Looking for some expert advice on how to move to the USA as a British citizen? This blog has exactly what you’re looking for, examining every stage of emigrating to America. Learn about everything you need to know about moving to America from the UK – from essential steps to visas.
This probably isn’t going to shock many readers, but the USA is the second most popular country for UK emigration, beaten only by Australia. It isn’t exactly difficult to see why.
The culture is different, yet similar. The language has its quirks, sure, but it is English, no doubt about it. It’s an affluent country full of great prospects and it has every climate you could ever want — from mountains and lakes to golden beaches and scorching summer nights. There’s no doubt why so many people want to emigrate to the USA, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a walk in the park.
The Land of the Free beckons to thousands of Brits each year yet, with many more dreaming of making that journey across the pond. As relocation specialists, we are often asked about how to move to the USA from the UK. Here’s our advice on how to immigrate to the USA:
How to Move to the USA
There is no simple solution for how to move to the USA. Acquiring the correct visa for you is vital, so if you’re looking to move to the USA from the UK we recommend doing research into the different visa categories and types. To ensure you have gotten everything right, we recommend finding an international relocation company to go through all the necessary checks with you. We have put together our top tips and areas of advice for emigrating to America below.
Sorting the Essentials
Picking your precise moving location and planning all the exciting stuff you’re going to do is probably all you’ve got on your mind, but a move to the USA from the UK also involves a lot more boring laborious processes. Still, they must be done to set you up for a positive start when emigrating to America.
To secure a stable future in your new nation, time must be invested in sorting the essentials and basics of life. Here are a few things that require attention before you move to America:
Learning the language
Throughout the US, the official language is English, meaning a move from the UK is unlikely to present any large barriers to your understanding. Anyone emigrating to America who does not speak English is likely to encounter considerable trouble when it comes to daily life and communicating with their new neighbours. Once you reach America, you can approach a public school, college or local organisation that can help you learn the language. You can also learn to speak American English before you move through any number of online courses.
If you are emigrating to America, you will need to get to grips with the more complicated time zone. As a country that has a considerable landmass, there are actually four different time zones within the United States. Depending on where you are moving in the USA, you’ll be in one of the following time zones:
* EST (Eastern Standard Time) = GMT minus 5 hours
* CST (Central Standard Time) = GMT minus 6 hours
* MST (Mountain Standard Time = GMT minus 7 hours
* PST (Pacific Standard Time) = GMT minus 8 hours
* Alaska = GMT minus 9 hours
* Hawaii is GMT minus 10 hours
The USA observes Daylight Savings Time as well, which runs from the 2nd Sunday of March through to the 1st Sunday of November. This can slightly vary in some parts of the country but is the general rule.
It may seem obvious, but you’ll need somewhere to live when moving to America. The way you acquire property can also depend on your visa type (which we will discuss later) and how long you are in the country. Get on top of property and accommodation early to save yourself any headaches later on. You should also consider acquiring short-term accommodation to reside in whilst searching for the perfect property for you and your family’s longer-term needs.
Healthcare in the USA is a controversial subject. We’re not here to discuss overseas politics, but as you’re probably aware, you need insurance to get treatment in the USA — or you face massive bills. Get your insurance early to avoid any problems. You’ll also need moving insurance to cover your trip.
Social Security (SSN)
People living and working within the United States need a Social Security Number. It is similar to a National Insurance Number (NI) in the UK and allows the government to track the wages of individuals for taxation and benefits. You’ll need to apply for an SSN by filling out an application and providing proof of your identity as well as information confirming your ability to work in the United States (visa or immigration status).
Taking a Vehicle
Moving to the USA with your vehicle can be a big undertaking. If you are moving through your employer, you’ll want to find out whether or not there are restrictions in place in terms of the size of your household shipments. If your employer’s restrictions do not impede your decision to bring a car, or you aren’t moving for work, there are some important things to know about owning a vehicle in the United States.
Your vehicle must be officially registered with a “Certificate of Title”. You’ll also need to have proof of insurance and register the vehicle to the state in which you will be residing. For more information, you should visit the website of the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) for the relevant state.
Emigrating to America with Pets
For some, taking your pet with you as you emigrate to America is a no brainer. You can’t move away and just leave your pet behind, but how are you going to get them abroad? Moving a pet to the USA is complicated, sure, but there is no reason you can’t bring them if you know what you are doing. Read up on the processes and procedures and follow them to the letter. Get the required vaccinations, pet passports and arrange transport. You might find that there is a quarantine period before you can collect your pet once you have moved, so ensure this is factored into your moving plans. Do everything right, plan things early and you’ll have no trouble moving your pet to the USA.
In order to do anything in the US, you’ll need cash. While most banks are international, your British account and card will incur fees for overseas use. Set up a US bank account as early as possible to be able to live a prosperous life in the USA. This will save you time and hassle while allowing for easier transactions when sorting other items on your moving list, like property, receiving an income, and setting up insurance.
Moving abroad for the short term means you may not want to take all your belongings with you. Even if you are moving abroad long-term, taking everything you own at once — possessions it has taken you a lifetime to acquire — might be too much hassle or you might not have enough room abroad. Sort out storage options before you move, allowing you to keep your most cherished possessions without having to relocate with everything you’ve ever bought.
At Gerson Relocation, our services cover everything, including help finding a property, sorting insurance and moving your pet. If you think you need some help getting the essentials ready, we’re the team for you.
Further reading: You may also like to read this article on the key stages of an international move process.
Acquiring the Correct Visa
When thinking about how to move to the USA from the UK, one word likely comes to mind: Visa.
This is a large part of emigrating to America and the cause of concern for many expats hoping to emigrate to the USA. To live permanently and work within the United States, you must have the correct type of visa. This can be a long process, so we suggest you get started on getting your USA immigration sorted out as early as possible. Many cases can take over a year to be fully processed and accepted.
When looking to acquire a visa to enter the US to work and live permanently, there are a few options for British nationals. Here are the most commonly gained types of visa for Brits emigrating to America:
- Sponsored Employment: If you’re looking to work in the USA, the best way to get permanent entry to the country is to acquire sponsorship from a company. If a US-based business applies for you to work for them, you are likely to be allowed to move. This means agreeing to a job before moving — and also finding work! But a Brit working in America is not uncommon, proving that there are plenty of job opportunities for skilled immigrants.
- Working Visa: You can get a visa to work in the USA without having a direct employee sponsor. In order to do this, you must fit within very specific criteria. The best way to become eligible to apply is to gain a degree — having a masters or PhD improves your chances — and work in the field for at least five years. To gain a work visa without sponsorship, you effectively have to prove your value to the US working community. You are also more likely to gain entry if your profession fits under the list of skill shortages. Many Brits working in America gained entry to the country by way of a working visa.
- Family: If a member of your family is a citizen of the United States, you may be able to apply for a visa with their support. Family visas are a pretty stable way of gaining permanent entry to the United States, although they take long periods of time to acquire. These processes are quicker if you are a child of the person in question, or are marrying them.
The process of acquiring an American immigration visa is not an easy one. The visa application should be carefully filled out, both by the US citizen petitioning for your entry to the States and by you. The process includes payment of application fees, uploading of documents, including financial and civil documents, and an interview. The US Department of State website includes a detailed overview of the Immigrant Visa process.
Retiring to the USA from the UK
For those trying to retire to the United States, you’ll encounter a number of issues. There is no type of visa that gives foreign nationals the right to live in the US if they aren’t working unless you win their Green Card lottery. Your options at that point would be a non-permanent visa or to work prior to retiring and gaining citizenship within that period.
Emigrating to America: Settling In
You’ve handled the logistics, your visas are all in order and you’ve finally set foot on American soil. You’re probably not ready to kick your feet up and enjoy the American way of life just yet. It’s likely that you’re going to need to carry out any number of tasks before you can fully settle in.
Finding a home
In many cases, you’ll initially be living in short term accommodation of some sort when you first arrive in the USA. This allows you a bit more time to find somewhere suitable to live long term, and it is much easier to find property whilst already living in your destination location.
To Rent or Buy?
The decision to purchase or buy a home in America will likely be dictated by how long you plan to be in the States. If you’re there for a short term contract, it would be most practical to rent. However, if you’re going to be in the USA for a longer period of time, it might be worth purchasing a home. To purchase a house in America is actually quite straightforward, though you will be required to submit certain documentation like US Tax Returns and strong credit history. This isn’t likely to be something you’ll be able to provide as soon as you begin to live and work in the country, so this might be something to aspire to.
Getting Around in America
Unlike Great Britain, and indeed much of Europe, the United States can prove a bit trickier to get around. Most (but definitely not all) bustling metropolitan areas have a fair to strong public transport infrastructure, but the same cannot be said for more rural or suburban areas.
For the most part, unless you move to a city like New York, you’re going to need a car. You’ll need a driver’s licence to legally operate a vehicle in the States. This can be done in one of two ways: first, you can obtain an IDP (International Drivers Permit) from your home country. This essentially is proof that you hold a valid driver’s licence in your own country and gives you temporary leave to drive in your destination country. The other option is to apply for a driver’s licence at your state’s DMV. Each state is slightly different, but you’ll likely be required to take an eye exam and display your knowledge and understanding of driving laws in your state. You also won’t be able to apply for a driver’s licence unless you have correct immigration documentation.
Working in America from UK
For UK residents hoping to immigrate to the USA, getting a job that is based in America will ease the process dramatically. If your employer is eager to have you move to the US to work in America as a Brit, they can petition for you to be allowed in the country, which will kickstart your American immigration visa process. There are many ways to go about searching for jobs based in the USA, from LinkedIn to popular job searching websites like Indeed. Another good way to find a US-based job is to search for UK companies with offices based in America.
You will need to put in the effort to find jobs in the USA for British Citizens, ranging across many roles and sectors. With so many large companies in the USA, there is no shortage of opportunities, particularly for skilled, willing, and English-speaking individuals. Popular industries for jobs for UK citizens include:
- Consumer goods
- Motor vehicles & engineering
- Food processing
If you are desperate to move to the USA from the UK, you might consider getting a job in an area where America currently has a skills shortage. Some might require specialist qualifications, but others might just require a certain level of education in any field. The following areas are in demand and could provide opportunities for a Brit looking to work in America.
- Software and Website development
- Retail work
- Customer service
How to Move to the USA from the UK and Make It Successful: Integrate and Thrive
When moving to America, Brits often get carried away with the practicalities of life. Then, once there, it becomes all about the experience. The travel; the sights and sounds; soaking up the culture.
What so many fail to do is integrate.
Moving to the USA from the UK isn’t about being a visitor in a foreign nation, it’s about making this place your home. Don’t forget to become a part of your new home; your new community. Yes, the mountains, the open roads, the big meals and staggering cities are worth experiencing, but so are the little joys in life, too.
Do the things you would do back home. Go to community events, join sports clubs, get involved in local pursuits, meet people and become part of the landscape. The excitement of moving to the USA can be all you need to sustain yourself at first, but as you start to settle in, most will start to experience some form of homesickness. The trick to making a move to the USA from the UK a successful one is integration.
Don’t think of moving to the USA as being a Brit living in another country. Try to think about moving to the US as a Brit becoming a member of their new country.
Need a bit of help integrating and adapting to your new American home? Our area orientation programs can help you do exactly that. Become a real member of your community and learn all about your new home. Don’t be a visitor, be a resident!
Find a Relocation Company for Moving to the USA
Emigrating to America is not a task to be undertaken lightly. There are a lot of things to do and a lot of elements of the international relocation to manage (take a look at our guide to the stages of an international move). It is recommended that you hire an international relocation company to assist you in your move to America from the UK.
International relocation services, such as us here at Gerson Relocation, can help sort the fundamentals like planning, customs, dates and shipping, as well as more personal move elements, such as finding schools, renting accommodation and just generally settling in after emigrating to America. These are all vital in creating a better life for you and your family in any new international location.
The complexities of a move to the USA may seem daunting when dealing with the relocation independently. However, when backed up by a relocation company that specialises in international moves, a service that can offer you the support, guidance and project management you need, the whole process becomes much simpler — and a lot less stressful.