Are you planning on moving from Europe to the USA and you have no idea yet how to do it? With hundreds of different rules, regulations, and obligations it is no wonder that you easily lose track of all the things you need to do. Luckily, I was guided through all the steps of moving to America by experts from my husband’s work. To make the whole process of moving from Europe to America easier for you as well, I have created the ultimate moving to the USA checklist that guides you through the entire process and offers helpful tips for every step of the way. Keep on reading and find out what you need to do before moving to America from Europe!
Table of Contents
- 1 year before the moving date
- 3 – 6 months before moving to the USA
- 2. Book necessary services for relocation
- 30 days before the move
- Moving day: Flying from Europe to the US
- AFTER moving to the USA checklist
- 4. Bank account
- Moving to the USA checklist: conclusion
1 year before the moving date
The process of moving to America from Europe includes many different steps, some of which you should already consider a year before the moving date. In this chapter, we will evaluate all the important tasks on the moving to the USA checklist you need to take a year before you move.
What I learned from moving to the US is that there are lots of tips and kinks in the system only people with experience know. Subscribe to a mailing list of a Moving to America blog (like this one :)) to stay up to date on important infos.
1. Apply for Visas and Permits
As you probably know, you need a valid residence permit or a Visa to move to the United States on America. This is the most important item on your moving to the USA checklist! Without a valid Visa or permit, they will not let you in.
There are many different sorts of Visas and residence permits for living in the USA. Make sure to carefully research in advance, what kind of Visa you need and how to apply for it. The American embassy in your country can help you with the process. There may be waiting times for the VISA, so do this step right at the beginning of your moving to the USA journey.
2. Make plans for your current home
Before you move to the USA and start a new life, you must make plans for your current home. If you are renting, you need to inform the landlord in advance of your plans and terminate your contract. Also, you need to determine what things you want to bring and what to sell or give away.
If you own a house that you might want to sell, you have to contact real estate agencies ahead of time so the sale can be processed while you are still there. Don’t worry about it – you can still live in your house for a couple of months after the sale is final. The period can be determined in the contract together with the buyer.
3. Find an international moving agency
If you plan to bring a lot of sturdy stuff, such as furniture, you probably need to rent a container on a ship for it. An international moving company can help you sort out the details. Compare prices and packages and make sure that there is insurance included in the package.
You might want to bring only very little stuff (such as we did), then you can just skip this step and bring your luggage with the airplane. We wanted to start fresh with new furniture in America, so most of our stuff was sold off back home.
If you are shipping your stuff in a container, be aware of hidden costs, such as packing material, loading and unloading and onward transportation. Also, pick an agency that does the customs declaration for you.
4. Optional: Check out your new home
This part of the moving to the USA checklist is optional but highly recommended. If you can, take a couple of days off and check out the area where you will live and work. Picking a new home is much easier when you know the area.
5. Traveling with pets
For a lot of people, this is a crucial step in your relocating to America journey. No one wants to leave their pet behind, however hard the relocation might be.
Cats and dogs can usually travel via airplane without a problem. Check the airline’s guidelines on whether it can travel in the cabin with you or has to go via pet cargo. There are many things to consider when traveling with your pet, such as buying the perfect kennel. Make sure to tackle this issue ahead of time!
If you have exotic pets (like we do), this process is much more difficult ( thanks, Sniplet the hedgehog)! You need to check if your pet is even legal in the US state you are moving to if there are quarantine requirements and what guidelines the airline has. Usually, you need certificates from a vet as well as confirmation of vaccines. Check the CDC website for more info.
6. Make decisions about your car
Deciding whether or not to bring your car is another important step. Since public transportation outside the cities is not a thing, you will most likely need a car in America. For more information check out the website of the American Transportation Agency.
Things to consider are:
- How practical is my car gonna be in the state I will move?
- How much does a new car cost compared to shipping costs?
- Can I sell my car at a decent price in Europe right now?
- Can I buy an equally good car in America with the proceedings of the sale?
- Do I need to have my car updated to American standards?
7. Brush up on your English skills
If your English is a little rusty, taking a refresher course might be a good idea. Americans usually speak basic Spanish or French but are not known for their language skills. It is best to be proficient in English before you move.
3 – 6 months before moving to the USA
The moving date is coming closer, and now is the time to make some definite decisions. You have hopefully made plans for what you want to do with your stuff and gotten a good overview of what tasks need to be done. Now is the time to make concrete plans and book the services you have chosen.
1. Pick a house or apartment
A couple of months before you leave you should start house hunting. Contact a trusted real estate agent in the area where you want to move to. It might take a couple of months before you find your dream house or apartment, so you can’t start early enough with the hunt. You might also want to consider a furnished apartment for short-term rental first until you figure out your next move.
2. Book necessary services for relocation
There are a couple of things you need to book in advance before moving to America. These include:
- Airline tickets for you and your family/pets
- International moving company
- Moving insurance
- Pet travel agency
- Car transportation
I can’t stress enough how important it is to research your healthcare needs for your move to the US. You might need vaccinations, boosters, or other medication that you have to plan for in advance.
Also, make sure to avoid periods without healthcare coverage. You will not be automatically insured once moved to America, so be aware of the consequences and contact an international healthcare advisor. Be aware that healthcare in the US works a lot differently than in Europe, so good research is key!
4. Sizing down on your belongings
You can use the last couple of months to start selling your belongings you don’t want to bring and have no use for. Donate to charity or give to relatives and friends. This makes the moving process a lot easier.
Especially electronics you should not bring to America. They have an entirely different voltage in America, so it might completely ruin your devices. Also, you need an adapter (no problem for smaller devices).
5. Other things on the moving to America checklist:
- Gather all your personal records, certificates etc.
- Talk to your bank adviser on how to handle the transition
- Check validity of your passport
- Have important documents translated
- Contact your local tax office about relocation
- Cancel all contracts and subscriptions in time (internet, gas, telephone etc)
- Quit your job (if necessary)
30 days before the move
30 days before you move you should handle the last items on your moving to the USA checklist. Here is what you need to do:
- Make sure to inform everyone of your forwarding address
- Start packing
- Secure a car rental upon arrival if needed
- Exchange some money to USD
- Gather your travel documents
Moving day: Flying from Europe to the US
The big day has finally come! Make sure to have everything ready for your flight to the US. Check this amazing hand luggage packing guide, to make sure your journey is a breeze.
If you are not a frequent flyer, also be sure to check out my guide for Flying from Europe to the US!
AFTER moving to the USA checklist
Sadly, your moving to America process is not done yet once you reach the United States. Luckily, you have made it thus far – which is already a win! Here are some necessary things you need to do after moving to the US from Europe.
1. Social Security Card
The first thing you need to do when you reach the US is applying for a Social Security Card. Every person in the United States is legally required to have a Social Security number. You need this even when you are living in the US as a foreigner. This will identify you towards authorities.
You need your Social Security Number when opening a bank account or when you apply for a job. The processing time is about two weeks. You can apply for the Card at the local Social Security office.
Here are some documents you need to apply for a Social Security Card:
- Birth certificate
- Residence permit
2. Drivers license
The second most important thing you need to do after moving to the USA is applying for a driver’s license. You can use your European license for a few months. However, you should apply for a new one as soon as possible, since it is also a widely accepted document for identification.
The first thing you need to do is contact the Department of Motor Vehicles. They can help you find out what you need to do in your respective state. Some states require an eye exam, while others do not have any requirements and will simply switch the licenses.
3. Health insurance
This point I cannot stress enough. You need to inform yourself about the topic of health insurance in America. The system is completely different to what we know in Europe.
You are not automatically covered by health insurance. If you have international travel health insurance, you are fine for a couple of weeks, at least until you are settled.
Having an accident or getting sick while not being insured can bankrupt you. Healthcare in America is excellent, but also extremely expensive. Make sure to figure this issue out right away.
If you already have a new job, they might offer benefits that cover your insurance needs or at least part of them. Also, you can take out your own private health insurance.
4. Bank account
Opening up a bank account in the US is by far not as easy as it is in Europe. Once you have picked out a bank in your region that you want to do business with, you have to prepare some documents.
To open a bank account in the US you need to bring:
- a valid proof of identity (e.g. your driver’s license, passport or other ID card)
- your immigration documents (visa, residence permit or Green card)
- Social Security number (that you previously obtained in the first step)
- proof of your current address
- photo (format 50 x 50 mm)
Something completely new that you will encounter in America is the credit score. The credit score indicates how well you handle debt (paying on time etc.).
You start with a credit score of 0 when you go to the US. By taking out smaller debts (e.g. on cars or household things) and paying them back on time you build a better credit score. You need a good credit score in the future to buy a house or even for certain other applications.
Moving to the USA checklist: conclusion
With this ultimate checklist moving to America will be as easy as it can be. Make sure to do everything on time and keep your things to avoid unnecessary stress. If you stick to this checklist – moving from Europe to the USA will be a breeze!