Expat's Manual

Moving to USA can be both an exciting and daunting process. The United States is one of the most powerful countries in the world in terms of politics, economics and trade. The cost of living in many cities within the country is relatively low and the majority of people who are based there find that they have a very comfortable standard of life. The US Dollar remains one of the strongest and most influential currencies in the world and it is this that has helped the country out of past economic slumps. The sheer size of the USA in comparison to its population means that there is an abundance of land. Many people make use of this by constructing their own houses outside the city.

Living in America as an expat

Living in America as an expat can be a life changing experience. It is a popular expat destination and is one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world with large communities of Mexican, Spanish, Italian, African American, Puerto Rican, Indian and Chinese communities. It attracts students from all over the world as well as trainee doctors, surgeons, dentists and lawyers.

Real estate in the United States is relatively low when compared with other developed countries but expats do find that prices are higher in the major financial cities such as New York City.

The US boasts some of the most successful educational institutes in the world. Harvard and Yale are two of the most famous and well-regarded universities but places at these are highly competed for. There are also a number of international schools and colleges that offer a very good education for all.

If you are moving to USA for a long time, it is important that you have full and comprehensive medical insurance, not just holiday cover. You may be refused treatment without it and you do not want to run the risk of getting thousands of dollars into debt because you cut some corners.

Overall, the USA is an excellent place to base yourself as an expat. There is an abundance of attractions to keep you occupied and you will gain invaluable life and work experience if you spend time as an expat living in America.

Living cost comparison

When performing a living cost comparison between cities in the USA and abroad, it is important to note that the cost of living in the United States really does depend upon the area and city in which expatriates base themselves. As with most countries, the cost of living in the bigger cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Houston is significantly higher than in some of the more rural areas.

In the 2012 Mercer cost of living survey New York was named as the most expensive city in the United States and the 33rd most expensive city in the world in which to live. Los Angeles (68) and San Francisco (90) are slowly catching up, however, having jumped a respective nine and 16 places since last year. Amongst other major US cities, Washington was named as the 107th most expensive place in the world in which to live, Miami (110) was up five places and Chicago, also at 110, was down two places. Portland, Oregon (178), and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (195), remain the least expensive surveyed cities for expatriates in the United States. Discussing the cost of living in North America a representative from Mercer said: “Although price increases have remained moderate overall, most US cities have gone up in the ranking, mainly as a result of the strong US dollar.”

The United States of America is one of the richest countries in the world and this means that it can often offer expats a very good standard of living. As a country it doesn’t suffer the land shortages that are prevalent in many Asian cities and this entails that property here is not as expensive. Expatriates who are willing to relocate outside the major cities will find that they can get a lot for their money property-wise.

Food and drink in the US is available at very low prices, especially fast food and there is no shortage of restaurants and food outlets. Clothes, utilities and electrical goods are also cheap.

Healthcare in the US, however, is privatized and can be very expensive. The Expat Info Desk has published a number of relocation guides for living in America. These contain full and comprehensive details of the cost of healthcare and anyone considering international relocation to the states will find these to be a valuable source of information when arranging medical care.


The USA does not have an official language, but English is the most commonly spoken language and is used by government and federal agencies. A large percentage of the population in America speaks Spanish. This is a direct result of the influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants from across the border.


When it comes to the weather, the US is so large that different parts of the country experience different weather patterns. Much of the eastern coast is plagued by hurricanes and monsoons between August and October; however the weather the rest of the year is very pleasant. States in the deep south experience hot, muggy temperatures with little rain while those states and cities further north have a much more temperate climate with four distinct seasons.

Expat job and career opportunities

Wall Street is the most famous financial districts in the world and many expats are based here if they are engaged in any type of finance related job.

Those looking to find work in the entertainment world should head straight to LA while those looking to set up a business should look at any of the major cities in the northern part of the country. The deep south is a notoriously difficult place for foreigners to find any type of work.

The biggest challenge expats will find when they attempt to find work in the US is to gain an appropriate work visa. The current unemployment levels in the USA make obtaining such a visa even more difficult and you will generally only be able to work in the US if you have already established sponsorship and a job.

The biggest prospects for expats in the USA exist in high technology or niche markets. The US Department of Labor have forecast a requirement for 900,000 engineers by the year 2014 in fields pertaining to biomedical, software and life sciences.

Key facts every expat should know about the United States

  1. Residents are legally required to remove any snow or ice from the front of their properties (unless the building has an assigned caretaker). You are legally liable for any injuries that occur as a result of your neglect of this duty.
  2. In some areas and states people are legally required to sweep the street immediately outside the entrance to their home.
  3. Within the majority of rental properties you are not permitted to make copies of keys. You will usually need to seek permission from the landlord before doing so. In the event you lose you key you will be required to replace all the locks.
  4. In some states you can turn right on a red light if there is no traffic approaching. In such circumstances you will be likely to face angry horn blowing from cars behind you if you fail to turn right and stop at the red light.
  5. When driving in the US, if you come across a school bus that has stopped to drop off passengers you should not overtake it. It is illegal to overtake a stopped school bus and you will face a heavy fine if you are caught.

Living in America: International relocation guides

If you're considering living in America then our international relocation guides may be just what you're looking for. Expat Info Desk currently has city guides available for moving to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and relocating to New York City. These exhaustive guides contain everything you need to know about moving to USA and will assist you to:

  • relocate efficiently and effectively with minimum stress.
  • settle in to your new life quickly and easily and find the help and assistance you need, when you need it.
  • identify areas to live in that suit your lifestyle and budget.
  • find the right places to meet like-minded people.
  • find schools that are suitable for your children and their learning needs.
  • ensure that your family get the most of their experiences abroad.
  • prepare for the new culture in advance and avoid any cultural traps.
  • deal with any transition challenges.
  • cut through red tape and avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

Unlike a book, the our international relocation guides are regularly reviewed and updated in order to ensure that the information is accurate and reliable and because the guides are written by real expats who live and work in the US, you can be assured that you are accessing the information that you need as written by people who really are in the know.

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Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

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