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The US of A – a nation almost the size of Europe and with strong historical and political ties with the UK … Consisting of 50 states and over 14 territories, it is one of the most visited countries in the world, with 73 million tourists welcomed in 2017 including 3.4 million Brits. But we’re not just going here on holiday, many Brits are moving to the USA permanently.

Flights between the two capitals average 8 hours and 20 minutes, which makes for a fairly long trek across the Atlantic. But remember that for centuries the only way of getting to the USA was by boat, so the journey is several days quicker than it used to be!

So you’re moving abroad… But why choose the USA?

At less than 300 years old, the US is a young nation. But what it lacks in history, it makes up for in geography: mighty rivers like the Mississippi, lofty mountain ranges like the Rockies, volcanoes, grizzly bears, mangrove swamps, red-sandstone desert-scapes, glaciers, jungles and more.

And we’re doing the USA a disservice anyway by implying it falls down in the history stakes. In its short life to date (at least compared to other countries), it’s certainly packed in a lot of history-making, kicking off with its own War of Independence (1775 – 1783).

Working together, US geography and history provide the interested tourist with a vast amount to do and see. And if you’re moving to the USA, just think – you’ll have even more time to get stuck in.

Sights and Sounds of the US of A

The United States is home to 23 UNESCO world Heritage Sites, including:

  • The Grand Canyon National Park: measuring 277 miles long by 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is an ancient gorge cutting across today’s Arizona State. It exhibits one of the world’s most complete geologic columns (its different layers of rock chart millions of years of geological evolution) – it’s hard to believe the whole thing was carved by the Colorado River!
  • The Independence Hall: Located in Philadelphia and completed in 1753, the Independence hall is the site where the US Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
  • The Statue of Liberty: Looming large on Liberty Island off New York City, a beacon for new sea-borne arrivals, the Statue of Liberty is as emblematic of the USA as the Eiffel Tower is of France. And perhaps it’s no coincidence. The Statue was, after all, gifted to the US by the French – who less! – in October 1886.
  • Yellowstone National Park: Spanning three states – Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming – Yellowstone is famous for its dormant mega-volcano. Though go there today and, admittedly, you’re more likely to get killed by a grizzly bear than by falling lava. Its more than 300 geysers make it the largest geyser concentration in the world.

United States Cuisine

American food is a mad mix. Originally, this was a strongly Germanic cuisine (look no further than their hamburgers and wieners) but it quickly assimilated the New World’s huge variety of edible fauna and flora. So Americans, at Thanksgiving, sit down to eat roast turkey. They don’t just have their Frankfurters in bread but also, sometimes, in corn. And they eat plenty of chips. Turkey, maize and potatoes – these have been such successful exports to the rest of the world that we can scarcely imagine how, prior to 1492, they’d never been eaten on these shores!

Other popular American foods are briskets and, of course, tex mex. Remember that huge swathes of what is now the USA were first New Spain and then Mexico (Hispanics make up around 17% of the US population), so you’ll find plenty of Mexican food options up and down the country (burritos, fajitas, quesadillas, you name it).

American Music

The US has the biggest music industry in the world, with some of the biggest singers and bands that exist globally. Some notable icons include Elvis Presley, Metallica, Aerosmith, Eminem, Micheal Jackson, Jay-Z, Beyonce and many more. But not Justin Bieber or Bryan Adams, who are in fact Canadian.

American Cinema and TV

Hollywood is the dream of any aspiring movie star, with many leading production houses located in Los Angeles. The Golden Age of Hollywood, from 1910 to the early 1960s, saw countless films produced, and boasted actors such as John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe. During the New Hollywood movement, or Hollywood Renaissance, lasting from the late 1960s to early 1980s, the major studios substantially reworked their approach to film-making thanks to directors like Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver).

Since the New Hollywood movement, directors such as Steven Spielberg (Indiana Jones) and James Cameron (Titanic) have gained popularity from their blockbuster films, with high production costs and box-office earnings both domestically and abroad.

Sport in the USA

The professional sports market in the US is worth roughly $69 billion, 50% larger than in Europe, Middle East and Africa combined.

American Football is the most popular US sport, which, if you never played it at school, is a bit like rugby (but don’t think that’ll get you anywhere with understanding the sport). The Super Bowl is the most watched event of year, with different companies competing for the prime-time advertising slots that come with this.

However, it is baseball that’s considered the US national sport, and it has been since the late 19th century. Basketball and Ice Hockey take the next two spots. Such is the pride Americans take in their sports, students can achieve full-ride scholarships to college based on their athletic prowess alone.

Ever since hosting the 1994 FIFA World Cup, soccer (or football, as we Old-Worlders call it) has steadily risen in popularity. The US national squad has qualified for 10 world cups, and many European football stars have opted for the MLS, such as Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahamovic. And, with the 2026 World Cup fast approaching (due to be shared by the USA, Canada and Mexico), only expect this popularity to rise.

Cost of Living in the USA

Careers and Housing

The US Census Bureau puts the median household income in the US at just shy of $60,000, substantially more than what’s on offer in the UK. And if there’s one thing you’ll notice about the USA that sets it apart from the UK, it’s that the USA has a lot of land. So you can generally get on the housing ladder with less money, and maybe even have one of those monster American houses like we’ve seen in the movies.

But it all depends where you are, and what industry you’re working in, as the US has pay and cost-of-living disparities that put even Europe’s social chasms to shame.

There are more States in the USA (50) than countries in Europe (44), and the variance across them is comparable. New Hampshire was voted the #1 state for economic opportunity by USANew.com in 2018, followed by Alaska, Maryland, Hawaii and North Dakota. States in the South East and South West tended to score lower on this criterion.

South Western California boasts some of the most eye-watering salaries on the planet, if you happen to work in tech. “Silicon Valley” is arguably the world’s computing Mekka, with all the big players – Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and more – headquartered here. But house prices in the vicinity make even London look cheap. According to Zillo, the median home value in Palo Alto is a Brobdingnagian $3.2 million.

While tech has become, arguably, the nation’s premier industry, there are still loads of “old industries” knocking about. And what could be a more old-school industry than oil and gas? Bakken, Barnett and Marcellus – no, these are not three brothers from a Roald Dahl story, they are the three biggest fracking centres in the USA. OK, fracking has a justifiably bad reputation but it still provides work for nearly 200,000 Americans. Though, you’ll be glad to know, the solar industry employs nearly double that (according to Forbes).

For supply-chain and logistics professionals, Chicago is where you want to be, hardly surprising when we consider its central location. And, for those of a more financial bent, New York is arguably the world’s premier International Financial Centre. For insurance jobs, head over to Hartford Connecticut.

Whatever your line of work is right now, you’ll be able to find it in the USA and turn it into your very own latter-day version of the American Dream.

Healthcare

One of the biggest differences many people face when moving to the USA is relates to healthcare. US healthcare is extremely expensive and largely the preserve of big private companies. This said, the US has access to excellent treatments and equipment, as well as some of the best healthcare professionals in the world.

For some people on low incomes, there is also a joint federal and state programme that helps with covering medical costs.

Education

Each of the American states have different laws and education systems in place. Schools in America consist of four stages:

  • Elementary School – Kindergarten to 5th grade (age 5 – 10)
  • Middle School – 6th to 8th grade (age 11 – 13)
  • High School – 9th to 12th grade (age 14-18)
  • College – equivalent to University in England, and some institutes are referred to as Universities. According to Times Higher Education, the US has six out of the top 10 universities in the world, and 15 of the top 20.

Going to college in the US is an expensive business. For those of you familiar with the hit TV show Breaking Bad, the ostensible reason for antihero Walter White’s ascent (or descent) to mass-murdering drug kingpin is … to fund his son’s college education. But there’s a sprawling array of grants, loans and scholarships on offer to help those whose parents are not money-laundering psychopaths to take their education to the next level. And, if you can snag one of those tech jobs over in California, well, you’re pretty much sorted!

The US Way of Life – the 6 Pillars

The biggest hurdles moving abroad tend not to be logistical or financial. You’ve got to get to grips with the local way of life, and moving to the USA is no different. The US way of life is vastly different from the UK’s. Here are 6 things to read up on in advance – which could very well save you hundreds of hours of dumbstruck surprise down the line.

  • Traveling

To call the US a big country is an understatement – continent would be a better word for it. The shortest route across, at 1419 miles, is from Corpus Christi in Florida to San Diego in California. Due to the size of the country, domestic flights are far more common than they are here in the UK. So try and get some deal on your air miles before you go out there!

  • Patriotism

One of the most striking things about the USA is its sense of patriotism, something that has its routes in the American War of Independence (1777 – 1785). There is huge, but by no means universal, respect for national institutions, sportsman and the military.

  • Guns

If we saw someone walking down the street with a gun here in the UK, we’d definitely look twice. But in the USA, guns are a normal part of life, since the Second Amendment allows citizens to bear arms. This isn’t always on the street, we’d point out – each state has its own interpretation of the amendment and control over state licensing laws.

  • Religion

Religion plays a more significant role in the lives of most Americans than it does here in the UK. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 50% of Americans identify as protestant. This includes a few well-documented fringe groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church – subject of an entertaining Louis Theroux documentary and thankfully counting less than 100 members!

  • Shopping

If you’ve ever been to your local supermarket and thought that was big, you are in for a surprise. In the US, supermarkets are hypermarkets, are megamarkets, are jumbomarkets. They’re bigger and have far more products than their UK counterparts, largely because everyone in the USA drives everywhere – which means a larger catchment area for each shop.

The Wild Wild West wasn’t just about Cowboys and Indians, it was about coupons too. And coupon culture runs so rife among American retailers that you can probably do your monthly shop for no more than $0.

  • Weather

Being such a large country, the USA spans a number of different climates. There’s desert in Texas, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. There are mangrove swamps – with manatees! – in Florida. And glaciers and polar bears in Alaska. Generally speaking, most places are warmer in summer than the UK, and colder in winter.

Popular Destinations for Brits Moving to the USA

According to the Independent, over 760,000 Brits currently call the USA home, with more joining them each year. Some of the more popular destinations are:

  • New York City

The ‘city that never sleeps’ is home to thousands of Brits. New York is a financial and commercial hub, like London except with less gloomy weather and more skyscrapers. Head to Broadway for some of the biggest names to hit the stage.

  • Boston, Massachusetts

With a flight time back to the UK of only 6 hours and 30 minutes, Boston is great if you’re wanting to make regular trips home. Founded in 1630, it is one of the oldest cities in the US.

  • Seattle, Washington

Up in Washington State on the northwest coast, Seattle has a drizzly climate that would make most Brits feel right at home. And remember, if you want to escape the lid of cloud, you can always try popping up the iconic Space Needle.

  • Sarasota, Florida

Most people are drawn to Sarasota for the weather and beautiful scenery. Florida is famous as the home of Disney Land and the Everglades mangrove swamp – book yourself a boat trip and see whether you can spot yourself a manatee or two!

Logistics of Moving to the USA

If you’re moving to the USA, you’ll need to get a visa.

The easiest way is to have an employer sponsor you. If you already have someone wanting to hire you, they should petition Immigration Services by filing a I-140 on your behalf. This will grant you permission to enter the USA as their employee. If granted, you get a green card that gives you permanent residency in the US.

Alternatively, you can apply for a non-immigrant work visa. This is similar to an employer-sponsored visa, except you’re only granted a specific amount of time and have to be working in a specialty occupation (one that requires at least a bachelor’s degree). If you’re going down this route, the employer will need to complete an I-129 petition.

Yet another alternative is to get sponsorship from a family member, which requires your family member to file an I-130 form. There are two different ways in which this can work. They can immediately petition for a spouse, unmarried child under 21 or parent to enter the US. However, if you’re petitioning for a married child, child over 21 or sibling, you will have a longer wait.

 

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