Moving to the United States
The goal of this page is provide compact recommendations for people moving to Germany. We cover the most important bureaucratic and financial matters, such immigration, health insurance, bank accounts, credit cards, retirement and taxes.
List of guides
The following guides provide an in-depth summary of relevant information on the respective topic.
Getting started in the US. This guide gives recommendations on the first bureaucratic steps after arriving in the US, starting from applying for your social security number to opening a bank account and choosing phone / internet plans.
Building credit in the US. This guide explains why you should get a credit card in the US and how to improve your credit score. When used responsibly, i.e., if you do not rack up large debt with ridiculous high interest, you can easily make hundreds of dollars and more per year. Moreover, we argue that you can even benefit when keeping your US credit card after leaving the US.
Credit cards without SSN. This guide reviews ways to open US credit cards for people who do not have a social security number (SSN), which potentially even allows temporary tourists to open a bank account and subsequently a credit card account.
Car rental. This guide explains what to consider when you rent a car in the US. A large part of this advice also applies to renting cars in other countries. In particular, we review the best insurance options when renting a car.
Interactive Brokers Lite. This guide explains why (as of writing) Interactive Brokers Lite is hands-down the best brokerage accounts for people moving between countries (such as expats, postdocs, PhD students, researchers etc.). We discuss the key advantages and requirements for opening an account using a US address.
US Foreign Taxation. If you are resident for tax purposes in the US (including US permanent residents and citizens living abroad), you will need to declare your worldwide income and even provide information about your foreign bank & brokerage accounts. Moreover, you will be subject to some punitive taxes on foreign investments (such as most non-US ETFs), which one needs to be aware. In this guide, we summarize the most important rules, consequences and reporting requirements.
Double taxation in the US. This guide is particularly geared towards internationals moving temporarily to the US (such as students, postdocs and temporary workers). We review what one needs to take into account with regard to tax status (resident for tax purposes vs. non-resident for tax purposes). Moreover, we explain the rules that apply when moving between countries during a given tax year. While our advice will apply to internationals from all countries, we will specifically comment on the situation for Germans.
Leaving the US. Whenever you move to a new country, you will ask the question which financial accounts you should close and which ones you should keep. In this guide, we argue that it makes sense to keep many of your US accounts and credit cards and we explain how to stay on top of things.
Do not forget to check out the Services & Accounts, which has a whole section devoted to people spending time in the US.
Wishlist for new guides
In the following, I provide a list of guides we are intending to write in the future. Let me know if you are particularly keen on one.
Affordable travel. This guide reviews the full range of cheap travel options ranging from flights, trains, buses and car rental. It also gives unconventional tips on how to find the perfect solution for your needs (such as coordinating a rideshare group to rent a car to go where you want).
US health insurances. This guide discusses the health care system in the US and what one should be aware of when signing up for health insurance or when choosing between the available options offered by an employer.
US bank accounts. This guide reviews and compares different bank accounts available to US customers. It also discusses advantages and disadvantages for people using the account while being oversea (either for travel or for longer).
US retirement. This guide explains how the US retirement system works and how one can save on taxes by using the right investment account (401k, IRA, Roth IRA etc.) when saving for retirement.
Taxes in the US. This guide gives a general summary on how the US tax system works (consisting of federal tax, state tax and local tax). It also gives some general tips on what internationals coming to the US for work or study should be aware of.
Please send suggestions for the wishlist to ExpatFinance.email@example.com.