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Setting up in the USA


The exchange rate that you secure for transferring large sums, such as the proceeds from the sale of a property in your home country, will have a huge bearing on your spending power once you arrive to live in the US. You should start thinking about exchanging your currency for US Dollars soon after you start on the road to emigration. Forget moving money through high street banks, though; the best exchange rates are available through currency exchange specialists, like Halo Financial. 

Halo Handy Hint

Halo Financial can arrange ‘forward trades’, allowing you to secure a good rate of exchange up to one year in advance. Such an arrangement can mean peace of mind as you know your money is protected from any devaluation of the US Dollar. You may find yourself obsessing over getting the best possible exchange rate, but rest assured this is quite normal; after all, it is an important exchange. If this is the case speak to a foreign exchange specialist, as they watch the money markets constantly and you can instruct them to watch for the sort of rate you are after.


The following is a very basic outline of some of the most commonly used visas. Before applying for a visa, it is often a good idea to engage the services of a fully qualified immigrant lawyer or agent.

The following visas are all classed as ‘immigrant’ visas, meaning holders can live permanently in the States:
  • EB-1 Priority Worker: Available to foreign nationals of ‘extraordinary ability’.
  • EB-2: Aimed at professionals with advanced degrees or people with ‘exceptional ability’.
  • EB-3: For ‘Skilled’ or ‘Professional Workers’, defined either as professionals with bachelor’s degrees; skilled workers with two years training and experience; and unskilled workers whose jobs are in short supply in the United States. A job offer and labour certification will be required for this visa
  • EB-4: For religious workers and current/former US government employees based abroad.
Due to the fairly complicated nature of a being granted an ‘immigrant’ visa, most applicants are likely to apply initially for one of the following ‘non-immigrant’/temporary visas first.
  • H-1B Speciality Worker: For those with skills and experience in specialist industries which are facing labour shortages. Applicants need either a four-year degree related to the occupation in question or 12 years direct experience in the role. IT, engineering and healthcare professionals stand particularly good chances of obtaining this visa.
  • Other H-Classes: For nurses working in health professional shortage areas; temporary agricultural workers; temporary workers, skilled or unskilled; and trainees invited by an organisation or individual.

People who work for a company which has US-based operations may be offered the chance to transfer to the States through one of the following visas:
  • L-1A: Mainly for executives or people in managerial roles, but also used by business owners to transfer themselves to a US branch of their own company. The transferee must continue to work at the same managerial level.
  • L-1B: For workers with specialised skills or knowledge.
  • L-2: For spouses and children of the recipients of L-1A and L-1B visas.

There is a plethora of business visas available. The following are among the most popular:
  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa: Applicants must either invest US$1 million in a business and stimulate employment for ten people; or invest US$500,000 and hire ten employees in an area where the national employment rate exceeds the national average by a set amount; or invest US$500,000 in a qualifying ‘Regional Centre’ as designated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • E1 Treaty Trader: Used by businesses involved in the import/export of goods between the US and other nations which have signed a trade and investment treaty with the US.
  • E2-Treaty Investor: The E-2 is for people who invest a ‘substantial’ amount of capital in a US enterprise that they are seeking to develop. This visa is quite popular among those with decent funds available as no previous business experience is required.
The E1 and E2 visas will need to be renewed on a regular basis. 

US citizens may sponsor immediate relatives for permanent residence – for example, spouses, parents or step children. Others who may be able to be sponsored include unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens who are over 21 years of age; spouses and unmarried under 21s of a US permanent resident; unmarried sons and daughters over 21 of a US permanent resident; and biological siblings of US citizens.


Arranging for removals firms to visit your home and offer you quotes for shipping your belongings should not be left to the last minute. By taking this step early you can be sure of a competitive deal and ensure you select the firm you feel most confident entrusting your treasured belongings to. When making your selection it is important to check your preferred removal company holds the international movers’ quality standards marque – FAIM (FIDI Accredited International Mover). America has different rules on what you can and can’t take with you (or what will incur hefty custom costs). Some goods simply aren’t allowed into the US, while other just won’t be worth taking and can be cheaply replaced. A good removal company, such as PSS International Removals, will be able to advise you on what’s worth shipping and what isn’t. 

Pet removals

If you want to take your furry, feathered or even scaled family members with you, then you will need to find out the rules regarding the transportation of pets to your destination country. America has a significant yet vulnerable agricultural industry and there are strict rules on moving animals there. Dogs, cats and horses are generally the only pets allowed into the country – and even then, some breeds may be forbidden. However, it’s always worth checking with a pet transportation specialist first as they will be able to advise you of all the rules and regulations.



There is no such thing as universal free health care In America, so it is essential that anyone who is planning to emigrate to the country takes out their own private health insurance – especially if you, or any of your family members, do not have a job to go to straight away. Failure to do so could leave you facing some extremely large bills for any treatment you receive – no matter how minimal (or important) this care might be.

A major injury could easily lead to someone who is uninsured having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to receive treatment, while some people with serious illnesses who don’t have health insurance may be denied treatment altogether. While federal law mandates public access to emergency services regardless of a person’s ability to pay, this isn’t to say that patients will not be charged for the services they have received later down the line. Again, the cost of this emergency treatment will not be cheap.

Halo Handy Hint

Just over half of Americans are insured for healthcare by their employer. However, the degree of cover that you will receive will vary dramatically depending on the employer, and you will ideally need to check that you are fully covered at all times. If your employer does not provide healthcare insurance (or you do not have full coverage) then you will need to use a private provider. 


The United States school system will be largely governed by the state in which you live. Therefore, the age at which your children start and leave school will depend on where you live. Generally, most children must start school when they are either five or six years old, and can legally leave at 16 or 17 (although a few States do insist on mandatory education up to the age of 18).
Typically, US schoolchildren attend elementary (primary) school until the age of 10, by which time they have just finished in Grade (Year) 5. The first year or elementary school is known as Kindergarten – this is not pre-school education, which is a common misconception. From elementary school, children move to Middle School – also known as Junior High in some States – between the ages of 11 and 13 (Grades 6-8) and then finish their education in High School.
Whilst in High school, your child will work towards receiving their High School Diploma (the requirements of which are set by each state). Children receive a certain number of credits for each course completed throughout their time in High School, with a diploma only being awarded once they have achieved the number of credits needed to graduate – this would be at the age of 18 in 12th grade. Should your child wish to leave school once they turn 16 or 17, and therefore choose not to complete their high school diploma, then they can take a standardised test (the General Equivalency Degree) and graduate from compulsory education.

Buying and driving a car in the US

International car insurance lapses after three months and after driving in the USA for six months, foreign drivers are required to take a US driving test. You will need to plan carefully to ensure you have taken and passed your US driving test before your car insurance expires!

Last minute checklist

If you are emigrating to the US as well as buying a property, then no doubt you will have remembered to have handed in your notice at work, book your one-way flights and other such essentials. However, there are a host of other tasks than can easily be forgotten about in the excitement of emigration. It’s an obvious point, but it’s worth checking your passport is in date; this will save any unwelcome surprises at the airport. On the subject of important documents, make sure you also keep all relevant paperwork in one place and in a clear order so it can be easily accessed. These documents include:
  • all correspondence with immigration departments
  • your medical records
  • school reports
  • references from employers
  • anything else you think you may be asked for. Make sure all bank accounts and similar services that you will no longer need have been closed and cancel any direct debits.
Finally, take time to say goodbye to all friends and family that you may be leaving behind. The stress of moving to a new country and sorting out all that needs to be done could mean that you run out of time to say proper farewells.

Need more advice? 

Since 2005, we have helped thousands of customers to take control of their currency when emigrating, so we understand the process that you're going through. Get in touch to see how our team of experts can help you. 
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