Moving to the US

A Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to 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.

When thinking of how to move to the US, be prepared to an array of options that spread across the 50 states. The country offers a variety of different cultures and lifestyles to expats which is often seen as a benefit as you can find your place and fit in rather easily. However, this also means 50 different set of rules and regulations. And while you don’t need to know them all, familiarizing yourself with some might be useful when weighing your options before your move.

A core reason why many consider moving to the US is money. The United States has some of the highest average wage levels in the world and living costs are still pretty low by developed-nation standards. However, hard work is expected. Americans take work seriously, with long working hours and not a lot of paid-time off (new employees often get as little as 10 days of annual leave).

Other benefits of moving to the US include plenty of big corporations with work opportunities, cheap real estate, big food culture, and a mash-up of many different traditions. Get primed for your American adventure with our guide to how to get there and what to expect.



The process of moving your personal belongings to the US will require you to make yourself familiar with the customs laws of the country. That is why we are here to make sure you are up to speed on what you can and can’t bring in, and all the processes you need to go through when moving.

Most of what you’re likely to want to ship to the USA would be classified as “personal possessions” and would not be liable to restrictions or tariffs. However, there are some rules that can catch you out. For example, to qualify as personal possessions, your items need to have been owned by you for more than a year. There are also regulations on shipping alcohol and tobacco products, as well as medication.

When you look through your household goods, you might realize that you are in need of storage space as well. Whether it is your winter garderobe or your favorite sofa that needs to get to the country before you get there, Short- and long-term storage is widely available in the US.

Moving to the US with pets is possible, but again subject to rules and regulations. These vary depending on the state you are moving to and the type of animal. In fact, different animals are regulated by different US departments. In general, it is necessary to prove that your pet is up to date with all the vaccinations required by the US.

One more thing to bear in mind when you’re shipping your household goods to the USA is that all measurements are in the so-called “imperial” system. Therefore, when you are negotiating prices with your moving company, be ready to talk in miles, gallons (of petrol) and feet and inches.

Read Guide

Visas & Work Permits

If you want to know how to get a US visa or work permit, this extensive guide is a good place to start. The USA is a very attractive destination for many expats, and it has an elaborate immigration system that takes time, patience and resources to navigate.

Unless, that is, you are lucky enough to win the Green Card Lottery. Yes, America does run a lottery system that grants the right to live and work in the USA to around 50 thousand lucky winners every year. Not everyone can enter, but for those that can and are very lucky (rates of success vary from about 3% downwards), it is an easy route to residency.

Outside of the lottery system, many visa applications are made with the help of a sponsor. This is either an employer or a relative. A relative needs to be either a citizen of the United States or a so-called ‘lawful permanent resident’ and they must be able and willing to support the applicants they are sponsoring. Immediate family members are guaranteed a visa if they qualify, but there is a quota for more distant relatives. You can find more detail on the different types of visas in our guide.

Employers who want to bring you to the United States usually have to get permission to do so from the department of labor and this means proving that the job you are doing could not be done by an American citizen.

There are other means of getting into the United States on a more temporary basis. For example, you may find the easiest option is to apply for a temporary business visa, that can last for up to a year.

Read Guide


There are lots of different types of houses and accommodation in the USA and a lot of real estate opportunities. However, in the biggest cities of the country finding the right property, whether it’s to rent or buy, can be a struggle.

It’s popular to own a home in the USA and it’s something many expats want to do as well. Average house prices are not high in comparison to many developed nations (again this is very dependent on whether you are headed for the major cities or not). What’s more, access to credit is relatively easy and there are few citizenship requirements for purchasing a house. If buying a property is an option you are considering, make sure to read our full guide to how to buy a house in the USA for foreigners.

If instead you want to know how to rent a house in the USA, our guide offers advice for renters. Find out which cities are the most expensive and understand the steps you need to take to rent a property in the States.

Read Guide


One of your greatest potential headaches when moving to the States is the healthcare system and health insurance in the US. It is expensive and can be complicated, and is a topic that you should have a basic understanding of before you move. 

For many employees, this is less of a problem. Most employers run a health insurance system that will cover you if you are moving to the US to work. However, even in those cases, the exact terms of employee health insurance schemes vary and yours may not entitle you to a comprehensive list of treatments.

If you are not covered as an employee, there are other options available to you. Since the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), everyone legally residing in the US should have access to some sort of health insurance. However, you will need to pay careful attention to what you are covered for, and which doctor or hospital is within your network coverage.

Our guide will also inform you of how to find the best local doctor and hospital for you, as well as the nuances of giving birth in the US.

Read Guide

Banks & Taxes

In a country like the US, where money is one of the top driving forces, opening a bank account is vital. And with over 6,500 banks operating in the country, you will have plenty to choose from.

When choosing the best bank for your needs, opt for the ones that are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This will guarantee your deposits of up to 250,000 USD.

Credit is fairly easy to come by in the USA, and usage of credit cards is very widespread, although there are few occasions where you will need to use cash.

The US tax rate is not very high, and most new arrivals will be pleasantly surprised by how much of their wage they get to take home. The taxation system can be complex, and it’s worth reading through our guide to make sure you know the basics.

Read Guide


The education system in the United States is run by a patchwork of devolved authorities. There is no federal curriculum or even a funding model, and while children are required to have an education, homeschooling is legal in all states and is growing in popularity. This means that the types of public education available to you will vary a lot depending on which part of the United States you move to.

If you are dissatisfied with the public school offered in your district, you can usually find a private alternative or even, depending on where you are, an international school. Many international parents are attracted by the standards and universally recognized qualifications offered by international schools, but keep in mind that the fees can be quite high.

Make sure that you fully understand your options and the potential costs of your child’s education with our guide to the US education system.

Read Guide


Work in the US is a big priority. The business culture of the US is widely respected yet not necessarily the easiest to deal with on a personal level. It idealizes individual enterprise and, for many international workers, it can take some getting used to.

Another downside is social security, which in the US is known to be rather poor. For example, the United States doesn’t require employers to grant any holiday allowance. While most do, the average number of paid annual leave is very low compared to many developed countries.

The biggest advantage, however, is the salary. The average wage in the country is high, compared to many other developed countries and is one of the main reasons people move to the US.

If, after weighing the pros and the cons, you decide that The US is the ideal place for you, you will need to figure out how to get a job there. Online platforms will probably be your go-to option, but don’t forget about the opportunities that can arise from networking as well. And if working for a local or international company is not your style, you can always look into the possibility of self-employment that will most likely include setting up your own business.

Make sure you read our full guide to working in the country so that you are well-prepared for what’s to come.

Read Guide

Country Facts

The American dream is getting more expensive, but the cost of living in the US still compares favorably to that in many other developed nations. Outside of the biggest and most popular cities, accommodation costs are not high and consumer products are cheap. Costs to watch out for include health insurance, which is not at all cheap, and childcare costs which have been rising fast in recent years.

Driving in the US is a necessity in most states, and 90% of households own a car. With America’s lousy public transportation system, they have little choice. The rules around driving vary a lot from state to state, including the speed limits. Read on for our full guide on how to navigate the world’s biggest road network.

Read Guide
InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
07 February 2019