The complete guide to moving to New York

Updated: Jul 9, 2018

Planning your move to New York City; the home of the brave, the land of the free and the resting place of Lady Liberty, can be difficult. After all, the United States is a country with stringent visa restrictions. But New York is a city with diversity, culture and a whole lot of caffeine (which is pretty appropriate for a place that’s nicknamed “the city that never sleeps”) and when it comes to packing your stuff to ship to New York - this city’s an exciting choice to relocate to and we’ve got you covered with the logistics with our latest guide.

Moving to New York and setting up a home

Moving from Australia, to the home of the Statue of Liberty does not come cheap. But what moving to New York City costs in cold hard cash, it makes up for in energy and opportunity. The only problem is that property in New York City not only costs but gets snapped up faster than locals walk on the sidewalk.

To rent or buy

Moving to New York is an expensive decision, not just because of the costs involved with shipping to New York but because property prices in the big apple are amongst some of the most expensive in the world. But regardless of which side of the property market you’re looking to position yourself on, properties in New York City move quickly. This is why it’s important to know where in the city you’d like to position yourself.

There are no suburbs in New York City and instead, the city is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Each borough has its own look and atmosphere, but the way to remember them is as follows:

The borough everyone is most familiar with. It’s tall, hectic and plays home to pretty much all of New York’s famous landmarks.

It’s situated just over to the East and is the borough that’s known for its laid-back vibe and culture.

Possibly the most ethnically diverse area in the United States is Queens. Sitting across the East River from Manhattan, Queens plays home to pro baseball team, the Mets, and tends to have the most going on.

The Bronx
Home to the New York Yankees and an area which once had a ‘rough-and-ready’ reputation, the Bronx is transitioning well into its revival period and is slowly shedding its former reputation.

Staten Island

It’s leaner, it’s greener and the ferry between the island and the mainland is free, so what’s not to love? But whilst Staten Island is often treated as the forgotten child, there’s plenty to love in this New York Borough.

Inside each of the five boroughs in New York City, there are a variety of neighbourhoods, so when it comes to choosing a place to call home; you have plenty of options spanning across different budgets. Average rental prices in New York vary between $2,000 - $7,000 depending on whether you’re looking to rent a studio or a house. Whereas purchase prices typically start at $400,000 and double that if you’re looking to purchase in Manhattan.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be in central Manhattan to have all of the fun that New York offers. The expansive public transport system means that wherever you are in New York City, you’re easily connected to the areas around you and there is always something new to discover just a few blocks away. As a result, you can afford to tour the neighbourhoods and get a feel for the area in which you want to relocate to. But be warned. Finding somewhere that is cheap, in your desired area and the property style you want, is almost unheard of and there’s a chance you’ll have to sacrifice on one of those elements.

Tip: Property moves faster than locals on sidewalks so you may need real estate assistance when choosing your property. If you’re planning to rent or buy before you move, we suggest that you see the property before doing so, unless you have the help of a very trusted source.


When it comes to living costs, they’ll vary greatly depending on whether you’re embarking on an eat-in, or eat-out quest during your time in New York. The city has the most incredible food scene and as one of few places where you can get Michelin-starred meals delivered to your door—so it makes sense to make the most of it.

When you’re not out eating your way through the city, you’ll want to ensure your utilities are set up. As the city that never sleeps, it has a pretty centralised electric distribution set up and the majority of New York’s five boroughs are powered by Con Edison. The only exception to this is the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, where the power is provided by Public Service Enterprise Group.


Gas is a substance not just useful for heating homes when the temperatures plummet in winter, but the majority of cooking in New York City is done via gas. There are two main providers: Con Edison which covers Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens (North), and The National Grid which covers Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.


All five of the boroughs in New York City (NYC) have their water provided to them by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. If you’re renting, water tends to be included as part of your lease agreement however, this varies per letting so be sure to check the small print on your rental agreement. If you’ve purchased a property, however, you’ll need to set up your water subscription which you can do by visiting their page here.

Getting around

New York is one of those places where the public transport is a blessing when it comes to manoeuvring the city. You can take a yellow taxi but whilst it is one of the most iconic ways to get around, they can also be one of the most expensive. Buses, however, are much cheaper and cover just as much ground, but they only accept tokens, exact change, or a metro card and there’s always Uber or Lyft.

The real draw of New York City’s transport options, is the subway. The subway system has 468 stations and is one of the most expansive transit systems in the world and the second-oldest subway system in the US.

Getting a driving licence

It’s a rare occurrence that you’ll need to drive in New York as the public transport systems are so well connected but (as a visitor) your driving licence will be valid in New York but you’ll need a New York State learner’s permit. If you stay in America long enough to become a resident, however, you’ll need to get a New York State driver’s licence which you can get from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and if you’re looking to pack up your vehicle ready to ship to New York - get in contact so that we can compile a quote!

School Options

When it comes to the education system, Australia and America aren’t so different in terms of learning and teaching approaches. The main difference lays in how they are organised, as American schools are divided into elementary, middle and high school.

New York has the cream of the crop when it comes to schools and you’ll find some of the country’s most prestigious private schools here. There are many publicly funded schools in New York City and unlike in many other countries, you aren’t bound by location when choosing a school for your children. In New York you can apply for a school in a borough, even if you don’t live in it. You aren’t always guaranteed to get a spot as school places are distributed based upon your preference, admission priority and the number of spaces they have available, but the option is there which provides a certain level of flexibility.

New York’s higher education, is where things get really interesting as it has some of the most popular higher education destinations including Cornell, Columbia, Yeshiva, City University and New York University (NYU) where students from all over the world attend.


When you move to New York it’s important that you understand the differences between your country of departure and New York City’s legal system. America’s legal system is completely different and you’ll usually face the biggest challenge before stepping into the country as the visa application requires an abundance of paperwork.


When it comes to immigration, America is notoriously strict. For an Australian citizen, any stay over 90 days requires you to have a visa, with there being specific visas in place depending on what brings you to the United States. There are multiple types of visas and to find the most suitable visa for you, you’ll need to speak to your closest American embassy as the legislation and requirements for each visa vary drastically. One of the most common visas, however, is the E-3 working visa.

The E-3 visa is valid for two years and requires the least in terms of paperwork. The visa is a result of America’s and Australia’s strong ties and enables Australian citizens to live and work in America if they have a degree or relevant experience in their field. The E-3 visa is open to any industry, from traders to office work, as long as they can prove their knowledge. This is typically done via a university degree, or if an applicant doesn’t have one then three years of work experience to each university year is generally acceptable. The E-3 visa is a popular choice amongst Australians looking to relocate as with the E-3-D you are able to bring your family over too and the visa doesn’t limit you or your partner in terms of what jobs you can apply for.

Health Care

There are no two ways about it: healthcare in America is expensive.

Depending on how long you’re planning on relocating for, you can either get yourself expat insurance, which covers medical procedures and treatment for a certain time period, or if you’re seeking residency it’s worth arranging a health insurance policy in America. Policies can be expensive, but the costs you pay to remain protected are minimal compared to the costs incurred throughout illness or accident.


Whilst it’s not technically a legal requirement, it might as well be. Tipping is a huge part of American culture and should be added to any service you receive. A 15% tip is considered on the lower end of the spectrum, with an 18-20% tip being considered just right.

Everyday Life

When shipping to New York, it’s worth remembering that the temperatures in winter drop real low and you’ll need to pack your warmest coat and ship it to New York to ensure you’ve got something to get you through those harsh winter months. For the remaining months of the year however, the weather is pretty pleasant—enabling you to explore the outdoors in comfortable climates.

Recreational activities

The movies may make it seem like the outfits and parties are never ending in the city that never sleeps, and it’s true, but there’s so much more to do than this throughout the day too. Once you’ve made the most of the close proximity to all of New York’s most infamous attractions, head to the city and get social. ‘Internations’, ‘Meet Up’ and various Facebook groups are the best places to arrange meeting people and there are various expat groups dotted around the city.

Brunch is one of the most popular activities for New Yorkers, and you’ll have to be prepared to queue for the good spots. The great news is that the recommended serving allowance doesn’t seem to exist in New York - so the free pour mimosas and bloody marys, will be worth it once you manage to get a table.


It has to be said: Americans take their work very seriously. Their work ethic is unparalleled and you’ll often find people in the workplace before their bosses, only leaving once the former has done so first.

But despite the inability to switch off, New York is a city where every profession can prosper. Success isn’t industry bound and there are as many opportunities for creatives, as there are for construction workers or chefs. The employment market is varied, but it’s also super competitive and networking is your best bet to secure yourself a lucrative position in New York City.

The work/life balance in America leaves much to be desired and an element of this is the low amount of vacation days. There is no national minimum and it is up to your employer to specify how many you can take. Unfortunately, whilst New York is progressive in so many areas, unfortunately, the work/life balance isn’t quite there yet so there’s a chance in your job-role you may be expected to work long hours, so make sure you get yourself a good boss! There are 8 public holidays in America which may either be paid, or unpaid, and the national average for vacation days after a year of service is ten days.

When applying for a visa to relocate to New York, some visas will require that you already have a job lined up and ready to sponsor you. But if you haven’t yet got a job lined up, when you apply to roles, ensure that you send out a short, concise resume which showcases your results and is condensed into one page.