December 20, 2022
Moving to America FAQ
Our team shares their answers to your top Frequently Asked Questions about relocating to America. If you need more information, reach out to us! We'd be happy to answer your questions.
Do I need a visa for the US?
Unless you are a US citizen or green card holder, you will need to apply for a visa to live, work or study in the United States. The type of visa you need will be determined by your country of origin, desired length of stay, and whether you will work or study while in the US.*
What types of visas does the US offer?
According to the US government website, “Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence.” If you are moving for a short-term assignment, you will need a temporary worker visa. Long-term or indefinite postings fall within the immigrant category. The US government offers a visa FAQ page which covers the basics about immigrating to the United States.
*Information provided above is for awareness purposes only and should not be used as legal advice. Please consult a qualified immigration professional for details about your specific situation.
Is the US an expensive place to live?
According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), wages in the US are among the highest in the world. Americans also enjoy relatively low tax rates, with a top marginal income tax rate of 37% (for single filers who earn more than $539,900 or married couples -filing jointly who earn more than $693,750).
The cost of living in the US varies greatly depending on the city and state of residence. The South and Midwest tend to have the lowest cost of living, while Hawaii, New York and California top the list of the most expensive states in the US.
The margin between these extremes can be quite large. Mississippi – the least expensive state in the US – has an adjusted COLI (Cost of Living Index) of only 83.3, while Hawaii tops out at 193.3 and New York at 148.2.
Do you need health insurance as an expat in the United States?
The United States healthcare system is considered one of the best in the world, but it can be very expensive.
Medicaid (free government-provided health insurance) is available only for those earning near the poverty level or those who meet other criteria based on specific state rules. Medicare is reserved for the elderly.
Those who don't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare are strongly advised to purchase health insurance.
For many, private health insurance is provided through the employer, with the employee contributing to the insurance premium through payroll deductions. Expats and others without employer-provided insurance plans can purchase health insurance from a government website 'marketplace'. Eligibility and details can be viewed at healthcare.gov.
Even with health insurance, co-payments up to 20% for specific services are typical. For example, a visit to the hospital may result in bills from the hospital, doctor(s), radiology or other testing services. If your insurance covers 80% of these fees, you may be directly billed for the remainder by each provider.
What are the customs requirements for moving household goods to the USA?
If you are carrying your items with you when you arrive in the US, you need to complete the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Form 6059B "Customs Declaration."
If you are shipping your goods separately, you must complete CBP Form 3299 "Declaration For Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles."
When you move your goods with a professional international moving company, your move specialist will help you prepare the required forms.
Top tip! When you import your personal items to the US, you must provide a complete inventory of the goods you are bringing. The descriptors “household goods” or “household effects” are not sufficient.
What items are prohibited or restricted for personal moves to the United States?
The US government website provides a comprehensive list of items that are prohibited to bring into the US. The list of prohibited or restricted items includes:**
- Automobiles (must be brought to US standards in order to import)
- Biological specimens
- Cultural artefacts and cultural property
- Drug paraphernalia
- Fish and wildlife
- Certain food products
- Fruits and vegetables
- Game and Hunting trophies
- Merchandise from embargoed countries
- Plants and seeds
How are household goods shipped to the US?
Depending on the size of your move and how quickly you need to receive your goods, they may be shipped Full Container Load (FCL), Less than Container Load (LCL) or by air shipment.
- FCL are larger sea shipments sent in an unshared 20’ or 40’ container
- LCL are smaller sea shipments that are packed in sealed lift vans prior to loading onto a shared 20’ or 40’ container
- Air Shipments are small shipments sent by aeroplane
Your move specialist can help you determine the shipping method that is right for your budget. For more information, read our article, FCL, LCL and Air: Alternatives to a Whole Home Move.
Can you import a pet to America?***
Yes, it is possible to import your pet into the US. The requirements vary for each type of animal and country of origin, but all pet travel documents must be provided in English. Documents in another language must be accompanied by a certified translation signed by a licensed translator.
***The following text is for general informational purposes and does not replace the requirements of the American government or the recommendations of a veterinarian. Regulations regarding pet importation may change. For a complete list of regulations, visit the US government website.
Bringing your dog to the US
The United States eliminated dog rabies in 2007, and the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control) strictly regulates the importation of dogs. The process for importing a dog depends on the country from which it is imported.
Importing a Dog from a Low Rabies Risk Country
Dogs from countries with a low-risk of rabies may enter the US at any port of entry. They do not need a rabies vaccine, but you will be required to attest that they have been in a low-risk country for the past 6 months.
Importing a Dog from a High Rabies Risk Country
Dogs from countries considered to be at a high risk of rabies are subject to additional restrictions. They must be:
- At least six months old
- Fully vaccinated against rabies
- Microchipped with a link to their rabies vaccination
- Flown into one of the 18 CDC approved airports in the US
What dogs are prohibited in the US?
The United States has “breed specific legislation” that differs between states and municipalities. These regulations control whether certain types of dogs are allowed. Check with your intended municipality for further information.
Bringing a cat into the US
Cats are subject to an inspection upon their arrival in the US. Any cats that appear ill may be inspected by a veterinarian at the owner’s expense.
Those bringing a pet into the US are recommended to check the requirements of their intended state of residence. For example, the state of Hawaii may subject imported pets to quarantine.
Bringing birds and reptiles into the US
Pet birds are generally allowed into the US but must quarantine. Birds from countries with Avian Flu outbreaks are strictly prohibited.
The importation of reptiles falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Certain reptiles may be brought into the US pending a veterinary inspection.
Learn more about moving with your pet! Visit our Pet Relocation Guide.
Can you import a car to the US?
Yes, you generally can import a car into the US, as long as it conforms to US safety and emissions standards. New or recent model automobiles must meet current standards, while cars over the age of 25 years may be exempt from these requirements. If you are unsure if your vehicle meets emissions standards, visit the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The total cost of shipping your car to America is determined by its size and weight, the distance it will travel, ports of departure and entry, shipping method(s) and any additional services such as door-to-door services. Duties for vehicles entering the US are based on the price paid. They are typically 2.5% for automobiles, 25% for trucks, and 2.4% for motorcycles. Returning US residents may be able to use their $800 per person CBP allowance to offset the duty on a vehicle they purchased and used abroad.
If you are moving to the US on a short-term assignment, you may be able to bring your auto duty-free, as long as you keep the car in the US for less than 1 year.
For details on shipping your vehicle to America, visit the US Customs and Border Patrol website section: Importing a Motor Vehicle.
What are the steps for moving to the US?
The steps for moving to America include:
- Make necessary visa and work permit applications
- Find temporary accommodations in America
- Request a virtual moving survey from an accredited international moving company
- Schedule your move
- Arrange pet relocation
- Prepare your home for moving
- Fill out customs and other forms, and arrange health insurance
- Leave plenty of time on your day of travel
- Notify your moving company when you have arrived
- Save all paperwork until you have received and unpacked your shipment
For details, visit our Moving to America Easy 10 Step Checklist.
Our move specialists are experts in the process of relocating to the USA. If you have any questions or would like to book a free, no obligation moving survey, contact us today!