Moving to Florida... A guide to relocating to Florida
There's a lot to think about when you're planning your move to Florida. Relocating permanently means that you'll need to know about everything from from residency to visas, schooling to healthcare and more! And because there's a lot to think about and prepare for, we've put together some of the information you'll need - read through the sections below to get prepared to make that move to Florida.
Most people can visit the USA for up to 90 days without a visa under a Visa Waiver Program such an ESTA. For longer stays or split residence, a B-2 visa is still a tourist visa, but it allows you stay in America for up to 180 days. A B1 (for business reasons) and the B2 are the same application form. You apply direct on-line with the US Embassy using a DS-160 form in your country of residence, pay a nominal fee, upload required information and wait for an appointment for interview at the US Embassy or US consulate. This would suit a retiree, who wants to spend half his time in the UK and half in Florida. You can spend more time if you break up your visits, but you must not abuse the system or your visa could be revoked. TIP- the issued B2 lasts for 10 years and firmly placed in your passport, if your passport is close to expiry then think about renewing early for the B2 visa.
If you are working in Florida, you can apply for an L1A, L1B or H1, H2 visa. Normally, your employer will go through the process of getting the right visa for you. The E visas where you can live and run your own business there have no limit to how may E visas can be applied for annually, unlike the H visa which has a pre-determined number of allocations per year, it maybe 60,000 one year and the following year could be 140,000.
The E2 “Non Immigrant Investor Visa” is a visa that will allow you to operate a business in Florida. Assuming you meet the criteria for this process, this is the most commonly used visa and is for buying a going concern business or setting up a new business. It’s a big step to take in moving you and your family to the USA and is it worth it? Just listen to the resounding yes’s from families who have done it when asked. TIP- Please do use the services of a licenced Immigration attorney who is a member of the USA Immigration Bar to create your E2 application, there is a great deal of documentation to be gathered, collated, completed and submitted.
You will have to prove, beside a 5-year business plan, that you have cash funds to buy or create a US business that will support you and your dependents. You cannot buy a business with an E2 visa using financing on the purchase price. Tip- A typical family of four relocating to say Florida with an E2 will spend between $160,000 to $350,000 on a purchasing a going concern. The E2 is issued for an initial period of up to 5 years and then can be renewed every 5 years without any limit on renewals.
In 2019, there were around 400,000 Britons living in Florida, including many families. The good news is that Florida is ranked third best in the USA for the standard of its education, only bettered by New Jersey and Massachusetts, which clearly don’t offer the same sun- drenched beaches!
But if you know a little about about the education system in one American state, don’t assume it works the same way in the Sunshine State. States across the USA don’t follow a national curriculum and the education system can vary hugely, and differences to the UK education system are wider still, with three options for schooling: public, private or international schools. Public schools include elementary schools - the equivalent of UK primary schools - from age 5 to 11 (Grade 5).
Then senior schools are divided into middle school (Grades 6-8) and then high schools (Grades 9 to 12). Unlike the UK system, pupils do not specialise early on by taking ‘options’ but experience a more generalist approach until university level. Most American schools do not require uniforms but so have the right to introduce them and they have been gaining popularity (Polk County was an early adopter).
Private schools also co-exist, and some offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, which is more compatible with transfer to a European school if needed for expats who move around. There are 135 private schools in Orlando alone, with 65 per cent religiously affiliated. The good news is that the average private school cost in Florida is $9,157 per year (2021), less than half the UK average: $21,458, according to the Independent School Council.
Many international schools will also offer the IB, with a Diploma Programme preparing for university entrance, recognised globally, between age 16 and 19 years. Amongst the best rated are North Broward Prep School (north of Miami) and Windermere Prep School (Orange County).
Florida is divided into school districts, and some of them are ranked better than others in terms of calibre of the educational establishments within them. Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) is generally regarded as the best in central Florida. Orange County (202 schools alone) is ranked second, followed by Volusia, Lake County and Osceola. It is imperative you do your research and visit schools if you are looking to move.
It won’t be news to most people that there is no National Health Service in the the USA. If you are moving to the US, it makes sense to try and understand how it works as it couldn’t be more different to the UK’s system.
The industry is completely privatised, with a network of hospitals and surgeries across the nation run by independent companies.
Medicaid and Medicare are two state-funded plans put in place by President Lyndon B Johnson. The latter is for people aged 65 or over, regardless of income, and if you’ve been paying Medicare taxes whilst earning, you will qualify for it. For most people, Medicare support provides a huge reduction in insurance premiums, but still requires a small payment each month. Also, early retirees might not qualify.
Some Americans are lucky enough to have their healthcare paid for by their employer, but for everyone else, including expats, you will need to foot the bill yourself. Hospitals do not turn away patients who are the uninsured but an invoice is sent to them upon completion of treatment, and sadly bankruptcy can result for those without insurance. But Obamacare, passed in 2010, has improved American access to healthcare by policing how insurers treat patients and now - by forcing all Americans to get medical cover – it has lowered insurance premiums across the country. It is estimated to have put another 24m Americans on health insurance policies.
Expats in America must take out private healthcare insurance because you generally have to wait five years after receiving official immigration status before you can access Medicaid - or 10 years’ working for Medicare.
If you have a holiday home there you should at least have travel insurance, but actually, purchasing travel insurance is not mandatory for entering the United States as a tourist on a B1/B2 visa - unlike the Schengen area countries, where it is s required to get a Schengen visa.
The annual cost of health insurance for the average American is $3,529 per year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), but it is not the same for expats, though this widely varies according to age, health, where you’re going in America, and how depth of medical cover. A young adult might only pay $180-$200 per month for basic health insurance, but according to the insurance provider, ehealthinsurance.com, Florida residents pay an average of $467 per person per month for a major medical individual health insurance plan.