- Download our Moving to the USA Guide (PDF)
With 50 states and an area size of nearly 4 million square miles (nearly 10 million km²) that covers a massive swath of North America, the United States is a country as diverse as it is enormous. Its diversity not only applies to its varied landscapes and topography but also to its population – which is why it remains a favourite among expats from all over the world.
Since the country's founding, the US has found success through immigration, attracting thinkers, leaders and businesspeople from around the globe. Now with its own distinct identity, the country is a melting pot of colours, flavours and ethnicities of all kinds living 'the American Dream' in their own pursuits of happiness.
Living in the US as an expat
Throughout the country's history, immigration has always been a constant, this principle enshrined by the inspiring plaque on the famous Statue of Liberty which reads, "Give me your tired, your poor, your humbled masses yearning to breathe free." Indeed, more than a million people move to America each year – and the influx of foreigners is still responsible for much of the country's population growth.
With the world's largest economy, cities that are bustling hives of commercial and cultural activity, and plenty of job opportunities, moving to the US is an attractive prospect to many.
Some of the benefits of living in the US include high wages, rewards for those with a bit of go-it-alone pioneer spirit, excellent and varied accommodation options, a mostly safe and child-friendly environment for the family-oriented expat, and efficient infrastructure that makes systems like education and transport some of the best in the world.
As a downside, the US does tend to have a thin safety net and limited aid for those in need of monetary assistance. Healthcare is still a contentious issue, and only those that can afford private insurance are able to access the best medical staff and facilities that the country has to offer.
Cost of living in the US
The cost of living in the US varies from region to region and city to city. The chief cosmopolitan centres such as New York City, San Francisco and LA are the most expensive places to live in the US. In fact, the cost of living in a major city can be 50 percent or more above the national average. To compensate, wages in these cities do tend to be higher, but competition for jobs in urban areas is intense.
A large portion of the high cost of living in the US is due to high accommodation prices, a burden that can be somewhat alleviated by choosing to move to a smaller city rather than a major one. Finding a home outside the city centre is also a good tactic for saving on housing costs.
Expat families and children
Most of the US is ideally suited to families, with safe neighbourhoods and parks aplenty. Parents can opt to send their children to a public, private or international school.
While the standard of public education in the States varies dramatically, there are a number of advantages for expat parents who opt to utilise this public education system. Firstly, costs are minimal and much less than the cost of private or international school education. Secondly, as school placement is determined by geographical location, the public school system allows children to attend a school close to home, meaning they tend to interact more with local children in the neighbourhood.
Besides getting a good education, there is plenty for children to do, and American society generally invests a lot in their youth's safety, happiness and future.
All in all, the United States is a fantastic destination for expats, be they single, career-driven go-getters or families looking to raise their children in a safe and prosperous environment.
Population: 330 million
Capital city: Washington DC
Largest city: New York City
Neighbouring countries: Canada to the north and Mexico to the south.
Geography: The United States is one of the world's largest countries. It has diverse geographic features ranging from the grasslands of the Great Plains in the east to the harsh desert terrain in the southwest to the infamous Great Lakes in the north.
Political system: Federal presidential constitutional republic
Major religion: Christianity
Main languages: English and Spanish
Money: The US Dollar (USD), divided into 100 cents.
Tipping: Standard 15 to 20 percent in restaurants and taxis.
Time: The USA spans six time zones from GMT-5 to GMT-10. Daylight saving time applies between March and November in all states except Arizona and Hawaii.
Electricity: 120V, 60 Hz. Standard plugs have two flat blades, but three-pin plugs are also used.
Internet domain: .us
International dialing code: +1
Emergency contact: 911
Transport and driving: Traffic drives on the right. There is a comprehensive public transport system in place, including trains, subways and buses. Cities are well-connected.
"I really enjoy that you can do anything at any time you want; learning a new language, dancing salsa, hitting up a party – it’s a madhouse sometimes!" German expat Laura shares her experiences of life in the USA.
"I love the atmosphere and pace of the city, and the energy here is like no other. I like the notion that everyone thinks anything is possible and nothing stands in the way of their dreams." Kimberly, a British expat, tells us why she loves living in America.
Are you an expat living in The USA?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The USA. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance
With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider. Cigna is currently offering a 10% discount for seniors (over 60) on their Silver package.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.