Washington DC is perhaps one of the most expat friendly cities in the USA. Many young professionals, whether foreign or American, come to the city to further their careers, and this gives a wide base of transitory professionals who want to get to know people in their new home. The city is well known as the seat of the United States Government, and you'll come across many people who walk the halls of power as part of their day to day life. There are many great cultural attractions to explore during your time there, and you'll find a good transportation network to get you where you need to be.
For all its classical grandeur and powerful image, Washington is a surprisingly small city. It's home to less than 700,000 people and covers an area of around 69 square miles, meaning it's also a surprisingly low-rise American city. The defining feature of the city center is the classical white architecture of its buildings. Many of these locations are government buildings, with the White House and the Capitol being the most obviously well known. There are also many attractive embassies and legations that make up the architecture of Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue, and a staggering 17 different Smithsonian museums to explore, each with large collections of artefacts and attractions.
As you'd expect from the nation's capital, this is also an important city for cultural, educational, and scientific institutions. Georgetown University is perhaps one of the most famous, but there are also many medical schools and law schools, as well as the important National Defense College, and the Brookings and Carnegie Institutions. Living in Washington DC as an expat, you’ll get a sense of how far the base of power extends.
Relocating to the USA means making preparations and making sure your visa is in order. Each year, the United States issues around 140,000 permanent visas, also called Green Cards for people who are eligible to work and have all of the necessary qualifications and experience to suit their role.
The work-based Green Card application system is split into five categories, which cater to different types of profession. While it might seem a little daunting at first, the application process is relatively straightforward. You're required to make an application online, or through your local embassy. In addition, there exist many different, temporary visa categories that might be of interest to expats. These include, but are not limited to short-term business visas (B-1), intra-company transfers (L-1), as well as specialty occupation visas (H-1B). You can find more information on both types of visa, temporary and permanent, in our various articles on Visa and Administration in the USA.
The application process requires a fee, and supporting documentation, and it's also likely that you'll be interviewed at a United States embassy as part of the registration process. To minimize the stress of sorting out your visa it's a good idea to start early and begin preparing everything you'll need, especially as the actual processing of your visa can take a while.
The climate in DC is what's known as a continental climate. This means expatriates moving to Washington get four seasons with very distinct characteristics. The summers can get very hot and humid, with temperatures around 86°F (30°C). This is why it's essential to look into air conditioning when you're considering accommodation. You'll also find that the spring and summer months bring a lot of tourists into the city, so things can get a little more crowded on the metro and around the national landmarks. There are also frequent heavy showers in the summer, which can catch out the unwary, so be sure to keep up to date with local weather reports.
In the winter months, you're looking at a fall to temperatures of around 21°F (-6°C) at their lowest, with snowstorms to watch out for, too. There are some distinct seasonal attractions for you to appreciate in the capital, so look ahead to see what's on the way. In the spring time - when temperatures are pleasantly warm - you'll get to see the beautiful cherry blossoms of the National Mall in full bloom. In the more frigid months, the White House Christmas tree draws a big crowd, and there are also lots of local theater events, too. Americans in general make the most of their holiday season with fun and decorations, so there's always something to help while away the colder months.