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.
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.
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.
Please also consult our Extended Guide articles on visa and administration in the USA for more details. There you will also find information on dependent visas, immigration and citizenship, and US customs regulations.
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).
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