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Moving to the USA From the UK

Ashleigh Williams

Written by Reviewed by Dave Sayce

6th Jun 2023 (Last updated on 16th Feb 2024) 11 minute read

Moving to the USA to follow the “American Dream” is something that many British people want to do. It’s known to be the land of opportunities, and there are so many different cultures and experiences to have from state to state.

Before making the move across the pond, there are many aspects to consider - from the cost of living to applying for the correct visa. In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to consider when moving from the United Kingdom to the United States of America.

  1. Why Are People Moving from the UK to the USA?
  2. Types of USA Visas
  3. How to Apply for a USA Visa
  4. Cost of Removals to the USA from the UK
  5. Property Prices
  6. Work
  7. Cost of Living
  8. Healthcare
  9. Education
  10. Importing a Vehicle
  11. Culture
  12. Is it Worth Moving to the USA from the UK?

Why Are People Moving from the UK to the USA?

There are many reasons why people are moving to the USA from the UK. When you compare property prices, the value for money you can get when buying an American home is far better than in the UK. Houses are more spacious and significantly less expensive.

The USA is full of opportunities, and there are plenty of job opportunities and education options. Salaries are typically higher compared to the UK, and the USA is known for its good air transport links.

Many states are progressive and accepting, and the main cities offer plenty of growth opportunities. In addition to this, the main language is American English, making the transition easier to adjust to. While some phrases and spelling differ, it’s not too dissimilar.

It’s easy to see why nearly 700,000 British expats have chosen to make the move to North America.

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Types of USA Visas

People living in the UK can move to the USA if they apply and are approved for the correct visas. There are several types of visas to choose from depending on why you’re looking to move or visit the USA.

These are split into two visa types. Non-Immigrant Visas are for those looking to visit the US for a short period. Immigrant Visas/Green Cards for those looking to move on a long-term basis.

Non-Immigrant Visas:

You will need to fill in a DS-160 form to apply for these types of short-term visas:

  • Temporary Work Visa
  • Student Visa
  • Visitor Visa

Immigrant Visas:

Some of the immigrant visas include:

  • Sponsored Employment VisaFamily Immigration Visa
  • Diversity Visa Program
  • Fiance(e) Visa
  • Spouse Visa
  • Retirement Visa

Green Card

Green Cards and Visas are often used interchangeably when discussing moving to the US. A Green Card is issued to a person after they have moved to the US. It provides a person with permanent residency to work and live in the US, along with the majority of rights that US citizens have.

You will need an Immigration Visa to get a Green Card, and you must ensure you are eligible for one before applying. It can take around three years or longer to receive a Green Card, so it’s important to apply for one as soon as possible.

US Citizenship

UK citizens can gain US citizenship through naturalisation. You will need to meet the requirements as stated on the USA.Gov website. The USA allows dual citizenship. British citizens will not have to renounce this when gaining US citizenship.

How to Apply for a USA Visa

To apply for a US immigrant visa, you will need to visit and apply through the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in the United Kingdom. You will typically need to be sponsored by one of the following to be approved:

  • US Citizen
  • Lawful permanent resident immediate relative
  • US employer

Some of the documentation you will need to provide includes:

  • Valid British passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificates (if applicable)
  • Two colour photographs
  • Visa fees

Once you have sent off your visa application, you will need to wait until it has been approved before moving. The times will vary depending on the visa you have applied for. It can take up to a year for the application process to be completed. The USA.Gov covers this in more detail.

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Cost of Removals to the USA from the UK

The cost of shipping to America is roughly £6,080. This cost is based on shipping the contents of a 40ft container which is equivalent to a three-bedroom house. Costs will vary depending on the number of goods shipped, the type of shipping used, and any customs and taxes.

Given its distance of roughly 4,242 miles from the UK, it’s understandable why the international moving costs are so high. If you’re looking to hire extra services, such as packing, you can expect to pay anything from £250 for these.

Here at Compare My Move, we can help you with your removals to the USA by placing you in contact with up to 6 international removal partners. All our partners are trusted and verified, and by using our services we can help to save you up to 70% on your move.

Property Prices

The average property price in US city centres is $4,637.77 (£3,730.28). This is per square meter. In the UK, house prices in city centres are around £4,386.65. Property prices outside of USA city centres are an average of $3,135.42 (£2,521.90). In the UK, these properties cost around £3,317.86 per square meter.

While housing costs are lower in the USA, rental properties are more expensive compared to the UK. A 1-bedroom property in the USA will cost around $1,695.67 (£1,363.87) PCM and a 3-bedroom home costs an average of $4,637.77 (£3,730.28). In the UK, 1-bedroom rentals are £908.07 and 3-bedroom homes are £1,595.31 on average.

As the USA is such a vast country, there are many great areas to live in, depending on your preferences and needs. Popular states include California, Texas, New York and Florida. Affordable cities include Knoxville (TN) and Hickory (NC). Expensive cities include San Francisco, Washington D.C and Los Angeles.

*Data taken from Numbeo


According to SoFi, the average salary in the US is $60,575 (£48,960.96). This is almost double the UK average of £25,971, providing workers with a higher amount of disposable income.

When working in the US you will need to apply for and obtain a Social Security Number (SSN). This will allow you to work legally, and you must ensure you complete the correct forms before beginning employment.

Once you have applied for an SSN, you will be given a Social Security Card. Your SSN will be used to keep track of your employment, earnings and taxes.

While you can move to America without a job, you will need to be financially secure. There are many job opportunities in the US covering many different skill sets. Some of the most popular roles available include retail, office clerks, and nursing according to Zippia.

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Cost of Living

The cost of living in the United Kingdom is 18% less expensive compared to the United States. While there isn’t a set amount of money you need to move to America, it’s important you can afford the increased cost of living before relocating.

The USA is ranked as the 5th most expensive place to live in the world. However, there are parts of America that are more affordable than others. For example, while California and New York are particularly expensive areas to live in, Mississippi and Ohio are far more affordable.

Here are some price comparisons for both countries:

Cost of Living ExamplesUSAUnited Kingdom

Public Transport Pass (Monthly)

$65.50 (£52.75)


Utility Bills (Monthly - One Person)

$113 (£91.00)


Gym Membership (Monthly)

$43.40 (£34.95)


Taxi (5 Miles)

$17.40 (£14.01)


Inexpensive Restaurant Meal for 2 People

$63.30 (£50.98)


1 Cinema Ticket

$12.60 (£10.15)


Beer (0.5L)

$2.70 (£2.17)


Chicken Breast (1kg)

$11.70 (£9.42)



$4.64 (£3.74)


* Data taken from LivingCost.Org


The US healthcare system is very different to the UK and its NHS. While the UK has a public healthcare system, the US has no universal healthcare. Healthcare is particularly expensive if you don’t have private medical insurance.

Health insurance is vital to consider before moving. You will be reliant on private healthcare insurance to cover the costs of any treatment or services you may need. If you’re employed in the US, typically medical insurance is provided through your employer.

It’s advised to arrange your medical insurance before moving. You will want to ensure that your healthcare insurance covers everything. Even with health insurance, healthcare costs are very high.

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The education system in America is of a high standard overall. However, it is quite different compared to the UK and some states have better schooling than others. From the ages of 5-18 education is compulsory, in the UK this is between the ages of 6-16 (5 in Northern Ireland).

Education runs from Kindergarten to 12th Grade. Primary education is carried out in elementary school. Secondary education is carried out in middle/junior school and then high school.

While the majority of schools are public, there are many private schools across the country. The best schools in the US include Academic Magnet High School and Payton College Preparatory High School.

Higher education is popular for those looking to further their learning or become qualified in a specific vocation. Universities and colleges are popular, with over 4,000 options to choose from. This is significantly more than the UK which is home to 160 universities.

There are several Ivy League universities where positions are sought after, such as Harvard and Brown University. Some of the most popular institutions that aren't Ivy League include:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University

Public universities cost around $10,388 (£8,396.10) and private colleges cost $38,185 (£30,863.03) per year according to Shorelight. Scholarships and grants are available to support some students through their higher education. This includes academic, sporting, and STEM scholarships. In the UK, universities cost around £9,250 per year.

Importing a Vehicle

CFR Classic estimates that the cost of importing a vehicle will be at least $1,850 (£1,495.30). As the USA is a fair distance from the UK, it can be costly to import your vehicle. You will also need to consider extra charges such as tax, customs and freight insurance.

Before importing the vehicle, you will need to ensure that it’s suitable to drive in the US and that it meets the standards of the country. The following aspects will need to be filled out and met:

You can drive the vehicle in the country for a year before you will have to exchange your UK driver's license to an American license.

However, if you have gained residency in the States, you will need to exchange your license within 60 days of your arrival. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will ask you to complete a written and practical exam before driving. This is dependent on each state.

Driving laws are different between states and differ from the UK, which is important to take into consideration. The US drives on the right-hand side of the road and can begin driving between 16-18 in most states. However, a handful of states allow people to gain a learner’s permit at the age of 14.

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American culture isn’t too dissimilar to the UK. There’s certainly a higher expectation for everyone to be more self-reliant and independent. In general, American people are friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic.

The USA has been influenced by many cultures across the globe. This is particularly true for Western, European and South and Central American cultures. Some Americans can be more traditional in their views. Religion, especially Christianity does play a big role in many states. However, all religions are practised across the US.

Some people in the US are open-minded and more relaxed when it comes to beliefs, gender and social expectations. There is a mixture of both liberal and conservative political views across the states, and some states are more relaxed than others. Places such as New York, Houston and Los Angeles are particularly multicultural.

Gun culture is prevalent in the US. This is something people in the UK aren’t accustomed to. So it’s useful to be aware of this before moving. 50 of the states allow “open carry” of firearms. However, this is prohibited in places like California, Florida and Illinois. In North America as a whole, gun laws are very relaxed compared to the UK.

The country is known for its fast food and its fast-paced way of life. However, individual cultures vary depending on the state you’re living in. The West Coast and East Coast are vastly different, as are the North and the South.

Is it Worth Moving to the USA from the UK?

Moving to the USA from the UK can be a big culture shock, especially given its distance. However, it can be the perfect move. Here are some pros and cons to consider before moving to the USA:


  • Properties are more affordable and typically larger
  • The country and culture are not too dissimilar to the UK
  • Salaries in the USA are particularly high
  • Lower fuel prices
  • Home to some of the best universities in the world
  • English is the predominant language


  • No access to free healthcare
  • Some areas of the USA can be stricter in their views compared to the UK
  • Visas can be more difficult to attain compared to other countries
  • Tips are expected in restaurants
  • Gun violence is prevalent
Ashleigh Williams

Having written book reviews and content for For The Love of Books for over five years, Ashleigh now creates advice articles for Compare My Move, focusing on all things home-related.

Dave Sayce

Reviewed by Dave Sayce

Owner & Managing Director, Compare My Move

Dave Sayce is the owner and managing director of Compare My Move and has over 10 years of experience in the house removals industry.

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