visa holders is called H-4, and for dependents of L-1 visa holders, it’s called L-2. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has an extensive list for expat families moving to Dallas.

Dallas Neighborhoods

Dallas is a vibrant, welcoming city with lots of great neighborhoods. When you arrive, it can be difficult to decide where to settle down and which areas to avoid. We have put together a list of neighborhoods that are quite popular among expats.

Downtown Dallas — The Heart of the City

If you like living right in the pounding heart of the city, Downtown Dallas is the place for you. This area is home to the Dallas Arts District, where you can find, among other things, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Meyerson Symphony Center, and the Nasher Sculpture Center. The West End Historic District is home to some of the best shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels in town. While some young urbanites have moved into renovated loft spaces in Downtown Dallas, the neighborhood is largely comprised of hotels, restaurants, and office space.

Uptown Dallas — An Upscale Neighborhood

North of Downtown lies the area around McKinney Avenue, Knox-Henderson, and Victory Park, also known as “Uptown”. It is famous for its high-class shopping and dining options and its chic, upscale condos and hotels for those who can afford it. McKinney Avenue has evolved into somewhat of a center for art galleries, and the McKinney Avenue Trolley is the free connection from Uptown to Downtown.

Oak Lawn and the Park Cities — Diverse and Wealthy

Oak Lawn is a major nightlife scene for the LGBT communities of Dallas. Among fine shopping and dining options, it is home to the Dallas Theater Center. It is the perfect home for creative expats who appreciate a vibrant, upscale neighborhood. The Park Cities are some of the wealthiest residential districts in the USA, especially Highland Park and Victoria Park. The area is located north of downtown and is often referred to as Highland Park in its entirety.

Deep Ellum — The Liveliest Entertainment District

Known as Dallas’s eclectic alternative to Austin, Deep Ellum offers live music, rows of bars and clubs, and a down-to-earth atmosphere. Blues and rock music are played most often around here, but anything in between can be found as well. Unfortunately, Deep Ellum has a bit of an ill reputation in terms of crime and violence, and even though crime has been on the decline, some people still tend to spend their time during the day elsewhere. Nonetheless, on weekends when the music clubs open their doors, people migrate to Deep Ellum and have a blast of a time.

Lower Greenville — A Place for Families

This neighborhood is located in East Dallas, not too far from White Rock Lake. It covers the area around Greenville Avenue, with Gaston Avenue to the south and East Lovers Lane to the north. Much like other neighborhoods, Lower Greenville provides plenty of entertainment with various popular bars, clubs, and restaurants. In contrast to this, Upper Greenville Avenue has a more family-friendly atmosphere, which expats bringing their family to Dallas will no doubt appreciate.

Oak Cliff — One of the Oldest

Oak Cliff used to be a separate town, until it was annexed in 1903. The southern sector of Dallas is known for its diverse population. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Dallas, its distinct charm has remained intact, from its architecture to its many green spaces. The city’s business district and Downtown Dallas are not far off, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants with locally grown products.

Irving — Away from the Hustle and Bustle

Not a part of Dallas proper, yet a significant city in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Irving is located close to the international airport. The town is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies, such as Exxon Mobil and Microsoft, and thus there should be decent employment opportunities there for locals and expats alike. Many people choose to settle down in Irving as it is close enough to Dallas to allow for a comfortable commute, and it is more laid back than the big city.

Getting Around in Dallas

Public Transportation in Dallas: An Affordable and Extensive Service

Most people in the USA rely on their car for getting around, but there are a number of ways of exploring Dallas without one. The DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), for instance, covers 90 miles (145 km) of light rails and operates more than a hundred different bus routes. The network is constantly expanding and still remains quite affordable. Two-hour passes start at 2.50 USD, and day passes at 5.00 USD. Monthly and weekly passes are available as well if you plan on using the DART for regular commutes.

As a commuter, you may very well find yourself on the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) a lot. This train connects the Dallas and Fort Worth city centers with the airport, with various stops in between, and DART passes are valid for the TRE as well.

Expensive Parking and Traffic Congestion: Driving in Dallas

While Dallas’ public transportation system is quite dependable, sooner or later you may wish to get a car in order to reach the suburbs or the shopping centers in the north more easily. Keep in mind, however, that parking spots in the city center are scarce and expensive. Therefore, it would be wise to find out if your company has its own parking spaces for employees if you plan on driving to work. If you cannot do without a car, renting a parking space is generally a very good idea.

Besides the high parking costs, you also have to keep in mind the patience you’ll need when driving in Dallas. Traffic and congested streets are the order of the day. The infamous Dallas Mixmaster (a junction of many highways) in the heart of Downtown has already brought many a driver to despair. The Dallas Horseshoe Project, a design-build construction project scheduled to open in summer 2017, should improve the traffic flow in Downtown Dallas.

Taking the Taxi

Although hailing a cab may not be as easy in Dallas as some would expect, you should be able to find taxis in front of the bigger hotels and, of course, at the airport. In many cases, therefore, calling for a taxi is easier than wandering the streets in hopes of finding one. There are at least a dozen taxi companies, Cowboy Cab Company and Yellow Checker being two of the most popular. Depending on the taxi company, of course, fares start at around 2.50 USD, with every 1/9 mile (180 m) being an additional 0.20 USD. On top of that, you can obviously expect fees for extra passengers, airport exit and drop-off, etc.

A Gateway to the World: Dallas/Fort Worth Airport

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is one of the biggest airports in the world and a crucial link to a number of destinations in the USA and overseas. The airport offers non-stop service to more than 200 locations, and around 165,000 passengers use the airport each day. By plane, it will only take you about four hours to reach most places in the United States.

Dallas’ second airport, Dallas Love Field Airport, is located right in the heart of the city. Albeit smaller than Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, it has a conference center and excellent connections to the rest of the city. Southwest Airlines, Delta, SeaPort Airlines, and United Airlines serve this airport.

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