Are you dreaming of immigrating to the USA, or are you even already in the middle of planning? Then our US immigration guide is just right for you! Here are all the answers about requirements, preparations, and relocation to the United States!
Take the chance of living in the USA and apply for the official US Green Card Lottery!
The USA is the undisputed number 1 country of choice for immigrants. No other country in the world has been shaped by its incomers as much as the United States of America.
Not without reason do the States act as a magnet for people wanting more out of life than a 9-to-5 job: those who immigrate to the USA will find flexible career opportunities, an endless variety of cultures, landscapes, and lifestyles, as well as a place for adventure and self-fulfillment.
The key hurdle for any US immigrant: you need a residence and work permit. Therefore, if you want to live in the United States indefinitely, you must apply for a Green Card.
The easiest way to get a Green Card is through the US government's annual Green Card Lottery. 55,000 Green Cards are drawn at random each year to participants from all over the world.
The participation requirements for the Green Card Lottery are so low that the American dream can come true for almost anyone: you only need a high school diploma or equivalent (or two years of qualified work experience).
However, there are other ways to get a Green Card. But these are associated with heavy requirements and, in some cases, unreasonable waiting times. Alternative routes to the Green Card include:
Immigration to the USA without a Green Card is possible - at least temporarily. If you do not qualify for any of the Green Card paths listed here, then living and working temporarily in the US on a work visa (e.g., E visa or L visa) may be a good alternative for you.
Yet, the path from a work visa to a Green Card is not easy and full of bureaucratic hurdles. Therefore, we recommend that you always have a ticket in the Green Card Lottery pot during all your immigration efforts.
The amount of money your emigration to the United States will cost depends on your personal journey. For example, while winning the Green Card Lottery is one of the cheapest methods of emigration, a Green Card by investment costs an enormous amount of money.
There are certain basic costs for government agencies, translations, medical examinations, and the physical move to the USA that are incurred with every immigration to the USA, regardless of the personal path to the Green Card. In any case, plan on the following costs:
|Immigration to the USA: costs
(varies depending on petition type)
|$ 330 - $ 3.675
|USCIS Immigrant Fee
Photo and fingerprints
for documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, certificates of good conduct, and others
With a licensed panel physician
|$ 250 - 350
Vary depending on scope, shipping company, and means of transportation
|$ 5.000 - 20.000
|Flight to the USA
Tip: free flights when participating in the Green Card Lottery with The American Dream
|$ 200 - 800
|Deposit for apartment or house
|Costs for a rental car or car purchase
|Application and testing fees for American driver's license
|vary by state
|Cost of living for the first few weeks
On average, residents of US metropolitan areas need a median income of $ 68,499 to live comfortably, according to cnbc.com.
Among metropolitan areas, St. Louis is considered the least expensive, with a required salary of $ 57,446, and San Francisco is considered the most expensive, with a salary of more than $ 84,000.
If we move away from the urban centers and also consider living in quiet areas of the US, it can get truly inexpensive, especially in the Midwest.
Depending on where you live, life is either more affordable (e.g., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) or more expensive (e.g., in Los Angeles, California) for homeowners than renters. When searching for the best place to live in the United States, it's best to take a look at the Economic Research and Information Center's Cost of Living Index.
The Cost of Living Index is calculated to compare the quality of life in different cities in the United States. For this purpose, prices and costs for housing, goods, and services are compared, broken down by category, and weighted in comparison to the local average income.
In the American Cost of Living Index, the number 100 represents the national average. Regions with an index above 100 are considered expensive or very expensive, while regions with an index below 95 are considered affordable.
The Cost of Living Index evaluation shows: if you want to live on the West Coast or in the Northeast of the United States, you'll have to dig pretty deep into your pockets. However, living in the Midwest or the South, like Texas or Georgia, is comparatively affordable.
Forbes named "The Best (And Cheapest) Places To Live In The US" in 2023:
If you want to emigrate to the USA, you can choose between 50 states that are as diverse as they can be. The USA has it all, from hippie desert states over the arctic wilderness to idylls with paradise beaches.
When choosing the perfect place to live in the United States, find out in advance about state climates, resident companies as potential employers, average commute times, or even the demographics as potential clientele for starting a business.
The better you prepare for your immigration, the more relaxed the start of your new American life will be. Get busy with the following preparations:
You will need a number of documents in the application process for your Green Card as well as when entering the country, renting housing, applying for a driver's license, getting a Social Security Card, obtaining credit cards, and opening a bank account in the US.
Prepare the following documents to have everything ready:
If you are in a hurry, you can also apply for your Social Security Card at the US Embassy or Consulate. However, it is easier to do this on-site in the US.
Do you work in a profession that requires registration, certification, a title, or a diploma in the United States? This applies, for example, to nurses, teachers, physical therapists, real estate agents, doctors, or police officers.
In order to continue working in your profession after you emigrate to the USA, you may be required to complete advanced training. Examples of additional qualifications for various professions in the United States:
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) career search engine careeronestop.org can help you find out whether you need a license or continuing education to practice your profession in the United States.
Apart from professional qualifications, it can be helpful to polish up your English specifically. Professional foreign language courses are available in all varieties and with different (professional) focuses. Also, learning English with a smartphone app is very effective and can be great fun.
In many regions of the USA, basic knowledge of Spanish is of great value! Therefore, consider booking the premium package with multiple languages when signing up for a language course.
You should get international health insurance for your first time in the USA. However, arrange for your American health insurance soon.
Are you moving to the USA with children? Then take a look at the American school system. Also, keep in mind that you must always carry documents proving the legality of your trip together when traveling with kids. These include, for example:
To bring pets to the United States, you will need to make the following preparations:
The regulations for bringing your pet vary by US state. Use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Digital Import Wizard if you are unsure.
Do you have all the applications, permits, and documents in place? If so, you can now begin preparing for your move to the United States. This includes taking an inventory of your household goods, finding a moving company, booking flights, and organizing your first accommodation in the USA.
When moving overseas, your household goods are priced in cubic meters, and this can get quite expensive. Therefore, it is much cheaper to purchase new or used furniture and household appliances in the USA instead of shipping your personal belongings in a container.
When choosing your moving company, stick to certified businesses and a few precautions:
Bringing a motor vehicle to the USA involves high costs and bureaucratic hurdles. These include transportation expenses, customs and border protection rules for importing vehicles into the States, and upgrading to different safety, bumper-to-bumper, anti-theft, and emissions standards.
Therefore, we recommend selling your automobile before emigrating to the United States and purchasing an American car.
Unless you have relatives or friends in the United States, you will need a place to stay for some time after entering the country.
The following websites will help you find an apartment for a short-term rental (month-to-month contract) in any US state:
Your entry into the USA will be different when you arrive at the American border not as a tourist but as a Permanent Resident. Let our Green Card winners' stories inspire you and find out what it feels like to emigrate to the land of opportunity!
Welcome to the United States of America! The following things are now on your to-do list before your new life in the USA begins for real:
Without a Social Security number, you cannot work in the United States, register for a telephone or electricity service, or open an American bank account.
To apply for a Social Security number, go to a Social Security Administration office near your residence and fill out Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card). Normally, you will receive your Social Security Card within 15 days. However, in exceptional cases, it may take up to four weeks.
Immediately after your arrival in the USA, you can drive with your old driver's license. Nevertheless, you will need an American driver's license after twelve months at the latest (depending on the state).
The American driver's license is not only for driving in the USA but is (like your Social Security Card and your Green Card) an important and helpful proof of identity that opens many doors in your daily life.
You can get your US driver's license from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state. Here's what you'll need to do:
Each state in the USA has its own regulations for obtaining a driver's license and even its own traffic rules. Learn about the rules in your state on the DMV's website.
For a solid health insurance that covers doctor visits and medical emergencies in the American health care system, you can negotiate a good deal with your future US employer or use government and/or private insurance components on your own.
You pay into the American pension system with your Social Security contributions. The state pension system in the United States consists of pension and disability coverage as well as coverage for surviving dependents.
In addition, it is advisable to arrange for private coverage. The USA's 401(k) plans enable employees to pay part of their income tax-free into investment funds. Often, employers also participate in the contributions. Address this as part of your benefits negotiations for your employment contract in the USA.
Some countries have social security agreements with the United States. If you have paid pension contributions in your home country for a period specified in the agreement, you can also draw your pension while residing in the USA.
Once you have your Social Security number, you can open an account at an American bank. To do this, present your Green Card, Social Security card, an address in the United States, and a photo, and deposit a starting balance.
Lenders, landlords, car salespeople, and even credit card companies in the USA evaluate you according to your credit history. However, the so-called credit score can first be built up only after emigration to the USA.
US immigrants often face a problem here: no major purchases or credit card contracts are possible without a credit score. At the same time, the credit score can only be built up through positive purchasing and repayment behavior. Fortunately, there is a creative workaround for this:
A popular trick used by US immigrants is to start using an American Express credit card while still in the home country. The AMEX card can then be converted into an American credit card after emigrating to the US.
Do you want to move into an apartment or a house after your immigration? Would you like to buy or rent?
If you want to rent an apartment in the US, you will either need a credit score or pay a certain amount in advance as collateral to your landlord. When browsing apartment ads, there are a few things to keep in mind:
By the way, rent in the USA is often paid in cash or by check. You usually get your first set of checks for free from your American bank.
In the USA, it is common to hire a real estate agent when buying property. They find you the best deals and also advise you on the ins and outs of the American real estate market.
Important tips for buying a house in the USA:
If you own a property in the USA, you usually have to pay a "property tax." In some US states, it is even paid on expensive cars.
Your success in finding a job in the United States may depend on your Green Card, which is your permanent work permit for the USA. The following job application tips will accelerate your search for the employer of your dreams:
Have you taken everything into consideration? To ensure you don't forget anything when planning your immigration to the USA, we have created a handy immigration checklist for you to download.
It's perfectly normal to get help in making your immigration to the United States a complete success. Long before hiring a relocation company, realtor, or job agent, many first-time emigrants begin seeking help even before applying for a Green Card or US visa - and for a good reason:
Especially when dealing with the US authorities, many bureaucratic hurdles and pitfalls lurk for potential immigrants. However, the residence permit is the most important building block for immigration to the USA.
In order to prevent the risk of refusals, expensive delays, or in the worst case, entry barriers, there are government-licensed immigration consultants you can hire. For 25 years, the USA experts of The American Dream have been assisting US immigrants in the Green Card application process and guiding them through their first steps towards their American dream.
In addition to your guaranteed and flawless participation in the Green Card Lottery, with in-person checks of your application documents, The American Dream offers you a number of other services:
Do you have more questions about emigrating to the USA? Then you are guaranteed to find what you are looking for in our US immigration FAQ.