How to Move to The USA from The UK

Moving to the US from the UK is an attractive choice for many. The USA can provide a great quality of life and excellent opportunities, with a culture that’s similar to the UK but different enough to still be an exciting experience. The country has a range of stunning scenery, from golden beaches to snow-covered mountains, so there’s really something for everyone.

However, moving from the UK to the US can be a complex process. Read our simple guide for advice on how to immigrate to the USA.

Moving to USA

Research the best locations in the US

Your first step in moving to the UK from the US will be to decide on where in the USA you’ll be moving to. Your decision might be guided already, if you’ve been offered a job or if you’re planning to move near friends or family. If, however, you have free range to decide where to go, you should ensure you do your research.

The USA is obviously a very big country and each state and even city can offer something a little different. Think about the kind of weather you like, what sort of amenities you want on hand, and the type of culture you want to live in. There are plenty of forums and online groups of UK expats living in the USA, so you could always try to speak to people who are already living there to get their opinions.

Apply for the correct visa

There are various types of visas you can apply for to live in the US. The most common types of visas that British people apply for are sponsored employment; working visa; family visa.

A sponsored employment visa can be applied for if you have been offered a job by a US-based company. The company will act as your sponsor for the visa and write out a petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to support your application. There are only certain roles that qualify for this type of visa, and you must have the required qualifications and/or experience for the role. This type of visa is typically a non-immigrant visa, which means you will have to prove you will return home once the visa expires.

In some instances, you can qualify for a working visa without having direct sponsorship from an employer. In this case, you will need to fit strict criteria around the industry and role you could fulfill, as well as have the necessary qualifications, often a master’s or PhD plus five years’ experience. It can include roles such as IT professionals and university professors – the full list can be found on the US immigration website.

A family visa can be applied for if you already have family who are citizens of the US. This type of visa can have a long application time, but it is usually a secure way of gaining permanent residence in the USA.

Ensure you’re covered with international medical insurance

It’s no secret that healthcare in the USA is incredibly expensive. Some employers may offer health insurance as a benefit of the job. However, if your employer doesn’t or if you haven’t already secured employment, it’s advised to get international medical insurance. This will ensure you’re covered for your healthcare needs while you’re in the US, without having to face any extortionate healthcare bills.

Usually, international healthcare providers will have separate plan levels for where you will be living in the world, and the USA typically has its own category. This is due to the expense of healthcare in the country and will mean you will be properly covered.

Apply for Social Security

Everyone living and working in the USA needs a Social Security Number, which is similar to a National Insurance Number in the UK. You can apply for a Social Security Number online and then take your documents to a Social Security office in the USA to validate your application. You’ll need to provide proof of your identity plus your visa or immigration status as proof that you can work in the US.

Consider transport

UK driving licences will only be valid in the USA for three months from the date of your entry. After this time, you will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) or state-issued US driving licence. If you are staying in the USA long-term, (more than 12 months), you will need to get a US driving licence.

Each state will have a slightly different process for getting a driving licence. However, typically it will involve submitting proof of ID, proof of residency, taking a driving test, and paying the necessary fees. Once you pass your test, you’ll be issued a temporary licence straight away, with a permanent licence then sent to your address in the post.

Set up a US bank account

Using your UK bank account in the US will likely incur fees. So, it’s best to set up a US bank account as soon as possible once you’re in the USA.

To set up a bank account in the US you’ll need proof of your ID, a copy of your visa, your contact details, your Social Security Number and sometimes a minimum opening deposit. Some banks may allow you to start the process online, but nearly all banks will require you to visit the bank in person to complete setting up your account.

Relocation company employees moving stuff

Arrange to move your belongings

Once you have your accommodation confirmed in the US, you can start to arrange moving your belongings. You’ll have to carefully decide how much you want to move and how much you want to leave behind. If you’re moving to the US on a temporary basis, you might find it beneficial to leave some items in storage in the UK, rather than paying to transport them. This can be especially helpful if you have valuable and/or sentimental items that you don’t want to risk damaging in a long journey.

Sending items via sea freight is usually the most cost-effective option, but it can take some time – around 5-9 weeks for the East Coast, and 8-12 weeks for the West Coast. Air freight will be quicker, but more expensive. There are certain items that will be prohibited to ship to the US, including flavoured cigarettes, Cuban cigars, and tuna. A quality shipping company will be able to provide guidance and advice for what can and can’t be taken into the country.

Notify the necessary people in the UK

Your final step for moving to the US from the UK will be to notify all the necessary people and organisations in the UK. This will include the HMRC, your local council, your bank, and the benefits and pensions department, if appropriate.

You can usually vote in the UK even if you’re living abroad, but you’ll need to register as an overseas voter. It’s best to include a forwarding address when you let each organisation know you’ll be moving abroad.