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Living in the USA

Beautiful landscapes, excellent career opportunities, a relaxed lifestyle – there are many reasons for living in the USA! We have compiled the most important information about the "American way of life" and explain how you can quickly settle into the country of your dreams.

Where are immigrants in the USA headed?

If you are taking the bold move to start a new life in the USA, you must first determine which state and city you would like to live in. The decision will not be easy because the United States offers incredible diversity in every respect.

Popular states for USA immigrants

Which of the 50 US states is the best place to live? Immigrants to the United States are truly spoiled for choice. However, these four states are particularly sought-after:


The Sunshine State of Florida has always been a favorite among America lovers. Year-round warm temperatures, beautiful white beaches, vibrant cities, affordable real estate, and excellent infrastructure – in Florida, you can enjoy life!


The Golden State impresses with its 1,300 km long Pacific coast, breathtaking national parks, and subtropical climate. Furthermore, California is home to some of the most exciting metropolises in the United States. In cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles, many innovative and internationally operating corporations have settled, which also provide excellent career opportunities for immigrants.

New York

You'll be right in your element in New York City if you love the hustle and bustle of a big town. The never-sleeping city is a financial center, entertainment capital, and tourism hotspot. Thousands of expats have set foot on American soil here for the first time over the years. And quite a few of them stayed and benefited from the excellent job opportunities and the unique urban lifestyle in the Big Apple.


No region represents the Wild West vibe as much as the Lone Star State. To this day, you'll still run into a cowboy or two in Texas. Apart from that, you can expect many hours of sunshine, livable cities, and hearty Southern specialties such as the popular Texan barbecue.


If you have a Green Card, you are free to choose your place of residence in the United States. You can obtain this card, for example, by participating in the Green Card Lottery, in which the US authorities give away 55,000 of the popular Permanent Resident Cards every year.

Cost of living in the USA

An important factor when choosing a new place to live in the USA is the cost of living. These also vary depending on the region and state.

The American Cost of Living Index indicates how much the cost of living in a region deviates from the national average. This is indicated by the number 100. If the Cost of Living Index in a state is above 100, it is considered expensive or very expensive. In states with a Cost of Living Index below 95, life is considered fairly inexpensive.

The cost of living in the USA map

Generally speaking, living in the famous metropolises and business centers such as New York City or San Francisco is rather costly. In rural, less densely populated regions, on the other hand, the cost of housing, goods, and services is comparatively low.

States with high costs of living

The Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific West Coast, and the Northeast are the most expensive regions in the United States. The states with the highest cost of living in 2022 are:

  • Hawaii (192.9)
  • California (151.7)
  • New York (139.1)
  • Oregon (134.2)
  • Massachusetts (131.6)

States with low cost of living

The Midwestern states and the South of the US, in particular, have the most favorable prices. The states with the lowest cost of living in 2022 are:

  • Mississippi (86.1)
  • Arkansas (86.9)
  • Oklahoma (87.0)
  • Missouri (87.1)
  • New Mexico (87.5)
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Finding a home in the USA

If you plan on moving to the USA, you should already take care of accommodation before you leave. Here, you can decide whether you want to rent an apartment or directly buy a property.

Renting an apartment in the USA

Online you can find thousands of apartment listings. Take a look at the following websites if you want to rent an apartment in the USA:


Unless you plan on living in a particular city, you should avoid signing long-term leases that run for several months or years for the time being. With a so-called month-to-month contract, you remain flexible and avoid unnecessary costs when changing your place of residence within the USA.

Couple in the middle of boxes

The cost of housing varies widely across the United States. In general, it can be said that urban regions and the states with a high Cost of Living Index also have the highest housing prices.

Buying a house in the USA

Buying a home in the USA is relatively straightforward, as there are no federal restrictions on the real estate market. Basically, anyone who has the necessary amount of money can buy a house in the United States, even if they don't have a Green Card or US citizenship. It is best to hire a real estate agent to help you find a suitable property.

Typically, you will be faced with additional costs due to taxes, which you should include as a part of the purchase price. Before buying a house, consult a financial and legal expert for advice on the tax situation in the state where you want to buy the house.

Also, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage to provide financial assistance in case of severe weather, fire, burglary, and more.

Driving in the USA

Driving a car is an essential part of everyday life in the United States. In the more sparsely populated parts of the US, it is even necessary to have your own car to travel the sometimes long distances between your home and your place of work or the surrounding towns.

Even immigrants without a car should apply for an American driver's license as soon as possible. It not only entitles you to drive a vehicle but also serves as proof of identity.

To exchange your driver's license for an American one, you must contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state. There are no nationwide regulations. Each of the 50 states has different rules and deadlines for the exchange. Some states even require you to pass an additional theory or practical driving test.

If you move to the USA with a child of school age, you must enroll them in an American school. Although age limits and school types vary by state, children in the USA roughly move through the grades:

  • Nursery School / Preschool (up to 5 years old)
  • Elementary School / Primary School (approx. 5 to 10 years old)
  • Middle School / Junior High School (approx. 11 to 13 years old)
  • High School (approx. 14 to 18 years old)

A unique feature of the American school system is the abundant amount of extracurricular activities available after school. This gives your child the opportunity to pursue their talents, find new interests, and socialize with others. The options mostly consist of sports such as American football, basketball, track and field, or cheerleading, as well as other educational activities such as theater, debate club, school band, school newspaper, and much more.

Study in the USA

Choosing a college is an important step in the lives of young Americans. As an expat, you can also benefit from the outstanding educational opportunities offered by the United States. A degree from a renowned US college opens up excellent career opportunities for you across the world.

American colleges are highly respected and known for their state-of-the-art research facilities. In the 2022 global university rankings, American universities took 12 of the top 25 spots. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, MIT - which elite American university is it going to be for you?


To study in the USA, you need a student visa or a Green Card. The latter offers many advantages when studying in the USA. For example, as a Green Card holder, you pay up to 80% less tuition in the United States.

Career in the USA

The United States is a vast country with unlimited opportunities, especially in the world of business. Whether you want to make a career in a multinational corporation or fulfill your dream of owning your own firm, the USA is the place to be!

Finding a job

There are various options to get to the USA through employment, e.g., with an E-visa, L-visa, or H-1B visa. However, the process of seeking employment in the USA is often lengthy and involves high costs and many bureaucratic hurdles. However, you will have a great advantage if you already have a Green Card, which allows you to freely choose and change your employer in the United States.

You can find detailed information on the job search in our extensive guide on working in the USA.

Founding a company

Do you dream of being your own boss? It is not that difficult to establish a company in the USA! If you don't have a Green Card yet, but you dispose of sufficient capital, you can also come to the United States as an investor.

Find inspiration in the story of our Green Card winner Monique, who founded not just one, but several companies in the US!

Retirement in the USA

The Southern States of the USA, the so-called "Sun Belt," are a dream destination for immigrants who want to spend their retirement in the USA. The cities of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Palm Beach in Florida are known as "pensioners' paradises." But also in Texas, South Carolina, Arizona, or California can be enjoyed in old age.

Since there is no retiree visa for the USA, the possession of a Green Card is of great value. It allows you to stay in the United States indefinitely. If you just want to spend the winter in the States, you can use a B-visa to stay for six months at a time or an ESTA authorization to stay in the US for 90 days at a time.

If you are a Green Card holder and have already worked in the United States for ten years, you qualify for retirement benefits in the USA. You may also be able to get credit for years of contributions from your home country. Check the regulations in the respective social security agreement between the USA and your home country.

Couple of retirees at a pool

Health care in the USA

If you come to America as an immigrant, you should also make sure that you have sufficient health insurance coverage. In principle, there is no compulsory insurance in the United States, but the cost of medication and treatment in the USA is about 2.5 times higher than in other industrialized nations. In the event of a medical emergency, you would have to pay expensive doctor or hospital bills completely out of your own pocket if you are not insured.

The American health care system consists of various government programs as well as a large number of private providers. Public health insurance is only available to certain groups of people (e.g., US citizens aged 65 and older or members of the US military). Green Card holders and other so-called "qualified non-citizens" are also eligible for government assistance through Medicare and Medicaid. In most cases, however, they must have lived and worked in the US for at least five years.

For the first few months, it is advisable to take out an international health insurance for the USA. Once you have settled in, you can look for your own private insurance. If you have the option of obtaining health insurance through your employer, they will usually cover some of the costs.

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Experiences of our Green Card winners

Immigrating to the USA is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that comes with many challenges but also numerous wonderful moments. Let our Green Card winners serve as your guide. In our testimonials, they tell you how it feels to immigrate to the land of opportunity and provide valuable tips for the start of your new life!

  • The support from The American Dream was essential, especially after the winning notification. The most important thing for me was access to the winner’s community. You can share ideas with all the other winners there: What were their experiences? What is it really like to move to the USA? Which things do you need to consider? It's also very reassuring to hear: It's all relatively easy.
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    Thomas B. - Green Card winner from Bavaria
  • You have made my childhood dream come true! What hung for years as a picture on the wall finally comes true...
    Miami - here I come!
    As an architect and designer, I now want to develop my own kitchen series for the American market and am now looking for investors who want to support me. Best wishes from Munich, Simone
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    Simone S. - Munich, Germany
  • First, I couldn't believe that I really won. Now I can finally hold it in my hand and can start living my dream in the USA. Thanks so much to The American Dream Team. Great service and very helpful!
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    Marijan J. - Pirmasens, Germany
  • We were lucky enough to win the second time we tried! From that moment on The American Dream was very helpful and supportive. Thank you very much for your friendly assistance in the past couple of months, great team! It wouldn’t have been possible without you! In July 2018 we went on our activation trip and next February we are flying over again to turn our American dream into reality.
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    Ulrich, Andrea & Lena V. - Dresden, Germany
  • Unbelievable – We are actually holding our Green Cards in our hands! The first try was already successful. Last year on Peter’s birthday we received the winner’s notification. This year’s birthday we were in Los Angeles. Our activation trip was magical. Thanks so much to the TAD team for the trouble-free experience!
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    Peter and Svenja L. - Bahlingen, Germany
  • I could only believe it myself when I was at the US consulate in Frankfurt, Germany. Now I actually have the proper green card. The support and the thorough preparation from TAD during the whole process were great. Special thanks and to all participants of the on-going lottery: Never give up! I did win after the fourth time.
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    Sebastian E. - Munich, Germany
  • We always had it in the back of our minds: at some point, we want to go to the United States. Of course, we participated in the Green Card Lottery, but you never know in advance: When will you be lucky? It comes all of a sudden and unexpectedly.
    I opened the email, and it said "Congratulations!" That made me feel funny at first. And then I went crazy with joy! We had good support through The American Dream. That was the main thing for us as self-employed people: you don't have much time to take care of things on the side. It lifted a burden from us.
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    Stefan and Stanija Kassek - Green Card winners from Brüggen
  • I would like to thank you for your support and help in obtaining my Green Card! For me it already worked after the 2nd time. I had no idea how to proceed from there. But thanks to the great support of your team everything went very easy :-) Since my grandfather came from the USA, I still had no chance to immigrate unbureaucratically. So I tried it via TAD and was happy that it worked out after the 2nd time. Now I can realize my dream and get to my roots. To all participants... never lose hope!
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    Helmut H. - Munich, Germany
  • It worked out the first time and now I'm going to mix up the media industry in Los Angeles a bit! Thanks to TAD for making this possible and the support.
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    Matthias H. - Munich, Germany
  • This is the dream of my life come true. With this Green Card, I will be able to start a new life. I thank The American Dream for their precious help through the process. Thanks a lot!!
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    Pierre G. - Paris, France

Typically American: everyday life in the USA

Politics, history, holidays, sports, and food: if you are familiar with the important routines and customs of your new home, you will settle in more quickly.

Holidays in the USA

As we all know, everything is a little bigger in America. Of course, this also applies to the celebrations. These holidays are typically American:

Independence Day

Independence Day on July 4th is the National Holiday of the USA. Americans have been celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence since 1777 with opulent fireworks, magnificent parades, many concerts, and lots of good vibes!

Valentine’s Day

The lovers' day on February 14th is celebrated all over the world today. But in no other country do people show as much love as in the USA. On Valentine's Day, small gifts are given not only to the romantic partner but also to teachers, friends, family members, and pets.


Creepy decorations, gruesome costumes, nasty pranks: there's no night as spooky as Halloween! Traditionally, October 31st is one of the Americans' favorite holidays. You should definitely look forward to your first Halloween party in America!


Thanksgiving is all about food. Along with Christmas, it is the most important family holiday in the USA. As a new American, you, too, should celebrate the feast of gratitude with a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner this year!

Food and drinks

Every region in the USA has its own specialties and culinary highlights that will delight your senses. You should also not miss out on a tour to the culinary hotspots of your new home, e.g., Portland, San Francisco, or New York City.

These typical American dishes are definitely something you should try:

  • Hamburger / cheeseburger
  • Hot dog
  • Barbecue, short BBQ (mainly popular in the Southern States)
  • Deep dish pizza, also Chicago style pizza (pizza baked in a pan with a high rim)
  • New York-style pizza (pizza with a thin crust)
  • Clam chowder (soup made from large venus clams)
  • Apple pie (apple cake with pastry grid)
  • Key lime pie (flat tart with limes and meringue crust)
  • Brownie (rich chocolate cake)
  • Donut (fried pastry rings with a sugar or chocolate glaze)

Good to know

Since tips are not included in the bill and salaries in the restaurant industry are relatively low, it is standard practice to give the waiter a (generous) tip when visiting a restaurant in the USA. For quick and friendly service, you should add about 15 % to 30 % of the invoice total as a tip.

US sports

America is a very sport-loving country. Watching a sporting event together is a popular pastime for the whole family or a group of friends. It is also a perfect opportunity to get into conversation and make new friends quickly in your new home.

As a new American, you should therefore have some basic knowledge of these popular US sports:

  • American Football
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Ice hockey

Also, mark the Super Bowl date in February very boldly in your calendar! The finale of the American Football League (NFL) is the most important American sporting event of the year and regularly achieves the highest TV ratings.

American citizenship

Receiving a US passport is the final step in your American journey. This is how you can get American citizenship:

Path to American citizenship

After three to five years in the USA, Green Card holders have the opportunity to become American citizens. Becoming a US citizen means accepting all the responsibilities associated: you will pledge allegiance to the United States, and you must respect and protect the American Constitution.

However, obtaining a US passport also gives you some privileges and benefits, such as:

  • the right to vote in presidential elections
  • the opportunity to run for a public office
  • the opportunity to participate in a court trial as a member of the jury
  • shorter Green Card waiting times for your family members
  • no need to renew residency documents

If you meet the necessary requirements for naturalization in the United States, you can become a true American. The path to a US passport takes you through a multi-step process consisting of:

  • an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • the naturalization test
  • the naturalization ceremony

Woman and child with USA flag

Dual citizenship

Good news for all those who are thinking about applying for American citizenship but are not (yet) ready to part with the old one: according to US law, it is possible to have dual citizenship.

Note: Before naturalization in the US, you must find out about the necessary requirements to keep your "old" citizenship (e.g., proof of existing ties to your home country).

News from the USA

We inform you on everything worth knowing about the country of your dreams. Sign up now for The American Dream Newsletter and receive breaking news and interesting facts about the USA every week!

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