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A guide to the US as an expat

Are you planning on making, or in the midst of a long-term, or perhaps even permanent move to the United States? To help you prepare, we’ve compiled some information on everything from visa requirements, to healthcare and schooling options to consider after you’ve settled into your new home abroad.


327,167,434 according to a 2018 estimate [1]
Largest city: New York
Capital city: Washington D.C.
National language: English
Currency: United States Dollar (USD)

Language and diversity in the US

The official language of the US is English however, the US is an extremely diverse country, with over 350 languages known to be spoken throughout the country and its economic success often attributed to immigration.

Visa requirements

Visa requirements and working in the US

Most people will need to apply for a visa before entering the US Although they currently have a visa-waiver program, which allows people from 38 countries to enter the country without a visa for 90-days. This includes Australia, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea. the United Kingdom and more.
The most popular work visas are the H1-B visa and the L visa. The H1-B visa is for expats who have completed higher education and can offer specific skills that companies in the US require.
The L visa is appropriate for employees of an international company who have been transferred to America. These visas allow you to stay in the country between 5 and 7 years, with the possibility of extension. If you are looking to work in America for a more extended amount of time you will need to apply for a permanent residency card, often called a green card.
Language and diversity in Australia

Healthcare in the US

It’s best to look into getting private health insurance if you are moving to the US as there are not currently any medical financial assistance schemes that expats can access, and without private insurance, you can expect to pay very expensive fees for healthcare.

Payment and Finances in the US

It is a good idea to open a US bank account either prior to arriving, or once you've arrived. By doing so, you can easily use a global money transfer service like OFX to move money between your home account and your new account. When you use a specialist service like OFX, you can get the money you need without getting hit with the high margins and fees that your bank would charge for the same type of transfer. Sign up for an OFX account in less than 5 minutes, and see what you can save.
When it comes to paying for goods and services in the US, whether you are shopping for clothes, eating at a restaurant, or paying for a ride in a taxi, credit and debit cards are an option. However, cash is also widely accepted, and many people use ATMs to get cash fast whenever they need it.
Schooling in Australia

Schooling options in the US

There are a variety of different options for sending your kids to school in the US. For expats living in the US for a short time, it often makes sense to look for an international school. International schools follow the curricula of your home country, allowing students to transition back into schooling easier if you decide to go back home. 

There are international schools in all major cities. Although international schools can often have long wait lists, so it is worth applying in advance. Keep in mind that these schools can also have quite expensive tuition fees.
Understanding public schooling quality can be quite hard to navigate as an expat because it varies widely depending on where you live. Generally, schools are higher rated and have better facilities in wealthier suburbs, as they are funded by local property taxes. This means that if you are planning on sending your kids to public school it is worth considering which area you would like to live as students are only allowed to attend a high school if they're residing in that area. Public school tuition is free, however, there may be some additional costs like textbooks. 
Alternatively, you may want to have your children attend a private school. They don’t have to conform to government educational directives, meaning that they are more flexible around what they teach and afford more opportunity for co-curricular activities and special assistance for those that need it. Most private schools in the US have religious affiliations. They can also be quite expensive and have long wait lists, so it is worth looking to apply early.

Please be advised that while every effort is made to keep this information up to date, OFX does not provide employment, immigration or tax advice or the like, and you should always consult an employment, immigration or tax professional about your unique circumstances.
IMPORTANT: The contents of this blog do not constitute financial advice and are provided for general information purposes only without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any particular person. UKForex Limited (trading as “OFX”) and its affiliates make no recommendation as to the merits of any financial strategy or product referred to in the blog. OFX makes no warranty, express or implied, concerning the suitability, completeness, quality or exactness of the information and models provided in this blog.

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