Where do you start when you want to move to America?

Posted on January 1, 2010 by pacificyorkshirebird


Happy 2010! This post is inspired by a comment from Lisa B on this post about BigApplePie’s recent move back home after living in Britain for 5 years. Lisa’s goal for 2010 is to move back to America with her British husband. I too just took the plunge and arrived back in my hometown last summer. It is a big decision to move across the pond in either direction. But the question here is: Once you have decided, where do you start? Here are some of my thoughts on the practical aspects of initiating the move.

There are two places you could start.

  1. Find a job and let that determine where you move.
  2. Pick a place and let that determine where you begin your job search.

Mr. Charismatic and I chose option #2. There were several factors that influenced our decision.

  • We saved our pence for a year in preparation for the move and subsequent unknown period of unemployment.
  • We don’t have any debt or dependents.
  • We bought short term health insurance to cover us in catastrophes. Using ehealthinsurance.com we found decent policies to cover the both of us for $65/month for up to six months.
  • We knew if we chose option #1, I would have to travel first and we’d be apart for some unknown amount of time. It also meant that we would be dealing with the Visa process apart and we were really glad to have each other to lean on for the ups and downs that came. By the way, it might be helpful for you marrieds out there to know that you may be able to apply for your British partner’s visa through the London Embassy thus avoiding the long(er) waiting periods you have to face if you apply through the normal US visa agency.
  • We also had a lot of support from friends and family in all sorts of ways. We stayed with family to save on rent before we left Britain and we stayed with family again when we arrived in America. Without this, we would have been saving our pence in Britain for a second year before we would have been brave enough to quit our jobs and move.

If option #1 is best for you, I’m afraid my experience is a little lacking here. I suppose it really depends on what kind of job you are looking for. One thing that has changed in the last few years is the importance of networking. I conducted several informational interviews, one of which led to a second one and that led to me hearing about the job that I now have. Many people are using LinkedIn – a social networking site for career minded folks and job seekers. Contact anyone you know in the US and let them know you are looking. And don’t get discouraged by those who want to tell you how bad things are in America. It really varies depending on where you go. In fact, it may be helpful to know which places are thriving or struggling. Here’s a list from the housing market perspective and from the job perspective.

If option #2 is best for you then there are several factors to consider. Take a good look at a map, your lifestyle, airports, weather, cost of living, schools, and narrow down a place or region. For us, our decision came down to experience and family. Mr. Charismatic has already spent plenty of time in the Pacific NW and we bought our plane ticket to my hometown where most of my family still live. When we started our job search with two cities in mind, and we later decided to stay in my hometown because one of us got a job worth staying for.

We’d both recommend you visit any place before you move there. If you can, narrow down a region and then spend a week or two exploring it on holiday before you commit. But remember that your holiday may be very different from your experience when you do eventually live there.

Finally, consider this process a wonderful adventure. You’ll need the same set of coping skills you needed when you moved to Britain – flexibility, open-mindedness, endurance, a sense of humor, and willingness to take some risks… to name a few.

In my own move, I’ve experience a lot of nostalgia for my first few months in Britain. I get to witness Mr. Charismatic’s adventures and frustrations. It all takes me back to mine. So, be prepared for a little of that. It has also changed our relationship in some ways. Be prepared for that too. I’ll post another blog on some of the more emotional aspects of moving soon.

Readers – what other practical advice do you have for heading West?

Lisa B and others, keep us up to date on how it goes!

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What Others Are Saying

  1. witch1811 August 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Thank you peacefulyorkshire for your response and the advice. I still have my studies to do here so this won’t be for another few years yet. I am going to save as much as possible for now and check the website for any changes. Luckily I am a realist and realise that this will take its toll on me but I am a determined person when I want something and hopefully I will come out a bit stronger than I am now.
    I will keep you all posted on my progress x

  2. witch1811 August 7, 2010 at 8:56 am

    I haven’t had the experience of moving to America but want to. I plan to save and finish school in England first, so that take me 4 years from now. Any advice apart from what is above would be great.
    I also have a daughter who would be coming with me, she will be about 18 years and probably want to study over there.
    It’s very daunting, and not sure if I should start applying for anything yet?? I have a friend out there at the moment who is willing to sponsor me, can a friend do this or does it have to be family only??

    • peacefulyorkshire August 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm

      Hi witch 1811–
      Off the top of my head you will need a family member or a spouse not just a friend. Best to look on the US Gov immigration website for exact details. It can be a little daunting but best to be prepared and start checking up on everything you will need now so you can prepare yourself…. financially and emotionally. And also be aware that rules change year to year which obviously is frustrating!! Best wishes with this and please keep us ladies at SNFY updated. ;)

  3. pacificyorkshirebird January 7, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for the comments!

    Andrea – You are right, there are extra costs. In fact, we didn’t pay to ship anything because we had enough family coming and going within a few months of our move that we pawned all of our extra suitcases on them. And that was after a mighty purge of stuff! Had we shipped it, we’d have spent a fortune.

    And you are right about the insurance too. Yes, ours was catastrophic coverage only, and it was only short term insurance (up to 6 months coverage) which made a big difference on the price. We took the chance that one of us would get a job with insurance benefits within 6 months – and got lucky. If our six months expired, we would have had to go with coverage at a higher rate. We also used a broker – for the very reason you suggest, that my British husband was at risk of not getting coverage. I called a broker at the advice of the insurance carrier that we found using the website above. Turns out, with short term coverage it didn’t much matter but a longer contract would have been difficult for him.

    And the job search is rough too. My husband is still looking and we have to remind ourselves that it took me two years to get a job at the level I was comfortable when I went to the UK. The lack of a network is a killer when it comes to finding a great job.

    Here’s another guide to US cities without a single mention of Texas for Kim: http://www.employmentspot.com/employment-articles/the-best-cities-to-live-and-work-in/

    Expat Mum – great additions. I second the part about visas. They are a struggle no matter which direction you are headed. Definitely character building (and relationship testing) tools.

  4. Expat Mum January 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I would add a few things. Be prepared for a frustrating time with Visa applications (in either country). It can be very stressful. They have what you need and they have no competition, so they can do what the heck they like and take as long as they like too.

    Be a squeaky wheel if you think things are taking too long. Although you can track a lot of things on the web these days, papers and applications can and do get forgotten. Calling or e-mailing will keep on track.

    Get a sense of your chosen city in both summer and winter. I’m not sure I would have chosen Chicago if I’d known about the horrendous winters. The summers can get pretty hot and humid too!

    Think about the culture of the place – if you’re a dyed in the wool liberal, there are a lot of places in the States where you’ll feel erm, “different”. Vice versa if you’re very right wing too.

  5. Lady Who Lunches January 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    We knew we would be moving back by this summer, but it looks like it might be sooner for me. I can’t technically work here yet, and since we have to move back by the summer anyway, we figured it might make more sense for me to get a head start on making money back in the states.

    We decided on Chicago since that’s where we fell in love, and we both have friends there. The work visa for him is what’s going to be tricky (we’re not married yet), and can’t make ourselves do it for convenience reasons. We want to do it when we’re ready – so frustrating sometimes though!

    Thanks for this post. Nice to know others are going through the same thing.

  6. andrea January 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Remember the extra expenses that are easy to forget – the actual move, especially if you move anything more than 6 suitcases and have to use movers. Cars, if you move somewhere outside of NY really. We had an easy move back to Atlanta, but the last year has been difficult in the job search area. This is not the economy to just pick up, move back and find a job. At all. And while $65 a month for 2 people for insurance is great, it seems unpractical. Is it catastrophic insurance? Is it incredibly high deductible? We have 3 people on our plan, with high deductibles, and pay $500 a month. And we used a broker, because the site that was recommended can be overwhelming. I definitely recommend finding a broker, it doesn’t cost you anything. And be prepared that the UKC may have a hard time getting coverage at first, we only found one company in GA that would cover him for the first year.

  7. Kim January 1, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Great tips, even if the Forbes article about best cities for jobs was a bit Texas-heavy! ;-)

  8. Pingback: Where do you start when you want to move to America? | She's Not … | americantoday

  9. Jenny January 1, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I’m in the midst of this journey now. I moved to England in March to be with my husband and two step children. Our plan was to get settled as a family here, and then move to my hometown in about four years. That would give us a chance to “meld,” we’d have the opportunity to travel, and I could get citizenship in case we ever wanted to move back down the line. My husband. Our four year plan has now become a one year plan, though. Due to an unfortunate math error on our part, our oldest would be college age, not one year away from college like we thought initially, and that didn’t seem fair to her. Any other combination of staying would have been harder for us financially and/or emotionally. If we stayed two years, then I’d either have to leave ahead of them or pay for ILR and then leave right after getting it. If we stayed three years, I’d be *so close* to citizenship, but it wouldn’t be completed by the time we had to move.

    Then my cousin back home lost her caretaker, so we had a rent-free situation fall into our laps, so to speak. Her property is three miles from my parent’s house. It’s on 20 acres (our city born and bred children are so excited) and my cousin only comes to town twice a year. We’ll have our very own home, which is so exciting for us. Our other alternative was to live with my parents, but that was not going to be an ideal situation for any of us. We are hopeful about our job prospects, but the fact that we won’t have to pay rent gives us a little wiggle room that we would not otherwise have.

    I still have my moments of sadness about not getting to travel. Likely we won’t ever come back here, but I do still wish sometimes I had the opportunity to become a citizen (just in case – I’m a worrier and do not want to have to do this visa thing again). But between the timing and the opportunities this move is best for the family as a whole.

    I wish anyone in this process the best. It’s not easy, either physically or emotionally, but hopefully in the end it’s worth it.

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