Ze big migration

Exactly a year ago, we moved to the US for a number of reasons, and below are the golden nuggets that we want to share with you – in case you are planning on doing something similar in the near future.

It’s a massive decision to move country, job and family – one that’s almost causing me grey hairs.  But I leave the grey hair growing to my lovely wife 🙂 .  Seriously, leaving all the security and networks behind, to start over, is very daunting.  At times it even seems a bit surreal.

However, I’m was in a lucky position, which is that I had a relocation consultant working for me in the US, looking after our requirements such as housing, schools, driver’s license, social security number, bank account, cars, etc.  These might seem straight forward, but when you have nothing, then it takes time to built these things up again and getting help to do this was fantastic.

I’ve learned a few good lessons already and are happily sharing these with you guys in the following sections, in case you are planning on seeking new adventures in the Promised Land too.

Let’s start with the essential stuff first, such as finding your new home away from home.

If you have, just like me, watched MTV Cribs, then you have this weird fantasy that you can get one of these small 5000 square foot houses with pool and basketball court.

The good news is, you can.  And, these sort of house are prized pretty ok if you are planning on buying.  However, you need to be on the right salary, win the lotto or be living in a fairy dream.  Not only do you need minimum 20% of the house price as down payment, but you also need to set aside money for both property tax (incl. school tax) as well as legal fees.

Some states like New Jersey and Illinois both require that you pay the property tax one year in advance, so that just adds to the amount of money you need to have or save up.

If you rent, then the monthly expense for such a fancy palace will literally ‘eat up’ your monthly salary; leaving very little for food, activities, other bills and of course cars.  Another benefit of renting is that the monthly rent includes property taxes already.

It’s highly recommended that the monthly rent does not exceed 1/3 of your income.

It certainly depends where you are moving to within the US.  Some areas are a lot more expensive to live in and even renting a shed will cost you a fortune.  So, it’s very important that you scout the area first and also consider if you would be willing to commute to/from work for e.g. 45 minutes.

Once you know which state and city you are going to work in, then you need to spend some time researching the various areas around your new hood.  What appear excellent on the surface, might actually present you with some other challenges.  Crime rate could be high if you live in a commuter town, where burglars have a field day between 7.30am and 3pm, when you and your neighbors are out.

You also need to explore the various school districts to make sure your kids get access to good schools.  You don’t want them to hang out with punks, gang bangers and crime lords, so choosing the school district is very import.  Once that’s done, then you can look for houses in that district.  To be honest, you need to have 3 school districts in mind, just to make sure you have enough houses to chose from.

Those were the tips around renting and schools, but here are a few additional tips to consider, when moving to the US:

  • Unless you have a US credit score, which you probably don’t, then you can’t buy anything bigger than a lawnmower, lease a car, get a credit card or buy a house.
  • You should rent the first 2-5 years.  This allows you to scout the area in more detail before making an investment and also helps your credit score get better.
  • Buy an old banger for cash if possible, to drive for a few years until your famous credit score is good.
  • Select house that has AC installed, also known as central air, and will keep the house cool during the summer months.
  • Having a pool is great, but the home insurance will be a lot higher and some states require that you build a fence around the pool
  • Use the likes of the Century 21 web site to find rental properties.  Here you can find MLS number, which essentially is a reference number for that property.
    • If you have an estate agent (realtor) assigned in the US, then send the MLS number to that person, so you can get access to the house
    • If possible, go to the US on a pre-visit to scout the area and find a house

In case you didn’t know, you need to apply for an ESTA application BEFORE travelling to the US – $14 per person.

Make sure all passports are up-to-date, as US will not permit you travel on passports that expires within 6 months.

I’m assuming you are moving to the US on a sponsored visa, so make sure the US firm gets all the petition papers compiled for you.  Then you have to fill in the DS-160 form for each family member on the US embassy web site.  Each application costs €105, which has to be done on individual draft cheques + a $500 fee to be paid online too.

Oh, make sure you have US sized passport photos for the visa, otherwise the application will be rejected.  Trust me, I speak from experience 🙂

Shipping of furniture and house goods takes about 5-7 weeks.  Remember, none of your electronic goods will work in the US, such as TV, Wii, kitchen appliances, DVD player, etc.  Better start selling these before you leave, to get some cash for buying replacement goods.

That’s just something from the dark corner of my brain, which I hope you found useful, but feel free to ask more questions.

One thing is for sure, the grass IS a lot greener over there 🙂

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