Best American Cities for Expat Workers

November 24, 2022

The US, renowned for its American Dream fantasy, keeps attracting people around the world to move there and pursue their happiness. If you’re one of such people, you might be wondering where to settle. After all, you can’t just trust the movies… or can you?

How to start looking? There are many variables to consider, which you should tailor to what you need. In this article, we’re gonna help you out with some tips on which city to choose and other handy hacks!

How do you start working in the US?

Bureaucratically speaking, if you’re a foreigner, your pursuit of happiness in America starts with getting the right visa and permits. To legally work in the US, you will need a work visa, which can be both immigrant and nonimmigrant. The type of visa you need also differs depending on which occupation you’re taking up. Either way, a job offer from an American business is a must, so start looking!

If you’re already in the US and have a nonimmigrant status that does not automatically grant you the right to work in the US, you will also need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Here are examples of people with such status:

  • Foreign students
  • Refugees
  • Family members of work visa holders
  • People currently applying to adjust their status or for permanent residence.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s start choosing the city of your dreams!

Sarasota, Florida

We kick off this list with a city that fulfills a simple criterion that a lot of expats crave: great weather all year round. Florida is the US center for tropical chilling, and Sarasota in specific is popular among expats.

Not only is the city warm, but it is brimming with culture. It’s also located just off Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, which make exciting work opportunities just within an arm’s’ reach. The whole state of Florida also doesn’t charge income tax. While the cost of living in Sarasota is 9 percent above the national US average, it’s lower than other Floridian hubs.

Austin, Texas

One of the most iconic American states, Texas also entices expats from around the world to its capital. Austin is the live music center of the world, so you won’t ever be bored with the cultural scene of the city. Expats have also shared that the sense of community here is strong, especially considering that it’s the capital of the Lone Star State.

Put away your old-timey image of Texas: Austin is a hub of technology! With Google, IBM, Dell, and many others having offices in this city, Austin promises opportunities for the techies.

Housing in Austin is 2 percent higher than the national average, but other expenses tend to be lower, which makes the average cost of living 3 percent lower than the US average.

Portland, Oregon

Portland is a city with a strong sense of community that makes it comfortable for expats to mingle. The people of Portland are proud of their uniqueness (which is shown in their culture as well as their businesses) and this open-mindedness surely makes it more comfortable for expats to settle. 

The economy in Portland currently enjoys a boost from the service industry and startups, so workers in this field, especially in tech, won’t find it too difficult to find a job. It’s also an environmentally-minded city, so people from the environmental field such as renewables and green farming might find Portland. Networking is especially important to get jobs in the city.

However, the problem with Portland is that the wages here tend to be lower than other American expat hubs. The overall average cost of living is 29% higher in this city.

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is considered one of the big melting pots in the US, and it’s no wonder: it’s considered one of the most welcoming cities in the US for immigrants. The official policies of the city support them, so expats have no problem finding jobs or even becoming entrepreneurs. The majority of surveyed expats also positively rate their jobs.

As with all cities, the cost of living depends on many factors, including your employment and the area you’re in. Chicago’s cost of living speaks to its scales: it is 23% higher than the national average.

Honorable mentions: New York City and Los Angeles

As they say, New York is so nice they named it twice – referring to the fact that the city shares the same name as its state. You already know New York as a cutthroat city, and it’s true: you have to be competitive to succeed. While good jobs in the city pay well, the city is one of the most expensive in the world. It all comes with the unmatched opportunities available in the Big Apple.

Los Angeles, famous for Hollywood and traffics, among many things, is also popular among expats. Each neighborhood of LA is its own microcosm, and you’ll definitely find your tribe here. The city’s also expensive and the rising housing costs are causing a homeless crisis, but people still flock to the city to chase the opportunities the city offers.