How can I live in the USA

Emigrate to the USA

Tips for emigrants

Many people dream of emigrating to the USA. However, low taxes and low cost of living are usually not the reason why the United States is so attractive as an immigration country. Because you have to pay taxes there too, and the cost of living is sometimes even higher than in Germany. When emigrating to the USA, the idea of ​​freedom plays an important role in realizing oneself in the “land of unlimited possibilities” and pursuing one's own dream of happiness in life.

It used to be relatively easy to emigrate to the US, or at least work there, without being asked for a green card. However, since the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, immigration conditions have tightened considerably. Today you need a good education, tenacity and a bit of luck if you want to spend your life in the United States. The command of the English language, spoken and written, is of course a matter of course.

For whom is the USA suitable as a country of emigration?

The USA as a country of emigration is particularly interesting for highly qualified employees or the self-employed as well as for retirees with assets. The working world there is very performance and success-oriented. Professionally successful people receive more recognition in the USA than in Germany. The annual salaries are sometimes several hundred thousand dollars. However, the cost of living is also correspondingly high.

However, those who rely on the financial help of the state tend to be more likely to be sneaky. Although there is a state pension insurance, health insurance and unemployment benefit, only the most basic needs of the beneficiaries are covered here.

The following groups of people have good chances on the US labor market:

  • outstanding personalities from the fields of sport, business, art and science
  • Skilled workers with a university degree
  • Skilled workers with a bachelor's degree and skilled workers with at least two years of professional experience

After all, it is an advantage if those willing to emigrate have a financial cushion that they can fall back on in the beginning, in emergency situations or in the event of setbacks due to the inadequate social safety net in the USA.

Requirements for an unlimited visa

If you want to emigrate to the USA, you need an unlimited visa after a stay that lasts longer than 90 days. There are several ways how you can get such a visa:

  • due to family reunification: Parents, children, spouses, and siblings of a US citizen can apply for an unlimited visa to travel to the US. However, the US citizen must be at least 21 years old. However, the issuing of visas for family reunification is limited per year. So it can be that you have to wait several years to get a visa.
  • if you have signed an employment contract with a company in the USA: Anyone who has an employment contract from a company in the USA will receive preferential treatment when issuing a visa. However, the number of visas that can be issued annually is also limited here.
  • if you want to invest in the USA: The self-employed have a very good chance of getting an unlimited visa if they invest in the US and create at least ten jobs. However, they need a minimum capital of 50,000 to 1 million dollars. This differs from state to state.
  • as the winner of the green card lottery: Those who do not meet the above conditions for an unlimited visa can also hope for luck and take part in the annual green card raffle. The green card lottery is also known as the “Diversity Immigrant Visa Program”. Every year 50,000 green cards are raffled off in this way. Prerequisites for participation are a high school diploma equivalent to the US high school diploma and at least two years of professional experience.

Information on applying for an unlimited visa to enter the USA can be obtained from the US embassy in Berlin or from the US consulates in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, Leipzig and Hamburg. If you have resided in the US for five years as a green card holder, you can apply for US citizenship. In order not to lose your German citizenship, you need a retention permit. Information on this is available from the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne.

Moving to the USA: What to look out for

A move to the USA needs to be well planned. Many things can be arranged in advance from Germany. Others, on the other hand, must be carried out by the emigrant locally in the USA.

What you can already regulate in Germany

  • Papers: Anyone who moves permanently from Germany must deregister at the registration office in the responsible municipality. The de-registration confirmation should be kept in a safe place. You need it again and again, for example when you want to apply for a new passport, but not for a registration at the registration office in the USA. There is no compulsory registration in the USA. To enter the USA you also need a valid passport and the corresponding visa. If you have a driver's license and want to drive a car in the USA, you should exchange this for a US driver's license after arriving in the USA. This is important as there are no ID cards in the United States. Instead, most people carry their driver's license with them, which has all the important information on it.
  • Pension and old-age provision: There is a social security agreement between Germany and the USA. This ensures that all pension entitlements already acquired in Germany are retained if you emigrate to the USA. In the same way, the pension entitlements acquired in the USA are offset against the German pension. Nevertheless, it is recommended to contact the Deutsche Rentenversicherung before emigrating and to clarify whether all the necessary documents are available or whether you still have to provide proof of pension insurance, for example.
  • If the household effects are to emigrate with: If you want to take your belongings with you from Germany to the USA, you should hire a shipping company to transport the household goods by ship. All items imported into the USA must be noted in a “Goods of Follow” packing list. This list must be given to the shipping company and presented to US customs. The imported household items must be picked up by the owner directly at the port. It is better not to take electrical appliances with you to the USA. Since the USA has a different power grid than the German one, the introduced devices can only be used there by means of an adapter or a transformer.

What has to be regulated in the USA

  • Apartment Search: When looking for an apartment in the USA, the location of the apartment should be an important criterion when choosing. It is not recommended to rent an apartment that you have not seen before. Information on rental apartments and real estate can be found in the Saturday editions of the local daily newspapers or on the Internet, among others. at or at One can also drive down the streets looking for “For Rent” signs in front gardens.  
  • Application for the Social Security Number (SSN): You can apply for the SSN at a Social Security Administration office if you are already in the country with an unlimited visa. You don't just need the SSN to work in the USA. Many forms, be it an application for electricity, for a telephone or when signing a rental agreement, ask for the SSN.
  • Setting up a bank account: Setting up a bank account is not a problem in the US if the immigrant can prove a steady income. Transfers are rather uncommon in the USA. Bills, including electricity and telephone bills, are paid by check.
  • Health insurance: Health care costs are as high in no other country as in the United States. That is why it is imperative to take out health insurance. These are mostly group health insurances or collective insurances that are taken out by the employer and the employees or only by the employees of a company. The public health insurance systems are responsible for the socially disadvantaged, pensioners or the disabled.

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Note: Update on May 20th, 2021 via Amazon Product Advertising API. Dates and prices may have changed. We earn commissions for qualified purchases through the affiliate program.