How to Move to America: A Starter Guide

Friday, 7 Jul 2017

Moving to America

Moving to America is still a very exciting prospect for people of many nationalities around the world. You can read our blog on the numerous reasons for moving to the USA to find out why. If you have decided to join the one million plus people who move to America each year, there are a number of steps you will need to take to make sure your dream is fulfilled. Send My Bag has put together a list of those steps to show you how to move to America and to set you off on the right track.

  1. Do Preliminary Research
    Moving to the USA: Do Preliminary Research

    Take to the internet to find out as much as you can about the US. Get an idea of what jobs opportunities are out there and where these are most prevalent. Create a shortlist of places where you might want to live and apply for any jobs that require your skillset. You should learn about what is involved in the visa application process and how long each stage takes. Create a timetable showing when you should proceed with each step of the moving process, including when you should hand in your notice at your current job, when you should go to the USA in order to take part in job interviews, and when you should put any property you have up for sale.
  2. Visit the USA
    Moving to America: Visit the USA First

    You need to be sure that you are moving to America for the right reasons. This means you shouldn’t rely on what you have heard about the USA from the media or other people. To this end, you should plan a fact-finding mission to America during which you learn key information about what life in the USA would be like for you. Find out about job opportunities, salaries, real estate and quality of life. America is a huge country, with life styles and surroundings varying greatly depending on your specific location. You may want to visit a few different states to see which one suits you best. It is during preliminary trips such as these that you can attend job interviews to hopefully secure the job that will facilitate your application for a US visa.
  3. Obtain a US Visa
    Moving to America: Get a US Visa

    One of the biggest hurdles when moving to America is obtaining the requisite US visa, or Green Card. You should allow several months before your planned move to America to complete the application process. This process starts with a visa petition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once approved, the National Visa Center takes over and provides instructions for the formal visa application and interviews. You will likely be able to obtain a Green Card through family or through your job (although other ways also exist). If you already have a family member who is a US citizen, they can apply to have you join them; or you can apply for immigrant status if you have an offer of permanent employment in the US.
    If you are wondering how to move to America as an international student, you will need to apply for an F1 student visa.
  4. Set up Temporary Accommodation
    Moving to the US: Set Up Temporary Accommodation

    Once you have obtained your visa, you need to plan your journey to the US. As soon as you arrive you will need somewhere to stay, so book yourself into a hotel, an Airbnb let or holiday rental that you can use as your immediate base. This will give you the time to do a thorough search for permanent accommodation without rushing into something or relying on internet property searches without a physical viewing. If you arrange accommodation with a local property owner you can avail of their local knowledge when deciding on a neighbourhood to live in.
  5. Settle up at Home
    Moving to America: Settle up at Home

    There will be lots of loose ends to tie up at home before your big move to America. This includes paying bills, stopping utility services, redirecting post, and letting people know you are moving. You should also make sure you have to hand all the documentation you will need in the US. Order official copies of any certificates you are missing. Documents you will probably need include your birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, and medical records.
    Find more advice on moving abroad here.
  6. Move your Possessions
    Moving to America: Move your Possessions

    Before you move to America you will need to arrange the transportation of your possessions. For large items like furniture you will likely have to fork out for container transportation and sea freight to get them to the US. For many smaller items, however, you can simply pack them in suitcases or boxes and have Send My Bag pick them up and deliver them to the USA for you. If you provide your hotel address, you can have them delivered there. Unlike a lot of sea freight companies, Send My Bag sorts out customs clearance for you and explains clearly what information you need to provide.
  7. Get a Social Security Number
    Moving to the USA: Get a Social Security Number

    Once you move to the USA you should apply for a social security number, if you didn’t already apply for one when sorting out your visa. This allows the government to see how much money you earn in the US and to determine if you are eligible for retirement benefits. You can visit your local Social Security Admin office to apply, and should bring with you proof that you are allowed to work in the US.
  8. Set up an American Bank Account
    Moving to the US: Set up a US Bank Account

    On moving to the USA you will need to set up an American bank account to allow you to easily pay bills and to receive your salary. You should set up a checking account with a debit card so you can pay for things without always having to carry around cash. To set up an account you typically need to present proof of address, your passport, immigration documents and your social security number. You will probably want to transfer funds from your old bank account into your American one. Make sure you are smart about how you do this by shopping around to see where you can get the best money transfer deal and by keeping an eye on exchange rates. You should try to make the transfer when the rates are strongest in your favour.
  9. Find Permanent Accommodation
    Moving to America: Find Permanent Accommodation

    Whether you plan to rent long-term or buy your own property, you should look into finding permanent accommodation as soon as possible so you aren’t paying high short-term rental or hotel costs for too long. If you plan on renting in the US, be aware that the landlord may want you to fill out a rental application form. This is so that he/she knows whether or not you have money coming in and can cover the rent. Be aware of any extra costs involved in renting, as one month’s rent is typically asked as a deposit, on top of a damage deposit, and rental fee if there is a lot of demand for rentals in your area. If looking to buy a property, you will notice that the realtor you choose is a lot more hands-on that you may be used to at home. Also note that the realtor’s commission is paid by the seller of the property.
    Make your new house a home by following these simple steps.
  10. Arrange Health Insurance
    Moving to America: Arrange Health Insurance

    As healthcare in the USA is provided by private clinics and hospitals, you will need health insurance to cover any costs incurred through injury or illness. Employers often contribute towards health insurance, so find out from your employer whether you are covered. You may be asked by your employer to make a contribution yourself. It is advised that you get comprehensive medical insurance rather than a budget option, as the latter may not cover certain medical tests.
  11. Sort out Utilities
    Moving to America: Sort Out Utilities

    Once you have moved into your new house or apartment, you should shop around for the best deal for various utilities, such as phone, internet, electricity and gas. You could ask other people living in your building or street which supplier they use and turn this into an opportunity to get to know them and pick their brain about other things.
  12. Familiarise Yourself with Laws in the US
    Moving to America: Familiarise Yourself with US Laws

    There may be a number of laws in America that you are not automatically aware of. These include the regulation in some areas that says residents must clean away snow from the pavement outside their home, and the fact that gambling is illegal in many areas. Laws and regulations vary by state so make sure you are aware of what is and isn’t allowed in your local area.

If moving to America leaves you missing home, read our helpful guide to combating homesickness.

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