Located on the border between the USA and Canada, Detroit is the most populous city in the state of Michigan. Detroit is well suited to expats due to it being a diverse and dynamic melting pot of cultures and nationalities. It also benefits, after a long period of economic downturn, from a renewed sense of opportunity and potential. Most famous for its former status as the automotive center of the world in the 50's and 60's, both General Motors and Ford both have their headquarters in Detroit, resulting in the nickname ‘Motor City’. This period also gave birth to some of the rich culture Detroit is famous for, such as Motown Records.
This big city has a strong and friendly community, which is very welcoming toward new residents wishing to relocate to the area. Over 90% of the population in Detroit speaks English as their first language; however, the city is very racially diverse with large populations of Eastern European, African, Mexican and Middle Eastern residents. This all contributes to the city's unique mix of ideas, culture, cuisine and national identity.
Detroit’s location on the banks of several rivers and lakes, including the Detroit River and Lake Erie, means that residents experience four very distinct seasons that can radically change the look and feel of the city. Winters can be long and quite cold; however, this does open up the opportunity for snow and ice sports both in the city and on the water.
Summer, on the other hand, can be warm, humid and occasionally stormy due to Detroit’s position on a significant U.S storm path. The city gets approximately 30 inches of rain annually, but on average is also blessed with 183 days of sunshine.
If you are looking to relocate to Detroit from outside of the United States, one of your first concerns will be finding accommodation and an area to live in that suits you. Before you travel there are many websites full of advice on how to pick your perfect neighborhood in Detroit. Up to date travel and lifestyle guides such as Time Out and Lonely Planet can provide you with essential information on what amenities are offered where. Local knowledge will also be vital, so ask around friends and colleagues that have lived or visited Detroit for advice and consult your employer, as they may have deals, benefits or discounts with housing companies or realtors in the area. Various expat forums exist online where those wishing to relocate can get help and advice from their peers.
Once on the ground, The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press both have an extensive classified section including housing, and are available both in print from vendors all over the city. There are also numerous other listings sites, such as Realtor which will point you in the right direction.
One definite plus to moving to Detroit is that you will find accommodation plentiful and affordable all around the city. Downtown Detroit is the business and commercial center of the city, and offers high rise residential living as well as traditional row-houses and low-rise dwellings. The area is home to some of the main sports and entertainment venues, and is bordered with the River with ample outside scenic walks and amenities alongside its urban architecture. Rent here can be slightly higher accordingly.
Midtown has a much more community feel, and with its wood lined streets, museums, universities and galleries it is also a popular tourist spot for visitors to Detroit. Here you will find artisan shops and a large number of cafes, bars and restaurants that offer cuisine from all over the world, alongside useful amenities such as hardware stores, grocery shops and markets. Rents here can be slightly cheaper than Downtown for a small apartment or condo, however, larger properties are available in this neighborhood, which can be significantly higher. This can be a good choice for those relocating their family unit, as high quality schools and practical amenities are all close at hand.
Other key central neighborhoods to be aware of are: Woodbridge in Detroit’s West Side, a historic neighborhood with good sized historic homes that is very child-friendly; and Corktown, traditionally an Irish neighborhood predominantly made up of row-houses. Also as one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods, Corktown is also very affordable despite its long history. For those wanting something a little different, Eastern Market could also be a good option. There is a vibrant and culturally diverse weekly market that has been running since 1891, and the area also offers more creative spaces such as live/work studios and warehouse space.
For those wanting to locate and still be close to national and international connections, a good option could be the suburban neighborhoods of Ann Arbour, Northville and Plymouth, which are in close proximity to Detroit Metro Airport but still boast a busy active atmosphere with good shops, dining and leisure options. Accommodation in these areas ranges from condos to larger houses and apartment blocks. Expats looking for amenities such as International Schools for their children will find most of these located in suburban areas, such as Framington Hills in the northwest suburbs. A number of these schools focus not just on English language; reflecting global trends and increasingly diversifying global populations, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish are also spoken.
In general, there are two types of visas available for expats planning a move to the US: nonimmigrant and immigrant visas. You can find detailed information on the different categories in both of these types, as well as valid advice on the application process in our dedicated articles on Visa & Administration in the USA.