Advice for British Expats Moving to the United States

It's important to properly plan ahead, before resettling in America.

2/1/202419 min read

1. Preparing for the Move

Researching the Destination: Before moving to the United States, it is crucial for British expats to thoroughly research their desired destination. They should gather information about the local culture, climate, cost of living, and employment opportunities. Expats should also consider factors such as safety, healthcare facilities, education options, transportation systems, and recreational activities available in the area they plan to relocate to. This research will help them make informed decisions and better adapt to their new environment.

1.1. Researching the Destination

Organizing Documents and Paperwork: As part of the preparation process, British expats moving to the United States should ensure that all their important documents and paperwork are properly organized. This includes passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, academic degrees, employment records, and financial statements. It is advisable to make copies of these documents and keep both the originals and copies in a secure place. Additionally, it is essential to research and understand the specific documentation requirements for the visa or immigration process, as each category may have different criteria.

1.2. Organizing Documents and Paperwork

Understanding Visa and Immigration Requirements: Moving to the United States as a British expat requires a clear understanding of the visa and immigration requirements. Expats should identify the appropriate visa category based on their purpose of relocation, such as employment, spouse or family sponsorship, investment, or study. They need to carefully review the eligibility criteria, documentation requirements, and application processes for their chosen visa type. It is advisable to seek professional advice from immigration lawyers or consult relevant government websites, such as the U.S. Department of State or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, to ensure compliance with the necessary regulations.

1.3. Understanding Visa and Immigration Requirements

2. Housing and Accommodation

One of the first decisions British expats moving to the United States will encounter is whether to rent or buy a property. Renting can provide flexibility, especially for those unsure about their long-term plans, while buying offers the potential for long-term investment and stability. Consider factors such as your financial situation, desired location, and length of stay before making a decision. Renting can be a straightforward process, with many online platforms and real estate agents available to assist in finding suitable options. On the other hand, buying a property involves more extensive research, mortgage approval, and legal processes. Take into account your budget, preferred neighborhood, and proximity to amenities when deciding where to live.

2.1. Renting vs. Buying a Property

Renting a property as a British expat in the United States offers flexibility and ease of relocation, especially if you are uncertain about the duration of your stay or the location you wish to settle in. It allows you to avoid the responsibilities of homeownership, such as maintenance and property taxes. Renting typically requires a security deposit, background and credit checks, and signing a lease agreement. On the other hand, buying a property can be a good long-term investment if you plan to stay in the United States for an extended period. It involves securing a mortgage, conducting property inspections, and navigating the legal process of home purchase. Consider your financial situation, lifestyle, and future plans when deciding whether to rent or buy.

2.2. Finding a Suitable Neighborhood

Finding a suitable neighborhood is crucial when moving to the United States. Research the different neighborhoods in the area you plan to live and consider factors such as safety, proximity to schools and amenities, transportation options, and the community atmosphere that matches your preferences. Online resources, local real estate agents, and personal recommendations can be helpful in identifying neighborhoods that align with your needs and preferences. Visiting the neighborhoods in person, if possible, will give you a better sense of the area's vibe and help you make an informed decision. Remember to consider your commute to work, accessibility to healthcare facilities, and the availability of recreational activities when choosing a neighborhood that suits your lifestyle.

2.3. Understanding Rental Agreements and Leases

Understanding rental agreements and leases is essential to ensure a smooth and transparent renting experience. When renting a property in the United States, you will typically be required to sign a lease agreement detailing the terms and conditions of your tenancy. It is important to carefully review this document before signing, paying attention to factors such as the duration of the lease, monthly rent amount, security deposit requirements, penalties for breaking the lease, and maintenance responsibilities. Take note of any additional fees such as utilities, parking, or pet deposits. If you have any concerns or questions, seek clarification from the landlord or property management before finalizing the agreement. It is advisable to keep a copy of the signed lease agreement for your records.

2.4. Setting Up Utilities and Services

Setting up utilities and services is an important step when relocating to the United States. Once you have secured a property, contact local service providers to set up essential utilities such as electricity, water, gas, and internet. Research and compare different providers in your area to find the most suitable options based on your needs and budget. You may also need to arrange for services like cable television, trash collection, and home security systems if desired. It is advisable to contact service providers well in advance to ensure a smooth transition. Keep in mind that you may be required to provide identification and payment information when setting up utility accounts. Notify the utility companies before moving out to avoid unnecessary charges or disruptions to your services.

3. Healthcare and Insurance

Moving to the United States as a British expat means navigating a new healthcare and insurance system. It is crucial to enroll in health insurance to ensure you have coverage for medical expenses. Enrolling in health insurance can be done through employers, government programs like Medicaid or Medicare, or private insurance providers. It is important to research different options and choose a plan that suits your needs and budget. Understanding the healthcare system in the United States is essential, as it operates differently from the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. The system is primarily private, with various insurance providers and healthcare facilities. Finding doctors and specialists can be done through recommendations from locals, online directories, or by asking for referrals from your primary care physician. Emergency medical services can be accessed by dialing 911, and it is essential to familiarize yourself with the nearest emergency facilities in your area.

3.1. Enrolling in Health Insurance

Enrolling in health insurance is a crucial step for British expats moving to the United States. It ensures that you have coverage for medical expenses and access to necessary healthcare services. There are various options for enrolling in health insurance, including through employers, government programs like Medicaid or Medicare, or private insurance providers. Researching different plans and understanding their coverage, costs, and network of providers is essential. It is advisable to compare prices, benefits, and limitations before choosing a plan that suits your specific needs and financial situation. Be mindful of enrollment periods and deadlines to ensure timely enrollment and uninterrupted coverage.

3.2. Understanding the Healthcare System

Understanding the healthcare system in the United States is crucial for British expats to effectively navigate their medical needs. Unlike the UK's National Health Service (NHS), the US healthcare system is primarily private. It relies on various insurance providers, healthcare facilities, and a fee-for-service model. Familiarize yourself with terms like deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses to grasp the financial aspects of the system. It is important to understand the network of healthcare providers and facilities covered by your insurance plan. Research hospitals, clinics, and specialists in your area to ensure they accept your insurance. Consider asking for recommendations from locals and colleagues to find reputable healthcare professionals.

3.3. Finding Doctors and Specialists

Finding doctors and specialists in the United States is important for British expats to receive the necessary healthcare. Start by researching and compiling a list of healthcare professionals in your area. Online directories, such as Zocdoc or Healthgrades, can provide a comprehensive listing of doctors and specialists. Consider factors like their specialization, experience, and patient reviews to make an informed decision. Additionally, you can ask for recommendations from colleagues, neighbors, or friends who have lived in the area for a while. Ensure that the doctors and specialists you choose accept your health insurance plan to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.

3.4. Emergency Medical Services

Understanding emergency medical services is crucial for British expats in the United States. In case of a medical emergency, dialing 911 will connect you to emergency services. It is important to familiarize yourself with the nearest emergency facilities in your area. Research the hospitals and urgent care centers nearby and know the quickest routes to reach them. Keep an emergency contact list and important medical information, including allergies and current medications, readily available. Being prepared and knowing how to access emergency medical services can make a significant difference in handling unforeseen medical situations.

4. Education and Schools

When moving to the United States as a British expat with children, it is important to research education options to ensure a smooth transition. Start by looking into the different types of schools available, such as public, private, and charter schools, as well as their academic programs and extracurricular activities. Consider factors like location, curriculum, class sizes, and reputation when comparing schools. Additionally, visit school websites and read reviews to gather more information. Keep in mind that certain states or regions may have variations in their education systems, so it's essential to research the specific options available in your desired location.

4.1. Researching Education Options

Researching education options is a crucial step when moving to the United States. Start by identifying the schools in your desired area and review their websites to gather information about their programs, policies, and admission criteria. Consider factors like academic rankings, extracurricular activities, special programs for international students, and support services for English language learners. Take advantage of online forums and expat communities to get insights and recommendations from other British expats who have already gone through the process. It's also recommended to contact the schools directly to schedule visits or virtual tours to have a better understanding of their facilities and teaching approach.

4.2. Enrolling Children in School

Enrolling children in school requires careful planning and understanding of the process. Once you have chosen a suitable school, contact the school's administration office to inquire about enrollment procedures. Prepare necessary documents such as proof of identity, residency, and previous academic records for your children. Depending on the school district and state, additional requirements might include immunization records and English language proficiency tests. It's important to be aware of enrollment deadlines and to submit applications as early as possible to secure a spot. Stay in close communication with the school and provide any additional documentation or information they may require.

4.3. Understanding the American Education System

Understanding the American education system is essential for British expats moving to the United States. Unlike the UK education system, the American system usually consists of elementary, middle, and high school. Each level has a distinct curriculum, grading system, and set of graduation requirements. Familiarize yourself with terms like GPA (Grade Point Average), SAT (Standardized Aptitude Test), and ACT (American College Testing) as these are commonly used for college admissions. Be ready to adapt to a more individualized approach to education with a variety of elective courses and extracurricular activities. It's also important to note that education policies and standards may vary between states or school districts, so be prepared for potential differences based on your chosen location.

4.4. Navigating School Districts and Zoning

When moving to the United States, understanding school districts and zoning is crucial for enrolling your children in the correct school. Start by researching the boundaries of different school districts in your area. School district websites or local government education departments usually provide maps or specific tools to determine which school district your address falls into. Pay attention to district policies, as some areas allow students to attend schools outside their district through open enrollment or school choice programs. If you are renting a property, make sure to check the zoning regulations to ensure that your rental falls within the desired school district. It's advisable to contact the school district directly for any specific questions or clarification regarding zoning and enrollment policies.

5. Banking and Finances

Managing banking and finances is essential when moving to the United States as a British expat. Understanding the local banking system and financial obligations is crucial to smoothly navigate your new financial landscape. From opening a bank account to transferring funds and dealing with currency exchange, there are specific considerations to keep in mind. Additionally, gaining knowledge about the US tax system and your financial obligations will help you stay compliant and avoid any unnecessary penalties. By familiarizing yourself with these aspects, you can ensure that your financial affairs are in order and make your transition to the United States as seamless as possible.

5.1. Opening a Bank Account

When you arrive in the United States as a British expat, one of the first tasks to tackle is opening a bank account. Research and identify reputable banks that suit your needs and offer services tailored to expatriates. Most banks require personal identification documents like your passport, visa, and proof of address. Some may also require a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Research various types of accounts available such as checking, savings, or a combination of both to find the best fit. Consider factors like fees, debit cards, online banking options, and if the bank allows international transfers. By opening a bank account, you can establish a financial presence in the US and easily manage your finances.

5.2. Transferring Funds and Currency Exchange

Transferring funds and handling currency exchange is a common necessity for British expats in the United States. To transfer funds from your UK bank account to your newly opened US account, explore options like wire transfers or online platforms that facilitate international money transfers. Compare exchange rates and fees to ensure you get the best value for your money. When dealing with currency exchange, be aware of fluctuations in exchange rates and any associated fees. It may be beneficial to consult with experts or use specialist currency exchange services to minimize costs. By understanding the process and seeking cost-effective solutions, you can avoid unnecessary charges and efficiently transfer your funds.

5.3. Understanding Taxes and Financial Obligations

As a British expat in the United States, it is important to have a clear understanding of your tax and financial obligations. Familiarize yourself with the US tax system, including federal, state, and local taxes. Determine your residency status for tax purposes, as it may affect which forms and deductions apply to you. Consider seeking professional advice from a tax consultant or accountant who specializes in expat taxation to ensure compliance with the complex US tax regulations. Additionally, stay informed about deadlines for filing tax returns and paying taxes to avoid penalties. Being knowledgeable about your tax and financial responsibilities will help you navigate the system effectively and stay on top of your obligations.

6. Transportation and Driving

Transportation and driving in the United States can be quite different from what you may be accustomed to in the UK. It's important to familiarize yourself with the various aspects of transportation to ensure a smooth transition. This section will cover obtaining a U.S. driver's license, understanding traffic laws and regulations, public transportation options, and buying or leasing a vehicle.

6.1. Obtaining a U.S. Driver's License

If you plan on driving in the United States, you will need to obtain a U.S. driver's license. The process may vary depending on the state you are moving to, but generally, you will need to pass a written knowledge test and a practical driving test. You may also be required to provide identification documents, proof of residency, and pass a vision test. It's advisable to research the specific requirements of the state you are moving to and start the process early to avoid any delays.

6.2. Understanding Traffic Laws and Regulations

Understanding traffic laws and regulations in the United States is crucial for safe and legal driving. While some traffic rules may be similar to those in the UK, there are notable differences to be aware of. It's important to familiarize yourself with speed limits, traffic signs and signals, right-of-way rules, and driving etiquettes specific to the state you are residing in. You can find comprehensive information on traffic laws and regulations from the Department of Motor Vehicles or a local driving school.

6.3. Public Transportation Options

The United States offers various public transportation options, especially in larger cities. Options may include buses, subways, trains, and light rail systems. Research and inquire about the public transportation services available in your specific area of residence. Public transportation can be a cost-effective and convenient way to travel, especially if you are living in a metropolitan area with heavy traffic and limited parking. Familiarize yourself with schedules, routes, and payment methods to make the most of these services.

6.4. Buying or Leasing a Vehicle

If you prefer the independence and flexibility of owning or leasing a vehicle in the United States, there are important considerations to keep in mind. Research different car dealerships, models, and financing options. Obtain auto insurance to comply with legal requirements and protect yourself financially. It's also important to understand the costs associated with owning a vehicle, such as maintenance, fuel, registration fees, and parking. Take into account your budget and transportation needs before making a decision on buying or leasing a vehicle.

7. Cultural Adaptation and Social Life

Moving to a new country can be both exciting and challenging. To successfully adapt to American culture and social life, it's important to immerse yourself in the local customs and traditions. Embrace American culture by trying out local foods, attending cultural events, and learning about American history. Engaging in conversations with locals and making an effort to understand their perspectives can also help you build a stronger connection to your new home. It's essential to be open-minded and respectful of different cultural practices. Keep in mind that adaptation takes time, so be patient with yourself and others throughout the process.

7.1. Embracing American Culture and Customs

Embracing American culture and customs is key to feeling at home in the United States. Take the opportunity to explore American traditions, such as celebrating Thanksgiving or attending Fourth of July festivities. Familiarize yourself with everyday practices, like tipping in restaurants or greeting people with a handshake. Engage in small talk, as it is a common part of American social interactions. Additionally, learning about regional differences within American culture can enrich your understanding and appreciation of your new surroundings. By immersing yourself in American customs, you'll find it easier to connect with the local community and establish valuable relationships.

7.2. Building a Social Network

Building a social network in a new country can help you feel supported and connected. Start by joining expat groups or clubs related to your hobbies or interests. These communities can provide a sense of familiarity and can introduce you to like-minded individuals. Consider attending local events or volunteering for organizations to meet people from various backgrounds. Networking events and professional associations are also great avenues for making connections within your industry. Additionally, reaching out to colleagues or neighbors for social activities can foster friendships. Remember, building a social network takes time and effort, so be proactive in seeking out opportunities to meet new people.

7.3. Exploring Local Events and Activities

Exploring local events and activities is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the community and discover new interests in the United States. Research nearby attractions like museums, parks, and historical sites to learn about the local culture and history. Check local event listings for festivals, concerts, and markets happening in your area. Attend sporting events or join recreational clubs to engage in popular American pastimes. Participating in community classes or workshops can also provide opportunities to meet like-minded individuals while enhancing your skills or hobbies. Whether it's joining a hiking group or attending a cooking class, getting involved in local activities will help you integrate into your new surroundings.

7.4. Overcoming Homesickness and Culture Shock

Homesickness and culture shock are common experiences when living abroad. To overcome homesickness, try to maintain regular communication with loved ones back home through video calls or online messaging platforms. Keep familiar items or mementos from your home country in your living space to create a sense of comfort. Engaging in activities that remind you of home, like cooking traditional meals or celebrating cultural holidays, can also help ease homesickness. When it comes to culture shock, remember that it is a normal part of the adjustment process. Take time to learn about the local customs, seek support from other expats or cultural organizations, and be patient with yourself as you navigate through the challenges. Over time, you will find your own balance between your British roots and your new life in the United States.

8. Employment and Career Opportunities

Before starting your job search in the United States, it is important to understand the local job market and the most effective strategies for success. Researching industries and sectors that are thriving can help you narrow down your search. Networking is crucial in finding job opportunities, so make use of professional networking platforms and attend industry events and job fairs. Tailor your resume to fit the American format and emphasize your relevant skills and experiences. It is also a good idea to reach out to recruitment agencies and utilize online job portals. Keep in mind that the application process can be lengthy, so be patient and persistent in your search.

8.1. Job Search Strategies

When searching for a job in the United States as a British expat, there are specific strategies that can increase your chances of success. Start by researching local job boards, online platforms, and recruitment agencies that specialize in hiring international professionals. Networking is vital, so reach out to professionals in your industry through LinkedIn or attend industry events and conferences. Consider tailoring your resume and cover letter to align with American norms and showcase your relevant qualifications and experiences. It is also important to be proactive and follow up on applications and interviews to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the position.

8.2. Transferring Professional Qualifications

Transferring professional qualifications from the United Kingdom to the United States can be a complex process, but it is often necessary to establish your credibility in the American job market. Research the specific requirements and procedures for transferring your qualifications in your field. Depending on the profession, you may need to obtain additional certifications or licenses recognized by American regulatory bodies. It can be helpful to reach out to professional associations or organizations in your industry for guidance on the transfer process. Be prepared to provide documentation, such as transcripts and work experience records, to support your application.

8.3. Understanding Employment Contracts and Benefits

Understanding employment contracts and benefits is crucial when entering the American workforce. Familiarize yourself with the different types of employment contracts, such as at-will employment and fixed-term contracts, and the rights and obligations they entail. Research the standard benefits offered by employers, including health insurance, retirement plans, and vacation policies. It is important to carefully review any employment contract before signing and seek legal advice if necessary. Be aware that employment laws and regulations may vary between states, so it is essential to understand the specific laws applicable to your workplace.

8.4. Networking and Professional Development

Networking and professional development play a significant role in advancing your career in the United States. Actively engage in networking opportunities, both in person and online, to expand your professional connections and increase your visibility in your industry. Join professional organizations and attend seminars, conferences, and workshops to stay updated on industry trends and enhance your skills. Build relationships with mentors and seek their guidance to navigate the American business landscape. Additionally, consider further education or certifications to increase your qualifications and marketability. Continuously investing in your professional development will contribute to long-term career growth and success.

9. Legal and Government Matters

When moving to the United States, it is crucial to understand the legal and government matters that may affect you. Familiarize yourself with U.S. laws and the legal system to ensure you abide by the rules and regulations of your new country. Research federal, state, and local laws to be aware of any differences from the legal system in the UK. It is also important to know your rights and responsibilities as a resident or visitor. Stay informed about legal updates and changes to stay compliant with the law.

9.1. Understanding U.S. Laws and Legal System

Before your move, take the time to understand the U.S. laws and legal system to navigate the complexities of the American legal landscape. The legal system in the United States operates under a federal system, where laws can vary across states. Research the common laws and statutory laws of your destination state, as well as any local ordinances that may apply. Consider consulting with an immigration attorney to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the legal framework in your new home.

9.2. Registering with the British Embassy or Consulate

It is advisable for British expats in the United States to register with the British Embassy or Consulate. Registration allows you to receive important updates, travel advisories, and emergency assistance, if needed. In case of unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters or civil unrest, the British Embassy can provide crucial support and keep you informed of any developments. Visit the official website of the British Embassy or Consulate in your area to complete the registration process, which typically involves providing your contact information and travel details.

9.3. Voting and Political Participation

As a British expat living in the United States, you may have the opportunity to participate in the U.S. democratic process by voting and engaging in political activities. Understand the requirements and eligibility criteria for voting in federal, state, and local elections. Depending on your state of residence, you may need to register to vote and keep your registration up to date. Stay informed about political issues and candidates, and actively engage in discussions and debates to exercise your civic duty and make your voice heard.

9.4. Applying for U.S. Citizenship or Permanent Residency

If you decide to make the United States your permanent home, you may consider applying for U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. Permanent residency, also known as a green card, grants you the right to live and work in the United States indefinitely. However, acquiring U.S. citizenship provides additional benefits, including the ability to vote in all elections and unrestricted travel with a U.S. passport. Consult with an immigration attorney or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to understand the requirements, eligibility criteria, and the application process for citizenship or permanent residency.

10. Maintaining Ties with the UK

Maintaining ties with the UK is important for British expats living in the United States. One way to stay connected with family and friends is to make use of technology. With the advancements in communication, it's easier than ever to stay in touch through video calls, messaging apps, and social media platforms. Additionally, planning regular visits back to the UK can help maintain strong bonds with loved ones. It's also essential to manage finances and investments in the UK. Expats can consider maintaining a bank account in the UK to handle any financial obligations or investments. Seeking advice from a financial advisor specializing in international matters can be beneficial in managing finances effectively.

10.1. Staying Connected with Family and Friends

Staying connected with family and friends while living in the United States is vital for British expats. Technology plays a crucial role in maintaining these connections. Utilize video calling platforms like Skype or FaceTime to have face-to-face conversations even when miles apart. Stay active on social media to keep up with updates and share moments. Planning visits back to the UK or inviting loved ones to the US can create opportunities for quality time and strengthening bonds. Sending letters, cards, or care packages can also bring a personal touch to staying connected.

10.2. Managing Finances and Investments in the UK

Managing finances and investments in the UK as a British expat living in the United States requires careful attention. It is advisable to maintain a UK bank account to handle any financial obligations or investments back home. Ensure regular monitoring of these accounts and consider setting up online banking for easy access. Consult with a tax advisor or financial professional who specializes in international taxation to understand any tax liabilities and obligations. It's also important to regularly review and reassess any investments in the UK to ensure they align with your long-term financial goals.

10.3. Visiting the UK and Traveling Abroad

Visiting the UK and traveling abroad while living in the United States can help British expats maintain a connection with their home country. When planning a visit to the UK, be sure to check the validity of your passport and any visa requirements needed for re-entry into the United States. It's also recommended to have travel insurance to cover any unforeseen circumstances during your trip. Exploring other destinations outside the UK can also provide new experiences and perspectives. Research and understand the visa requirements and travel restrictions before embarking on international travel.

10.4. Keeping Up with British News and Events

Keeping up with British news and events is essential for British expats living in the United States to stay connected to their homeland. Stay updated by subscribing to UK news websites, newspapers, or news apps to receive regular updates on current affairs and events. Many UK news outlets offer online subscriptions or live streaming options, ensuring access to news from anywhere in the world. Engage with online communities or forums that focus on British news and events to connect with like-minded individuals. Social media platforms can also be a valuable source of news and updates from the UK.