6 Tips for Moving Back to the United States

Are you an American citizen working abroad, considering a move back to the United States? Do you have family members who will be coming home with you? As an expatriate, or expat, you’ve come to the right place for helpful information.  

Working overseas is a wonderful step in life. Your new home offers incredible exposure for you and your family members to diverse cultures, methods, global tribal customs and beliefs, government structures, new friends, and great life adventures.  

At some point, for a variety of reasons, many U.S. citizens want or need to return to their home country. It’s a big move with a lot of costs and considerations. Being informed and prepared is so important.  

I personally spent 28 years abroad before moving back to the United States and want to share my advice for anyone looking to make the same move.  

1. Nurture your network and travel home often 

When I came back and started my work as a talent recruiter, I did not have a current professional network. I had been an expat for nearly three decades, after all! If you have the opportunity, be sure to stay in touch with and try to grow your stateside network. Travel back home as often as you can and keep your relationships strong. This will help you seamlessly relocate and reintegrate when it’s time to move.  

2. Be aware of passport, visa, and green card requirements 

For many people working abroad, there is a strong possibility that you have a repatriation clause in your work contract, which covers repatriation of self-and/or family to a declared home destination. This means the relocation to other areas in the United States would be from your home city – not from the foreign country where you live. No matter your scenario, make sure you’re familiar with requirements that apply to you and what documentation is necessary. Details can be found on the following sites:   

– Passport: https://www.usa.gov/passport  

– Visitor Visa: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visitor.html   

– Immigrant Visa: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate.html  

– Green Card: https://www.uscis.gov/green-card   

3. Plan on the entire process taking 6+ months 

If you are a foreign-based American person and your spouse is a non-U.S. foreign-based person, moving back home can be a task. Start early! Getting to a final interview for an entry visa and green card can take half a year or more. Everything you need to know is in the various .gov websites listed above. Consultants are good but expensive.  

You will need to apply for police clearance certificates from each country where your spouse has lived for longer than a few months. If you return to a country a second time or extend your stay after you get a certificate from the country you lived in, you will need a second one. For example, I applied for a visa with one police letter from China. We extended our stay and then left for a different country of residence – but I was late in realizing the police clearance letter part. I had to pay a consultant in China to secure the second addendum letter as I was not going to go there and do it myself.  

The point is to apply on exit from any posting in any country where you do not expect to return to for work. This speeds the green card and visa application process. Imagine going to Egyptian and Qatari embassies from another country and applying for these police clearances after the fact – this alone is an adventure and processing take months.  

4. Get a work authorization for your spouse 

I learned late in the game that there’s a way your spouse can move with you and your children to the United States on a long stay visa and complete the green card process while in the United States. IR Visas (spouse of a U.S. person) are a high priority for this scenario, providing an exception that allows families to stay together. Here is a resource to explore your individual options, depending on your unique circumstances.  

5. Be ready for a culture shock 

No matter how long you have been gone, some things are bound to have changed while others stay the same. Here are some of the long-lived realities of life in the United States compared to other countries:  

  • Tipping at restaurants is much higher in the United States. 
  • Drink and meal sizes are much larger in the United States.  
  • Be careful when driving – people will walk right in front of you.  
  • Taxes are not included in prices.

Check out these 20 other differences that may leave you with culture shock when moving to the United States.

Due to the ease of communication these days, the culture shock for expats is milder than it was 30 years ago, when much was written about challenges in reconnecting and reintegrating into U.S. society. It’s a lot like riding a bike today…you get back into the swing of it quick, but you still feel and experience stark differences compared to the life you were living abroad.  

6. Line up the right job with help from a recruiter 

When searching for a job before you arrive back home, you may find yourself experiencing bias in a variety of forms:    

“Well, they haven’t worked in a local operation for a while.”  

“They have not worked in a union environment for many years.”  

“They are used to too many resources and low labor costs.”   

Repatriating can be harder than it sounds. It can also be an amazing life transition for you and your family. Stability is key! That’s why choosing to work with an experienced recruiting firm can be an invaluable decision for your job search. Our team at Goodwin Recruiting is committed to diversity, equity, and equality for all. We are ready to help you navigate this next step in your career and life.  

If you’re interested in exploring our job openings in hospitality, healthcare, financial, manufacturing, and more, reach out to me today – or find a local recruiter who lives in the area of the United States where you intend to land.   

Other important considerations  

  • Establish your proof of U.S. address: You need this to obtain a driver’s license if you let your old one lapse. Coming home from certain countries, you won’t be able to transfer your license. Rather, you must start over and pass written and driver’s tests. Personally, I was paying for my daughter’s apartment and I used that address to get started while I was searching for my own place. Perhaps you have an existing U.S. property, a rental in place, or family or friends with an address you can use to get started. This is important to anticipate as you make plans.  
  • Cover all bases and budget accordingly: Moving a household and pets, and planning for transit, lodging, temporary accommodations, and other necessities for the transition home can cost a lot if you do it on your own. Corporations have reduced rate deals in place for executive relocation. Explore every advantage and option in your planning so you are financially prepared for every aspect of relocation.  
  • Arrange other necessities as soon as possible: These include a real estate agent, health insurance and healthcare-related provisions, bank accounts, credit cards, school enrollment, and budgets for cost-of-living expenses. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report and credit score, and make sure you have your social security card and birth certificate handy  

Whether you’re destined to land in a big city or small town, entry back into the United States can go smoothly if you’re prepared and everything works as it should. You’ll be surprised how fast you reacclimate after the move, and you’ll probably find that many people never even realized you had been away.  

I wish you the best with your forthcoming adventure and the start of your new life!