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. 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.
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:
Find a Relocation Company
Moving overseas is not a task to be undertaken lightly. There are a lot of things to do and a lot of elements of the 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.
The complexities of a move to the States 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.
Wondering about how to move to the USA from the UK and think you might need the assistance of an international moving company like Gerson Relocation? From a dedicated relocation manager to a bespoke pre-move survey, we’ll make sure your move abroad goes exactly how you want it to.
Sort the Essentials
Picking your 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 of more boring, laborious processes. Still, they must be done.
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. Anyone moving to the United States 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.
- Time zone: As a country that has considerable land mass, 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.
- Storage: 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. 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.
- Property: 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.
- Insurance: 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 insurances 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 a 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 immgration 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.
- Pet Moving: 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 vaccinations, pet passports and arrange transport. Do everything right, plan things early and you’ll have no trouble moving your pet to the USA.
- Banking: 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. Setup a US bank account as early as possible. This will save you time and allow for easier transactions when sorting other items on your list, like property and insurance.
At Gerson Relocation, our services cover everything, including help finding property, sorting insurances 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.
Acquire the Correct Visa
When thinking about how to move to the USA from the UK, one word likely comes to mind: Visa.
To live permanently and work with 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 immigration sorted 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:
- Sponsored Employment: If you’re looking to work in the USA, the best way to get permanent entry is 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!
- 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 working 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.
- 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.
Important note: For those trying to retire to the United States, you’ll find 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.
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 longer term at the source.
- 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 a 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: 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 license 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 license 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 license 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 license unless you have correct immigration documentation.
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 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!
You may also be interested in our Moving to Canada Guide