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e x pat g u i d e : U S A includes san francisco city guide This guide offers information and advice if you are moving to the USA. Click on the different tabs to find out about anything from tax rules and banking to education and cultural highlights. You can also read our city guide to New York.

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Bupa International is the specialist international division of Bupa, and we have operations in UK, Denmark, USA, Spain, France, Hong Kong, Egypt, UAE and Australia. We care for the lives in our hands, and are dedicated to providing all the insurance services, help and advice you need to keep yourself and your family in the best of health. Our dedicated team respects everyone’s individuality, culture, privacy and dignity, and aims to provide a personal service you can rely on throughout your Bupa International membership.

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Moving to the USA Below you will find information about:

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• Visas for the US • Shipping and removals • Getting a social security number

Living

E d u c at i o n

The United States has found success through immigration since its conception. Now with its own distinct identity, the country is a melting pot of colours and flavour, and continues to be a favourite expat destination. Expats moving to the US will be exposed to one of the world’s largest economic and military powers, supporting more than 300 million people in 50 states across three time zones. Such an immense land area does make it difficult to generalise topics of expat consideration – like cost of living, climate and lifestyle, but there are certainly some clear cut advantages to moving to the ‘Land of Opportunity’.

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The US benefits from high wages, a safe child-friendly environment for the family-oriented expat. There is a well-organised and efficient infrastructure which makes systems like education and healthcare some of the best in the world – if you can

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afford them. As a downside, the US tends to have a thin safety net and limited aid for those in need of monetary assistance. Since the recession of 2008 competition for jobs in the US has been considerably more intense. In continuation of this the policy changes since 9/11 have resulted in a much more selective immigration allowance, where more expats would like to relocate than are accepted. The group of people who are allowed into the US is by no means an exclusive group, as roughly a million people immigrate annually to America – still leaving the influx of foreigners as the leading cause of the country’s population growth. Visas for the US Visas are divided according to immigrant and non-immigrant categories. Most expats in the US will want to obtain an immigrant visa. This is commonly referred to as the ‘green card’ and is attainable through employment sponsorship, family ties, and a visa lottery system. Non-immigrant visas are usually reserved for tourists or temporary residents but can be used in some scenarios for

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temporary employment. There are a huge number of ways to qualify for both types of visa. Processing times vary depending on the location applied, but are usually less than six months. To make options easier many expats hire an immigration lawyer, although these can be expensive.

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Go to the Working page for more information about visas and work permits. Shipping and removals Both coasts of the US have major ports, making shipping to these regions less expensive than inland. Regions without ports will require a combination of sea and land transport. Some shipping companies will arrange for the entire transport while others will only offer one part of the delivery. It is a good idea to buy cargo insurance from a company other than the one used for shipping to ensure reliable coverage. Regulatory law for shipping pets is different depending on the state and port of entry. A dog must be accompanied by a certificate for rabies vaccination, although this is not usually required for cats. Travel through some states requires a health certificate proving vaccinations. Hawaii has stricter pet immigration policies than most mainland states.

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Useful links: • www.intlmovers.com/index.asp

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• www.movecorp.co.uk/intl/usa.html • www.anglopacific.co.uk Getting a social security number

Living

Expats moving to the US will need a social security number before formally starting a job. This is used by employers to report your earnings to the government. If you are not a US citizen and do not want to work in the US, you do not necessarily need a social security number. It is

E d u c at i o n

still recommended to apply for one in order to receive certain government services that you are entitled to as a resident. Some businesses, such as credit companies and banks, will ask for your social security number, but most can identify you

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by some other means. You will not need a number in order to get a driver’s license or register children for schools. There are two ways to get a social security number:

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• You can apply before you depart for the US when filing an application for an immigrant visa with the US State Department. • You can visit a social security office in person on arrival in the US. There are offices in all towns and cities. You should wait at least ten days after arriving in the US before applying at a social security office to allow time for your Department of Homeland Security documents to be available online. There is no charge for a social security number and it takes about two weeks to get one.

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Working in the US Below you will find information about: • About working in the US

Living

• Business culture • Banking • Taxes

E d u c at i o n

• Public holidays • Work permits About working in the US

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Hard work is a virtue in the US and expats should expect working more than 40 hours a week. Less vacation time than what is given in Europe is normal with only two weeks annual leave in many positions.

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The American economy is comprised of many different industries that are largely driven by regional location. East coast cities, such as New York and Boston, are strong financial players. The Midwest heartland lays claim to sectors relating to agriculture and natural resources, and the west coast metropolis, such as Los Angeles and Seattle, are famous for technology and entertainment. Production and manufacturing contracts are increasingly being outsourced to smaller economies overseas. Despite the downward spiral of the recession, there are still a number of employment areas that have plenty of job opportunities. The demand for employees in the medical profession - such as nurses, medical assistants and technicians – is on the increase. Jobs relating to care for the elderly are also increasing in availability as the baby-boomer generation is reaching retirement. American companies can also apply for foreign workers if they can show that there is a lack of qualified US citizens capable of carrying out the job required. The US is particularly interested in skilled professionals for areas in which it competes for part of the global market, such as the IT sector.

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Business culture Being such a vast and cosmopolitan country, business etiquette varies from state to state in the US but social norms can be applied throughout: punctuality, a smart appearance and a respectful attitude are good starting points. A firm handshake and the use of titles (Mr, Mrs and Ms) are good for introductions, and business cards may be offered before

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parting. The business week goes from Monday to Friday, with business hours generally from 8am to 5pm, including an hour-long lunch. In many business areas and positions the working hours can be considerably longer than the general business hours suggest. Banking Banking in the US is very competitive and an array of services and rates can make choosing where to open an account confusing. It is often easier to maintain your overseas account, open a US based account at the same bank and transfer money back and forth. It is possible to relocate successfully without opening an American account, and expats on short stays usually choose to use their overseas account. To open a checking account, expats moving to the US should confirm with their bank what forms of identification are required. Passport, immigration information, social security number and proof of address are often expected. Credit histories can be transferred to the US, although this is a hassle many expats choose to forego in favour of making major purchases through their overseas account. Property can be bought without a US bank account. 4/21


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Taxes Tax laws in the US are complex and made more so by expatriation. There are both state and federal taxes on income. Property and sales taxes also differ by state. State taxes differ considerably both in amount and regulation.

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Paying taxes as a resident in the US: A resident alien (foreign national; living in the US) is generally taxed in the same manner as a US citizen. Resident aliens can be classified in two ways, either according to the lawful permanent residence test (“green card”) or the substantial presence test.

Living

• Green card test: An alien who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States under US immigration laws (receives a “green card”) will be considered a resident alien for federal tax purposes.

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• Substantial presence test: An alien will be considered a US resident if the individual is physically present in the United States for at least 31 days during the calendar year and 183 days for the current and two preceding calendar years. US residents are required to file an annual individual tax return and to disclose the worldwide income received that given tax year. If you have income from another country while you are a US resident – from assets such as interest, dividends, or rental income - and you pay taxes to the other country, you may qualify to receive a foreign tax credit on your US tax return. Through this method it is possible to avoid double taxation on the same income.

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For the first and last year in the US as a resident, you simultaneously may be considered a resident and non-resident; and consequently may still be required to disclose your worldwide income for the portion of the year that you are considered a US resident. Paying taxes as a non-resident in the US: Non-residents who are doing business in the US are taxed on the income they received in the US if it is significant. Expats in the US may be exempt from some forms of taxation such as social security. All of this is further complicated by tax treaties with other countries. Professional tax advisers are widely used by US citizens even with less complicated tax returns, thus it is highly recommended that expats in the US hire a tax planner specialising in expat taxes. Public holidays 2011

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2012

New Year’s Day *31 Dec *2 Jan Martin Luther King Day 17 Jan 15 Jan Washington’s Birthday 21 Feb 20 Feb Memorial Day 30 May 28 May Independence Day 4 Jul 4 Jul Labour Day 5 Sep 3 Sep Columbus Day 10 Oct 8 Oct Veterans Day 11 Nov 12 Nov Thanksgiving Day 24 Nov 22 Nov Christmas Day *26 Dec 25 Dec *Public holidays in the US that fall on a Saturday/Sunday are moved to the preceding Friday of the following Monday.

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M ov i n g

Work Permits A “green card” is the official card issued by the US Immigration Service (USCIS) to foreign nationals granting them

Wo r k i n g

permanent residency in the US. A “green card” allows you to live and work in the US. Obtaining a “green card”

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Generally, the process takes three steps when applying through employment: (1) the Labour Certification; (2) the Immigrant Petition (I-140 or I-526); and 3) the Adjustment/Permanent Residence Application.

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You can either live in the US under a non-immigrant visa while your immigrant visa is being processed; or, you can wait in your home country until final approval. The waiting period will depend on the skill level you are classified under. A US company must file the application petitioning you. The company can be owned by you or not, depending on the visa classification.

U s e f u l i n fo The “green card” can also be obtained through family members who are either US citizens or legal permanent residents (“green card” holders); this includes a parent, child, son/daughter over 21, spouse, sibling or fiancé(e). These are generally

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easier and sometimes faster than employment-based “green card” applications. The “employment based” Non-Immigrant Visas which allow you to reside in the US while processing your “green card” include: L-1 Visa: Available for companies that wish to expand operations into the US by opening a branch, a warehouse or an office. It can lead to permanent residency and is relatively easy to obtain with the right documentation and presentation. You would be transferred from your company’s offices in your home country to the new office in the US With your US company sponsoring you for a “green card” you can skip the first step (Labour Certification). The waiting period is relatively short, from 8-15 months. EB-5 Visa: This is probably the quickest way to obtain US residency, but does require a direct financial investment into a new or existing US business. The minimum funds required for the investment is either $500,000 or $1,000,000, depending on the geographic area. Your US company can sponsor your “green card” application.

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E-2 Visa: Service and trading companies may qualify for the E-2 treaty trader status. Financial services companies, software companies, attorneys, accountants, and the like, along with companies trading goods, may qualify for E-2 treaty trader status. You must buy or start up a company in the US with personal funds; you must be the principal owner (at least 50%); a “significant investment’ is required - you must cover at least 50% of the funds required to start up or purchase the

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business; and the money needs to be at “risk”. Though most countries are eligible for E visas, there are some that are not. Your US company may not sponsor you for the “green card”. You must find another company to sponsor you. H-1 Visa: H-1 visas are for skilled international professionals who want to live and work in America on a long term basis. As these are non-immigrant visas, they are often quicker to obtain than green cards, thus they are ideal for those looking to work in the US for a long duration, but not permanently. In order to qualify for this visa, you must have a US company sponsor or petition for your employment. Other possible visas include: TN-1 Visa, E-1 Visa, E-3 Visa, J-1 Visa and various study visas.

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Wo r k i n g

Living and accommodation Below you will find information about: • New in the US • Cost of living • Accommodation

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New in the US American culture is a mishmash of global customs, traditions, languages and beliefs. The many influences and integrated cultural characteristics are too long to list, but each contributes to the national ethos. This is particularly apparent in the cities which are blends of many different cultures; smaller towns often retain characteristics of their founding nationalities.

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Despite its many inspirations US culture still has distinct attributes of its own. In fact, there are a number of differences from other western cultures that may take expats living in the US by surprise. This includes the geographical size of both countries and big cities. As a result long commutes and long drives are normal and a dependence on vehicles is a common

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characteristic of American life. It is illegal to drink before 21 years of age, and although this law is routinely broken, police usually take it very seriously. Cost of living The cost of living in the US varies from region to region and from city to city. The major cosmopolitan centres such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are the most expensive places to live. The cost of living in a major city can be 50% more than that of the national average. To compensate, wages are increased in cities but often not in proportion to the cost of living. A large portion of the high cost of living is due to expensive property prices. Living outside city centres can make your cost of living markedly cheaper. On average, expenses are less than in western European countries. However, expats may be unaccustomed to some expenses. For example, you need a reliable vehicle for commuting in every area of the US, except a very small group of big cities. Petrol is much cheaper than in Europe, but more is consumed. Heating and air-conditioning are also widely used and can become very expensive.

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Accommodation Expats moving to the US will find a high standard of accommodation options available. Whether you are looking to rent a house, or whether you’re looking to take advantage of the recovering property market by purchasing a prime plot of land,

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you’ll likely find a lovely home, well-suited to your needs and your budget. Types of Accommodation in the US: Accommodation in the US has its own unique terminology, and is usually divided into the following classifications: • Apartments (self-contained units in larger buildings) • Single family homes (stand-alone houses, usually on a small plot of land) • Duplex homes (when two or more living quarters are housed in the same building) • Condominiums (separate, often similar-styled homes, located close together) • Mansions (large, extravagant, expensive houses) All these forms of housing are widespread throughout the US, with apartments being the most popular to rent for expats, and single family homes being the most commonly purchased.

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Renting Property in the US: Finding a place to rent in the US is a relatively easy process. First, you should conduct some research into the city you are relocating to in order to get some perspective on a neighbourhood that would best align with your priorities. From there, you can use one of the following avenues to start investigating individual rental properties: • There are plenty of websites – such as Craig’s List, Rent.com and Apartments.com – that carry both short- and long-term

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rental listings. You should be able to browse these sites for free, without needing to register and to share any of your personal information. Stay clear of sites that insist you provide them with this kind of information. • Local newspapers and magazines – known as ‘home and apartment finders’ – are widely distributed in most US cities.

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These often specialise in providing rental listings. • If you find a neighbourhood you like – and if you’re very lucky - you might be able to find a place simply by driving around in that neighbourhood looking for a ‘For Rent’ sign outside a property. • The USA’s Multiple Listings Service – a huge, constantly updated database of homes and apartments available to rent

E d u c at i o n

and to buy – is also a great resource. However, it is generally better when looking for homes to buy, as many landlords realise they can find tenants on their own terms, without having to advertise their properties on the MLS. • Real estate agents can be used – however, many US realtors specialise in selling and buying homes, not renting them.

U s e f u l i n fo

Once you’ve found a property you like, you’ll need to tender a lease application. This will probably take the form of a generic document known as a State Rental Agreement.

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In order to be taken seriously as a candidate for renting the property, especially as a foreigner, you will need to demonstrate that you have at least enough funds to cover the first month’s rent upfront, and also pay another month’s rent as deposit. Credit checks and background checks will be carried out – if you have any references from previous landlords, be sure to include them with your application. Lease agreements in the US are generally signed on a six-month or one-year basis. Whether or not you will be liable for your own gas, electricity, water, refuse, phone and Internet bills will depend on your specific rental agreement. Buying Property in the US: The process of buying a house in the US is as follows: • A mortgage or loan is obtained. As a foreigner – in the current economic climate – you will need plenty of supporting documentation to organise your home loan, and will need to prove that you are both legally employed in the US, and financially able to commit to the purchase of your new house • Once you’ve identified the home you wish to buy, a formal offer is made to the seller, in the form of a (legally binding) sales contract. • A deposit on the property is placed by the buyer in escrow, showing good faith that they will commit to the full

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purchase of the property once certain conditions have been met. As a foreigner the amount of deposit money you are required to part with might be larger than would be expected of US citizens • The buyer sees to it that inspections and appraisals are done. While not always necessary, if you are borrowing money to purchase your house, the bank or financial institution that lent it to you will insist on this step

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• A title search is conducted, usually by the real estate agent working on behalf of the buyer • A deed of sale contract is drawn up, signed, and filed with the county – creating an official record of sale. At this point, all money must change hands, and possession of the property must be turned over. Foreigners looking to buy property in the US should also bear in mind that one of the most crucial steps along the way is to secure the services of a reliable estate agent: one with whom you’ll be able to foster a good working relationship. By providing them with a comprehensive list of your housing requirements, your realtor will be able to use the Multiple Listing Service to generate a list of potential properties. Once you’ve identified one or two that seem promising, your realtor will then further assist you in liaising with the seller; organising viewings, house inspections and property reports (if necessary); negotiating yours sales contracts; advising you on market trends and prices; conducting title searches, etc.

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living Colleges and universities The US has over 4,000 degree-granting institutions, which translates into an amazing wealth of opportunity for expats

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U s e f u l i n fo

with children approaching college age. Though the magnitude of options can seem daunting, it can be easy to narrow down the school selection process and focus on specific applications once you have a bit of background knowledge. There are three kinds of institutions that new arrivals in the US ought to consider (note that Americans tend to use the words “college”, “university” and even “school” quite interchangeably; therefore the term used in normal conversation may not necessarily denote a difference in size, quality or category).

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The US has a system of community colleges, which grants graduates an associate’s degree (AA/AS) after two years of study, often at significant lower cost than at four year institutions. Many of the courses offered by community colleges are vocational – auto mechanics, secretarial training, medical technology, paralegal education, etc. But they will also offer many courses that allow students to transfer to four-year institutions after completing an associate’s degree. Colleges are institutions that grant bachelor degrees (BA/BS) and in a few instances also master’s degrees (MA/MS). They tend to be smaller in size, and they vary in selectivity and in quality. Some of them are state institutions, though the majority are private. Some colleges run by specific religious groups, and there are also a few women’s colleges. Universities award bachelor degrees but also grant master’s and doctoral degrees (PhDs) as well. Some state schools may have tens of thousands of students and they often have very good research facilities. The universities and colleges in the US tend to be well-financed and often have a number of scholarships or financial aid available to supplement tuition. Though expat children do not usually qualify as easily as US citizens, there are still opportunities worth researching. Check with government and private organisations in your country of origin to see if your child

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can take advantage of any available financing.

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Wo r k i n g

Useful information Below you will find: • Nice to know • Embassy contact details Nice to know

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Standard time: There are six times zones in the USA: Eastern time is GMT -5, Pacific time is GMT -8, Central time is GMT -6, Mountain time is GMT -7, Alaska is GMT -9, and Hawaii is GMT -10. Daylight saving time sets the clocks back by an hour between March and November in all states except Arizona and Hawaii.

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Currency: The United States dollar (USD, $) is the official currency of the USA. It is divided into 100 cents, also called pennies. You can check the latest exchange rates at http://www.xe.com/

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Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz. Standard plugs have two flat pins but three-pin plugs are also used. Language: English is the official language but Spanish is common in the south-western states.

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Safety: As a whole the country is a safe expat destination with a strong police presence. Poorer neighbourhoods where crime is more common are avoidable and down-town areas and business districts tend to be safe. Expats in the US should become familiar with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sections of cities before they rent or buy property. Except for very wealthy and gated residential neighbourhoods, employing private security companies is rare and residents can expect quick and quality responses by police or even a local neighbourhood-watch programme. There are no specific health risks associated with the US. Southern and eastern states may experience hurricanes in June and November, and the west coast may experience wildfires between March and November. Communications: The international access code for the US is +1. To dial out of the US, use 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 44 for the UK). Area/city codes must be dialled before the local number required. There is mobile

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network coverage in all populated US destinations but expats should be aware that their phones from home will only work if they have tri-band. There are Internet cafés throughout the States and broadband at home is also available in most areas 900/1800 coverage throughout Spain. Broadband internet connection at home and in internet cafés is available in all but the smallest of Spanish towns.

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Emergencies: Dial 911 for emergency assistance. Climate: The US is a vast country, spanning six time zones from east to west, with just as many climate variations. Generally speaking, the west coast experiences a pleasant Mediterranean climate, and the climate on the Pacific Northwest is milder, more maritime, while the central regions have a continental climate with cold winters and hot summers. Embassy contact details United States of America Embassies: • United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 9000

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• United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 688 5335 • United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 5600 • United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 4000 • United States Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 8777

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• United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 462 6000 Foreign Embassies in United States of America

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• British Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 588 6500 • Canadian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 682 1740 • Australian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 797 3000

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• South African Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 232 4400 • Irish Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 462 3939 • New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 328 4800

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This content is provided by www.expatarrivals.com, copyright © 2011 Globe Media Ltd. All rights reserved. By its very nature much of the information in this expat guide is subject to change at short notice and travellers are urged to verify information on which they’re relying with the relevant authorities. Neither Globe Media nor Bupa International can be held liable for any errors or omissions, or any loss, damage, illness and/or injury that may occur as a result of this information. Bupa International is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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E x pat g u i d e : sa n f r a n c i s c o This guide offers information and advice if you are moving to San Francisco. Click on the different tabs to find out about anything from tax rules and banking to education and cultural highlights.

M ov i n g

living

housing

see and do

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USA

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Bupa International is the specialist international division of Bupa, and we have operations in UK, Denmark, USA, Spain, France, Hong Kong, Egypt, UAE and Australia. We care for the lives in our hands, and are dedicated to providing all the insurance services, help and advice you need to keep yourself and your family in the best of health. Our dedicated team respects everyone’s individuality, culture, privacy and dignity, and aims to provide a personal service you can rely on throughout your Bupa International membership.

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M ov i n g

Moving to San Francisco Expats moving to San Francisco will find a city with a long history of opening its borders to immigrants. First as a destination for gold miners and pioneers during its inception, then as a home to the world’s counter culture epicentre in

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the 1960’s, and now as the technological capital of the US. Many European expats will appreciate the Victorian architecture - wrapping itself up and around hills - and the liberal outlook on life. Culturally distinct areas of the city, such as Chinatown and the Asian American and Hispanic

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neighbourhoods, make it all a global hotspot. In some ways San Francisco is becoming a victim of its own success. An extremely high cost of living and high property

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prices are pushing even middle income families out. Diverse family neighbourhoods are being gentrified and overtaken by wealthy individuals. But, if you can afford the city living or if you’re willing to commute from the nearby suburbs, the mixture of cultures, the ingenious industry, and the liberal attitudes make for a great lifestyle in a creative, exciting and original city.

SCHOOLS Shipping and removals San Francisco and its neighbour Oakland are major seaport destinations for the west coast, thus providing a variety of

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shipping options for expats. Alternatively, air freight may be an easier and definitely faster means of shipping for expats moving from Europe. Shipping by air is much more expensive than by sea, except for smaller items. However, the total cost of air transport could be less than renting a furnished apartment in San Francisco while waiting for shipped furniture arriving weeks later by sea. It is a good idea to purchase insurance on shipped goods. To ensure reliable coverage of broken goods expats should use insurance from a company other than the one used in transport. Pets brought to San Francisco or anywhere in California require an accompanying certificate proving a previous rabies vaccine. Shipping and removals companies: • www.nyinternationalshipping.com

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• www.compare-international-movers.com • www.cadogantate.com Pet shipping:

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• www.pacpet.com • www.aacargo.com/shipping/animals.jhtml

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Living

Living and working in San Francisco Below you will find information about: • Working in San Francisco • Weather • Safety • Getting around

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Working in San Francisco San Francisco and the greater Bay Area have emerged, alongside well-known neighbour Silicon Valley, as the technology

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capital of the nation. The technology industry includes biomedicine, biotechnology research, aerospace and many of the largest online companies in the world. This attracts many specialised expats eager to take advantage of the cutting edge attitude and the opportunities available

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in the technology and web industries. Despite having a huge technology sector, tourism is still the largest section of the economy.

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Our USA guide includes more information about work permits, business culture, banking and taxes. Weather With cool to mild weather throughout the year, expats will find San Francisco a pleasant city in which to live. During the summer and early autumn a blanket of fog can cover the city. In winter rain is common so be sure to invest in a decent raincoat and umbrella.

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Safety Safety standards in San Francisco are no different than any other large city. Common sense is the best deterrent to avoiding petty or serious crime, such as not walking alone at night and staying out of public parks at night time. A large homeless population in San Francisco gives the appearance of unsafe neighbourhoods, but they are rarely any danger. Safety information and guides: www.sfsafe.org

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Getting around Getting around San Francisco is relatively easy regardless of whether you decide to provide your own method of getting from A to B or use public transportation.

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Buses (MUNI): Buses run throughout the city on a fairly regular schedule. It generally only takes one or two buses (with minimal walking) to reach most destinations from wherever you are located in the city. It is possible to purchase daily, weekly or monthly bus passes or to pay when you board the bus. Buses vary in how crowded they are and will occasionally

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pass you by if they get too full - the only major inconvenience of using them as your primary mode of transportation. Bus lines called “owl lines” operate throughout the night. BART: BART is the light rail system that runs through the city. It is a quick and easy method of reaching destinations that are located in San Francisco’s Financial District and in the city’s popular Mission neighbourhood. It is also one of the best modes of transportation for travel to nearby suburbs and cities. The fare depends on the distance you are travelling.

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Cable Cars: San Francisco is famous for its historic cable cars. Although they are frequently used by tourists, expats living in the city may enjoy riding them as well. They are convenient for reaching certain destinations such as Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. They are expensive for regular travel but monthly bus passes will give you access.

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Taxis: It is easy to find taxis in San Francisco. This includes traditional yellow cabs as well as eco-friendly green cabs. They are reasonably priced, especially since travel distances are short around the city. Frequent use of taxis add to the cost but this is a great way to get somewhere quickly and efficiently. It is expected that you will tip the driver 10% - 20%. It is safe and easy to wave taxis down on the street. Alternatively, you can call for a taxi pick-up. Ferries: There are two ferry stops along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. These provide a fun way of getting to the North Bay or the East Bay although they are too pricey for regular use. CalTrain: This train travels from the city of San Francisco to the South Bay and is an affordable, convenient way to get to the suburbs and cities south of San Francisco. Getting around by car: Getting around San Francisco by car is fairly simple, although the large number of one-way streets can take some time to get used to. The major problem for most people who own cars in San Francisco is not driving but parking: Most areas allow street parking for free but only for two hours at a time and parking lots in the city are expensive.

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Your best bet is to purchase a parking permit for the area in which you live. Car share: The parking lots throughout the city you will find cars, which members of sharing schemes can rent by the hour or by the day. If you are only planning to use the car a few times per week this is much cheaper than owning a car.

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Housing in San Francisco Below you will find information about: • About accommodation in San Francisco • Cost of living

living

• Neighbourhoods in San Francisco • Renting a property • How to resolve a problem with your landlord

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About accommodation in San Francisco As a city surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco’s ability to provide accommodation for the many interested expats is greatly limited by the same geography which makes it such an appealing destination. However, there are many

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housing options in the Bay Area – the greater region surrounding the city, where expat accommodation can be found within a short distance of the thriving metropolis.

E d u c at i o n

Cost of living The constricted and compact area has given rise to apartment buildings and divided houses rather than individual homes. A detached house is difficult to find and extremely expensive. Apartments are also very expensive.

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Neighbourhoods in San Francisco The Castro is a popular and expensive neighbourhood in San Francisco with lively shops, bars and Victorian architecture. The financial district has few housing options except hotels and suites. The Haight Ashbury district was the epicentre of the counter culture movement in America in the sixties. It still retains a bohemian feel although much of it caters to tourists. Shared housing is common in the Haight area. Both The Marina and The Mission areas are more residential, but remain expensive. Russian and Nob Hill are quaint places that have highly sought after apartment accommodation in San Francisco. North Beach has a European blend to it and is a more lively residential housing area. The housing costs in San Francisco often convince expats to seek accommodation in the East Bay area and commute

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into the city. The popular communities of Oakland and Berkeley are attracting more and more families that cannot afford housing in the central areas. Useful links : • Neighbourhood descriptions • Real estate agents Renting a property You just moved or are considering moving to San Francisco? The first item on your to-do list is to find a place to call home. While some real estate companies specialise in rentals, the best place to start looking and getting a feeling of the rental market is on Craigslist. You will have the opportunity to browse listings for apartments, sublets, roommates, etc. In order to start browsing, you should already have narrowed down choices by answering the following questions: • Which neighbourhood do you want to live in? • What is your budget? • What amenities do you absolutely need? • Are you going to use public transportations or are you relying on your car?

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Once you have found properties you are interested in, contact the landlord to schedule a visit. Be prepared for the following requests from the landlord: • Fill out a rental application which generally requests information about yourself (i.e., name, past and present

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employment, previous housing, references, income). • Pay a $30 credit report fee for the landlord to verify the information you provided in your rental application, • The landlord will get back to you within a couple of days and let you know if he has selected your application. If he did,

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then be prepared to sign a one year lease and pay a security deposit that will amount to a maximum of two months’ rent (three months in the case of a furnished apartment). Most of the time the rent covers water and garbage but this is not mandatory so don’t forget to ask.

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How to resolve problems with your landlord If you rent a property in San Francisco the Rent Ordinance will most probably regulate your lease. The Rent Board’s primary function is to conduct hearings and mediation of tenant and landlord petitions regarding

E d u c at i o n

the adjustment of rents under the City’s rent control laws. It also provides counselling information on subjects that are covered by the Rent Ordinance as well as investigates reports of alleged wrongful eviction. However, only the court can decide whether an eviction is legal or not.

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There is no charge for filing a petition and this can be done without a lawyer. The tenant may combine more than one type of claim in a tenant petition. The types of claims which may be included in the petition can be found on the Rent Board’s website. Their counsellors are available by phone at 415.252.4602 or at the counter.

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M ov i n g

See and do Below you will find information about:

living

• Lifestyle and shopping • Annual events • See and do

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• Recommended sightseeing Lifestyle and shopping The city will not disappoint if you’re an aisle addict. Head to Union Square for all the top designer names and boutiques,

see and do

E d u c at i o n

while Haight Street offers hippie chic. Chinatown is the place to go for Asian products, while Hayes Valley is a great place to pick up art to hang on the walls of your new San Francisco home. Beside the regular attractions and activities, expats can also expect great annual festivals and events which attract people from all over San Francisco. Annual events

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International Beer Festival (April): San Francisco’s largest beer festival comes to town each April and lovers of the brew should head on down to sample beers from as far afield as Japan, Thailand, England and Germany, as well as local ales. Live bands perform to keep the party going. Uncorked! (May): Lovers of good wine and food should look no further than the San Francisco Wine Festival to tantalise their taste buds. The celebration showcases the local region’s finest vineyards, and features delicious snack and gourmet treats to accompany your favourite Cabernet or Zinfandel. Haight Ashbury Street Fair (June): Originally the centre of the hippie movement in the 1960s, Haight Ashbury is one of San Francisco’s most colourful neighbourhoods. Each June the Haight Street Fair celebrates its rootsy creativity in a vibrant celebration that is not to be missed. Two stages showcase some of the city’s local artists. See and do Known for its steep hills, carefully climbing cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco boasts a wealth of famous attractions and sightseeing opportunities for expats to explore once the stress of relocation has settled.

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Visit Golden Gate Park and admire the views from the bay to bridge, catch the cable car to Chinatown to poke around the shops, enjoy a seafood lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, or take a trip to Alcatraz to catch a glimpse of the city’s history.

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Recommended sightseeing Golden Gate Bridge: The Golden Gate Bridge is by far the most famous symbol of San Francisco. There’s nothing quite like seeing this iconic rust-coloured bridge for the very first time. Alcatraz: Commonly known as ‘the rock’, this alleged escape-proof island prison once held the likes of Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly. Expats can explore the prison on guided tours and learn about the island’s history. www.nps.gov/alcatraz Tel: (415) 981 7625

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living

Golden Gate Park: One of the most picturesque open spaces in the city, Golden Gate Park has plenty of features that will keep residents coming back for more: Beautiful lakes, numerous sporting facilities, and fascinating museums. The park is a fantastic destination for families, picnic goers, or just a break from the helter skelter of the everyday grind.

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www.sf-recpark.org/index.aspx?page=60 Tel: (415) 831 2700 Aquarium of the Bay: Featuring more than 20,000 aquatic animals, from seven gill and leopard sharks to skates and

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starfish, the Aquarium of the Bay hosts nearly 600,000 visitors each year. This maritime destination is a wonderful way to see what lies off the shores of your new home in San Francisco. www.aquariumofthebay.com

E d u c at i o n

Tel: (415) 623 5300 Alamo Square: Alamo Square is the row of houses, which featured in the famous 80s show ‘Full House’. The homes are quintessentially San Franciscan, and the park is fantastic place to walk the dog, to take the kids to the playground, or to

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have a tennis match. Exploratorium: Known locally as the museum of science, the Exploratorium is a fun and quirky excursion that just about everyone will love, including the kids. The ‘please touch’ exhibits are created by visual and performing artists as well as scientists and educators and bring more than 500,000 people through the doors each year. www.exploratorium.edu Tel: (415) 561 0360 Lombard Street: Lombard Street is the most crooked street in the world and features eight hairpin turns. Originally designed in 1922 to make the massive 72-degree slope of the hill manageable for residents, Lombard Street has become one of San Francisco’s quirkier attractions. Chinatown: San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown in the US and the area draws more tourists annually than the Golden Gate Bridge. Expats will love coming here to pick up fresh fish and vegetables as well as perusing the herbal shops and enjoying a meal in one of the many eateries.

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living

Children and schools Children in San Francisco

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San Francisco is one of the most child-friendly cities in the world. Expats with children will find a city bursting with all kinds of attractions and activities. Take the kids for a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day to admire the views; discover the wildlife and animals at the Oakland Zoo; get totally grossed out at the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum; or take the little ones for a day of fun at the Children’s Fairyland with its carousel rides, puppet shows and fairytale characters.

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The Randall Museum is a great learning opportunity for children where science, animals and nature are taught in fun and inventive ways; the Exploratorium is a fun and interactive scientific museum; and the Aquarium on the Bay will mesmerise children with a fascination of all things aquatic.

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Education and schools In true west coast spirit, the San Francisco education and school system is a little left of centre compared with the rest of the nation. Public schools in San Francisco: Unlike most school districts in the US, children in San Francisco do not usually attend public schools based on their residential address. The city tries to maintain even demographics in each school based on income, ethnicity and language. Despite these attempts at equalising schools, some have much higher test scores than others. Families can nominate seven preferred schools in San Francisco and the school board assigns a student to one of them. Most of the time, children can attend a school from among their top choices. For this reason, as an expat choosing a San Francisco school for your child, it is even more important than usual to research the options beforehand. Private schools in San Francisco: Many expats opt to send their children to private schools in San Francisco. Choosing and

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being accepted into private schools is a difficult process involving testing and interviews. Parents should begin to search for a school as soon as they are able - it is recommended to being researching at least a year in advance. Specialists can be hired to assist families with the process.

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Private education is expensive in San Francisco, but there are loans that can finance children’s private school education

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Parochial and international schools in San Francisco: Catholic schools in San Francisco can be less expensive options.

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International schools in San Francisco are popular with expats as the schools can accommodate students previously studying different curricula. Useful links • Parent network for public school information: www.ppssf.org • List of private school specialists: www.baprivateschools.com/specialist.htm • Private school loans: www.amsweb.com • Private school loans: www.psas.org/index.aspx • Woodside International School: www.wissf.org • Chinese American International School: www.cais.org

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Our services include: • Easy access to multilingual medical professionals • Second opinion service delivered by Advanced Medical • Appointment booking

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*MembersWorld may not track claims in the USA as we use our partner here. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook. Bupa Rewards In Bupa International we care for our customers. We have a reward programme for our members with gifts, offers, health content and news. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

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USA & San Francisco  

This guide offers information and advice about moving to the US and San Francisco. Find out about anything from tax rules and banking to edu...

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