A nation of 50 States, the United States of America is the 3rd largest country in the world behind Russia and Canada.
It is also the second most popular destination for ex-pats when leaving the UK.
The brilliant thing about the USA? You don’t have to learn a new language (aside from a few quirks).
The culture is similar enough to feel it is like a piece of home, and the food portions are out of control!
With thousands relocating every year, it’s important to determine exactly where, why, how, and what you are moving for, and that it is the right decision for you.
With a vast amount of land, a wide variety of cities, and a crazy number of suburbs in each city, it can be a huge challenge to pinpoint the perfect location.
Although moving internationally was so much more complicated during the last year due to the global pandemic, most countries are back to normal and welcoming immigrants again.
It is well known that the USA has some of the strictest immigration laws in the world, but it doesn’t mean your American dream is dead, you just need to be fully prepared for your move!
If you’re looking for some more advice on moving to the USA, here are 50 emigrating facts for ex-pats moving to the USA from UK!
1. Before Setting Off
As with travelling anywhere, the first piece of advice is to check the current travel advice from the government.
Due to the size of the US, natural disasters, terror threats, and other dangerous events can happen.
Though they generally pose minimal risk, you must be aware of your safety and those travelling with you.
Covid has not been eradicated and as with all countries, entry requirements and restrictions can change very quickly.
It makes sense to check regularly before you leave that you are up to date with the latest travel advice.
It is easy to check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for the USA at the Travel Health Pro website.
2. Visas and Residency
To live permanently anywhere in the United States, you must acquire the correct type of visa.
Unlike other countries, obtaining a visa for the US can be a lengthy process, taking up to and sometimes over a year!
There is a system in place to speed up the application process. This visa is aimed at Priority Workers and Persons of Extraordinary Ability.
- Persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics industries.
- Outstanding professors and researchers with at least three years of experience in teaching or research, who are recognized internationally.
- Multinational managers or executives who have been employed for at least one of the three preceding years by the overseas affiliate, parent, subsidiary, or branch of the U.S. employer.
However, for most people, you will need to go through the normal channels.
3. Working VISA
The primary type of visa generally applicable for those looking for work is the ‘working visa’.
There is a specific set of requirements that must be met if you are to have a chance of obtaining this visa.
Having a Masters’ or PhD will increase your chances of being awarded a working visa.
If your skills area is within the skills shortage list for the US, then you will have a better chance of getting entry also.
4. Sponsored Employment VISA
Many ex-pats will have likely secured employment before looking to move to the US.
If a US business offers you employment, then the likelihood you will be denied this visa is exceedingly low.
If you have family within the US, then your final method of moving here is to apply for a visa with the support of your relatives.
These visas take the longest time to be approved and should, therefore, be applied for as soon as possible.
As with plenty of other countries, many look to retire in the US. However, this is currently very difficult.
Moving to the USA from the UK for retirement purposes is not an option; you would have to apply for the green card lottery, as there is currently no access to live in the US without working.
Again, keeping up to date with the most recent travel guidelines before moving to the USA is imperative.
Whilst these rules are regularly changing, travel restrictions are typically only exempt for U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
This means that those with visas may still be restricted from entering the country.
Stay up to date with the latest travel rules here.
5. Getting a Green Card
The above visas will allow you to work in the US for a specific period of time. After which, you will need to reapply for a work visa or apply for a green card.
If you’re planning on moving to the US, then you have most definitely heard of the green card.
If you hold a green card, then you are not considered an immigrant, and this allows you permanent residency in the USA.
Many treat the green card as a visa that does not expire; however, it can be taken away if its terms and conditions are broken in any way.
Many will transition from an immigrant visa of some sort into a green card.
There are different routes of obtaining this, many of which are detailed on the US government’s site.
There are also some extremely helpful courses you can follow which will walk you through the process of obtaining a green card.
Check out this one on Udemy, which gives a comprehensive overview of the process.
6. Becoming a Citizen
In its simplest form, there are seven steps to becoming a citizen:
- Apply for your permanent residency
- Obtain your green card
- Reside in the US for five years
- Apply for naturalisation
- Pass your English and Civics tests
- Attend a Citizenship ceremony and take an Oath of Allegiance to the US
- Apply for your US Passport.
At first glance, each of these steps may be simple but, they each require a certain amount of research and preparation.
In all, make sure you understand the entire process and use the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
7. Healthcare Insurance
Unlike members of the commonwealth such as Canada and Australia, the USA has no reciprocal healthcare agreements for immigrants.
There is no publicly funded healthcare insurance in the US; everything is private. Therefore, you must arrange health insurance ASAP before your arrival.
Most healthcare is paid for by the employer, as it is tied to most employment packages.
This is by far the best and easiest way to fund your private healthcare.
Many prospective employers are open to negotiating health care coverage as part of the employment package.
To find out more about how to apply and the costs involved visit the HealthCare.gov website.
8. Working in the USA
A plethora of jobs, work experiences and internships exist in the US.
It may be challenging to find one of these if you are a foreign worker without a green card, but it is still very much possible.
Some of the most popular industries include aerospace, consumer goods, electronics, and motor vehicles.
The US is the hub of many major international companies; so, if you’re moving to USA from UK in search of a job, then this is the place to go.
If you already have a job secured, the growth opportunities are exponential here in the US.
If you’re looking for work, make sure to visit USAJobs and other sites like it.
9. Setting Up a Business
Setting up a business in the USA is an alternative route for obtaining a green card.
Applying for a green card as a business owner means you can file a petition for a green card yourself, whereas this usually has to be done by either a US citizen or your employer.
If you can prove your business in the nation’s best interest, you will likely be able to obtain the much sought-after green card.
Tax in the USA is a little more complex than it is here in the United Kingdom.
Instead of 3 tax brackets, there are seven tax brackets. The good news is that the tax rate never reaches 40% of your earnings.
The federal tax brackets are broken down into seven (7) taxable income groups, based on your federal filing statuses (e.g. whether you are single, a head of household, married, etc).
The federal income tax rates for 2023 are 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%, depending on the tax bracket.
As an example, earning the equivalent of £50,000 would currently put you in the 22% tax bracket.
The reason for so many brackets is that health insurance is only private in the US, and the broader economy and population mean they can afford a lower tax rate.
You can claim your UK State Pension in America if you’ve paid enough UK National Insurance contributions to qualify in Britain.
You will also still be eligible to qualify for an increase every year if you live in the USA.
In the US, pensions have multiple components, consisting of the pension paid by the state and the private pension (401K).
Both are non-tax-deductible. On top of this, the age to receive your pension is 67 years old in the USA.
It is possible to access pension funds early however, you must be 62 years old and in some cases be willing to lose 20/30% of your monthly pension payments.
Your pension can be paid into a bank in the country you’re living in or a bank or building society in the UK.
Pensions are another area where plenty of research is required to ensure you don’t miss out financially.
Harrison Brook also has some great information on their site that is certainly worth checking out!
12. Benefits & Social Security
If you receive benefits, then it is likely you will almost certainly not be able to receive these after you move abroad.
Income-related benefits, such as the Pension Credit and the Housing Benefit, will be void if you are out of the country for more than four weeks at a time.
Moving to USA from the UK means you will need to obtain a Social Security Number as soon as possible.
You will need this to be able to work for an employer, open a bank etc. It is similar to the national insurance number in the UK.
13. Driving in the US
When you first move to the US and start to drive there, you will notice some distinctive rule changes compared to the UK.
For example, in some states, you can turn right while the lights are red.
A major adjustment when you start to drive in the US is the dreaded right-hand-side drive.
It’s essential to know these rules; otherwise, you could be a danger to those around you and yourself.
The car horn is a favoured tool for stress release in the US, so don’t get flustered if people start beeping at you unnecessarily.
14. Getting a Drivers License
There are some rules, regulations, and laws you will need to be aware of before getting behind the wheel.
A UK driving license permits vehicle rental in the United States.
You must be over 21 to rent a car, and your UK driving license is only valid for 12 months.
Rules can change from state to state.
There is no universal US driving license, but instead, each state has their version of a driving license.
Many states will insist that you obtain your driver’s license within 30-60 days of moving to the USA from the UK.
Contact the motor vehicle department of each state you will be driving to find out its requirements.
Sadly, you will not be able to convert your license.
Most foreigners who relocate to the U.S. will need to go through the full application process to get a U.S. driver’s license, just like any first-time driver.
WikiHow has some very helpful guidance for UK ex-pats who want to apply for a US driving license.
When you move overseas, you can still vote in some elections within the UK.
You will have to register as an overseas voter, and you can register for up to 15 years after leaving the UK.
Of course, you can still vote in the usual way at a polling station; it will just require a quick flight back to the UK.
You must have citizenship to vote in US elections, green card holders and permanent residents cannot vote in the elections.
Registering a birth abroad requires that you register your child’s birth according to the regulations in the country where the child was born.
You will receive a local birth certificate here in the United States.
Currently, if you are born in the US and your parents are not citizens, you will still be granted citizenship.
It is unknown how long this will last, as presidents throughout time have tried to end this ruling.
Sadly, people pass away, and this can happen anywhere at any time.
In the unfortunate event that someone dies while abroad, you must register the death with the local authorities in the country.
You will also be able to register the death with UK authorities.
The best way to begin the process of dealing with a loved one is to use Tell Us Once; they will help and guide you through the process.
Moving to USA from UK, becoming a green card holder and eventually, a citizen is a complicated process in itself.
Now introduce the idea of marriage.
If you are a permanent resident or US citizen, then this is a good way to sponsor your other half into getting a green card.
Although, hopefully, you will be marrying for many other reasons than just this.
According to the Constitution of the United States, every person residing in America is free to choose and practice their religion.
Though religion is diverse, Christianity is by far the most practised religion in the States.
More than 75% of Americans are classed as Christian, with roughly 20% being catholic and the last 5% is a mixture of other religions.
Moving to the USA from the UK, you may notice that people are a lot more religious, as the British tend to be somewhat reserved when it comes to this area of life; however, this is dependent on where you move to in the US.
You’re from Britain, so you know what patriotism is.
Well, Americans are exceedingly patriotic and will relish the opportunity to talk about how great America is.
Brits won’t hang flags or state their political opinions to anyone and everyone, but here in the USA this is very standard.
Don’t be offended, instead, embrace this newfound patriotism.
21. Taking Pets
Bringing animals into the US is an easy task if you follow the specific requirements for importing pets here.
These include making sure your pet has a microchip; receiving a veterinary certificate from your vet stating your pet is healthy and fit to fly; proof of rabies vaccination; optional vaccines are a plus, and a few more which can be specific to the country you are travelling from.
22. Emergency Services
Here in America, the number for emergency services is 911.
With brilliant infrastructure throughout the states, emergency services are able to deal with anything you can throw at them.
Alongside this, the response time is rapid, which is surprising for a country where everything is so spread out.
Most states also operate what is called a Quick Response Service (which does not transport patients but acts as a first responder to scenes) providing initial patient assessment and care.
On average in the U.S., the length of time between a call for help and the arrival of emergency medical services is about eight minutes.
Obviously, in more rural areas, this can be longer.
23. Work/Life Balance
As with everything, context is key. Depending on whether you’re a surgeon or a teacher, your work-life balance will vary greatly.
This being said, Axios has shown that the US ranks poorly for work/life balance in developed countries, with 11% of the population working 50hr+ weeks.
In a study conducted by the OECD in 2022, the US was not rated very highly.
In fact, it came in 29th out of 41 countries in the running.
24. Quality of Life
Standard of living refers to the level of wealth, comfort, necessities, and material goods available to a particular geographic area.
It is closely related to (and often used interchangeably with) quality of life.
The OECD quality of life survey considers many different factors when determining the quality of life. While the US may not score highly, it ranks top in the housing section.
Further to this, the US offers above-average income and wealth, subjective well-being, environmental quality, social connections, and civic engagement.
25. Holidays & Vacation Time
An interesting fact about Americans is that less than half the total population own a passport.
Compare this with the UK where almost 80% of Brits own a passport and you can see that more than half the population of America never leave their country.
They prefer instead to take their “vacations” within the country, unsurprising in some ways as it is so incredibly vast.
The USA is home to many different climates, but overall, it is considered to have a continental climate.
The air pollution levels on average are higher when compared to other countries.
The East is far more polluted than the West, however, in Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico pollution levels are generally much lower.
According to scientists, this is mainly due to the wildfires that often rage in the West at certain times of the year.
In the past 100 years, the American population has more than tripled, from 100 million to 32.7million.
The East Coast of the US by far has the highest population density.
This was the first area of land inhabited when the British Empire discovered America.
The thin strip that is the West Coast is also largely populated.
Following the pollution trends, the least populated areas are those mentioned in the above fact.
With deserts, mountains, swampland and grassland; the USA has all kinds of environments for different species of plants.
In Texas, camouflaging itself, you’ll find a weird cactus if you look hard enough; this is the Living Rock Cactus.
In the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll see some amazing wildlife such as the Koki’o Flower, which grows on trees up to 5m high.
29. Animals & Nature
The US is home to a diverse array of wildlife, with many unique species hiding around every corner.
One of the lesser heard of animals is the Hawaiian seal, unique to the Hawaiian Islands. Other animals include the black-footed ferret and the groundhog.
Overall, the US is home to over 400 species of mammal, more than 800 species of bird and over 10,000 species of insect.
30. Weather & Climate
It is very difficult to state average temperatures and weather conditions in the USA.
As the terrain varies from high mountains to flat coastal regions and weather and temperatures change accordingly.
Alabama has lows of 2oC in January and highs of 33oC in July; and, Alaska has lows of -11.6oC in January and highs of 18.6oC in July.
If you want to find out what the weather is like in your chosen area you can use the real-time weather report website.
31. Schools & Universities
Moving to USA from the UK brings with it an abundance of educational opportunities.
You’ll be leaving behind Oxford and Cambridge and trading them for MIT, Harvard, and Stansted.
If you are looking for the best educational facilities, then Massachusetts is the place to go.
This state has been recognised as the top state for education in the USA.
New Jersey, Florida, and Washington closely follow it.
There are plenty of brilliant educational institutes in these states, with distinguished Universities close by as well.
32. Open a Bank Account
Opening a bank in the US as a foreigner will be much easier if you have an address in the US.
If you do not have an address, it will be much harder to open a bank account as many banks will see it as an unsafe option.
If you do not yet possess an address in the US, another option is going to an international bank account that is branch-based in the UK, such as HSBC.
Bureaucracy is rife in the US, and it is a complex system that can lead to a very competitive and power-hungry nature.
Alongside this, everything is done to the letter. Every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘I’ is dotted.
While many consider this to be “red tape”, it ensures the entire system works with minimum flaws.
34. Cultural Differences
There are tremendous cultural differences between the US and the UK, however, there are many similarities too.
The good news is, that you don’t need to learn any languages when moving to the USA from the UK.
The bad news? All your British idioms are likely to be lost on those in the Land of the Free.
Americans do not have the same sense of humour as the Brits.
They rarely find sarcasm funny preferring instead a more slapstick kind of comedy.
Brits are in general much quieter and reserved.
Americans have different ways of making friends, finding jobs, and interacting at the office.
One of the most significant differences when moving here is the paid leave.
Most companies will only offer 10 days of paid leave a year, and some say you have to have been employed at the same company for 12 months before being able to claim this!
There are other cultural differences, but some you have to experience to understand.
35. A New Start
Where better for a fresh start than somewhere halfway across the world?
America has always been a brilliant destination for expats to relocate to, offering an abundance of land; a plethora of climates and picture-perfect landscapes wherever you go.
So, if you’re looking for a new job, a new challenge or just a change of scenery, the USA is for you.
36. The American Dream
Sadly, the American Dream is not what it once was.
The ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved has faded and proven unattainable for many.
With the crackdown on immigration recently, the American dream is much less accessible for those who come from certain countries.
Coming from the UK though, if you can secure a job and livelihood, the American dream is still possible.
37. Friendly Culture
If you’ve ever seen an American TV show, then you know just how bubbly and talkative Americans can be.
Coming from Britain, this can be a bit of a culture shock.
Many of us are quite reserved and won’t talk to strangers, whereas in the US this is the norm.
So be prepared for friendliness wherever you go.
Just hearing your British accent is enough for Americans to strike up a conversation with you.
38. Making Friends
As Americans are so friendly and welcoming, making new friends is made that much easier.
According to BBC America, the best way to make friends in America is to learn how to bake and cook.
Americans love food and love to share it even more.
It’s a very cultural thing here, to prepare an abundance of food for guests; and to bring food over to other houses and BBQs when you visit.
Other than this?
With many Americans starting up the conversations themselves, you won’t feel out of place at all here and you’ll be inundated with friend requests left, right and centre.
39. Property Market
If you’re looking at moving to the USA from the UK, then you are likely to have already started to delve into the USA property market.
The price of land in the US is far lower than in the UK, which means that much larger houses can be built in the USA for less money.
Size does depend on where you to move of course.
Right now, the property market is flourishing with the median house price reaching a new high of $412,000 (£323,300) according to Forbes.
Some property experts are reporting that the median US home sale price is projected to fall 4% to $368,000 (£298,852) in 2023.
If they do, the decline will make the first annual drop in home prices since 2012.
Additionally, any drop in value will mean that you get even more square footage for your money.
40. Rental Market
Almost half of Americans choose to rent a home.
The rental market is also flourishing within the USA; however, this is not necessarily a good thing for those looking to rent.
The latest Rent.com report highlights a monthly look at rent price trends across the United States, specifically in January 2023.
While it is notoriously difficult to predict rental market trends, according to Zumper, renters are starting to find that the market is showing signs of improvement with less competitiveness and lower prices predicted for 2024.
This is good news to many!
41. Public Transport
The three most common forms of public transport in the US are conventional bus systems, bus rapid transit and intercity buses.
If you’re based in a city, then the subway and tram will also be widespread forms of transport.
This being said, people in business will opt for a taxi or train, as they offer the quickest method of transport getting from point A to B.
As previously mentioned, you won’t have to learn a new language when moving to the US.
This doesn’t mean that English is the only language spoken of course.
The other two most popular languages are Spanish (with roughly 37 million speakers) and Chinese (approximately 3 million speakers).
Then there is also French, Tagalog (originated in the Philippines), Vietnamese, Korean and many many more.
43. Slang & Expressions
Moving to USA from the UK means you will need to learn new slang words that are unfamiliar in the UK.
Here are a few common phrases and expressions you may hear that you aren’t used to:
- Buck = An American Dollar
- Amped = Super Excited
- Bet = Meaning okay, sure, and totally.
- Bounce = Leave a place quickly
- Flex = Show off, brag, or boast
- Clapback = A quick, sharp response to an insult or criticism
- Zonked = Exhausted
- John Hancock = Signature
- Gassed = Full of energy
44. Eating Out
Small portions are unheard of in the US. Everything comes large!
This is most definitely not a bad thing. Well, it can be … but everything in moderation, right?
Fast food can be found everywhere; sandwiches are located on the corner of every street and hotdogs are abundant in New York.
Whatever you’re after, America will offer it up, not on a silver platter, but probably in a napkin or a takeaway box.
This is one area of American culture that often comes as a bit of a shock to British ex-pats.
Whereas we feel a tip is optional and based on the service received, in America, tipping is optional in name only.
At home, you work on tipping around 10% of the total bill. Not in the US. They expect between 15 and 20%.
Also, unlike in the UK, servers will often challenge you if they feel have not been adequately tipped.
The reason why tipping high is so expected is that the pay for waiting staff is kept at the minimum wage level.
46. Tax on Items
Never take an item for face value in America.
The tag may say $20, but what it means is $20 + state tax + federal tax.
The tax rates vary between states; otherwise, the entire price would be printed on the labels.
Sadly, many have fallen prey to this, including the writer of this article.
You’ll get used to it pretty quickly though, I’m sure.
47. Cost of Living
In the past few years, grocery items in the States have shot up in price, even more so when compared to England.
Basics such as bread, eggs, and cheese are all much more expensive in the US.
Cigarettes are cheaper in the US by as much as 45%.
Public transport is another area where you will save as transport is between 15-18% cheaper.
Fuel in the USA still remains under £1 and new cars are also cheaper in some cases and depending on the model substantial savings can be made.
Eating out costs around the same as it does in the UK, but imported beer, coffee, water, or coke is more expensive.
Basic utilities like electricity and water are less expensive than the UK, by as much as 24.5%.
It is very much a swing and roundabout affair.
For more information regarding the cost of day-to-day living in the States visit Numbeo.
48. Nearby Destinations
Living in a new part of the world means new holiday destinations.
Stay in the US, travel to Canada, travel to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, the choice is yours!
Whatever you do, make sure either you’re British passport will not expire anytime soon, or obtain a US passport through citizenship.
49. Sports & Recreation
Football is tucked away in the corner here in the US.
The main sports here are the National Football League, National Basketball Association and Baseball. If you’re planning on being in a pub or bar while one of these sports is on, be ready to have your ears tested to their extremes.
Alternatively, if you want to watch Premier League football in the comfort of your own home, you can always sign up with one of the numerous vendors who supply Sky Go in USA and stay in touch with all things back in the UK.
50. Crime Rates & Safety
The US doesn’t have an excellent reputation when it comes to crime.
The availability of guns to everyone means that there are areas of the US that are far more dangerous than others.
With mass shootings happening almost every day here in America, it’s important to be vigilant of your surroundings and where you plan on living in the US.
While gun crime may be common, the US is enormous and the likelihood of it happening where you are is very low.
Are you ready to get moving to the USA from the UK?
Moving abroad is stressful for all involved.
That’s why White & Company are here to help your move to the USA be smooth and stress-free.
Our experience is second to none. As members of BAR, FIDI and OMNI, White & Company have been relocating people to destinations worldwide for 145 years.
Our experienced teams located across the UK will pack and prepare your valuable, fragile and bulky furniture ready for export
To find out more about how we could get your dream move underway, don’t hesitate to give us a call today.
Alternatively, fill out a quick quote form or chat with our Bot and we’ll get in touch with you straight away.
We can book a house move survey with one of our helpful surveyors via our very convenient virtual survey system or we can arrange to visit you at home.
Max is a seasoned writer and blogger in the real estate and home moving sectors, as well as a knowledgeable source of information for expatriates living and working abroad. His detailed insights have helped thousands of people move and live abroad with greater simplicity and ease.