7 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to the United States

7 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to the United States
Photo by Samson Katt from Pexels

Whether you’re ready to take the plunge and begin a new life in America or you’re still figuring out the logistics, here are seven important things you should know first.

Remember that every case is different, so consult with your immigration lawyer and the relevant state department if you’re unsure.

1.  Medical Insurance is a Must

If you’re coming from a country where national healthcare is available to everybody, you may be in for quite a shock. Moving to the US may mean that prescriptions and medical procedures cost a lot more than they do in your home country – so make sure you have travel health insurance.

The price of drugs is not regulated by the government and prescriptions are among the most expensive in the world. In fact, the average US citizen spends around $1,200 on prescription drugs per year.

Although you may qualify for medical insurance via the ACA Marketplace (Obamacare) if you have a green card (and if employer-sponsored health insurance is not available to you), do your research before you go.

2. The Cost of Living Varies Across States

The overall cost of living in America varies greatly from state to state.

Aside from the hubs of LA, San Francisco, and New York, real estate is quite affordable compared to other developed nations. If you’re willing to live outside the city, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can afford.

The cost of groceries in the city and rural areas, however, can vary dramatically – this is due to the transportation costs of food from the farms to the city. If you’re moving to Tampa, for example, the cost of groceries is around 4.5% higher than the national average.

While specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods Market offer a wide variety of goods, it is usually cheaper to do your shopping at stores like Trader Joe’s. 

Public transport can also get pricey in cities like New York – expect to spend around $100 on a monthly subway pass and even more on trains that travel through the suburbs.

The cost of education depends if you choose a public or private school. Many parents choose to move to the suburbs because the quality of education is said to be better than in schools run by the state.

3. You Might Not Need a Green Card

If you’re moving to the USA for work purposes, you’ll need an employment-related visa, a work permit, or a green card.

A green card offers permanent residency, while an employer-related visa will allow you to work for a specific employer only. To obtain a green card, you’ll need a US citizen to sponsor you, or your employer can apply on your behalf.

Bear in mind that there is a limited number of green cards issued every year, and the process can take months or years to complete.

4. It’s Not Easy if You’re Unemployed

To move to the US, you’ll need a permanent visa. Permanent visas are granted based on investments, family, employment, or studies. If you are moving to the US for work, your employer can sponsor your application.

If you’re unemployed, you’ll need to be accompanied by someone who is employed – but beware of scams. Avoid jobs that require payment for anything upfront and don’t fall for Multi-Level Marketing schemes.  

If a job looks too good to be true, it probably is. You can check The Federal Trade Commission for more scams and work-at-home schemes to watch out for.

5. There’s a Lot of Paperwork

Make sure that you have all the right documentation with you when you move to the US. Keep it in your hand luggage so you can access it easily.

You’ll need basic documents like a passport, ID card, driving license, and visa to enter the USA. If you have dependents, you’ll need your marriage or divorce certificate, and birth certificates or ID cards for each dependent.

If you’re moving for work, you’ll also need a signed offer of employment, resume, and any academic certificates.

In addition, make sure you have your medical insurance policy, medical certificates, medical history, vaccination records, bank statements, investment documents, and religious certificates (if relevant).

6. You Might Get Less Time Off Work

In the US, employers are not obligated to provide employees with any paid time off. On average, workers are only granted 10 days of paid vacation.

When it comes to public holidays, it’s up to the employer to decide if any federal holidays warrant a day off work.

Religious holidays like New Year’s Day, Christmas, Good Friday, Eid al-Fitr, and Yom Kippur are decided on a case-to-case basis – it really depends on the state and the employer, so check with the company you will be working for to avoid any surprises.

7. The Work Culture May Be Different

In the US, there are no laws that state how many hours an employee can work per week. However, the hours worked usually depend on the employer. The average is around 44 hours per week or 8.5 hours per day.

When it comes to family life, there is no legal minimum for paid maternity or paternity leave – it’s usually up to the employer to award time off as they see fit.