RELOCATING TO AND LIVING IN THE USA
everything you need to know about starting a new life in America
TYPES OF UNITED STATES VISAS
Visa Name / Visa Type Description
Foreign Government Officials
Visitors Tourist and business visitors
E-1 Treaty Trader Visa Owners of large trade businesses between the USA and their home country are granted to apply for visas as treaty traders. This can also include key employees of the business.
E-2 Treaty Investor Visa Business that invest large amounts of capital into the USA, therefore creating jobs for American workers. The home country must have a treaty with the USA to qualify.
Student Visas for Academic and Language Programs
Applying through university, accredited college or an institution that provides language training, the profession or fine arts allows eligibility for this temporary and non-immigrant visa.
Representatives to International Organization Visas.
International organizations representatives. This also includes their spouse and/or children.
Temporary Employees Visas For certain types of temporary work or for certain types of temporary training of employees through their employer.
I Representatives of Information Media
Cultural Exchange and Educational Visa
All levels of academic students are able to interchange skills and knowledge in the fields of education, science and arts. Working with certain limitations allows people professional training with firms.
K Fiancées of United States Citizens
Intra Company Transferees
People with specialized knowledge, managers or executives employed in an overseas company are eligible to transfer to the USA branch to resume a similar position.
On the plane before you arrive in the USA, you will be asked to complete two forms:
1. The Arrival/Departure form (I-94);
2. The Customs Declaration form.
You must have these forms filled out before leaving the aircraft and be prepared to show them upon arrival. Both of these forms require personal information such as your date of birth, passport number, and a contact address in the United States.
Upon arriving in America, you must pass through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS - which was formerly known as the INS) and then pass through US Customs at the airport.
This government agency is responsible for making sure that immigration laws are enforced. Your only contact with the USCIS will be upon your arrival and departure from the United States. The USCIS officer will ask you several questions in order to find out how long you will be staying in the United States as well as your purpose for coming. Be prepared to show the USCIS officer the following documents:
1. Your Visa this is stamped inside your passport.
2. Your I-94 card This card shows how long you are permitted to stay in the United States. If you need to stay longer than the time allowed on your card, you will need to explain the
reason for your stay and ask the immigration officer for an extension. The officer will then attach this card to your passport DO NOT REMOVE IT.
3. Your entry papers.
The immigration officer will only ask you general questions about your coming to the United States. However, if for any reason the USCIS officer becomes suspicious of your intentions, he/she has the right to ask you more detailed questions. USCIS officers do have the right to refuse your entrance into the United States even if you have a valid visa.
US Customs is responsible for making sure that no hazardous material is admitted into the Country. The officer will ask you if you have anything to declare, and if you answer yes, a
Customs Declaration Card must be filled in. However, be sure to answer this question honestly.
If you answer no when you do have material to declare, you could face a heavy fine and risk not being admitted into the USA. You will need to show the US Customs Officer you Customs
Declaration Card. This is the card that you fill in on the airplane that states what you are bringing into the United States.
You should carry some sort of identification with you at all times. Your passport is not always the best alternative because if you lose it or it gets stolen, you will have to get it replaced before you can leave the country. Therefore, it is recommended that if you stay in the United States for more than 30 days, you get a temporary drivers license or identification card.
You can get a drivers license at either the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your state. You must be 18 years or older to get your license, and
every state has different requirements for getting a license. You will need to bring several documents to the MVA or DMV.
You will probably want to bring:
1. An international drivers license or a drivers license from your home country. If you do not have one, you will probably have to take a driving test before getting your license.
2. Proof of residence. Electricity or phone bills are good items to show your name and address.
3. Proof of your name and age. An original birth certificate (translated) or your employment authorization card are good ways to show this; however, any official document should work.
4. Your passport. This should include your visa and your I-94 card.
5. Your social security card (if you have one).
If you do not drive and/or do not want to drive, an identification card is good idea. You can still use this card as identification when you write checks or use credit cards. You can also get your identification card at either the MVA or the DMV. Take the items listed above with you. You will not have to take any tests to receive an identification card.
- You will typically be charged a fee if you want to wire money.
- You will also be charged a fee for converting currency.
In order to wire money into the USA, you will need to have several pieces of information handy:
1. Identification this can be a drivers license, passport, credit card, or a student ID card.
2. The names and the addresses of both the foreign bank and your US bank.
3. The routing number and/or electronic address of each bank.
4. Your US bank account number.
It takes approximately 2-3 days to complete a money wiring transfer. If transferring from a country without many international transactions, it may take considerably longer.
It takes longer to wire money from the US to other countries, sometimes as long as four weeks.
You will need the information above as well as some additional information to complete such a transaction.
In order to wire money from outside USA, you also need:
1. The account number and the name on the account that you are wiring to.
2. The exact date that you want to exchange the currency.
3. If you are using a bank at which you do not have an account, you may need to have a cashiers check to complete that transaction.
If you are planning to stay in the USA for a considerable period of time, then you'll most likely want to open a checking account. Checking accounts can be used in the USA to pay monthly bills and make purchases at stores. Checking accounts usually require you to keep a minimum balance, and they usually do not accrue interest.
To open a bank account, you usually need to deposit at least $100. Many institutions charge a service fee each month if the balance in your account goes below a certain amount.
You will need to present several documents:
1. Proof of your name and address you can show this with a letter or bill sent to your
address or a work or student ID card.
2. Your social security card or number.
3. Your visa and passport.
4. A drivers license or other photo ID.
5. Your employers name and address, or your student ID.
Sending money home or abroad is always an issue once you have started to work in America. You need to send money safely, fast, and avoid paying a fortune in fees to complete the process. Western Union is a major foreign transfer service that allows everyone to send and receive money via the Western Union Money Transfer Service. It is possible to send money to a smaller and undeveloped country as it is one of the worlds largest networks in the world.
Visit your nearest Western Union Agent location.
A Send Money form will have to be completed.
A picture ID will be necessary to complete the money sending transfer.
Payment of the money transaction and fee (in cash) will be made to the clerk. Fees may vary depending on the amount of money required to send.
A receipt will be given to you that includes a Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN).
The MTCN will have to be given to the receiver of the money, to prove that the transaction was intentionally for that person. A test question that both the sender and receiver of the money transaction will know, may be required. This is to help Western Union identify the receiver of the funds.
Contact the sender for the Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) and test question and answer if required.
Visit your nearest Western Union to complete the fund transaction.
A Receive Money Form will have to be fully completed, the MTCN will have to be stated.
A valid form of identification will have to be presented to the clerk along with the form.
The receiving funds may be in both cash and check, depending upon the amount that has been transferred.
To place international calls from a regular phone line, follow these instructions:
the country code
the city code
International calls can be expensive on a regular phone line. Using pre-paid phone cards is a good way to save money. Check for the following things before you buy a pre-paid phone card:
1. No connection fees
2. No expiration date
3. Low flat rates in America
4. 1 minute billing fees
5. No maintenance or service fees
6. Low payphone surcharge fees
A phone card in agreement with these six items will save you the most money.
In the United States, calling cards work differently than they do in many other countries. The primary difference is that you do not insert the card into the phone. Rather, you follow the
instructions that are given on the back of the card. You can use pre-paid phone cards from any phone.
Local Calls refer to calls within the same area code. Local calls do not have any extra charges (only what you pay as your monthly bill) unless you call from a pay phone.
To Make a Local Call, Dial
the 7-digit number (the area code is not necessary)
Long Distance Calls refer to calls to a different area code (different City or State). Long-distance calls cost additional money at any phone, including pay phones. Long-distance charges are different depending on which telephone service company you have.
To Make a Long-Distance Call, Dial
then the 3 digit area code
the 7-digit number
1-800 Toll Free Numbers
There are two other types of phone calls in the US: 800 and 900 numbers.
800 numbers begin with the numbers 1-800 or 1-888. Many businesses use these numbers. These are free to call from any phone to any area code.
Information When you need to find out local information, dial 411. If you need long distance information, dial 1 + area code + 555-1212.
Emergency If you have an emergency, dial 911
Renting an apartment is typically what most people do when they first come to the USA, so that they can get a good feel for the area and surrounding areas allowing you to take some time to determine exactly where they want to live on a more permanent basis. There are four important steps that can be followed to break each stage down:
1. Your Needs What size apartment or house are you looking for (studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom or more) and what extra services do you require.
2. Search Look and find the right apartment for you. This part may take weeks, but keep searching and you will succeed.
3. Application Once an apartment that fits your criteria is found, submit an application and therefore apply for you new home.
4. Move In If your application is approved and you agree to all the rules and regulations. A lease will have to be signed and you can then move in.
BUYING A HOUSE
There are a number of benefits and responsibilities that come with owning your own home. Real estate agents normally help you find a home to buy. It is best to ask for an agent who knows the area where you want to buy your house. Local newspapers will often have Classifieds under Homes for Sale. You can also look for For Sale signs in the areas you are interested in.
It is most common to get a mortgage from a local bank or from a mortgage company. The interest you pay on your mortgage is deductible on your federal income tax. It is also necessary to buy homeowners insurance to help pay for any possible future damage to your home. Insurance normally covers damage due to bad weather, fire, or burglary. You will also need to pay property taxes on the value of your home.
A real estate agent or real estate lawyer can help you find a mortgage and insurance. He or she will normally help you fill out the forms to buy your home. A real estate agent should not charge you a fee to 'buy' a home (they charge the sellers a fee), but this can differ from state to state. However, You will have to pay fees to get your mortgage and to file legal forms with the state. These fees are called closing costs, but it is recommended to ask different real estate agents how much they charge. Your real estate agent or mortgage lender must tell you what these fees are, and the form is called Good Faith Estimate.
If you do not have a car, there are many alternative types of transportation in the USA, which vary from city to city.
Many large cities have bus transportation, which is usually the cheapest form of transportation.
There is also a bus service for longer trips (state to state) . These are more expensive, but are still a cheap alternative. To get the lowest fare on a long trip, make reservations as soon as possible. Many bus companies have discount programs for early reservations.
In many large cities, you can catch a taxi on the street. However, all cities offer a service in which the taxi driver will pick you up at a certain location at no extra cost.
Long Distance Trains
There is one train service within the USA that goes to all parts of the US. This train service is called Amtrak. All Amtrak trains include a car for dining, and some have cars for sleeping. You can buy tickets at the train station, or you can pay by credit card over the phone. If you want to buy train tickets in advance call any Amtrak station. You can also call: 1-800-USA RAIL (1-800-872- 7245). Amtrak also offers discount passes to tour the country.
Greyhound Bus Line
Greyhound is the long-range bus service in the USA. This is probably one of the cheapest types of transportation services. Greyhound is a very affordable method of transportation, but its not really comfortable or a fun experience.
Many metropolitan cities have subway trains that run through the cities. These trains are usually inexpensive and run often.
Flying in the United States has changed dramatically since the September 11th attacks. It is best to purchase plane tickets as far in advance as possible for two reasons: 1) flights are often
crowded, and it is difficult to find last minute tickets, and 2) usually, the cost of airfare is less when you purchase your ticket early; many airlines require a 14-day advance purchase for low fares. You can purchase plane tickets from a travel agent or directly through the airline.
Before you fly, call the airline and ask how many bags you are allowed to check, how many bags you are allowed to carry on, how much the bags can weigh, and how big the bags can be.
Different airlines have different guidelines for baggage issues.
Be sure to arrive at the airport early. Most airlines suggest at least an hour before your flight if you are flying within the United States and at least two hours before your flight if traveling internationally.
Health insurance covers your medical expenses under the certain terms of contract.
Health Insurance is exactly the same as any other insurance in that it is a form of protection for yourself and your family against unpredictable medical bills.
Health Insurance is a necessity as without it you will have to pay very expensive medical bills yourself.
There are no free health clinics or any national health services to use. Health Insurance is the only way to protect your financial status if youre injured or become ill for any reason.
In most cases, private health insurance comes through your employer. As part of a group plan (you and your co-workers), you can be advantaged with significant discounts on premiums and
comprehensive policies. Past illnesses and your current health status is not accounted for, you will be protected through any Insurance company.
If you do not work for a company or are self-employed, buying health insurance policies can range considerably and can be quite costly.
Types of Health Insurance
There are many different types of Health Insurance; there is not one policy that can be said to be the best. Different policies work best for different peoples personal situations. The one main important aspect that should always be covered is hospitalization. Without insurance, hospitalization can cost you thousand of dollars. It is wise to review your Health Insurance on a regular basis, due to aspects constantly changing, and so the Insurance may have to change with those aspects. Cost is not he only thing to consider when buying health insurance. You also need to consider what benefits are covered. Plans are also necessary to be researched not only for cost but also for coverage.
Health Insurance can be broken down into two main categories:
1. Traditional Plans also known as Indemnity Plans or Fee-For-Service Plans.
2. Managed Care Plans can be further broken down into:
Point of Service Plans (POS)
Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO)
Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO)
Today the majority of American citizens have some form of managed care.
All managed care plans involve arrangement between the insurer and a selected network of health care providers. So, by offering policyholders significant financial incentives to use the
providers in that particular network.
Point of Service Plans (POS)
You will need to choose your Primary Care Physician (PCP) from among the plans network of doctors. Your primary care doctor will become your regular doctor.
As a member of POS you may choose to go outside the contracted provider network for specialty or major medical care at any time during the contract. You usually should go
through your PCP, but you are still able to refer yourself: although you will usually have to pay deductibles and coinsurance yourself, therefore smaller reimbursements. However, if
your PCP refers you to another specialist doctor then the contracted policy cover the cost.
The main advantage of this policy is the patients freedom of choice of the provider when seeking higher levels of care. However, this policy is expensive compared to the Health
Maintenance Organization (HMO).
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
HMOs are the least expensive policy but least flexible type of health plan. This type of policy is usually geared to group plans rather than individuals. The primary care physician
(PCP) has a more important role in the HMO policy. They have to refer you to specialists for you to be covered by your plan. Sometimes you will have to have coverage from your
PCP before going to the emergency room, so choose your Physician carefully.
Some HMOs require you to pay a small fee when visiting a doctor; others have no fees at all.
HMOs have the best reputation for covering preventive care services and health improvements program-making you receive basic health care before the problem worsens in anyway. This is due to HMOs receiving a fixed fee for covered medical expenses.
Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO)
The PPOs have an arrangement for lower fees with a network of health care providers.
Discounted fees are offered to the health plan members to stay within the certain network. However, if you choose to venture outside the network, you will have to pay the
entire bill up front, then submit your bill to the insurance company fro reimbursement. In addition, you will have to meet the deducible and pay a higher co-insurance rate.
A PPO allows you to refer yourself with a specialist without having to be granted approval. This is only with specialists that are in the network provider. If you choose to visit an out-of-network doctor, then you will still receive some coverage but be prepared to pay a significant large part of your bill.
Hospitals in the U.S. can be run by the state, city, federal government, the military (for veterans only), private institutions, religious groups, or nonprofit groups. Most doctors are self-employed physicians. They will in turn charge you a fee for the services you require. Most physicians have a contractual relationship with one or more hospitals in their community. They refer their patients as needed to the hospital, which usually charges according to the number of days a patient stays and the facilities like X-rays, operating rooms, tests that he or she uses.
The new machines and technologies for diagnosing and treating illness also are expensive, and the technicians who operate them must be well-trained. Physicians and hospitals must buy malpractice insurance to protect themselves against lawsuits.
There are a number of people that cannot afford health insurance. For those there are two options that came in effect in 1965 when two social programs were established by the
1. Medicaid is the nation's largest social-welfare program. It is a joint federal-state program that funds medical care for the poor. The requirements for receiving Medicaid and the scope of care available vary widely from state to state. It costs of about $156 thousand million a year to run it.
2. Medicare is another form of federal health insurance. It works the way that it pays for a large part of the medical bills. However, it only applies to Americans who are 65 and older or who are disabled, regardless of age. Social Security tax finances a portion of the Medicare. Everybody in the U.S. who receives Social Security payments is covered by Medicare.
The most difficult area in U.S. health care history is to provide care for those who cannot afford health insurance, and those who are not eligible for neither Medicaid nor Medicare. There is an
estimate of one in seven Americans being without health insurance for at least part of the year.
This type of people are normally those who are unemployed, have jobs without medical coverage, or who just live above the poverty line. People on this situation cannot go to public hospitals for emergency treatment, and they do very often fail to obtain routine care that might prevent illness.
To assist uninsured Americans. In 1996, Congress passed legislation designed to make health insurance more available to working families and their children. The new law expands access to health insurance for workers who lose their jobs or who apply for insurance with a preexisting medical condition. It also sets up a pilot program of tax-deferred savings accounts for use to pay medical bills. It is a fact that health care is continuously rising. However, the rate of increase has leveled off in recent years. One of the reasons is the proliferation of HMOs and other factors.
Social Security numbers (SSN) are assigned to you by the U.S. government. A SSN will follow you your whole life and be your number on what type of earnings and the benefits you can get. It is also used by banks and other agencies, such as schools, to identify you. Sometimes when you want to rent a home, you might be asked for your SSN. This is normally for the landlord to pull your credit and review what type of tenant you will be. The government department in charge of Social Security is called the Social Security Administration.
Find the Social Security office closest to you by:
Asking friends or neighbors where to find the nearest Social Security office.
Calling 1-800-772-1213 between 7 AM and 7 PM. Information is given in English and Spanish.
Free interpreter services are available.
Looking for the address in the blue pages of the phone book.
Looking on the Social Security Administration website at
To get a Social Security card, you should take several documents with you to your nearest Social Security office.
These documents include:
1. Your passport. This includes your I-94 card.
2. Your immigration papers.
3. A completed SS-5 application form. These forms are available at any Social Security
4. The process of getting a social security card can take some time. Allow at least an hour in your schedule to get your card, and be prepared to wait longer.
In the past, people have tried to give themselves fake social security numbers in order to be permitted to stay in the United States. DO NOT make this mistake. Creating a fake social security number is a crime and can result in a permanent expulsion from the United States. All social security numbers are held in an official database to which any financial or government establishment has access.
Whenever you have a credit card or pay something on credit in the U.S., it is important that you pay on time. Three major credit card organizations rate your credit depending on your payment history. After you pay your bills on time, you will get a higher and higher credit score. A higher credit score means that it will be easier for you to get to a loan if you ever want to buy a house or car. Below are some tips on how you can improve your credit score:
Pay all your bills on time.
Keep your credit card balances low. Pay at least the minimum amount due each month.
Do not apply for many of loans or credit cards.
Some states give you one free credit report per year. You can get a copy of your credit rating report by calling 1-877-322-8228 or log on to
. After September 1, 2005 all U.S. citizens can get a copy of their credit report once per year by law.
Federal law says that employers cannot discriminate against you because of your immigration status. Employers cannot:
Refuse to hire you, or fire you, because of your immigration status or because you are not a U.S. citizen.
Require you to show a Permanent Resident Card, or reject your lawful work papers.
Prefer hiring undocumented workers.
Discriminate against you because of your national origin (or country of origin).
Retaliate against any employee who complains of the above treatment.
For more information about your rights, or to file a complaint, call the Office of Special Counsel at 1-800-255-7688 or 1-800-237-2515 (for hearing impaired). If you do not speak English,
interpreters are available to help you. You also can visit
for more information about this subject.
You probably ask yourself; why pay taxes? Well, for your information, taxes are paid by all citizens and residents of the U.S. As soon as you start working, you will be paying federal tax,
state tax, and government tax. Other different types of taxes can be sales tax, income tax, and property tax. Below is an outline over different types of taxes in the U.S.
Taxes are actually being paid by all U.S. citizens and residents. When you get a job, you will automatically be paying federal, state, and local government taxes. Taxes can vary such as income tax, sales tax, and property tax. Below is an explanation of the different types of taxes.
Taxable income is money that you get from wages, self-employment, tips, and the sale of property. Based on the amount, you will be paying income tax to federal, most state, and some
local governments. One way of paying taxes is to have money withheld from your paycheck. The amount of income tax you must pay depends of course on how much you earn. Income tax rates are at a lower level for people who make less money. Anyone who earns income, resides in the United States, and meets certain requirements needs to file a tax return and pay any taxes they owe. Taxes do not have be a negative thing, as it might seem. There are a number of tax benefits you can use, and it is advisable to read up about it.
The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) is the federal agency that collects income tax for the whole U.S. Taxpayers file a federal income tax return, also called Form 1040. You will file taxes each year. Your tax return tells the government two things: 1. how much you earned and 2. how much in taxes that was taken out of your paycheck.
Social Security and Medicare tax
Social security is a type of federal taxes that are automatically withheld from your paycheck.
Social Security provides benefits for some retired workers that fall into a certain category and their families. However, it also applies to certain disabled workers and their families and some
family members of deceased workers. In the U.S. Medicare taxes pay for medical services.
Medicate is though mostly for people over the age of 65. You must have worked a total of 10 years (or 40 quarters) over the course of your life to qualify for Social Security retirement and
Medicare benefits. However, you may need less than 10 years of work to get disability benefits or for your family to get survivors benefits based on your earnings.
Sales taxes are state and local taxes that are simply added to the cost of buying products and services. Sales taxes are based on the initial cost of the item, but they vary from state to state.
Sales taxes help pay for some services provided by state and local government. Examples can be railroads, police, firemen, and schools.
These are state and local taxes on your house and land. Property taxes are sometimes used to support local public schools and other services.
Your W-2 Form: Wage and Tax Statement
A W-2 is simply a form (federal) that lists your earnings and the taxes you paid for the last tax year. A tax year is always from January 1 to December 31 of each year. Your employer must
send you a W-2 form by January 31 each year. This is the law. You will receive a W-2 form for each job you have, so you might end up quit a few if you frequently change jobs in a year. You
must send a copy of all your W-2 forms together with your federal income tax return to the IRS.
You might qualify for online filing also. If you live or work in a state that collects income tax, you must send a copy of your W-2 with your state income tax return.
Getting Help With Your Taxes
You are required to file a federal income tax return every year as an LPR. The return covers your gross earnings from January to December of the year that passed. Returns must always be filed by April 15 of any given year. There is one place you can get free help, and that is at the IRS TaxpayerAssistanceCenter. You do not need to call ahead.
The Taxpayer Assistance Centers are located in many communities across the United States. To find the TaxpayerAssistanceCenter close to where you live, visit
. You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
There are 50 states in the U.S. 48 of them are is normally referred to as mainland US and reach about 4,500 kilometers including four time zones. The other two states, Hawaii is located in the
Pacific Ocean and Alaska outside Canada. A map over all the US states is located in another chapter.
You can easily drive car from the West to the East coast of the continental U.S. However, be aware of that it takes around 4-5 days if you drive non-stop. However, if you ever plan to do so,
give yourself at least 2 weeks. You will then be able to appreciate the nature and stop at interesting sites as you go along. The temperatures can change drastically from state to state,
and within each state. It is not unusual for the gap between the warmest and coldest high temperatures on a given day in the United States to reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit (about 40
degrees Celsius). This means you should include both summer and winter clothes on your trip. Below is an outline of the different regions in the USA and the states that make them up:
The North East, made up of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and
The South, which runs from Virginia south to Florida and west as far as central Texas.
This region also includes West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and parts of Missouri and
The Midwest, a broad collection of states sweeping westward from Ohio to Nebraska and including Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, parts of Missouri,
North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, and eastern Colorado.
The Southwest, made up of western Texas, portions of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and the southern interior part of California.
The West, comprising Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, California, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Note that there is nothing official about these regions; many other lineups are possible.
These groupings are offered simply as a way to begin the otherwise daunting task of getting acquainted with the United States.
American Business Culture typically differs greatly from many other Countries around the world in the following ways:
Regional Subcultures. There are a number of differences within these regions including cuisine, history, commodities, prevalent industries, political tendencies, and natural
topography. As a result, many Americans take pride in the region and/or state where they are from.
Regional Business Subcultures. Many stereotypes exist about people from these different regions. In general, Southerners are known for their 'Southern Hospitality,' showing a
great level of consideration and warmth for business counterparts. The West Coast is known for a more casual, informal approach to business while the East Coast is often
considered the more formal and sometimes conservative counterpart in terms of dress and conduct. Expect many exceptions to these generalizations.
Individual Business Cultures. Regional background should be taken into account when learning about American businesses. Individual factors including industry, business
structure, management, and business mission also play a strong role in shaping an individual business culture. Those wishing to do extensive business within one region in the US are well-advised to spend some time researching that area in particular. Those wishing to do business with specific companies should invest additional time researching individual business culture through corporate literature, marketing, and websites.
Prior appointments are necessary.
People in the United States write the month first, then the day, then the year [i.e., December 5, 2006 is written 12/5/06].
Punctuality is very important for business occasions. In many U.S. cities, traffic can cause considerable delays, so be sure to allow enough driving time to your appointment.
If you know that you will be late, call to let your contact know.
For a first meeting, you cannot go wrong if you dress conservatively. Afterwards, you may want to follow the example of your American counterparts.
In U.S. business culture, dress tends to vary. In some parts of the country--the east in particular--most people wear business suits. In other areas, such as the west coast, a
more relaxed approach to dressing is the norm in many workplaces. Executives in most regions of the country, however, usually dress quite formally.
Business suits or dresses are often the standard attire for women. Pantsuits, in classic styles, are also acceptable. Accessorizing, which adds flair to even very simple outfits, is
also practiced here.
Business Language - almost all business is conducted in English in the United States.
Spanish is another common language due to the United States' proximity to Mexico and Central America and the large population of Spanish-speaking individuals in the country. However, English will still be used almost 100% for business deals.
American business language is also very idiomatic. Many Americans adopt sports terms in their business speech ["Touch base," "Ballpark figures," "Call the shots," "Team
players," and "Game plan" are a few examples.] Many Americans may not be aware that they are using these idioms because they seem so natural.
If language becomes a barrier, ask for clarification and seek understanding. If you are not totally comfortable speaking and doing business in English, hire a translator.
Compliments are exchanged frequently and are popular conversation starters. If you wish to make conversation with someone, you can compliment an item such as his or her
clothing or a work or sports related achievement.
Generally, Americans like to laugh and enjoy being with people who have a sense of humor. Jokes are usually welcome, but be careful. In all situations, ethnic and religious
humor should be avoided. Self-deprecating humor, however, usually goes over well.
Topics to Avoid
1. Until you know a person well, avoid discussing religion, politics or other controversial subjects [i.e., abortion, racism, sexism].
2. Ethnic or religious jokes
Business gifts are often presented after the deal is closed.
During the Holiday season [late November through the first week of January], gifts are exchanged. For your business associates, you can give gifts such as useful items for the
office, liquor or wine. Choose gifts with no religious connotations [i.e. don't buy Christmas ornaments], unless you are certain of the religious background of your associates. While
Christmas is the dominant celebration, and is widely commercialized during this period, people may be celebrating many other holidays during this period [i.e. Hanukkah,
This culture stresses individual initiative and achievement. Moreover, Americans can also be competitive in both work and leisure.
The concept "time is money" is taken seriously in U.S. business culture. Businesspeople are used to making up their minds quickly and decisively. They value information that is
straightforward and to the point.
In the USA, money is a key priority and an issue that will be used to win most arguments. Status, protocol, and national honor play a smaller role. Similarly, "saving
face" and other social niceties and formalities that are vitally important to other cultures are not as important in the United States.
American business people are opportunistic and willing to take chances. Opportunism and risk taking often result in Americans going for the biggest possible slice of the business, 100% if possible.
Americans tend to dislike periods of silence during negotiations and in conversations, in general. They may continue to speak simply to avoid silence.
Businesspeople are very direct and will not hesitate to disagree with you. This communication style often causes embarrassment to business travelers who are unaccustomed to dealing with Americans or direct communication in general.
Persistence is another characteristic you will frequently encounter in American businesspeople; there is a prevailing belief that there is always a solution. Moreover, they
will explore all options when negotiations are at an impasse.
Consistency is common among American business people: when they agree to a deal, they rarely change their minds.
Americans tend to be future oriented. Therefore, innovation often takes precedence over tradition.
the United States is the most litigious society in the world. There are lawyers who specialize in practically every industry and segment of society.
Usually, business is conducted at an extremely fast pace.
Often, American businesspeople try to extract an oral agreement at the first meeting. However, U.S. salespeople sometimes bring final contracts to first meetings with
prospective clients. In large firms, contracts under $10,000 can often be approved by one middle manager in a single meeting.
Compared with many cultures, the United States is moving forward rapidly and successfully with its unique diversity. Expect to work with women and people of different
ethnic backgrounds, religions, and cultures in the workplace at all levels and positions.
Do not assume, for example, that a woman present in the meeting will be responsible for handling coffee. She may very well be leading the meeting and the person who will make
the final decision. Treat everyone with respect and dignity to ensure a successful trip.
Many people in the United States have a limited knowledge of cultures beyond their own country and its own diverse subcultures. Some Americans may assume that their way is
the "correct" or only way.
Business culture can vary greatly from company to company, because of America's diversity. Learn as much about the business culture of your foreign associates before
meeting with them through their website, marketing materials, and business literature.
There are a number of other factors to consider when conducting business in America. However, the above outline gives you a good indication of what to be aware of and what to avoid.
Remember, what is common in your country might not be very common in the USA. Be respectful all the time, and you will have great success.
If you are not sure which department to call about a question, start by calling 1-800-FED-INFO (or 1-800-333-4636) to ask where to call. People who have difficulty hearing can call 1-800-326-2996. You can also visit
for more information about federal departments and agencies.
Department of Education (ED)
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
For hearing impaired: 1-800-437-0833
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street NW
For hearing impaired: 1-800-669-6820
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue SW
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
For hearing impaired: 1-800-767-1833
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street SW
For hearing impaired: 202-708-1455
Department of Justice (DOJ)
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
For hearing impaired: 1-800-829-4059
Selective Service System (SSS)
Registration Information Office
PO Box 94638
For hearing impaired: 1-847-688-2567
Social Security Administration (SSA)
Office of Public Inquiries
6401 Security Boulevard
For hearing impaired: 1-800-325-0778
Department of State (DOS)
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW