Considering US move - head spinning!(32 Posts)
DH came home from work lady night with the news that part of his team may be relocated to the US and the company would like to know if he's interested in moving to either Boston or San Francisco. We're not opposed to the idea in principle but I don't even know how to start thinking about making the decision. I'd love to pick the brains of people who have done similar - what did you find helpful? What did you wish you'd known about before moving/deciding to move?
My first question: would I be able to work? Would DS be eligible for any sort of childcare or play group place? He's 2.5; we'd be moving before he turns 3.
I've spent some time in San Francisco, but it was ten years ago, long before DH and DS came along. What are the two cities like for families? We're very much into healthy living, organic eating, attachment parenting type stuff. I assume they're both good places for such stuff, but could be wrong. And can anyone comment on the general standard of living and what we should be looking for in a relocation package?
Sorry for the string of ill thought out questions - my head just doesn't know where to go!
Hi, have you checked out britishexpat.com? Its a great source of information and has a forum section too
Your husband will probably be transferred on an L visa (intracompany transfer) which means you could work if you applied for employment authorization - it usually takes about 3 months to come through.
No subsidized child care as such, but you can claim a deduction for having a dependent on your taxes, and some of the cost of your child care. Most employers offer a dependent spending plan which allows you to put money into a child care fund before tax, which can save you a bit of money.
Health insurance - good health insurance - is vital here. Make sure you understand exactly what your policy covers and what you'll be expected to pay out of your own pocket - co pays, deductibles, what the coverage costs are that will be deducted from your husband's salary each month, whether it includes vision and dental, what prescription costs will be, whether you can get brand name prescriptions or only generic, whether it is accepted by a decent number of doctors, whether you need a referral to see a specialist in order for the insurance to cover it.
A visa will only let you stay for 7 years. If you want to stay permanently, you should ask your husband's employers to sponsor your green cards. They have to initiate the process, you can't do it yourself.
San Fran would be perfect for you - spiritual and actual home of the Green Market, Locavore movement (think Alice Waters) and full of young cool parents.
I have a major case of envy.
Relocation package - the most important thing to remember is that you will have no credit when you arrive here. So it will be difficult to rent a house, get a car or open a bank account, especially while you're waiting for your social security numbers and to get drivers licenses to use as ID. You may want to ask if they will arrange those type of things for you rather than you having to wrestle with it all. (VW do an international leasing scheme for expats, International Autosource were also very useful to get a car sorted when we arrived based on our UK salaries, you have to contact them whilst still in the UK). Ask about severance conditions - employment protection is limited here and some states are 'at will' which means you basically have to clear your desk and go, obviously for you that would mean your visa would no longer be valid and you'd have to leave the country. Vacation days are also limited here, ask if its possible to negotiate more than the standard. Would you have a large amount of stuff that you'd want to ship over in a container? It cost us about 5000 pounds to bring the contents of our 3 bedroom house over. If they give you a lump sum to cover costs, don't forget it will be taxed.
We are currently on a 16 day California road trip, partly cos we want to see if we could live here. Spent the first 4 days in San Fran. Visited a friend who moved here from UK with his family a year ago. I had a gazillion questions for him.
Bank accounts - if you bank with HSBCyou cash setup a US bank account whilst in the UK still.
Tax - California has both federal and state taxes. Not all states have state tax. So tax rates (with sales tax thrown in) area in similar to UK in Calornia. (Washington State for example has no state tax so total tax is around 10% cheaper, not sure about Mass.).
Climate - it is perfect here. Massive bright blue skies, lovely and warm without being too hot (she says from Death Valley where its currently 39!). Boston would have proper serious seasons.
SF is expensive. Our friends live south in San Carlos. They have the most amazing views over the bay. Palo Alto is lovely but expensive.
We are loving it here and don't want to go home!! We would come in a heartbeat and certainly hope to be out here in the next year or two. Although we have a huge worry re schools.
Good luck. Can you come out on a reccy?
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Message withdrawn - duplicate post.
Wow! Some amazing words of wisdom; thank you. I'll come back later when I have more time but wanted to say a quick thanks. We do bank with HSBC. DH is going to Boston next week for a work trip so will hopefully gain a little feel for the place then. We're not under time pressure to make any decision yet.
SF is more the flavour you want, but either would do. Both expensive but SF more likely to cost more. I assume your DH must be very well paid.
Check the medical cover, see if it includes dental especially.
Lived in Boston for a few years & our eldest was born out there. The most difficult thing we found was a lack of credit history which meant we couldn't even get a mobile phone until we'd been there a while therefore I'd recommend getting an American Express credit card here as that'll start you off here & then they'll give you a US card of similar credit value when you're there so you can start building your credit history.
Boston is an amazing city & id definitely recommend it as a place to live. Feel free to PM me if you do decide to move there. (I've only ever visited SF as a holiday so don't know what it's like as a place to live, but it's a fab city to visit).
You will need your own visa if you want to work though so check that out properly. Good luck - all v exciting!
HolidayCriminal my DH is not especially well paid in the UK (just does something a bit niche and currently works for an American company) but that does bring me to a rather indelicate question: what is well paid in the US? Particularly for the two cities mentioned? I have absolutely no idea at all how to compare salaries, particularly once you start tryi g to compare health insurance policies etc. But as a rough guide, could anyone say what would be considered a good salary? Say, would give you a lifestyle similar to earning 100k in the UK?
Onedev thank you for replying, I'll think up some Boston questions for you when I have some time!
City-data.com has useful info on average salaries and house prices which may give you a sense of how your salary would compare.
I was going to say get an Amex, we were able to transfer my Canadian Amex history to the USA for a card, couldn't get a c/c any other way. We were able to get phones through verizon without our SSN but it was a hassle and we paid $400 deposit per phone line. Also had to pay deposits to the utilities, about another thousand.
It depends on if your company will consider you an expat or will relocate you as a local hire as to what you get in benefits. We came as locals unfortunately so got a lump sum for the move and settling in accommodation. Tbh it didn't even cover the freight to move let alone air fares, so make sure you add all that up. Also allow for 60-90 days temp accommodation in serviced apt. We are in Texas and paid 3k per mth for 2 bed, basic furnished apt, others we know we're paying 6k/mth!
Check if your company has a relationship with a bank for mortgages (if you want to go that route) or car loans. Ours did and didn't tell us. We ended up buying as rent was more than a mortgage and it was coming out of our pocket any way. We had to have 20% deposit and was okay to provide all details from UK accounts but had to justify every income and transfer over 1300quid for money laundering laws.
We were able to get a car loan on a new car after being here 6mths as well, so it is quite quick to build up a credit history.
We would love to more to either of your city options, we were just talking about San Fran today as our company head office is there technically, but they no longer send people there, just the lawyers. Boston is a lo Ely City in a lovely Area, beautiful country side, not far from the coast and a couple of hours to Montreal.
We managed to get a dual phone contract with Sprint on the day of arrival with some sweet talking from the Radioshack folks - there are so many foreign students in the USA with no credit history that phone contracts does seem to be something you can negotiate on.
We also had no problems opening an account at Bank of America with just a letter confirming salary and employment from DH's work.
Negotiate relocation terms before agreeing to anything. We negotiated on holiday (they initially offered 2 then settled on 3 weeks) and flights home (they were able to pay for 2round trips for the whole family in the first year, non thereafter) and assurance they'd start our GC applications within a year of arriving.
We live in LA which is prob comparable cost wise to SF. DH is paid much more here, some things are more expensive, some cheaper. There is no help with childcare until DC start at kindergarten aged 5
I've never been to Boston but sounds like California would really suit you!
We were just grappling with the same decision but to a different City. One thing we found really impacted us was the capital gains position. If we rented out our house in the UK, we would be taxed on the income in the US, which was fine, but if we sold it while living in the US we would also have to pay capital gains tax on it even though in the UK we wouldn't because it was our primary residence. There is an exemption, which is about $250k each, but unfortunately our gain would have been greater than that. Given our placement was only for a short time (2 years) it didn't seem worth it. If we had been going indefinitely I would probably have made a different decision. Also schools, it is important to live near a good school. There is plenty of info on the internet. If you are buying, check out the property taxes. If you are renting, it looks very expensive!
SF & entire Bay Area are notoriously expensive to live in outside of the areas that are considered slums. A Lot more expensive than Los Angeles.
Boston only somewhat less pricey (Harvard + MIT effect).
Oh yeah, you'll have to file complicated tax returns alright.
High property taxes is good, it means the local govt. schools are well funded.
Some comparative numbers for salaries.
DH & I have what I think of as a comfortable lifestyle (minimal mortgage, run 2 ok or good cars). One fairly expensive holiday every 4 yrs. We don't have expensive tastes so we can buy most things we'd like to have. We reckoned we'd both need to be earning > $70k to have a similar lifestyle in southern california, which is definitely cheaper than commuting distance to the City or Santa Clara valley.
Are your kids up to date with vaccinations? Can you prove it?
We don't own any property so hopefully that takes care of one lot of complications.
HolidayCriminal my DS is NOT fully vaccinated - will this stop us being granted visas?
Schools require that children are fully up to date with vaccines in order to enroll. (I think the US vacc schedule has a couple more shots than the UK one). You may be able to claim a religious waiver. Not sure if it would impact on the visa though - I do seem to remember filling out my vaccination details on the forms we filled out. Thank goodness my mum is a hoarder and didn't throw away my red book!
nothing to do with visas, don't worry about that, lol.
It's schools, they demand jabs, although I don't know precisely which. I even got bumped off of University courses until I got my measles jab up to date. HepB & some R-virus, plus chickenpox, those are ones USA might demand you won't have yet. There are ways to get out of it, but not easy.
Yes I thought it might be a school requirement. I'm not too worried about that as at the moment we're only planning on going for a year or two so DS will most likely not have reached school age.
Nurseries might have same req, or clubs, preschools. But you may not get any issues.
Just remembered that my son's daycare does ask us for an updated immunization sheet every year, so yes, you may well need it for that too.
We have been in the US for over 6 yrs but just moved to LA from Ohio last year. Both cities you are looking at are fantastic and offer amazing experiences for you all. Try real estate sites like Zillow to get an idea of house prices, etc. they also show school catchment areas and the ratings for the school. I know you don't have a school age child but a good rated school usually indicates an area with a family atmosphere, if that's something you look for.
Also remember that Cali is an even bigger time difference and longer, more expensive flights from home. Not a huge obstacle but worth thinking about if you are used to having a support network around you.
It's pretty scary when the prospect of moving so far comes up but treat it like the adventure it is and you'll have a great experience!
If the company, who are sponsoring you to move, mention Ares as your move management company, tell them no.
They really were a sack of shite!
My DS' preschool and DD's inhome daycare (like a childminder) both required up to date immunizations
I live in Boston, so please feel free to PM me if you have any specific questions about Boston and its neighbourhoods. Even though you plan to only stay for a year or two, my experience of expats is that they very often end up staying longer than they expect, so I would suggest that you plan your living arrangements as if you will be sending your ds to school, i.e. pick a good school district. Boston public schools are generally not considered good, but there are several nearby suburbs with excellent school systems.
The US generally is more medicalised than the UK. If you want your ds to ever go into any state-accredited childcare, you will have a huge number of hoops to jump through if you don't have him fully vaccinated. If this is a deal breaker for you I would advise you to think really hard about whether this is a good move for you.
To reiterate what others have said, you need to know exactly what you're being offered before you go, and be prepared to negotiate on the things that are important to you. Healthcare is essential, but relocation expenses, holiday (especially as you're likely to want to visit family in the UK but this is NOT A HOLIDAY, you need actual relaxed time just with your husband and child too), temporary accommodation whilst you get settled, are all things that will make life easier for you.
Just to reiterate what other people have already said -- the absolute most important thing to look into is the health insurance you're being offered with each position. Check to make sure you are 100% clear on what is covered and what isn't, how much, who is covered, and if any of you take regular prescriptions find out as soon as you can how much they might cost for each refill.
Either way, be prepared for a shock if you're used to the NHS! Everything to do with health care in the US is insanely expensive and by no means anywhere near as efficient as the UK, even with good health insurance.
Overall San Francisco and Boston are both very expensive cities to live in (Boston's housing market is particularly expensive because of all the universities there). But I have good friends living in both and they are meant to be lovely places to live!
Thanks again everyone who's spent time and energy replying. I think at the moment DH is leaning more towards Boston, which is exciting. But it's still far from certain that it will actually happen. We don't have a firm offer yet, just lots of talk. He'll know more once he's been over next week.
Just a little bit more about our situation: I am well acquainted with the world of the expat, as I already am one! I'm Australian, came to London on a 12 month working visa ten years ago and oops! found a husband and got married. Our ultimate aim is to move to Australia, so although DH's family is here in the UK we are not particularly tied to Britain. We've never bought property here as we've always been going to emigrate 'at some point' but have just never got to that point. I'm thinking that it might work out quite nicely to do a year or two in the US then move to Aus.
So yes, I have benefitted from the NHS over the past decade, but I grew up with a more American-style health system and am used to paying for health care. Thanks for all the advice about health insurance packages; if/when things go that far I'll most likely ask for more advice from you knowledgeable lot and make sure we go through it all with a fine toothed comb.
Credit unions also offer a good alternative to mainstream banks, and often have contacts with insurance brokers for car / home insurance deals.
It was 14 years ago now, but we moved out to Texas with a two year old, he was up to date on MMR and DTap jabs, so just needed the chicken pox jab for entry to pre-school.
Health insurance - if you're thinking about another baby then check that pregnancy is included.
We moved with Interdean (think they were called Interconnex or something back then), they were excellent.
Cost of living - we found good food (brown bread, good meat etc) expensive, although I discovered a local supermarket with a great British aisle for reasonably priced UK staples (tea bags and Cadbury's chocolate!).
Definitely negotiate on holidays, trips back to the UK,and who pays for relocation should it not work out for any reason.
I would veer to Boston if you will end up in OZ one day. I was amused when I got here how many Californians see Oz as the ultimate place to live.....SF is lovely but expensive..same prices as London for apartments...I met a couple there who paid 3 k $ a month for a 2 bed apartment...nothing special..they moved from the uk...anyway I reckon having moved here and not realised the cost of living...you do need around 100 k if only one of you will work. But in SF probably more....more like 120 for a family to cover rent .....California is a lot like the west coast of oz.....I reckon Oz has the edge on the beaches but the sensibility is more liberal here than Oz.
Boston is more European in vibe....lots of history.
Health insurance essential. Pre school...you pay for it all.
But private schools can be reasonable...6 k for our local catholic private a year so that is less than uk.
I love the us and do not miss the uk at all so would say go for it....but do not accept under 100 k on salary.....negotiate hard.
We have a much better quality of life here and drive to amazing places within 5 hours for all our holidays.
Have not been back to the uk In Years...do not miss they weather.california is amazing but if you will go to Oz at some point boston may be more novel for you. Probably a little cheaper than SF but not by much. Good luck. We love the US.
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