Logistics of making a move to the U.S.

Oct 07

moving-vanMoving to another country is undoubtedly exciting, but there are some logistical hurdles ahead. Once you realize you need to get yourself organized, you may wonder where you can start. It is advisable to begin preparing 90-days ahead of your proposed move date. This will give you plenty of time to pack up your things, arrange accommodation, and work through all the paperwork ahead.

Things You Need to Arrange Above all Else

Before you even consider all the other logistical efforts, you need to arrange your visa, work permits and pet vaccinations. Without these, you may find yourself leaving the U.S. as fast as you arrived.

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How to Immigrate to the U.S.

Sep 30

usaLegally migrating to America is a lengthy process. Ultimately, you will have to have a sponsor relative, or be married to a U.S. citizen, or have a full-time job lined up. In all three cases, the process is never straightforward. Having some basic information about each option, however, can increase your chances of success.

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Expatriates Dealing With Differences in Weather

Nov 19

weatherAs a country with vast amounts of space stretching across hemispheres, the U.S. has plenty of variety when it comes to weather. At one end of the spectrum, there is Alaska. Alaska is a state known for weather that is primarily cold, with long periods of snow. At the other end of the spectrum, there are states like Oklahoma. During the summer, Oklahoma experiences incredibly high temperatures. Finally, there is the east coast. This is an area of the U.S. that can experience severe storms, which newcomers need to be prepared for. Fortunately, there are ways of developing a sense of readiness before you hit American shores.

Moving to Hot U.S. States

Certain states in the U.S. are hot throughout the year. This includes Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and Louisiana. In some areas of Florida and Hawaii, the temperatures and conditions can reach tropical proportions. Seasonally, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Arkansas also host blazing summers.

Regardless of where you move from, you need to be prepared to hydrate yourself more. Not paying close attention to your water intake can lead to illnesses rapidly, especially in the very young and very elderly. Depending on where you move from, you may also want to pay attention to using sunscreen. In many cases, wearing a hat to keep out the sun is also essential. Whenever it is possible to do so, stay indoors between 11 and 3. These are usually the hottest hours of the day when temperatures are high.

If you are moving to a state with slightly tropical weather, watch out for bugs. Mosquitoes are not going to give you a dose of malaria in the U.S., but they will make you itch. Prevent this with nets, bug spray, and by avoiding water becoming more than a day old outdoors.

Handling Cold Weather

Alaska is closer to the North Pole than all other states. Some states experience periods of cold weather at various points throughout the year. This includes Maine, Wyoming, Vermont, and Montana. It stands to reason that you should always have plenty of warm clothing for such weather. However, many people do not prepare their cars or homes for emergencies. In your car, you need to keep a first aid kit, torch, fully charged cellphone, extra warm clothing, a wind-up radio, and a sleeping bag. If you do break down in the cold, these items could save your life. Maintain the same kit within your home, as well as a few days’ worth of food and water.

Freakish Weather in the U.S.

Weather that is freakish to Europe may not seem so in the U.S. This can include tornadoes, hurricanes, and tropical storms. Most of the last two affect the east coast more than other areas, especially the lower half.

Familiarize yourself with the United States Action website, which features weather alerts for all states. Ready.gov advises having at least 72-hours’ worth of food and water for tornadoes. You also need supplies that can help you cope with electricity shortages, such as wind-up flashlights and wind-up radios. The same rules apply for hurricanes, as well as formulating a plan with your family for emergency communication procedures.

During storms, using wind-up radios is a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest developments. Tuning in to local stations can provide you with alerts, even when electricity is down. For all aspects of U.S. weather, the more you prepare, the less likely you are to encounter problems.

 

 

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Careers for Expatriates

Nov 11

nurseWith hundreds of thousands of Europeans moving to the U.S. every year, it appears there are great prospects for starting a new life there. Those who are new to the U.S. and those who want to work there need to overcome some logistical difficulties before they make their mark. There is a variety of options for expatriates wanting to find jobs and visas in the U.S.

Finding a Job Before Moving to the U.S.

Working visas in the U.S. do not come easy. In fact, most people have to have a job that relocates them there or hold an offer of employment within the country. The visa associated with those falling into this category is the H1-B, which applies to skilled individuals working for a U.S. employer.

One of the easiest ways to find work in the U.S. is to work for a large international company that has the potential to relocate you there. Ultimately, this often means starting out within that company in your own country. However, as time goes on, there is potential to move to a department in another company.

There are ways of enhancing your prospects during this process. While English is the primary language in the U.S., Spanish is a big asset. However, making sure you speak fluent English gives you your strongest chances of moving there with a job offer in hand.

Careers That You Can Transfer to the U.S. Easily

There are certain careers that are difficult to transfer to the U.S. Take healthcare, for example; while European medical schools are on a par with U.S. ones, many states require doctors from other countries to take additional exams before they can practice. This applies to other fields, such as accounting and law, as they too come under different laws and practices in America.

Other careers, however, appear to not have many international boundaries. This can include academia at a variety of levels, architecture, and specialist consultant positions. Engineering is in demand globally, which means engineers stand a strong chance of finding work in the U.S.

Each state has a list of occupations that are in demand. While this varies from place-to-place, U.S. News believes there are seven that are particularly lucrative. These are:

  • Registered nurses (but bear in mind, there may be a need to take more exams)
  • Computer systems analysts
  • Web developers
  • Managers and supervisors in retail
  • Computer application software engineers
  • Truck drivers
  • Retail salespersons

Clearly some of these positions can easily find employees from within the U.S. However, they do give an indication as to where the work is.

Other Things You Should Know

Like all countries, the U.S. has workplace customs and laws. You must be at least 16 to work there, and no employee can ask you to work more than 40-hours a week. You can however choose to work more than that. U.S. employers are not obligated to give paid holiday time, but many do. Paid holiday is often on offer for key national holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.

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Healthcare for Expatriates

Nov 04

healthcareWhen moving to the U.S., citizens from Europe may need a little time to adjust to the healthcare system. Out of all the OECD’s countries, the U.S. uses the most private clinics. Around 48% of care is paid for using out-of-pocket expenditure, as opposed to the remaining OECD average of 72% state coverage. However, many of those who find employment in the U.S.—which is the most common prerequisite for living there—find that their employer covers most of the out-of-pocket costs.

Preparing Medical Insurance in Advance

The U.S. does not require that those moving there have medical cover. However, this is not a liberty anybody should take advantage of. Expats moving to most countries, the U.S. included, are likely to face costly bills if they find themselves in need and do not have insurance. It therefore stands to reason that many embassies recommend that their citizens purchase a little cover in advance of moving to the U.S. Purchase comprehensive cover rather than budget. The U.S. medical system usually involves more diagnostic tests than other countries, which can soon rack up costs.

If you are going to be an expat in the U.S. for only a few months, you may want to purchase an international insurance plan. Companies like Bupa provide these, and while they often cost double the amount you would pay in Spain, it ultimately costs less than being out of pocket when you are uninsured.

Long-Term Healthcare Cover in the U.S.

If your job requires you to stay in the U.S. for more than a few months, the chances are you are going to be covered by your employer. Your employer may cover all or just part of your insurance. In addition to this, they may cover your spouse or children too.

In some instances, your employer will give you a variety of options to choose from. One of the most common plans is “HMO”, which allows you to access certain hospitals and doctors within a network. If you want to see someone else, you need to pay a premium. In contrast, “PPO” plans give you more flexibility, but this may come with a higher cost. Some plans may include no additional costs at the point of care, while others may require this. Like many aspects of U.S. living, this is something that varies between state and is highly dependent on your personal circumstances.

The Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions

The U.S. is currently undergoing many insurance changes with Obamacare. One of the key points of Obamacare is not allowing insurance companies to refuse entry on the basis of a pre-existing condition.

Using Healthcare in the U.S.

Like other countries, your primary access to care comes through a family doctor. You can choose your doctor from a list and you need to present your insurance card to them when you attend. Like when you register with a family doctor at home, there will be a lot of paperwork detailing vaccinations etc during your first visit. If you want to see a specialist, you need to be referred by a family doctor. However, you may find that your power as a consumer gets a faster referral than it does at home.

Prescriptions are easy to handle. Like many countries, you take your script to a nearby pharmacist and pay the fee. Overall, once you are insured, you should find the U.S. system easy to navigate.

 

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Finding a Home in the U.S.

Oct 28

houseBefore you move to the U.S., you need to decide whether you want to buy or rent. In many cases, expats find that they rent at first. This helps them get a feel for an area, and is especially convenient if their job requires them to move from place-to-place. In both instances, familiarizing yourself with the home buying process can make it easier.

Finding a Home in the U.S.

Thanks to the Internet, identifying homes is relatively simple. One key source you can use is Realtor.com. This site aggregates properties for sale across the U.S. and allows you to search according to zipcode. However, it does not feature all realtors, so you may want to search Google for realtors in the locality you are moving to.

As you do not know the area you are moving to, using the services of a realtor is highly recommended. If, after searching Realtor.com and other realtor websites, you see one or two agents who crop up in your area, contact one and use their services. A good realtor not only knows which properties are available, they know which schools are good and how the transport links are in your chosen area. Establish a connection with them online, then try to identify a week or so you can spend in the country finding a property. Visiting properties and neighborhoods yourself is highly recommended, if you want to make sure a property is right for you.

Renting a Property in the U.S.

Most landlords in the U.S. will require you to pay a month’s rent in advance, as well as a month’s rent in the form of a deposit. There may also be fees associated with the realtor you use, but this can vary between companies and states. Some property owners may require references before they let to you. Obtaining these references can take a couple of weeks. Most initial rental agreements are around six months or 12 months. If you later plan to purchase a property in the U.S., bear this in mind when setting a budget for your rental home.

Buying a Property in the U.S. as an Expat

Buying a property in the U.S. as an expat is a whole different ballgame. As a newcomer to the U.S., you won’t have established a credit history there. If you already own a property, selling it and using your funds to pay for a new home is a good option. For those who do not own a property, there are still options available.

The first involves developing a U.S. credit history. Take out a credit card and treat it nicely, then you can slowly work towards getting a mortgage. Like other countries, this requires stable employment history. Your other option is to choose a mortgage with a 20-30% deposit rate. This usually means lower interest payments every month, but does require larger savings than other buyers. The main plus side to this is that your money may go further in the U.S. than it does in other countries. This is dependent on where you live, but many European expats find themselves owning larger properties than they would at home.

 

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How to obtain credit in the U.S.

Oct 21

credit-cardLike all developed nations, the U.S. is built on credit. While you may be able to last for a little while without some, you are going to come unstuck when it comes to those larger purchases. This includes buying cars, houses, and white goods, all of which are hard to obtain without credit. Before you even set off for the U.S., get a copy of your credit file from the country you are living in now. While this does not always guarantee you will get credit, it can help you argue your case.

Transferring Your Identity to the U.S.

As well as bringing a copy of your credit report, it is highly recommended that you do not close your account at home. First, you do not know when you are likely to return, and may therefore need it. As a dual citizen, it is quite likely that you can keep your account open. Second, you need something to fall back on while you try to get your first account in the U.S.

In addition to this, you need to prove you are a person. Whether you are moving here with a job or you are marrying a citizen, you need your own social security number. Without a social security number, you do not have any chance of getting credit. You can begin this process by heading to SSA.Gov and finding the section relevant to you. There are different processes for different demographics, so take your time here to make sure you fill out the right forms and provide the right information.

Finally, if you have a credit card that also operates in the U.S.—such as American Express and Visa—you can transfer your accounts over here. Again, you need a social security number for this.

Getting Your First Bank Account

Some banks allow you to change your usual account into an expat bank account. However, you may stand a stronger chance of obtaining U.S. credit if you open an account with an American institution. The three major banking groups in the U.S. are JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citigroup. Some banks that commonly operate in Europe—such as HSBC and Barclays—also have a strong American presence. If you bank with them, you may find it is easier to open an account.

Initially, you may be ‘red flagged’ for your first 90-days with an American bank account. This allows the financial institution you choose to see what your financial activities are like. After this sort-of probationary period, you will have established the ground work for an American credit history and can purchase a home.

Transferring Your Funds

If you move after selling a house, along with other assets, you need to transfer your funds into an American account. You may lose some money in the process of currency exchange. To ensure the transfer process goes well, you need to use a reputable country. This could be Caxton FX, FairFX or HiFX. Check with all three of them to see which rates you can attract.

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Taking Your Pet Abroad

Oct 14

dogWhen you plan to move to America, it is natural to feel as though leaving your pet behind is too much to bear. Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), does provide pretty straightforward guidelines to those who want to bring their pet to the states. While this may be a long process, it is certainly worth it if you want to bring your furry friends along to America.

Finding Out if Your Pet is Eligible

Unfortunately, not all pets are going to be eligible for importation to the U.S. Each country has its own delicate ecosystem; America is no different. Bringing in a pet that could disrupt biodiversity in the U.S. calls for immediate exportation or for the pet to be put down. Fortunately, most people do not get that far, as the guidelines for bringing in animals in the first place are pretty stringent.

Most dog breeds are allowed into the U.S., unless they are banned in the state you wish to live in. There are no restrictions on cats. The same goes for fish. Monkeys, however, cannot be brought in under any circumstances.

It is okay to bring snakes and lizards into the U.S., but there are restrictions on turtles. These restrictions apply to those bringing the turtles for commercial purposes, as they wish to limit breeding of alien species within the country.

If you own a bat, the CDC will put you through a lengthy form filling and inspection process to ensure that your pet is not carrying a zoonotic disease. While this is tiresome, it does ensure that certain diseases are not re-introduced to the U.S. eco-system and population.

You are unlikely to encounter problems bringing in birds, as the CDC has relaxed a lot in recent years. However, you will encounter difficulties if you are travelling from an area with bird flu.

Under no circumstances can you bring in an African rodent.

Making Sure Pets are Healthy to Enter the U.S.

If you are bringing in a dog, it must be vaccinated against rabies. If the dog is under three months and therefore unable to be vaccinated, it must be contained for 30-days. The same goes for dogs that arrive in the U.S. without proof of vaccination. If you come from a rabies-free country, a vaccination may not be required.

Cats do not require vaccinations, but they will be inspected for diseases that can transmit to humans. If they are found to have such a disease, they will be quarantined until they are healthy.

Hawaii and Guam

Most pets being brought into Hawaii and Guam require a period of temporary isolation. This is because both areas differ significantly in terms of their eco-systems.

Transporting Your Pets to the U.S.

Every airline has different regulations for transporting pets, which means you need to gain the specifics from those you are traveling with. British Airways, for example, works alongside a variety of other companies to set guidelines. You can only travel with pets via certain routes, which means you may arrive in the U.S. and complete the rest of the journey using another mode of transport. There are shipping routes available too, if you cannot find an air route.

In general, a pet must have sufficient lighting, room to turn around, water, and food in their carrier. Clearly this means that each pet may require something different, so seeking a vet’s guidance is wise.

You will most likely need to get a pet passport, especially in the case of dogs and cats. Your nearest vet may be able to help you out, or you can try the DEFRA scheme. State import regulations vary between each state. Finally, you may want to consider microchipping your pet, just in case they get lost!

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Expatriate Sports: Finding Teams that Play Your Favorite European Sports

Sep 23

rugbyWhen you first move from Europe to the U.S., you are going to notice a big difference in sports. First, finding rugby is quite the challenge! This is very much a sport enjoyed by the expatriate community, rather than a sport that is enjoyed around the U.S. Next, as all Europeans should know, ‘football’ as we know it is ‘soccer’, and ‘football’ as the Americans know it is ‘American football’ to us. These are quite minor differences in nomenclature, but it is worth getting to grips with them now before you turn up to a game and realize the players are engaging in an entirely different sport to the one you expected. Finally, depending on where you live, you might have to expect some small differences in playing venues for hockey and tennis.

Sports that are Hard to Find in the U.S.

Contrary to popular belief, rugby does exist in America. It just isn’t as popular as the national favorite: football (American, not European!). There is a United States of America rugby league, so while you may not find yourself watching the Six Nations with the same passion, there is a league available for you to enjoy. There are three national rugby teams, featuring both male and female ensembles. Venues for watching games change from season-to-season. Main state colleges are a popular venue for rugby.

Hockey isn’t exactly non-existent in America, but it is rare to find a game played on a green like you will in Europe. Instead, you need to turn your attentions to ice hockey to get a fix. The American Hockey League represents 30 professional hockey teams, and the atmosphere at each game is certainly eclectic.

Finally, indoor tennis isn’t actually hard to find in America, as there are different associations representing both lawn tennis and indoor tennis. Both also have different championships, and Europeans usually find that they can enjoy the U.S. Open as much as they enjoy Wimbledon or the French Open.

Sports With Different Names in the U.S.

We all know that soccer is football and football is American football. Soccer is quite a big part of American culture, just under a different name. There are some teams that are big on the international stage, much like there are in Europe. For example, LA Galaxy, which was famously home to David Beckham for a few years. Both America and Canada are FIFA Affiliated, which means there is great scope to enjoy the World Cup, as well as Olympic participation every four years. The only major difference is no European Cup, but you can enjoy that from afar using cable television.

Sports That are Exceedingly Popular in the U.S.

America and Europe both have a big love for one sport in particular: golf! This is why The Masters is shared between the two countries, with the destination changing on an annual basis. The country is full of great golf courses, with Georgia and Florida being particularly excellent golfing locations.

Even when you live far away from the nearest venue to see your favorite sports played live, there is always cable. Getting a cable TV package is like having a window into your sporting worlds, so you can still enjoy your favorite teams from across the pond.

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Seeing the sights in my new home country

Sep 16

grand-canyoneThe U.S. is full of amazing ‘tourist’ attractions, a lot of which many of you will have heard of. Beneath the attractions that are famous, there are lots of little sites that don’t make it to the top of Lonely Planet’s lists. It is often these hidden gems that you really do not want to list, so scratching beneath the surface before you go sightseeing in the U.S. is essential.

Experiencing American Nature

Most of the key attractions people want to see in the U.S. are natural! Top of the list are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National park, and the Niagara Falls. All of these experiences have been developed by Mother Nature, yet they attract millions of tourists every year. While these are the most famous, you can find something beautiful in every state. No matter which state you move to, try to explore its natural wonders. This can range from sea life in Florida to the Northern Lights in Alaska. Whatever state you live in, there is a way to make the most of the natural wonders it has to offer.

Exploring American History

America has been home to human inhabitants for thousands of years. America as it is today is a relatively young country, but that does not mean there are not hundreds of historical attractions you can enjoy. As a newcomer to the U.S., exploring American history is a great way to orienteer. History can teach you more about a country’s culture than many other interests.

Some of America’s best historical sites include Alcatraz Prison, Antietam Battlefield, and the Bay of Pigs Museum. All states and many towns within them are likely to have their own museums. In some cases, especially when you live in the southern states, there are historic homes you can explore. These sites give you a feel for how America developed, allowing you to immerse yourself in the culture.

Theme Parks and Similar Attractions

Almost every U.S. state has a theme park, and there really are few better ways you can entertain your family. Obviously Florida is the king state when it comes to theme parks, but there are gems to be found across the country. In warmer states, or those that have warm summers, you may find waterparks.

If fun and thrills are your thing, don’t just stop at theme parks. Very few experiences can rival going to an American sports game, with football, baseball, and soccer taking the lead in terms of atmosphere. Many stadiums are gigantic, acting as incredibly architectural feats. Taking an interest in a sport is also a great way to meet new people!

If you do not want to be regimented about seeing the sites in America, feel free to take yourself on a road trip. Keep your satnav or maps at hand just in case you get lost, but do treat this as a way to familiarize yourself with your new country. Not only is this a great way to get to know your new locality, you can stumble across something fun to do! On the way, you may meet new people, and you will certainly find plenty of aspects of America you can fall in love with.

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