Expats in the United States live in a country that is sought after as a destination to live and work more so than any other country in the world - by far. However, it's tough to get a visa, and once you get there, it can be challenging to settle into the United States. Here are some tips for those that find their way to the U.S.
Expat Basics For the United States
The United States is made up of several different regions that have differences when one considers geography, climate, population, politics and culture. This regional flavor is one of the great strengths of the United States.
The United States government is set up so that there are federal (national), state, and local governments. Local can consist of county, city, township and municipal governments, among a few others. There are 50 states in the United States, and varying number of counties and cities/towns in each state. Different levels of government have control, or "jurisdiction," over different aspects of life and business in the United States.
Now more than ever, steer clear of discussing politics in the United States. Even many American citizens are leary of discussing politics with anyone who isn't a family member or very close friend. If someone brings up the topic and tries to get you to open up about it, that doesn't mean it's going to go well. Be cautious!
People generally refer to themselves as Americans in the United States. Some people from Canada, Mexico, and South and Central America sometimes take offense to this. However, remember expats are trying to settle in, and if an expat calls out a U.S. citizen on this it will be a very uncomfortable situation. Expats are advised to just roll with it while you are settling in.
There are a lot more articles and expat reports in our expat guide to living in the U.S..
Visas and Work Permits for the United States
Individuals who wish to enter the United States to work are issued visas based upon their purposes for entering the United States.
Temporary Work Visas are for "persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time, and are not considered permanent or indefinite. Each of these visas requires the prospective employer to first file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An approved petition is required to apply for a work visa."
Visitor Visas are "nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), tourism, pleasure or visiting (visa category B-2), or a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2)."
As stated above, foreign workers must get permission to work legally in the United States, and you will need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). As of March 2014, the cost to file, by mail or e-file, is $380. (For consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals, category (c)(33), you must also pay an $85 biometric services fee for a total of $465.)
Here is a list of U.S. embassies throughout the world.
Here is a list of the diplomatic missions in the United States if you have already moved to the United States.
Living in the U.S.A
Expats throughout the United States will have different experiences based upon where they live.
There are many popular expat destinations in the United States. We have written a lot of articles to help guide expats along the way:
Expat Tips For Living in New York City
Expat Tips For Moving to Boston
Expat Tips For Living in Seattle
Expat Tips For Living in Los Angeles
Expat Tips For Living in San Francisco
Expat Tips For Living in Denver
Expat Tips For Living in Texas
There are also quite a few Popular Tech Cities in the U.S. and Canada
Again, Expat life in New York City is vastly different from expat life in Austin, Texas, which is unlike expat life in Palo Alto, California. One is an enormous international city, another is in the heart of the United States, and the last is near the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.
The options are endless! Just about every type of geography and climate is available to you in the United States, and some of them are within easy driving distance from one another.
Expats Should Learn English in the United States
Expats living in the United States will have a much easier time if they can speak English. There are people from all over the world that live in the United States, with more diversity found in urban areas, but speaking English will make your life MUCH easier.
Many people are willing to help people in the United States that can't speak English, but unfortunately there are also people that will not be willing to do so.
Spanish in the United States has become more prevalent in the United States over the last 30 years, and spanish programming has become more readily available over that same period of time.
If you live in a large city, such as New York or Los Angeles, you'll find people there that literally speak hundreds of different languages
Cost of Living in the United States
The Cost of Living in the United States is more varied than one might think. Some communities that might look very similar at first glance can have a huge differential in terms of what it costs to live there.
In the United States, there are federal, state and local tax rates that can significantly impact the cost of living both in the country and the state and community you choose.
Things for Expats to Do in the United States
One of the great advantages for expats living in the United States is the vast array of activities available to them. Of course what is available to you is highly dependent on where you live.
Since the early 1990s, going to coffee houses has taken off as a way to get out and relax.
Professional and college athletics are very popular in the United States. Pro leagues that are prominent include the NFL (American football), Major League Baseball, NBA (basketball), and the NHL (hockey). In recent years, MLS soccer has increased its popularity. College football and college basketball are very popular, and in recent years, the sport of lacrosse also has been increasing in popularity.
Even for children and their parents, youth sports in America are immensely popular. In some areas youth sports are increasingly competitive and can require a significant time and cost commitment. Often, however, there are often options available that are less time and cost intensive.
Fitness and exercise is very popular in the United States. In addition to a wide variety of workouts, races and other fitness events have become widely available.
Hash House Harriers is an international organization of non-competitive running social groups, and they can be found in the U.S. also. Hash House varies from group-to-group, but it can be a great option for those that want to be active, meet people, and not feel a lot of competitive pressure.
Cuisines in the United States
Expats will love the variety of foods they will enjoy in the United States if they take the time to explore the different grocery stores, shops and restaurants that might appeal to the them.
The cuisine of the United States is closely tied to its history and the identity of each region and state. Some U.S. cities even have their own signature dishes (article includes cities from other countries, also).
Over the course of the last several decades, people in the United States have fully embraced cuisines from all over the world. So if you think as an expat you'll be stuck with just hamburgers and hotdogs, don't fret!
Here is a list of some popular of American foods.
Crime in the United States
As with other aspects of expat life in the United States, the crime rate varies widely from state-to-state and city-city-city. There are areas that have almost no crime at all, and areas that have high crime rates and are extremely dangerous.
Before selecting a place to live, do research on the city's crime statistics and visit the area in order to get a sense of how safe you feel there.
Making Friends in the United States
As with any other country, expats in the United States must make a commitment to the creation of relationships in order to successfully settle into their new home.
As expats will note in our making friends in the United States article, finding like-minded individuals can be difficult. However, with the right approach, you'll be able to take advantage of the fact that people in the United States have a diverse set of interests. Be willing to try new activities and explore interests. The article linked above offers many more details.
Expats Driving in the United States
Driving is managed at the state level of the United States. Each state has a department that issues drivers licenses and registers motor vehicles. These departments also track violations and have the authority to revoke driving privileges. Almost all states motor vehicle insurance in the United States.
Expat Health Insurance in United States
Expats interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.