Everything you need to know about… moving to the USA

America is becoming a popular choice with Aussies moving abroad. Whereas London used to be all the rage with those making a rite of passage, they’re increasingly plumping for New York instead. Students can benefit greatly from a semester overseas, or if your looking for a graduate program the US could be a great start as home to some of the worlds greatest employers. The US in general is now welcoming more Australians, and if you’re looking to join them, here are some things you should do, and information you should know.


Put away the laptop, and get on a plane. Spend a couple of weeks working out where you want to settle down. Familiarise yourself with the lifestyle, people, amenities, climate and culture. Ask yourself if you could picture yourself living there, away from the things you’re used to back home. If the answer’s yes, go back home and do some serious research on things like schools, healthcare and the forms you’ll need to fill in.


Arrange your travel insurance and health insurance. Also, find out if you need an international driving license, and be aware that it’s only valid for a year, after which you must renew it and you’ll get a green card when you’re offered a job. This entitles you to permanent US residency.

Getting a visa, and getting a job 

Find out how many members of your family need a visa. Be aware it might not be easy, and may take several months to sort out. If your job’s relocating or you’ve already got an offer of employment, that’ll certainly make life easier. Be prepared to go back to college, because even if you have diplomas you may need to continue studying so they can be approved by the US.


With Australia’s social security system, your allowance is paid by Centrelink rather unusually out of general funds rather than through contributions into a social insurance fund. As such, your entitlements for Austudy or Youth allowance is income and asset tested. If you leave Australia to to go overseas, you can still continue to claim you social security entitlements for up-to 6 week or until you complete your overseas student exchange. To find out more visit the human services website.


Open a bank account in the US, and make sure there are plenty of funds transferred into the account in time for your move. There are bound to be plenty of unforeseen expenses that you’ll need money for quickly.

Use a foreign exchange broker rather than your bank to ensure you get the best rates. For example, with World First, you can choose the best available rate at the time and transfer your Australian dollars into US dollars immediately. Or take a forward contract, where you can fix the exchange rate at a point in the future, so if the rate goes against you, you won’t suffer.


As soon as you get your green card, and become a lawful permanent US resident, you’ll have to pay tax in the US on your total worldwide income.

There are six income tax brackets, ranging from 10% to 39.6%. What complicates matters is that each state and local government has its own set of tax rules, so it’s worth checking them out. Also remember that there’s no state health system, so you also have to factor in the amount you’ll be paying on private health insurance.

‘Cancel’ your life back home!

Sounds a bit drastic this, but it’s just a case of cancelling or selling the things you won’t need anymore. We’re talking about selling cars, furniture or property. Shipping will be expensive, so weigh up selling old possessions and buying new ones against shipping and delivery costs.

Also cancel utilities and subscriptions, give friends a forwarding address, and pay outstanding bills and debts.

Done all that? Sounds like you’re ready to go! Good luck, and don’t forget to send a postcard!

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About the Author: Andrew