Moving to USA Checklist: 8 Things You Should Know

If you’re planning on relocating to the USA, you are probably aware of the fact that this is a big step in your life and it can be a bit overwhelming at the beginning. That’s why I decided to write down a Moving to USA Checklist with all the things you need to know before leaving your country and start a new chapter. You need to plan your move well and at least 3 months in advance, just so you have enough time to get your visa ready (for some of the visas you might need to start the process 6 months or even longer in advance), organize your accommodation and save some more money all probably started with one sentence in your head: I want to live in the U.S. You started looking for new job opportunities and found one. If you’re still searching, I would recommend reading my blog post about how to find jobs abroad.

So let’s say you already found a job and know you have to start preparing everything for your big move. You’re thinking of how much money do you need to move there, what documents you have to get ready, and of course, where are you going to be staying at once you’re there. When I started planning my move to Chicago, I was kind of nervous but also at the same time really excited, because my biggest dream was coming true. I was doing a lot of research on Google and tried to find a perfect checklist that would help me be more prepared, but I just couldn’t find it and this is how I got my idea for this blog post. I will try my best to answer everything and help you get prepared for your next adventure. In the end, you will also find what you need to take care of after arriving in the US, so you won’t get in any trouble.

Here is the quick overview of all the things you should know before moving to America:

  • Valid passport, visa, contract from your employer and proof of funds ✓

  • All the documents need to be translated into English✓

  • Housing/accommodation ✓

  • Health insurance✓

  • Save enough money ✓

  • Leave your US contact details to your family✓

  • Keep contact with your family: set up a Skype, Viber or Whatsapp✓

  • Search for travel checklist online for your personal belongings✓

  • Arriving in the US: Social Security Card, state ID, bank account, phone plan✓

1.Valid passport, US visa, contract from your employer and proof of funds

The first item on your moving to the USA checklist includes all the documents that you need in order to cross the U.S. border successfully and also for your life there. You will have to check if your passport is valid for another 3-5 years (it happens too often that someone notices the expired date when it’s already too late - if it’s expired or not valid long enough you wouldn’t get a visa). Having a valid passport is an important part of getting a U.S. visa. There are at least 5 types of visas that you can apply for:

  • Visitor visas (B1 for business visits and B2 for tourism visitors)

  • Student visas (the F and M visas are for academic and vocational purposes)

  • Exchange Visitor Visas (J1 and Q; for those who participate in exchange programs)

  • Temporary Work Visas (H1B, H-2B, H1B1; they are issued for temporary work in the US)

  • Treaty Trader and Investor Visas (E1, E2; for those who have treaties of commerce and navigation in the US)

If you’re not sure which visa is appropriate for you, you should check the Visa Wizard tool, which will help you choose the right one.

When going through Customs and Border Protection in the U.S. airport, you will sometimes have to show proof of funds to let them know you have enough money to cover all the living expenses in the beginning. For some of the visas, you also need a return flight ticket.

CBP officers can also request a contract from your employer, so make sure you also take it with you.

When you gather all the relevant documents, make sure they are translated into English, so you can avoid any confusion with CBP officers and American bureaucracy later. Once you’re already in the U.S., it might be a bit more difficult to translate them or they may not be available from the American authorities. I would also recommend making a copy of each document and put them into separate folders just in case if something gets lost.

2. Housing/accommodation

Taking care of the accommodation before moving to the U.S. is an important step that you need to take care of. In my opinion, the best option for the first 2 or 3 months is to book an Airbnb or room in a hotel if you can afford it. Once you’re there and you have a place to stay, you can focus on finding the right apartment for yourself and it’s easier because you can actually go around and check them out.

When I was looking for apartments in Chicago, I used rental search engines like Zillow, Craigslist, Hotpads, Trulia, and They are all offering a big variety of apartments to rent and the listings are updated daily.

3. Health Insurance

Before moving to America, you have to make sure you have some sort of Travel insurance issued in your home country even if just for the first month. After arriving in the U.S., your employer will offer you different Health Insurance plans. You should research all of them thoroughly. I would recommend investing in the best health insurance policy you can afford so you can avoid the risk of paying huge bills or even worse, getting no medical attention. The majority of the hospitals in America are privately owned and without proper health insurance, you can get into big trouble.

4. Save enough money

One of the most frequent questions I had before I started planning my move to the USA was: How much money do I need to save?

The most simple answer to this is, enough so you can pay all the living expenses for the first 2 or 3 months. The amount depends on which city you want to move to and how much are the living costs there. You have to be aware of the fact that the costs of living in bigger cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco are much higher than in other urban areas. Before you start calculating how much much you actually need to save, make a living costs research online for the city you want to move to. You can help yourself with the cost of living estimator and make your life easier.

5. Leave your U.S. contact details to your family

Another item on this checklist is leaving your U.S. contact details to your family or friends (your home address and phone number) so they are aware of where you are staying in case something happens to you. Also, it would be good to put any of your family members or close friends as an emergency contact in the relevant documents.

6. Keep contact with your family: set up a Skype, Viber or Whatsapp

Keeping contact with your family and friends will help you a lot when you’re feeling homesick or lonely. I talk to my family and friends on a daily basis and I feel so much closer to them when I see them on camera or hear them. That’s why you should make sure that you set up either Skype, Viber or WhatsApp before leaving and your family/friends can do the same thing. So once you arrive in the U.S., you can immediately call them and let them know how your trip was.

7.Search for travel checklist online for your personal belongings

Whenever I’m traveling, I always find a travel checklist online before leaving, just to make sure I don’t forget anything. Travel checklist includes all the personal belongings from clothes, cosmetic products, adapters, and documents you need for your trip. Here is one really good example of it You can thank me later.

8. Arriving in the US: Social Security Card, state ID, bank account, phone plan

Once you’re settled in the city you moved to, you have to take care of a couple of important things and this is the last step in your moving to the USA checklist. First of all, you will have to apply for a Social Security Card. You can do this online with the U.S. Department of State before leaving your home country or you can visit the Social Security office in your new city. To prove your identity and work-authorized immigration status you will need your current U.S. immigration documents: passport, Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine-Readable Immigrant Visa), admission stamp showing a class of admission permitting work, Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) or Form I-766 (Employment Authorization Document/EAD). Applying for a new SSC is free.

The next step is to open a bank account. I opened mine by Chase. I didn’t have to pay any fees because I was considered as a student. Their mobile app is really good and easy to use. What’s even more important, their customer service is one of the best!

You will also need a phone plan. I used Sprint since they have some really good deals and if you already know someone who lives in the U.S., you can choose a family plan together and pay less.

If you want to avoid people looking weird at your ID from back home (believe me, it happened many times), you should get yourself a State ID. In order to do that you will have to go to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) near you and bring your passport, proof of residency, and all the U.S. immigration documents that you currently have.

Ready, Set, Go!

You are ready to move to America! This checklist includes the main 8 things you need to know before relocating overseas: all the documents you need, how to get your accommodation/housing in order, as well as what you need to take care of once you arrive in the U.S.

I hope this will help you with planning your next big step in your life. Start with documentation, because you will need valid U.S. immigration documents before you can organize everything else.

Remember to ask questions if you’re unsure about a certain step in this checklist. You can always leave a comment below this blog post or send me an email and I would be happy to help you. Everything is easier when you have the steps written down and you know exactly what to do in order to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Take care and I wish you the best of luck on your journey,

Lara P.