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The highs and lows of moving to The States (Michigan bound)(11 Posts)
Hoping someone can give me some practical and emotional advice on this one!
We are a family of 4, 2 DC (5 & 2). DH has just been invited to the second part of the interview process with a sister organisation in Michigan (Ann Arbour). We currently live in the SE of England. With this, it has suddenly become very real that this could happen. Has anyone just 'done it'?. Suddenly the practical side of renting out our UK house, finding somewhere in the US, schools, moving, saying goodbye and handing in my notice seems incredibly scary and makes me well up.
My more daring and positive side is thinking that as a family we are reasonably self-sufficient and don't rely or have family members around (closest is 2 hours away). And then what a wonderful opportunity for our kids to live in another country and it could just be the best thing but until we try we don't know!?
Im also not sure what my position would be from a work perspective? Would I be able to?
Is renting a good option in that part of the states?
How would our standard of living differ? (We enjoy a comfortable life at the moment with no big financial worries).
Anyone with any thoughts?
I haven't been but I believe Ann Arbor is a very desirable place to live. A thriving college town, very liberal, often appears in top places to live in the US type of surveys so that's a good start.
Whether you'd be able to work depends on what type of visa you'd get which is dependent on what type of visa your DH will get. If it's an L visa (intra company transfer), you will get a spouse L2 visa and you would be allowed to work. You would need to apply for an EAD card after you arrive to be authorized to work. This takes around 3 months to arrive and you can't work until it arrives. Do you work in a field where you could transfer easily?
If he's not going on an L visa, you may not be allowed to work. The visa is the most important thing to consider so if he gets down to the nitty gritty of being offered a job and negotiating terms, be sure that his employer is very clear about what type of visa he's eligible for and that they're going to pay for an immigration lawyer to process his application and get visas for the whole family. I would say it's possible to get visas for everyone in as little as 2-3 months, but a more realistic timescale would be 6 months.
Renting will be easy. A college town with companies who are are transferring employees from overseas should have a plentiful supply of rentals, everything from apartments to family homes. Your DH's employer may provide a relocation assistant to help with finding a home. If not, it's quite straightforward to do it yourself. In the US, school places are determined by address so you want to research the schools first, find the best school you can and then find a home within that catchment area. I would highly recommend a recce visit first to get a feel for the place and see if you can see yourself living there. Would it be walkable, or would you need 1 or 2 cars to commute to work, get around town?
Your standard of living will depends on what the salary will be. Read some of the other recent threads on here to see what the general consensus is about the cost of living in the US (there's a grocery thread on the go at the moment). It's expensive, no doubt about it. But if there's a significant salary coming in (min 6 figures), it's possible to live a nice life. With regards to your house in the UK, if you keep it and rent it out, the rental income is considered as income for the purposes of your annual US tax return and needs to be declared as such. That needs a bit of research to understand that side of things. You might need an accountant to prepare your tax returns.
It would be a wonderful opportunity to experience a different culture (and it is very different) but it's tough at the beginning establishing a new life and getting everything set up. How long do you think you might move for initially?
A couple of other thoughts:
Be sure you understand how the healthcare system works and how the insurance is paid for through salary and what the out of pocket costs would be for your family. Consider medical, dental, vision. Be sure to get full details from the employer as to what the insurance coverage is for the family.
Flying back to the UK can get very expensive especially at holiday times so be sure to factor that cost into your yearly budget if you think you'd be wanting to go back regularly to see family. I've seen families of 4 spend nearly $5000 just on flights to get home at Christmas to visit family.
In short, it would be an amazing opportunity but it's not for the faint hearted. If you're solid as a couple and are up for an exciting adventure and a bit of an emotional roller coaster along the way, go for it!
Realhousewife - thanks a million. That is so helpful, I couldn't have asked for better info.
Yes, I think it would be an intra-company transfer. My skills are transferable, and at a push, could freelance from from home too - although not ideal with a toddler snapping at my ankles!
It's advertised as permanent but I believe after some discussions with the staff it can also be considered as a 'secondment', which reassures my nervousness a little. But I guess a minimum of 2 years.
I have made a note of all you have said and passed on to DH for further probing on his part.
Thanks again. Very grateful.
Salaries are MUCH higher in the US. Unless your dh is going to get a lot of ongoing support (rent, expat level health insurance) he should be very ambitious when it comes to salary.
The other issue is credit. Your credit score is very important in the US and as new arrivals you won't have one. This can make life difficult. In particular you may find it harder to find somewhere to rent. It also means that you might have less choice with things like mobile phone contracts, insurance etc.
Finally, if they are touting it as a permanent move make sure they sponsor you all for green cards as soon as possible. This will make it much easier for you to work (don't need to worry about getting/renewing EADs). It also gives your husband some protection because it means he is free to change jobs (the L visas are company specific).
Ps Ann Arbor is a great place to live.
If you're planning on using public schools you just need to make sure you live in the correct district for the school you want the kids to attend. So find thye schools you prefer and narrow your house search to those areas. School starts later though. Your eldest will be approaching kindergarten age but you will need to pay for preschool/nursery for the youngest and it can be expensive.
A move like this can't ever really be "permanent" until you've moved over and got a Green Card in hand and for most people in your position that's a few years down the line.
An L visa is a "temporary" visa - 7 years maximum for an L-1A or 5 years maximum if it's an L-1B. A secondment is a good way to think about it and if you do love it and see yourself wanting to stay on a longer term basis, green cards can follow but most people would want to test the waters and live a couple of years first. 2 years is definitely a good starting point, it makes the move worthwhile and you can really get a feel for things.
You should message a poster called KickAssAngel, who lives in Michigan, for all sorts of practical details.
Having just moved to the mid-west I can say that having no credit score is a pain, I had to buy my cell phone outright, there was one specialised company that will sort out car leases etc. It is doable though, particularly if your DH's company will help you sort out visas, goods shipments, rentals, utilities, insurance, tax returns, in both countries if you are renting a property in the UK, medical insurance and DC's schooling ( Get a copy of DC's medical records and vaccinations before you leave)
An American Express card will help establish credit. You can get one in the UK.
CapitalOne is another but it's a junk card.
Also, when you open a bank account (you will need a state ID or drivers licence to do this) you may be asked if you would like a CC issued by the bank. Say yes even if the limit is low.
In due course you can get a Target CC or other store CCs. Not a whole bunch at once or even every month. Each inquiry asociated with an application for a new CC takes a few points off your score.
Yes, having no credit score is a complete PITA!
We were able to open a Bank of America checking (ie current) account with our British passports, but generally everything became easier once we got our social security numbers and then state issued driving licences.
I'd suggest it will take about two years to feel properly settled anyway. Is there any option where you could take a career break from work rather than having to quit altogether?
If your DH is going to be engaged on a US contract, remember that although he would be classed as permanent he will almost certainly be on an "at will" contract meaning that he can be dismissed pretty much instantly. Look carefully at the contract IRO the relocation package to see what the penalties are if he decided to leave the company (DH had a sliding scale, whereby he had to work for at least two years to avoid having to repay relocation costs) and what they would be prepared to do on repatriation if they did terminate his employment for any reason.
I know nowt but if my reading of mid brow fiction is any help, Ann Arbor is the exact bit of the US you'd like to live in.