Despite a shared language, you can expect big differences in the way of life over in the USA. Moving to the USA requires research, forward planning and patience.

It is highly recommended that you make good use of your predecessor or immediate colleagues’ knowledge as the nature of the United States federal system of government can mean each state has a very different approach to customs, laws, taxes and individual rights, which can further complicate the transition.

The British Embassy in Washington D.C and HR teams in Virginia Tidewater area, Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Creech AFB, Poway, Tampa and Eglin AFB can provide advice and guidance but onus rests with you to research the area you are assigned to before you travel, or better still, before you apply for an assignment in the USA.

Here we try to give you a starting point for your research, signposting you to the best known locational information sources:

USA Assignment

Image Credit: N Mills

RAF positions in the USA

All positions in the USA are trawled for by the respective Career Manager; therefore, personnel are advised to contact both the current incumbent of the post and the relevant in-country HR team prior to volunteering and/or after receiving their Assignment Order – this is a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have and to provide you with a clear picture of what to expect.

Note: In some circumstances there are assignments where considerable personal financial outlay is required, this will be briefed before you apply.

Points of note

  • Laws – the law varies from state to state, therefore it is recommended you check the local laws before moving, such as driving and alcohol consumption regulations.
  • Credit – when you arrive in the US you will have no credit history. This can make car insurance, mobile phone contracts and credit cards difficult to obtain, initially. If you anticipate requiring a large lump sum of money, perhaps for a vehicle purchase, it may be beneficial to take out a loan in the UK before you travel.
  • Driving license and tests – if you have an American driving license, regardless of state or age, bring it with you. They will convert expired licenses without the need to take the test. If you have not got a physical license you will be required to take a knowledge and physical test.
  • Cars – cars in the USA, both second hand and new, are expensive and at the moment are in short supply.
  • Guns – Gun laws in America can be quite surprising for UK citizens, particularly in states where individuals are allowed to open carry without a permit. Note, UK personnel are not permitted to carry a firearm without permission for the UK Embassy.
  • Rental cars – rental cars are also in short supply and we have heard of delays of up to 48 hours which can result in arrival process delays.
  • Pricing – the marked price is often not the price you will pay, as it excludes sales tax. Every state is different but you can expect to pay an additional 7 – 12%.
  • Tipping – tipping is expected for all services provided, particularly bartenders and waiters. 15% – 20% is a good rule of thumb to follow.
  • Pets – consider the cost of return travel for your pet, as well as outbound travel. Often the cost to return is more expensive.
  • Cats – in America cats are considered indoor pets, with over 90% of cats living indoor lives (Pets4Homes).
  • Family planning – if you plan to start a family in the USA it is important to have awareness of the taxation law introduced in 2010 (see 2023DIN01-051) and how to rescind citizenship.
  • Mosquitoes – ‘mozzies’ are an inherent problem across America.

(Information provided by a RAF spouse in the USA, 2023).

USA location information

Tidewater, VA guide

Our pre-arrival guide to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA provides detailed information on most topics that require further research or consideration ahead of an assignment to that location. This is a pilot, selected by us as it is not covered by other location guides, and has a large and growing footprint of UK personnel, spouses and children.

iHIVE Location Guides

The iHIVE offers a range of overseas location guides designed to help members of the Armed Forces and their families prepare for life overseas. Whilst there aren’t any physical HIVE information centres in the USA, the iHIVE blog is updated regularly with useful information and you can subscribe to email alerts.

USA information sources

BDSUS portal

The British Defence Staff US (BDSUS) online information portal is there to support the MOD and its people in the USA. It was created to help UK military; MOD civilians and their families plan for living in the USA. The site contains a wealth of information providing initial guidance on most topics, and it is reviewed and updated regularly. It is intended to be a reference site, to look up answers to questions that arise from the planning process and also during your assignment in the USA.

USA education guide

This guide, from the Armed Forces Families & Safeguarding team, provides a great introduction to the education system in the USA. It explains how standards are set, the in-country assessments and qualifications available and the key differences between the UK and US systems. A must read if you have children accompanying you. Further information on Education, US Schools and additional educational support is available on the portal.

Welfare support in the USA

If you are currently in the USA and you are in need of personal support or social work services, BDSDUD Welfare are the local providers and can be contacted on:

Email: [email protected]
Web: BDSUS Welfare 

Overseas welfare support information >

How we can help

If you are looking for something not covered by the information here, get in touch. We can make enquiries on your behalf and provide you with guidance.