The USA is one of the wealthiest, most successful, secure countries in the world. It offers a host of opportunities for businesses and the standard of living is generally very comfortable. No wonder so many people want to move to the USA! It is a huge continent, founded largely on immigrants, and has a wide diversity of climate and landscape. Business people who move to the USA go mainly to cities where opportunities abound. The Chamber of Commerce has a good website for general information on businesses all over America. Retirees generally prefer the warmer, southern states such as Florida, Texas and California. The weather is good year-round, the cost of living is relatively cheap, houses are plentiful and you can golf, fish or walk the beach easily. One big difference is that Americans are a very litigious society. Almost everyone has their own lawyer, like other people have a dentist, and litigation is unfortunately a way of life.

The big issue for immigrants is obtaining a permanent visa. As there are many types of visa, the advice and use of a reputable immigration attorney is essential. www.usimmigrationlawyers.com offers a list of immigration lawyers and law firms which specialize in US immigration. Work visas are restricted; visas by marriage are investigated and retirement visas are non-existent. Absurdly, the USA does have a green card (work visa) lottery and it randomly picks a number of people from each participating country annually and gives them a permanent work visa. However, England is one of the countries which are excluded from this lottery. If you are moving to the US from any other country, it is well worth putting in an application as it costs nothing and may come through more quickly, cheaper and easier than any other visa! Read about the various visas available to you on www.uscis.gov .

The first step when you arrive in the USA is to open a bank account. Bring a general reference with you from your home bank and it will open a lot of doors for you. Banks in the US are not nationwide, which is sometimes a problem, and generally the US banking system is way behind the European banking system. For example, bill pay in the USA can be arranged online, but the transfer is not electronic as you may expect. Instead a check is issued and mailed to the recipient. It is totally at the mercy of the US postal system. It may be delayed or lost and nothing can be done about it.

In America a social security number is essential. Without it you are almost a non-person. Every agency, from banks to utility companies, will want your social security number so it is advisable to request one or a FEIN number for business/tax purposes as soon as possible. Even buying a cell phone is dependant upon that little number! Monster is an excellent site for job-seekers. Craigslist also lists jobs, homes for sale and rent and many other items for sale.

Your credit rating is another vitally important thing to establish early on. Do not pay cash for your house, car and furniture, even if you can. If you do not have a credit history, once again you will have problems getting utilities connected, getting a credit card or even getting discount cards for stores. If you don’t have a credit rating, you don’t exist.

Buying a home in the USA is fairly straightforward and cheap, although selling a home is far more expensive as realtors generally charge a 6% fee for finding a buyer, which is charged to the seller. Mortgages are available for non-residents (it is easier to obtain a mortgage than a bank account or credit card!). In the USA a realtor will search all the property listings of every other realty company and will show houses listed by other companies too. This makes the search easy as they do all the work and you just show up to view. It is no advantage at all going to several realtors, unless you feel your realtor is not trying his hardest for you.

If you are moving to a state which has mosquitoes, e.g. Florida you will need to adapt your thinking a little. Most outdoor areas are screened with ‘birdcages’ to keep out the bugs. A pool may be a necessity in the heat, rather than a luxury, and fans are absolutely essential. You may save on heating costs, but running air-conditioning can be equally expensive. Also consider the weather. Will you be happy living with hurricane warnings, tornadoes etc? It may be wise to rent a home for a year before buying, and see how you adapt. Be prepared to put down deposits in order to have utilities connected. Generally utility bills and property taxes are much lower than in Europe. When you are ready to ship your possessions an international moving company will assist with the paperwork and physical shipping of your goods to the USA.

Finally, you may speak the same language, but the meaning of words is not the same at all. In Europe you walk on the pavement; in America they drive on the pavement! When I bought my first car in the USA, a fairly simple procedure, I phoned to arrange insurance cover. In Europe “fully comprehensive” covers everyone for everything – simple. I asked for “comprehensive” insurance in the USA. The agent then asked if I wanted any add-ons. In America “comprehensive” insurance is the very basic insurance. It does not cover you or your car, just damage to a third party. In this instance, the same word had exactly the opposite meaning, so do not assume you know what a word means. If it is important, always check the definition!

America is huge, and the standard of living is excellent. Gas (petrol) and food are much cheaper than in Europe and Americans are very friendly and welcoming. If you can get over the hurdles, you will probably never look back.