The point of America Josh, at its core, is to help those from other countries move, live, and thrive in America. Right now, we're facing an unprecedented change to the status quo and I thought it a good time to sit back and look at the big picture, even if just for a moment, for those of you with a dream.
I want to start this by setting a bit of a foundation for those of you who don't know my normal stance on people attempting a move to the United States: I'm for it!
I read a lot of articles about the process of moving and learn of the trials people go through to live out their dream of moving to the United States, and I'm very rarely the one suggesting that people should reconsider. You'll find that other people in my position are less supportive of those who want to take a leap, and will push back that they need to think harder about their choice, or need to be more aware of the number of failures, but who am I to judge? I did the same thing!
I do think though that there are some important considerations you should take before you make that leap. It's not saying you shouldn't, at all, it's saying here are some things to check off your list before you do.
How to move to America
I normally break my advice into three sections for those who are planning to make a move to America, and while the world is completely different from six months ago I think these can still be applied now (with addendums for each):
1. Your First Consideration before moving to America: Emotional
This step started in my list at number three because I thought it was an addendum to the really important considerations, but over the last three years of meeting different people in different situations, it's worked its way right up to number one and for good reason.
You need to be ready for what's coming when you move to another country.
What you might not realize right now is that you've spent a lifetime building up little tiny pieces of knowledge about your surroundings and network that you call upon every single day. You've built a foundation of questions and answers to some of the most mundane issues as well as some tremendously complicated problems, and you've worked out paths in your mind on how to overcome them. This foundation is essential to everything you do and you might not even realize that you've got it, but it's there.
When you move country that foundation diminishes.
If you've got supportive friends and family, they will still there for you, they're just further away. They will want to help, but in many and most cases they know as little as you.
In the short-term, this doesn't at all matter.
You'll see problems that are brand new to you and you'll bop them right on the head without issue. Don't know how heating works in an apartment? Google it. Don't know how to travel on the subway? Watch a YouTube video.
But in those first few days and weeks, you'll realize that it's not only the differences and new things that you'll have questions about, it's also the (seemingly) familiar things that are suddenly looking a whole lot less familiar: What is the name of the supermarket near here? Is that a good brand? What do they call this fruit? What's the protocol when I order a drink?
… let alone the fact that you're possibly walking on the opposite side of the road now, which is using up a little bit of your brainpower every day just to stick to the right.
None of these are big concerns.
These are all little concerns that can be overcome, and in many cases, very easily. The difference however is the fact that you have to think about it at all, and you're now diverting attention away from the big questions in your life (How do I find a job? How am I going financially? How is my partner, friend, family?) to the small ones.
This is where you'll need the emotional strength, because it can be draining!
For me, it was ordering a sandwich for lunch.
First, I couldn't find somewhere to order one (I had no idea what a bodega was) and once I discovered learned that from a range of Googling “what do people eat in New York for lunch”, I then had to navigate how exactly to do it. I'd never used so much brainpower to order a sandwich or become so nervous about doing so in my entire life. I felt crazy! But this was the perfect example of how the tiny little things around you can temporarily trip you up.
It's going to take some time, and you need to be ok with that. You can't know everything!
In addition to this strength is the realization that moving can be lonely and you've disconnected yourself from probably everyone around you that you've ever known.
You've made a huge decision, a bold decision, and an epic decision, but you're now out on your own. You might have a partner with you, but they're probably as in the dark as you are so this applies to you too!
We normally have family and friends who we can trust for advice and you've now removed that option. There are fantastic resources online and inside communities, but you'll at some point want to speak to a person and make a friend, and that's going to take time.
It's ok though, you'll get there, and I'll help, but you do need to make sure you're ready to be lonely, and a little drained.
It won't be forever, I can promise that much.
How to check if you're ready to move to America
So, before you even start properly planning your adventure, take a brief moment for yourself. Sit on your own and ask yourself as brutally honest as possible:
“Why do I want to move?”
This on the surface seems completely ridiculous but I urge you to take it seriously. Do you actually know why? This whole process is going to take time, money, and resilience; if you're looking for a quick-fix then take another look at what you really want to get out of this. Would a holiday be a good idea to start? Test the waters!
If you're in a good place, and you're confident you can work through the ups and downs that are coming in your near future, then that's fantastic, you're one step closer to making the move.
Finally, as much as it's important to decide you are ready, it's also good and very ok to decide that you're not ready, and it's ok to decide that you don't like your decision (after you've made it) and you want to move back.
My advice: You should be “strong”, and not “sure”.
You can't be sure that you will like this move, and you can't be sure that it's going to work.
What you can be though is strong and ready for whatever happens.
If it goes well, you thrive. If it goes poorly, you're ok with that and will try again later. If it gets lonely, you'll work through it. If you don't like it, you'll go back. And if it gets hard, you'll double down.
Changing your mind is not a failure.
How are the emotional considerations different now when considering moving to America?
Well golly, things have changed in the last few months, haven't they!?
I spoke above about all those little things distracting you from the big things that matter. Well right now, you can add a pretty big thing that's distracting you as well. There's a virus outside that restricts movement, and (honestly) makes every action you take a little scarier.
You've lost the ability to explore, to learn, and to connect, so if you're going to move now, then it's going to be especially difficult.
I mentioned before that you need to be ready to be lonely and drained, and I think right now you probably have to put a little (“x2)” next to it, as it's multiplied for everyone right now (expats and citizens alike).
Also worth noting: Because of this multiplier, the people around you are likely to be more stressed and possibly be thinking of themselves more than others.
Don't worry, it's not you, it's the global pandemic that's freaking everyone out right now!
2. Your Second Consideration before moving to America: Legal
Woof. Take a deep breath, that last chapter was a bit of a journey! The rest of this is a bit more nuts and bolts, I promise.
So you're ready for the upcoming challenges? Awesome.
Now we ask a pretty fundamental question: Can you actually legally move to America?
You'll find a lot of information on this site on E3 Visas, Green Cards, and other immigration methods, and you're going to need to find a path. You need to do some research and you possibly (probably, ideally) should speak to an immigration attorney.
You can do this all on your own, but if this is your mission in life right now, to move to the United States, I would recommend speaking to a professional and making sure that you hold all the pieces in your hand.
You're probably going to need to be employed with work, or be a part of a study or exchange program in order to get a visa, and that's going to contain its own challenges.
There's again a lot of reading to do at this point, but it's worth it. If you know all the ins and outs, then you'll be steps ahead of the rest. You should understand the process, you should know what's next, which Department that document is filed with, and why.
There's plenty of information on this site, so I would urge you to start searching and exploring!
How is it different now when considering legal implications before relocating to the USA?
This is probably the most uneasy consideration in the current global climate because there's a lot of “I don't know” answers coming your way.
At the writing of this, there are no Embassies or Consulates who are taking applications for today (you may be able to book into the future, but we've seen cancelations for those types of bookings in the past few weeks – we just don't know when they'll actually be back in the office).
What does this mean? Well, that's really your only way into the United States legally, going through a Consulate or Embassy, getting a visa (or Green Card), and then entering the country.
Without that option being available, getting to the U.S. has become near impossible but for emergency situations.
The global situation is changing every day, and therefore, my non-legal advice would be to stay where you are. You don't want to be stranded somewhere as it's going to cost you more time, money, and stress than it should, so instead, take extra time to plan and save.
If you are desperate to get the process started I would urge you (more than normal) to speak to an immigration attorney and have their advice at your fingertips. They're the ones with all the knowledge and know how to navigate even this complicated terrain.
We also don't know whether there will be changes to traditional methods of immigration moving forward. I'll be sure to keep you updated on this site if I hear anything at all, and we'll have regular check-ins with our legal professionals to make sure we've got the information right.
We have no reason to think anything will change at this point, but again, we just don't know.
3. Your Third Consideration before moving to America: Financial
Legal issues, check. Mental check, double-check (check, check?). So, how much is this all going to cost!?
The short answer is quite a lot and possibly quite a bit more than you're probably expecting.
The longer answer is: as much as you want it to but within reason (and you have to ask if you want to play this game with the settings on “hard”)
I get asked all the time how much you need in savings to effectively move to New York, for example, while there is no legal requirement for most visas, the answer (as almost always) is that it depends on a huge range of factors. Most importantly it centers around your current employment status, your job prospects, and your lifestyle.
So how much does it cost to move to America and live in New York?:
- The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the East Village, Manhattan is ~USD$2,750/month;
- An unlimited subway pass is USD$120/month;
- $100-500 for travel insurance (do not risk it, you need this);
- You're probably going to spend around USD$300/month on groceries; and
- You haven't even been out to a show, dinner, or party yet (and trust me, you're going to want to)…
There are many more costs involved in the initial move, and if you actually want to enjoy yourself, go out and meet new people, and be a part of the greater community, your costs are going to keep rising.
So come on Josh, how much money do you need to move to America?
If you have a job offer and you're moving over to accept that offer, then the amount you require is going to be significantly less and I'd say you need at least $15,000-20,000 to set yourself up at all.
This assumes that you won't need savings to support yourself once you are employed, and that's a whole other post that I'll put up in the coming weeks.
It's going to take some time before you get paid, and you'll not be landing with much, so you will need to spend some money setting yourself up. You'll probably also need a down payment on an apartment which is potentially going to be a big outlay for you.
If you like the finer things in life and want to go out a few nights a week then you'll need to add more, lots more (and round up at every opportunity).
If you do not have a job offer then you're going to need more to keep yourself afloat.
If we do some quick math then as a base idea per month, to live in New York, you're going to need:
- $1,600 for rent (including utilities, one-bedroom in a shared apartment);
- $100 for travel insurance ($500 for health insurance after a while);
- $200 to get around;
- $750 ($30 per day) for food;
- $350 for entertainment & fun (you DID just move to New York).
This comes to around USD$3,000 per month.
You'll also possibly have some costs associated with arriving here and setting up like bedding and shower curtains, so we'll add another couple thousand dollars.
Based on the fact that you're going to need around 3-6 months to get a job, you're going to need to bring over between $12,000 and $25,000 just to get yourself going, and it's not going to be particularly glamorous.
That all being said: I know people who have moved here for less, and I know people who have done it and cost a lot more. I personally think you should err on the side of caution and try to save up at least $30,000 before you consider coming.
That's the goal but that's not achievable for everyone, and I know that
But if you use that as a guide, you can work backward from there. This will mean that you have extra money for things you want to do, more opportunities to go out and meet people when you first arrive, and you won't be overly worried about spending money.
You've moved to America for a reason, and you don't want to add to the stressors I mentioned earlier.
Finally, it's important to consider whether you can afford to fail or not. There is a chance that you spend this money, don't find a job, and then have to move back to your home country, a similar person but with a whole lot less money.
If you are ok with that risk, then off you go! I'm not standing in your way. You just need to be ready for the possibility that this is a fantastic adventure to spend your savings on, but it might not end in the way you had hoped.
How is it different now when considering financial costs before moving to the USA?
Well, this one is actually not that bad but it's a double-edged sword.
You're going to save a lot of money on cocktails, parties, and group events right now… because there aren't any.
Jokes aside, it's an unstable environment and you are going to need to budget much more money than before because there is a much greater chance that it's going to take longer to find a job if you don't have one, and it's going to require you to possibly have to settle for more expensive options in setting your life up because there are many options that simply aren't available right now.
Budget for uncertainty.
So, after all that, should you move to America right now?
Honestly: No. (You probably saw this coming)
While my default position is “yes” (after all this), I can safely say that right now is not a good time.
As I mentioned above, I think the country and the world are in a state of turmoil that won't be overcome in a matter of days or weeks, and even in the coming months, it's going to be more competitive, more complicated, and more isolating than ever.
My advice would be that if you're moving with a job (that can absolutely guarantee that it will be in place long-term – and I don't know if this actually exists), then you might be ok short-term, and the numbers set-out above are still accurate, you're just going to have a harder time setting up.
However, a consideration for you is that jobs in many states around the US are “at-will” which means you can be let go without reason. So after moving your entire life, you may be left high and dry without a job in a matter of weeks or months because the company simply can't support you and many operate on a last-in, first-out policy.
You're going to need to budget and plan for a world that doesn't know what's next.
If you're moving to America without a job, I would urge you to reconsider right now.
Things to know before moving to the USA
It's hard enough to move here without a job in the best of times. Right now is far away from the best of times and we're seeing unprecedented amounts of job-loss with an economy in disarray.
Give yourself the best possible chance: Spend this time saving every penny. Save more money so that when you inevitably do make your leap, you can do it in style, and in the way that you dreamed of.
Until then, keep reading, keep learning, and keep planning. It's all worthwhile.
Is it worth living in the USA?
After all this struggle, all this pain, and all these considerations, is it really worth it? Yes! It is! I've found a home, a family, a puppy, and a wife! Not to mention a huge amount of friends and a wonderful community.
How is life in America?
I love the life I have in the United States, it just takes a bit of time to set up.
The other important consideration to make is that every city and every state in the United States are very different from each other. Life in rural Wisconsin is nothing like New York City, and there are 300 million people in between! The options are endless, and I think for many, you can find exactly what you're looking for.