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Moving to the United States of America

Your guide to expat life in United States of America. An empire state of mind

Want to move to the United States of America?

You should have no problem easing into life in the USA. Spanning 6 time zones and with climates that range from arctic to desert, it’s a vast, diverse land. Each of the country’s 50 states has its own unique character – from the energy of New York and the open roads of the Midwest, to the striking beaches and rolling vineyards of California.

Those moving to the US are drawn by exceptional opportunities like New York's financial hub, San Francisco's tech scene or the academia of Boston. It’s no surprise professionals are heading there to progress their careers.

Across the country, you can improve your standard of living, and afford more impressive properties, cars and gadgets. However, you may find you have to work much longer hours and have less leisure time compared to at home.

When you do get time to enjoy yourself, you’ll find there’s an endless list of things to keep you entertained in the US. The country certainly doesn’t disappoint as a destination, as proven by most expats who choose to stay long term.

Whether you’re looking for top professional opportunities, bucket list adventures or a great place to raise a family, the American Dream awaits.

Basic info about the United States of America

  • Population: About 331 million

  • Capital city: Washington DC

  • Largest city: New York City

  • Legal system: Federal presidential constitutional republic

  • Main languages: English. Spanish is widely spoken in the southern states.

  • Main religion: Christianity

  • Time: The USA spans six time zones, ranging from Eastern Time (GMT-5), to Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (GMT-10). Daylight saving time applies between March and November in all states except Arizona and Hawaii.

  • Electricity: 120V, 60Hz. Standard plugs have 2 flat pins, but 3-pin plugs are also used.

  • Currency: US dollar (USD)

  • International dialling code: +1

  • Internet domain: .com, .us, .gov, .mil, .edu

  • Emergency numbers: 911

  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in the USA

The USA stretches across 6 time zones, so it’s no surprise that the weather varies hugely from arctic to desert. The West Coast has a pleasant, Mediterranean climate, while the Pacific Northwest Coast has cooler summers and mild winters. Along the East Coast, conditions range from subtropical in the south to a humid continental climate in the north. Central USA has extreme temperature variations with cold winters and hot summers (with tornadoes). The eastern central areas are humid and western central states are mostly semi-arid.

Shipping to the USA

The cost and logistics of shipping items to the USA depends on where you’re from. Both the East and West Coast have major ports, making shipping to these regions less expensive than inland. It’s much faster to use air freight to send small cargo to landlocked cities.

Medicines

Strict laws regulate the amount of prescription medication you can take into the country. You must have a prescription from a doctor and if you exceed the limits your drugs will be confiscated at customs.

Pets

Laws for shipping pets differ from state to state. Hawaii has stricter pet immigration policies than most mainland states, for instance. Dogs must have a certificate for a rabies vaccination, although this isn’t needed for cats.

Top tips for the USA

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in the United States of America.

Join a local business networking group and offer something for free to get to know other businesses. This is a good way to establish yourself initially as a trusted and friendly business.
Be prepared for massive changes in the weather. It can be very hot, very cold or very wet!
If you have children, plan so as to live in a place with a good public school as they are locally administered: a good school means a good community. Make sure that you have good health insurance.
Have a cushion of savings you can turn to if certain things take longer than expected (immigration papers, finding a place to live, etc.).
Understanding the culture, sports and public holidays as well as important facts they treasure about their history will prepare you better to engage in public conversations and make friends easily.
Definitely travel the country, there is much to see and it’s inexpensive to travel here. Don’t have pre-conceptions and be open to new things.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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