Moving To The USA

America; the land of the free, home to the Rockies, the Big Apple, Hollywood and the Grand Canyon just to name a few. It is a country that does everything on a grand scale! Whether you are looking for adventure in the wilderness of Alaska, to soak up the Californian sun or a life of hustle and bustle in New York, if you are moving to the USA, they have it all!

Moving to the USA from Australia can mean a new career, the chance to study in an Ivy league university, or retirement spent driving through the many different states experiencing the multicultural American society. If you are considering moving to the USA and joining the number of Australians in America, then read on:

American citizen

Moving to the USA

We all know America is tough on immigration. In fact they may be one of the toughest countries to immigrate to in the world. As an Australian citizen, you are required to get a US visa for any stay over 90 days and an American working visa/study visa if you plan on staying in America to work or study.

To live and study or work permanently in the United States you will be applying then specifically for a Permanent Resident Card, also known as a Green Card.

Eventually it might be a smart decision to become an official American citizen and claim the rights and responsibilities that it entails. There are two citizenship application options available to Australians:

Citizenship by birth

If you are under the age of 18 and one or both of your parents is a US citizen then you may be eligible to claim an acquired American citizenship.

American naturalization

For most Australians interested in becoming a US citizen, you must go through naturalization. To qualify:

  • You have been a permanent resident in the USA for at least 5 years (known as a green card holder), or
  • You have been a permanent resident for a minimum of three years and are married to an American citizen.

When applying for citizenship through naturalization, you will need to also demonstrate excellent English language skills, be of good moral character and pass a civic test on America’s history and government.

The cost of naturalization currently is $855 AUD and an additional $113 AUD for the biometric (or background) check. If you are required to renounce your Australian citizenship, there is an additional fee of $205 AUD.

Tips on moving to the USA

Before learning about what comes after moving to the USA, you first need to know how to move.

  • Request removal quotes: Whether you are looking to save money on moving to America or you just want someone to look after everything for you, requesting removal quotes is a great place to begin. You can save a tone of money on your move to the US by just seeing what is out there.
  • Choosing the right removalist: Once you have received moving quotes, what do you do with them exactly? You may want some guidance on which company to work with, check out our top 10 Australian international removalists.
  • Moving and shipping costs: After choosing a removalist, you may want to understand what other costs are associated with moving overseas and shipping your belongings. Give our shipping costs page and or our international moving costs article a read.

Social security number

In the States, everyone’s credit history is linked to their social security number. Your credit history reveals your patterns of taking out loans or credit, whether you have paid them off on time, how many late payments you may have made and whether you have defaulted on a loan.

Your Social Security number is also linked to tax payments within the USA. It is the American version of a Tax File number in Australia.

To apply for a Social Security number at the same time as you’re applying for your visa. However, if you do not have time or forget to apply before moving to the USA, you can apply once you’re in America. It takes around two weeks to be processed, as all of your legal documentation must be uploaded to the Homeland Security database.

Paying American taxes

If you are moving to the US permanently, you will be taxed the same as a US citizen. The main taxes within America are:

  • Sales tax is imposed on most retail goods, which is similar to GST in Australia. Most American states have a sales tax and it can vary between 1-10%.  Not everything is subject to tax however. Food for instance from a supermarket is tax free, whilst food ordered in a restaurant is often taxed.
  • Property tax on your house or office space varies from state to state and is enforced locally. If you are still unsure where you would like to move to in the US, this may be something to consider if you are considering buying property.
  • Income tax, as well as Social Security tax is taken directly from your pay just like in Australia. Similarly, you must submit an annual tax form telling the authorities exactly how much you earnt throughout the year and what amount of tax you paid.

If you wish to know more about taxes as an Australian whilst living in another country, check out our preparation list for those moving overseas.

Banking in the States

If you are moving to America from Australia, you will benefit from opening a US bank account. The only way you can do that is in person. Most American banks require you to open an account in person and not online, as such you will have wait until you are there.

Not to worry, even if you are moving to the USA permanently, you can always keep your Australian accounts open until you have everything set up in the States. When you are ready to transfer your money from your Australian account to your new American one, read our international moving costs guide.

American housing prices and renting

Whether you wish to rent or buy a house after moving to the USA, the amount you will pay is dependent on where you choose to live. If you wish to live in the bustling streets of New York, then you should be prepared to pay premium prices. On the other hand, if you move to a smaller city and live in the suburbs, you may find a family home can cost as much as 60% less than in Australia.

The average cost of a house in America is around $260,000 AUD, which will of course increase in bigger cities. The cost of renting in America is roughly comparable with Australia. A one-bedroom apartment in the city on average costing $1,560 AUD a month.

Before you can rent or buy, you will have to work on establishing you credit rating! A credit history is required for anyone wishing to rent an apartment, get a credit card or even buy a car in the US. Learn how to build your credit score when moving to the USA here or here.

Cost of living in America

As you can expect, the cost of living will vary between countries and of course cities. Generally speaking, prices are more expensive in larger cities and central locations. To compare your Australian city with your new American home, have look at Budget Directs living costs comparison guide.

Moving to USA

American healthcare

Unfortunately, unlike in Australia there is no state funding of healthcare within America, even when there is a medical emergency. American healthcare is funded through a national health insurance system. This means people must invest in health insurance to cover the cost of any medical bills they may have. You can rest assured that doctors are still obligated to treat you, even if you do not have insurance. However you will still have to pay for it all out of your own pocked after your treatment.

If you are moving to the USA for work, it is highly likely that your new employer will organise health coverage for you. But there are many additional options for you to take out, depending on your preference.

Life in America will have many similarities to your life in Australia, but there are some key pieces of information that is worth knowing before you head over.

Capital cityWashington, D.C
CurrencyUnited States Dollar (USD)
Drive onRight hand side
International dialling code+1
Emergency numbers911
Date formatmm/dd/yyyy

American cities vs Australian cities

Moving to the US - New York

You can get an idea of what a city is like from movies and reading about other people’s experiences, but how do Australian cities really compare to those within the US?

Los Angeles vs Sydney

The wealth of Australia can be found in Sydney, and the same goes for Los Angeles. They are both cities where the rich and famous flock to for the glitz and glamour. They are cities with strong financial districts and world-famous restaurants and bars. Both cities share a similar climate also, with plenty of sunshine and stunning beaches to soak up all that great sun.

San Diego vs Perth

World class beaches, sunny weather all year round, a city on the water and space to explore nature,. What more can you want from a city!? Perth and San Diego have many similarities. With a laid-back atmosphere and that town feel but at the same time being a big city.

New Orleans vs Darwin

Both New Orleans and Darwin are known for their party streets and late-night antics, but they are more similar than just that. Both places are famous for the nature that surrounds them and the dangerous wildlife that inhabit that wilderness. You will be swapping bushland and crocodiles with swamp lands and alligators if you move to New Orleans in Louisiana.

San Francisco vs Melbourne

If you are from Melbourne, or a fan of the hipster, multicultural, artistic vibe you get when you visit, then San Francisco is for you. It is a trendy city with great music and art events, a supportive LGTBQ community and a great street food and market scene. San Fran is your city if you wish to live in a funky city that is also surrounded by a beautiful coastline, and nearby some wicked vineyards!

American schooling vs Australian schooling

Schooling within America has many similarities to schooling within Australia. On average, around two thirds of children attend public or state funded schools, whilst the remaining third attend private fee-paying, religious or international schools.

However, instead of Australia’s primary and secondary system, Americans have elementary, middle and high school. Children may attend pre-school kindergarten before the age of 6, which is when they begin elementary school. Middle school, or better known as junior high is for kids aged between 11 and 13. Then from the age of 14 children attend high school, all the way up until 18.

After high school, children then have the choice of attending public universities, community colleges, professional schools or the ever-prestigious Ivy League colleges. As many know from movies, those schools don’t come cheap! For some students there are financial aid packages available, otherwise you will have to again pay for your studies out of your own pocket. In the end it depends on the study and career choice of you or your child as to the school they would choose.

Working in America

Although the US have tightened their borders and have a strong desire to see more Americans in American jobs. There are still many opportunities for Australians looking into moving to the USA.

Translation and interpretation services. Gas and oil pipeline construction, automobile production, and agriculture. Healthcare, elderly care, wine production, sports and leisure are among some of the biggest industries for those moving to the US for work.

Nowadays applying for a job online is the norm. The most popular job sites in the USA are Glassdoor and Indeed. Other websites you can check out if you are looking for work in America are Craigslist and LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can speak with an employment agency.

What can you expect?

Unfortunately, the US it is not known for its great work-life balance, however that can vary between states and employers. Americans are hard workers! There is no requirement for your employer to give you minimal hours of annual or holiday leave, if any and there is little in the way of paid parental leave. You are required to ask for and discuss this with your employer.

On average, the number of paid vacation days you can expect, after a year of working is 10 days per year. This usually increases the longer you work for the company. Keep in mind that there are 8 public holiday days in a year, but they could be paid or unpaid dependent on your job and employer.

Some other things to keep in mind when moving to the USA for work are:

  • A work week is generally 40 hours, but working overtime is common and often expected
  • Joining a Union is recommended, or at least reading the organisations employee handbook in order of understanding your rights and duties
  • Negotiating your benefits package is normal, regarding pension and health insurance
  • American companies do not always draw up a contract of employment. Furthermore, even if they do draft it, it does not necessarily protect you from dismissal from work without a valid reason. But this is the same for you, as you can hand in your resignation without a valid reason.

What’s next?

After reading this far you must be interested in moving to the USA! Hopefully we’ve made moving to the USA a little easier to navigate with any stage of the moving process you are at. There is a long list of factors and considerations but nothing that Sirelo can’t help you with. Bets of luck with your move to the USA!