The United States has found success through immigration since its conception. Now with its own distinct identity, the country is a melting pot of colours and flavour, and continues to be a favourite expat destination.
Expats moving to the US will be exposed to one of the world’s largest economic and military powers, supporting more than 300 million people in 50 states across three time zones. Such an immense land area does make it difficult to generalise topics of expat consideration – like cost of living, climate and lifestyle, but there are certainly some clear cut advantages to moving to the ‘Land of Opportunity’.
The US benefits from high wages, a safe child-friendly environment for the family-oriented expat. There is a well-organised and efficient infrastructure which makes systems like education and healthcare some of the best in the world – if you can afford them.
As a downside, the US tends to have a thin safety net and limited aid for those in need of monetary assistance. Since the recession of 2008 competition for jobs in the US has been considerably more intense. In continuation of this the policy changes since 9/11 have resulted in a much more selective immigration allowance, where more expats would like to relocate than are accepted. The group of people who are allowed into the US is by no means an exclusive group, as roughly a million people immigrate annually to America – still leaving the influx of foreigners as the leading cause of the country’s population growth.
Visas are divided according to immigrant and non-immigrant categories. Most expats in the US will want to obtain an immigrant visa. This is commonly referred to as the 'green card' and is attainable through employment sponsorship, family ties, and a visa lottery system.
Non-immigrant visas are usually reserved for tourists or temporary residents but can be used in some scenarios for temporary employment. There are a huge number of ways to qualify for both types of visa. Processing times vary depending on the location applied, but are usually less than six months. To make options easier many expats hire an immigration lawyer, although these can be expensive.
Go to the Working tab for more information about visas and work permits.
Expats moving to the US will need a social security number before formally starting a job. This is used by employers to report your earnings to the government.
If you are not a US citizen and do not want to work in the US, you do not necessarily need a social security number. It is still recommended to apply for one in order to receive certain government services that you are entitled to as a resident.
Some businesses, such as credit companies and banks, will ask for your social security number, but most can identify you by some other means. You will not need a number in order to get a driver’s license or register children for schools.
There are two ways to get a social security number:
There are offices in all towns and cities. You should wait at least ten days after arriving in the US before applying at a social security office to allow time for your Department of Homeland Security documents to be available online. There is no charge for a social security number and it takes about two weeks to get one.
Both the and coasts of the US have major ports, making shipping to these regions less expensive than inland. Regions without ports will require a combination of sea and land transport. Some shipping companies will arrange for the entire transport while others will only offer one part of the delivery. It is a good idea to buy cargo insurance from a company other than the one used for shipping to ensure reliable coverage.
Regulatory law for shipping pets is different depending on the state and port of entry. A dog must be accompanied by a certificate for rabies vaccination, although this is not usually required for cats. Travel through some states requires a health certificate proving vaccinations. Hawaii has stricter pet immigration policies than most mainland states.
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