Moving to Los Angeles

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What to know if you're moving to Los Angeles

For many people considering moving to Los Angeles, what first inevitably comes to mind is Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Sunset Boulevard. However, these places are not too likely to play a big part in your move to Los Angeles. InterNations GO! tells you what you really need to know before moving to the City of Angels.


All about the US

Are you thinking of relocating to the United States? Read on, for a comprehensive guide to all necessary steps to move to the USA. Get the full list of requirements for moving to the USA, a clear picture of what to expect in business and culture when you get there, and practical ‘how-to’ information about your move.
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Relocating to Los Angeles

  • The City of Angels is the second most populous city in the USA and also one of the most ethnically diverse since there are people from over 180 different countries living here.
  • The visa process takes a lot of time and it is important to take care of it well in advance. If you are only visiting for a short time, the VWP might also be an option for you.
  • L.A. is the second most expensive city in the country. Nonetheless, there is a place for everyone in one of the over 100 districts and neighborhoods.

The City of Los Angeles is vast. Divided into more than 100 districts and neighborhoods, this Californian giant covers an area of 472 square miles (1,222 km2). With a population of around 3.9 million, the City of Angels is also the most populous city in California and second only to New York on a national level.

Los Angelenos: The City and Its People

Most people moving to Los Angeles are amazed by the ethnic and cultural diversity of the city. Expats who want to make L.A. their new home can rest assured they will not be the only foreigners in town, and even among the native “Angelenos”, the ethnic and racial diversity is immense. The people from over 180 different countries living in Los Angeles speak 140 different languages. Even though no ethnic group forms a majority of California’s population, Hispanics are the largest single ethnic group (38.8%) with Spanish being the second most spoken language.

L.A.’s topography is no less diverse than its population. Some areas are flat, some are hilly, and there are seaside resort-style areas as well as highly urbanized and quasi-rural neighborhoods. From Downtown L.A. to the Santa Monica Mountains, there’s a place for everyone.

Visa Matters: What You Need to Know Before Moving to L.A.

You should take care of all visa matters well in advance of moving to Los Angeles. You won’t be able to enter the US without a valid visa and/or passport. Unless you plan on living in the United States permanently, you need a nonimmigrant visa based on the sort of work you will be doing. For more information on relevant visa categories, please refer to the Temporary Workers section of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you plan on moving to Los Angeles for employment, your prospective employer or agent is required to file a petition with the USCIS before you can apply for your visa. Once your petition has been approved, you need to arrange a personal interview at your nearest US embassy or consulate, for which you’ll need the receipt number of the petition. It’s a good idea to check the average waiting times at the embassy or consulate, as this could possibly influence your plans for moving to Los Angeles.

Also, make sure to ask your embassy or consulate which documents you will need to present at the interview. In most cases, you are expected to bring a valid passport, a print-out of your completed Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (form DS-160), a photograph, and an application fee payment receipt if payment is required.

Most visa categories have parallel dependent categories for family members. If you plan on moving to Los Angeles with your spouse and children, you must apply for a separate visa for all family members. 

While this may seem fairly simple and straight-forward, if you are seriously thinking about moving to Los Angeles, note that your prospective employer also has to go through a quite long-winded and costly process in order to get the hire approved by the USCIS.

Only Here for a Short Time? VWP and ESTA Information

If you are moving to Los Angeles for short-term business, i.e. for a period of 90 days or less, you may be able to enter the country without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Note, however, that this rule does not apply to media professionals. If you wish to move to Los Angeles to work as a media representative, you will need to obtain a nonimmigrant media visa (I).

Currently, nationals of 38 countries qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. For a detailed list, see the VWP page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs. If your country takes part in the program, you still need to meet certain requirements. First of all, you need to be in possession of a machine-readable passport valid for at least six months past your expected stay in the United States. Secondly, you must have obtained an authorization to travel under the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Finding a Place to Live in Los Angeles

As an expat relocating to Los Angeles, you will soon become familiar with one major difficulty: finding an affordable place to live in an area you want to live in. With the city ranking as the second most expensive city in the US, L.A. is not for cheapskates. Of course, some areas are less overpriced than others, but most of these are likely remote and increase your dependency on motorized transportation. In other words, having your own car can be indispensable, even in light of recent expansions of the public transportation and bicycle networks.

You should therefore carefully weigh the pros and cons of an area before settling down there, taking into consideration the cost of accommodation itself, the price of food and household goods, proximity to work, recreational facilities, schools, etc. Below, we’ve listed some L.A. neighborhoods that may be of interest to you.

Discover the Diversity of Downtown L.A.

Unlike most other cities, L.A. doesn’t have a “city center” in the traditional sense, in that most cultural and tourist attractions can be found elsewhere. Rather, Downtown L.A. is characterized by high-rise office buildings on the one hand and the Los Angeles Historic District on the other. The different districts such as the Arts District, Chinatown, or South Park offer endless leisure activities and are also home to some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Living in one of the refurbished lofts is, however, rather expensive. The Downtown area is especially popular with young professionals.

If you don’t want to live right in the hustle and bustle, you’ll find vibrant residential areas such as Los Feliz just northwest of Downtown. They have a multicultural populace and an artsy feel about them, and many shops and restaurants are within walking distance.

Where You’ll Find the Stars: Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and the Westside

The Westside, stretching from Hollywood to the coast, is one of the most high-end areas in Los Angeles. Most certainly, you’ll be able to recognize the names of some of the neighborhoods in this area, such as Beverly Hills with its palatial homes and Bel Air, a traditional residential area for the rich and the famous.

Other neighborhoods in the area include West Hollywood, which stands out thanks to excellent art galleries, shopping, eating, and clubbing facilities; Brentwood, a fairly expensive mix of single-family homes in the north and apartments in the south; and Westwood, once the epitome of L.A. nightlife, which is being revitalized with various art galleries and crafts shops.

Who Doesn’t Want to Live at the Beach?

The 75-mile (120 km) beachfront of Los Angeles is without a doubt home to some of the most popular and trendy L.A. communities — in part due to the beautiful weather conditions, which make for milder temperatures and less smog than in some of the inland areas.

Right at the edge of Los Angeles County, Malibu offers a beautiful beachfront and sparsely populated hillside. Despite its remoteness, it has some of the most expensive real estate in L.A. Santa Monica, arguably the most famous of all the beach communities, welcomes you with its artsy atmosphere, great shopping locations, and famed Santa Monica Pier.

Venice Beach features narrow canals and bridges similar to its famous Italian namesake. Formerly a rough neighborhood, Venice Beach is a true case study in gentrification. It now houses a colorful mix of stylish posers, hula-hoop magicians, and other creative folks trying to subsidize their rents.

Immediately south of Venice, you’ll find Marina del Rey, slightly more high-end and also quieter than its flamboyant neighbor. Following the waterfront south, you’ll also get to Manhattan Beach, home of some of the most expensive places to live in all of California. Even further south, you’ll find Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, where more modestly priced accommodation is available, without the guarantee of living directly on the beachfront. In general, life in these neighborhoods is relatively laid back, if slightly lacking from a cultural and entertainment point of view.  

Perfect for Families: The San Fernando Valley

“The Valley” includes several small cities, such as Burbank, Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Reseda, Tarzana, Van Nuys, Northridge, Granada Hills, and Woodland Hills. Most of them consist of residential and commercial areas, rents are more manageable than in L.A. proper, and most neighborhoods are quite safe. However, it gets pretty hot during the summer months, and if you don’t have a car, you’ll be dependent on public transportation that, as in most suburbs of the USA, is not too convenient. Glendale, between the Valley and Pasadena, is closest to Downtown L.A.

You’ll Find All You Need in Pasadena

Pasadena, northeast of L.A., has various attractive residential neighborhoods offering all sorts of accommodation, from humble to luxurious. Its neighboring communities, San Marino, Arcadia, and La Cañada-Flintridge, offer expats similar advantages, i.e. well-preserved historic buildings, natural beauty, public green spaces, and various small museums. There are also many prestigious scientific and cultural institutions located in Pasadena like the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Although not as quiet and uniquely charming as it once was, Pasadena is still a popular place to live.

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
07 February 2018

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