You’ve made the momentous decision to move to the US, the Land of Opportunity. You’re no doubt filled with excitement, eager to chase your very own American Dream but you also probably have a list of ‘Things to Do’ as long as your arm and you wouldn’t be human if a few trepidations weren’t creeping in too. Or maybe you’re just starting to do your research and weigh up your options.

Whatever your situation, we’ve prepared some handy information to help you feel prepared.

Biometric passport

New rules came in recently which mean people without an e-passport or biometric passport are unable to enter the US.

There is a six month window when you could get caught out if you have an old-style passport, issued in 2006, which has not yet expired. If travelling to the States, you would need to renew your passport early. So do make sure you check that your passport contains an electronic chip.


Under the Visa Waiver programme (VWP) most British Citizen passport holders are permitted to visit the US for up to ninety days. This includes tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country. Most people moving to America will be doing so due to work so will be sponsored by their employer or will apply independently for a working visa.


Most children start school before the age of six, when compulsory schooling usually begins, in a nursery school or a kindergarten. The maximum thirteen years of formal elementary and secondary education covers education from the age of 5 to 18, divided into grades (kindergarten to grade 12).

The twelve years following the kindergarten year are usually organised under what is known as the ‘6-3-3 plan’ where grades 1 to 6 are in elementary (primary) school, grades 7 to 9 in junior high or middle school and grades 10 to 12 in a (senior) high.

Finances and Tax

It’s important to plan your finances before you go. Most American banks will insist that you hold a Social Security Number (SSN) before opening a bank account. If you have large sums of money that you need to transfer to American dollars (USD), from the sale of a house for instance, you will need to get the best exchange rate. Getting this right could be the difference between buying a new car or swimming pool!

In the US, a tax is imposed on ordinary income by the federal government as well as some states and many local governments or municipalities. US tax residents including resident aliens (e.g. overseas nationals living and working in the US) and US citizens who reside outside of the US, are taxable on their worldwide income, irrespective of where it is earned.

The top marginal rate of 39.6% applies to individuals whose income exceeds USD$400,000 or $450,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return. An individual’s marginal income tax rate ​depends on his or her income level and their tax classification (e.g. single, married). There are seven tax brackets for ordinary income, 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and the higher rate of 39.6%.

If you are a US connected individual, you will also have the added complication of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) with its very exacting reporting regulations, to consider. It’s highly recommended to consult a tax specialist or accountant to fully understand what tax you may be liable to pay.

Shipping Furniture

If you’re moving to America with more than just a backpack, you’ll need to arrange for international shipping. There are various ways you can get your personal goods to America, depending on the size and quantity of what you’re planning on sending with you.

The most cost effective means of transport is by sea freight, however, it does take quite a bit longer than air freight so you will need to decide which suits you best in terms of cost, quantity and timescales. There are many different accredited international movers so plan ahead and get the best deal.


America does not have a public health service as such so most healthcare is provided privately. This is why private health insurance is a must. There are many options available depending on the level of cover you are looking for. Most of the population under 65 years of age is either insured by their employer or buys their own health insurance – some take the risk of being uninsured, which is not to be advised. For any further information on any of these topics do visit the official USA Government site.

Supplied by Philip Teague of Cross Border Financial Planning