a family moving to usa

How to Move to the US: A Step-By-Step Guide for Newcomers

Dec 30, 2023

The US has been known as the land of opportunities for over a century, so millions of people consider moving to USA each year. And the best part about it is that America is open to immigrants from all over the world, regardless of origin, race, or gender. Here are some numbers to prove that:

Not only is the US incredibly diverse, but its immigrant population has also massively contributed to developing its economy over the years. So whether you’re looking for a world-class education, a new job, or want to relocate to the US due to its ethnic diversity, political stability, and strong economy, the country will welcome you with open arms.

However, relocating to the US is not easy. And with so many people interested in doing the same, you will have high competition.

That’s why in this article, we will guide you through all the steps necessary to move to America from anywhere in the world. But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s first see why so many dream of moving to USA in the first place…

Why People Like Moving to USA

The US was built on a system where anyone, regardless of their background, can create a future for themselves and prosper. And that’s one of the most common reasons people worldwide want to move to America. 

Ever since the inception of the American Dream, the US has been known as the land of opportunity. And today is no different.

America has much to offer to foreign nationals, including the following:

  • Prospective career opportunities;
  • The world’s largest and most stable economy;
  • State-of-the-art medical facilities;
  • Renowned higher education system;
  • Diverse and multi-cultural population;
  • And much more…

However, with such a high demand for emigrating to the USA also comes strict regulation… 

a person is relocating to USA and moving there so boxes are packed

How Hard Is It to Relocate to the US?

Although millions want to move to the US each year, doing so is incredibly difficult and usually requires a lot of luck. 

Since over 10 million immigrants without papers live in the country as of 2023, the US tightened its immigration laws, which made the process long and tedious.

Many factors will influence your likelihood of getting a US visa successfully, and here are just some of them:

  • What country you’re applying from;
  • The reason you want to relocate to the US;
  • Your financial capabilities;
  • Your level of education;
  • How well you speak English.

Out of these four factors, the first one influences your odds the most (as unfair as it may seem). However, that doesn’t mean you can’t move to America from any country in the world — because you can. It does mean you will need more luck (and likely a better portfolio) to do it.

Historically, the US has a more favorable outlook on immigrants from other English-speaking countries like the UK, Canada, or Australia. You’ll have better odds of getting your visa accepted if you’re from one of them.

Some other countries the US looks favorably upon are:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • Norway

However, if you hail from a low-income country, you’ll need to have a great portfolio and nail your visa interview or participate in the Green Card Diversity Lottery or you can check out other options, such as H1B Visa Lottery.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Moving from the UK to the US

Moving to USA in 4 Simple Steps

Regardless of where you’re from, the process of moving to USA will be the same. Here are the four steps you’ll need to take (and pass) to relocate to America:

1. Get Your Documentation Sorted

Before you can even apply for a visa and consider relocating to America permanently, you’ll need to ensure you have the necessary documentation. Although the required documents may vary based on the country you’re applying from, the following are a must for everyone:

  • Up-to-date passport;
  • A document outlining your reason for immigration (e.g., job offer letter);
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport-sized photo for the visa application;
  • Proof of financial means;
  • Proof of payment of the required visa fees.

Besides these documents, you may also need to provide the following in certain cases:

  • Marriage certification;
  • Military records;
  • Court and prison records;
  • Medical examination report;
  • Proof of vaccination (from COVID-19).

Always double-check for any country-specific requirements before proceeding further. 

Related: A Complete Guide on Moving to USA from Australia

visa interview for moving to USA

2. Find and Secure the Right Visa

Once you have the documents ready, it’s time to choose a visa to apply for. In that regard, you have two options to pick from: 

  • Immigrant visas
  • Non-immigrant visas

The former allows you to permanently relocate to the US and live there longer. The latter are temporary visas, usually handed out for work, education, or visits.

If you want to move and live in the US, you should aim to secure an immigrant visa. However, you may not always be able to secure one from the get-go. In that case, starting with a non-immigrant visa could be a good idea, as it allows you to get a foothold inside the US and look for opportunities for permanent relocation during your limited stay there.

Many American immigrants start with a non-immigrant visa and work toward a green card once they arrive in the US, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t secure a permanent visa immediately.

Overall, here’s an overview of the different types of US visas you can apply for as a foreigner:

Tourist Visas

Tourist visas are temporary, non-immigrant visas travelers can use to enter the US for up to 180 days for each visit. Once attained, these visas are valid for ten years before you’ll need to renew them.

Anyone can apply for a tourist visa, but getting one will require a detailed background check, an interview inside a US consulate, and a detailed risk assessment by US officials.

However, over a dozen countries fall under the US Visa Waiver Program, allowing their residents to enter the USA without a tourist visa. If you are from one of those countries (e.g., Canada, the UK, Norway, Australia), you can enter the States without a tourist visa.

For a complete list of countries that fall under the Visa Waiver Program, visit the US government’s official travel website

Student Visas

Student Visas Description
F Visas F visas or student visas are awarded to foreigners looking to study in the US (higher education).
M Visas M visas or vocational student visas are given to foreigners pursuing vocational studies in the US, except for language training programs.
J Visas J visas or exchange student visas are awarded to foreigners participating in exchange student programs with the US.

Student visas are one of the most straightforward ones to acquire as long as you enroll in a US educational institution. However, all of these visas are temporary and won’t allow you to stay in the country once you finish your studies.

If you plan to continue living in the USA afterward, your best bet will be to look for a work visa.

Work Visas

Work Visas Description
H-B1 Visa H-1B visa or a Temporary Work visa is handed out to foreigners entering the US to work for an American employer, with the ability to renew it every several years.
L-1 Visa L-1 visa or Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager visa is awarded to foreigners employed by a US company who are temporarily transferred to work in the States from one of their affiliate offices.
O-1 Visa O-1 visa or Extraordinary Abilities visa is handed out to individuals with extraordinary achievements in academia, business, athletics, or similar disciplines.
EB-3 Visa EB-3 visa or Employment-Based Immigration visa is given to foreigners who accept a job from a US company in a highly specialized field or discipline.

Work visas are one of the easiest visas to get approved, but they require an invitation from a US employer. On top of that, most work visas are temporary and will require you to renew them regularly to stay in the country. Still, this visa is one of the easiest ways to get a foothold in the USA and start working toward your green card.

Investor Visas

Investor Visas Description
E-1 Visa E-1 visa or Treaty Trader visa is handed out to foreign businessmen or entrepreneurs who’ve developed lasting trade relations with the US.
E-2 Visa E-2 visa or Treaty Investor visa is awarded to foreign nationals who plan to invest a certain amount of capital in a US business.
EB-5 Visa EB-5 visa or Immigrant Investor visa is an immigrant visa awarded only to the largest foreign investors. Only those who plan to invest at least $1 million into a US business that will create a minimum of ten jobs can apply for this visa.

The US is incredibly open to nonresident investors, which is why it offers a variety of visas to anyone who invests in the US economy. If you are in such a position, you won’t have any issues securing a visa for yourself, as investor visas have the largest acceptance rates.

a young woman applied for us visa with diversity program

Diversity Lottery Green Cards

If, unfortunately, you aren’t eligible for any of the above visas, there is still one option for you — to enroll in the USA’s Diversity Visa Program. This program is an initiative run by the US government that gives 55,000 foreigners worldwide a chance to earn a Green Card and start moving to USA.

Users can apply for this program online at no cost. However, the program gives precedence to applicants from countries with low immigration rates to the US. So, if you hail from a country that people often leave to move to America, your odds of getting this visa will be lower.

So even if you exhaust all your other options, you should stay persistent and keep applying for this program until you get chosen one day.

3. Find a Place to Rent or Buy a Home

Whether you’re leaving for America to work, study, or relocate permanently, you’ll need a place to stay. In that regard, you have two options: live as a tenant or buy yourself a home.

Finding an apartment or house to rent isn’t too difficult anywhere in the US. There are over 20 million rental units all across the country. As of 2023, the average rent price in the US is around $1,400 but goes up to several thousand in more expensive states like New York or California. Although renting is a solid option, it’s undoubtedly the inferior one.

If you have the funds, buying a home from the get-go is much better. Home prices across the US vary greatly, but there are states where you can buy a house for under $300,000. If you are interested to see the average US house prices, we wrote about that recently.

Even that is a lot of money — yes. But you don’t need to pay it upfront.

Most people don’t realize that even foreigners can get a mortgage loan in the US. And covering the costs of a downpayment is significantly easier than buying a property with cash. At the same time, it’s much better to funnel your money toward paying off a mortgage each month than covering rent costs. Because, unlike rent, a mortgage is a long-term investment.

Related: US Mortgage for Canadian Citizens – Complete Guide

4. Prepare for Relocation

After you get your living situation sorted out, all that’s left to cover are a few essentials before you can start your new life in the US:

  • Hire a Reliable Moving Company — Organizing and managing your moving efforts can be stressful and time-consuming. You can simplify the entire process by delegating the work to a professional moving agency.
  • Cover the Costs of Moving to USA — Before moving to USA, you must consider all the expenses that are inevitably tied to the process. The moving costs will vary significantly based on how much stuff you’re taking with you, which country you’re moving from, and how you decide to travel. These costs can often reach anywhere between $4,000 and $12,000.
  • Apply for a Social Security Number — Whether you’re moving to USA temporarily or permanently, having a Social Security Number (SSN) offers many benefits. If you aren’t eligible for one, you can always use an ITIN instead.
  • Open a US Bank Account — Whether you already got a job or will start looking for one after you move, you will need a private US bank account. You should open one before arriving since that will make your life much easier.
  • Get a Credit Card and Start Building Credit Score — Most of the US financial system revolves around credit score. So, the sooner you start building your credit score, the faster you’ll be able to take advantage of all of its benefits.
  • Educate Yourself on US Tax Laws — The US tax system is quite specific, as it requires all citizens to calculate and file their taxes themselves. It’s best to learn how to do your taxes properly beforehand to avoid having the IRS knocking on your door. If you need help with that, though, you can always hire a professional CPA to do it for you.

Related: How to Move to the US From Canada? A Complete Guide

Need Help Buying a New Home in the US?

If you decide to buy yourself a home in the US before relocating, why not get some help? Here at Nonresident Investor, we help foreign nationals from around the world navigate the complex US real estate market and buy property there. Our network of real estate agents across all 50 states will help you find the perfect home quickly and efficiently.

Even if you need help securing funding for your home, don’t worry — our team can also help you secure a US mortgage loan, even without a credit score. Our CEO, Luka Malkovich, is a nonresident investor who built himself a successful real estate business in America and is ready to use his knowledge and experience to help you find your dream home in the States. Why not jump on a free, 15-minute discovery call with him and learn how he can help you make your American dream come true?

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