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Medical / Health insurance differences

The US healthcare system is very different. German creatives who move to the United States part or full time have the chance to stay with a German long-term insurance provider up to 5 years, e.g. ADAC or HanseMerkur. Please note, that you have to register for German long-term insurances while you are still in Germany.

If you are already in the United States you can choose from a long list of health care providers, many offer different plans (basic, medium, luxus) with a variety of benefits - Popular American insurance companies include Aetna, Blue Cross / Blue Shield, Cigna and United Healthcare (there are many more).

While choosing your health plan you have often the option to choose between an HMO, EPO and PPO network. An HMO gives you access to certain doctors and hospitals within its local network. An EPO (or “exclusive provider network”) is a bit like a hybrid of an HMO and a PPO. EPOs generally offer a little more flexibility than an HMO and are generally a bit less pricey than a PPO. Like a PPO, you do not need a referral to get care from a specialist. When choosing your physician, you will typically pay less with an in-network provider. Healthcare providers usually have a search option on their website to help you find a specialist within your network. Keep in mind that accepting your insurance doesn't necessarily mean that a health care provider is “in network”. To make sure a physician is in your network you can call the customer service of your insurance and verify the status.

Please note that American medical insurance doesn’t cover vision and dental insurance, so you will need to sign up for an additional insurance to cover teeth and eyes.

Driving License

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for issuing driving licenses and IDs in California. If you’re in the US on a visa, you can use your German driving license for two weeks. The benefit of a California driving license is that it serves as the national I.D. as well and can be used for national flights as well as bar entrances and such. The DMV has many locations in Los Angeles. It is worth to make an appointment online since walk-in wait times are usually long. Before you go, make sure you bring all relevant documents with you.

How to get a driver's license:

  • Visit your local CA DMV field office.
  • Complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application (Form DL 44).
  • Provide proof of your identity, Social Security Number, and residency.
  • Pay the $35 driver's license fee.
  • Pass the written test.
  • Pass the road test. Please note that you have to have an appointment for the road test and bring your own insured car.

For more details on the California licensing requirements, see here.

Transportation - how to get around in LA?

Los Angeles is very spread out, only a few areas are walkable and public transportation is only efficient in some parts of the city. It is important to figure out how to get around beforehand. There are several car rental providers at LAX including National, Enterprise Sixt and Hertz. Turo allows you to rent cars from private people.
If you prefer to let someone else drive, Uber and Lyft are good options. Waze is another nice option to use your local driving communities to get around by choosing the people you want to carpool with based on detailed profiles, star ratings, and filters like same-gender & coworkers only. The app also offers a live map for calculating driving directions and live traffic.

Credit Card
Americans make almost all payments via credit card. Make sure your credit card works in the US and inform your bank about your trip. However, it is always good to have some cash on hand e.g. for parking. ATMs are widely spread and accept German debit cards.
Housing Costs

Apartment prices have been on the rise for years in Los Angeles. Compared to Germany, housing is quite expensive in LA. The median price for a two-bedroom apartment in the city of LA is $1,730. The price of a one-bedroom is $1,350 (June 2018). Apartment on the westside and in Downtown LA are much more expensive though. You can find an overview of the average apartment and house prices by neighborhood here.

How to build up a credit score?

There are several ways to build credit score: secured credit cards, a credit-builder loan, a co-signed credit card or loan, or authorized user status on another person’s credit card. Find more details on how to establish your credit score here.

Credit Karma is a very helpful website to supervise the credit score and get recommendations on how to improve.

Secured Credit Card Options

US banks offer a wide range of credit cards for different purposes and benefits. If you are just starting your credit score it will be tough to get a credit card or high limits approved. However, there are credit cards with the aim to build up your credit status. Most of them require you to pay a small deposit (usually a couple of hundred dollars), which will be your credit limit until your score improves. Find a selection of secured credit cards on Credit Karma.

How to start a business in the US?


1. Choose the type of corporation that suits your business best!

a) C-Corporations:

You do not need to be a U.S. Citizen to found a C-Corporation. These businesses can issue an unlimited number of shares, and anyone can hold shares regardless of citizenship status. Perfect for a company looking to go public. C-Corps have the widest range of deductions and expenses. If you own a C Corporation, you can set up medical reimbursement and other employee benefits and deduct the costs associated with running these programs from your corporate taxes. They are great for businesses that sell products, have a storefront and have employees.

b) LLCs:

Limited Liability Corporation. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen, resident or green card holder to found an LLC. LLCs can have multiple owners who share a percentage of the company, but it cannot issue shares. LLCs are great for people who want an entity to hold real estate or other appreciating assets. They are a popular choice for investors and entrepreneurs because of the flexible taxation and great asset protection.

c) Here is a useful resource to help you!

2. Will you be in the US when your business is operational? If not, you will need a registered agent. This is a person in your state of formation who will receive all legal documents on your behalf and forward them to wherever you may be. They must have a physical address in your state of formation, and be available during business hours to receive all mail and paperwork. You may want to consider using a registered agent service. This may run you around $100 annually.

3. Incorporate your business.

a) If you will be selling goods or services in a specific state, you should register your corporation to that state.

b) If you won’t be in the US, you should incorporate your business in Delaware, Wyoming or Nevada. These states have the friendliest conditions for foreign business owners. More on this here.

c) Go to the Secretary of State’s (or the Secretary of the Commonwealth, depending on your state) website (or office) in the state in which you’d like to register to obtain the articles of incorporation. Please note that there will be fees when it comes time to submit your documents!

Here is the California Secretary of State’s portal containing links to all the necessary documents needed to incorporate in CA.

d) Here are some things to bear in mind before incorporation:

4. Obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You’ll need an EIN to open a bank account, hire employees and pay taxes in the US.

a) You do not need to be a citizen or have a social security number to obtain an EIN.

b) EINs are given by the IRS. Here is their page on EINs.

How to find an apartment or place to stay?

It’s important to have a place to stay, at least for the first days. If you don’t like to stay in a hotel, Airbnb is a good alternative for a temporary accommodation. Common pages to search for apartments are Zillow, Apartments, and ForRent. On Craigslist you can find almost anything from housing to jobs. Use common sense while using Craigslist. Another great option are LA Facebook Groups with regard to housing, apartments, sublets, rooms, etc. 

Budget - How much money is needed?

Life in Los Angeles is expensive. Make sure you plan your budget accordingly. You can get a rough overview of living expenses under our FAQs Why is the credit score so important?  and  How to build up a credit score?.

Visa Work

There are various visa options that allow creative professionals to work in the United States. Depending on your employment situation (freelancer, full- or part-time employed with a company) and profession you might qualify for one of the following visa categories. The American visa system is very complex and constantly changing, that’s why a lawyer can be very helpful or even needed to navigate a visa process. If you’re wondering what is the best choice for your individual situation a consultation meeting with an attorney might come in handy. Los Angeles has a couple of German attorneys who specialize in immigration law.

1. Visa Options

a) Temporary Visa 

  • B1 - Visitor for Business
  • J1 - Exchange, Intern & Trainee

b) Visa Creative & Artist Visa

  • O1 - Visa for Artists of Extraordinary Ability
  • I - Visa for representatives of foreign media
  • P1 - Visa for Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers
  • P2 - Visa for Cultural Exchange Artists
  • P3 - Visa for Culturally unique Artists

c) Investor & Entrepreneur Visas

  • E1 - Treaty Trader Visa
  • E2 - Treaty Investor Visa
  • L1 - Intracompany Transferee Visa
  • Green Card (Employment or family based)

2. German Attorneys in Los Angeles

Why is the credit score so important?

Your credit score is important when looking to borrow funds from a lender as a good credit score makes the application approval process easier. Credit scores tell lenders how trustworthy you are by looking at your credit history. It also determines how favorable the interest rate will be on the loan and other terms. Additionally, credit scores are checked when renting an apartment, signing up for a cell phone plan, and setting auto and home insurance rates. Find more information here.

How to open a bank account in the US?

This is by far the most challenging hurdle because it usually requires a trip to America to physically apply at a bank branch. If you choose this route, you’ll need to call the bank ahead of time to make sure you’re bringing all of the required documents. Different banks may have different requirements, so contacting them first is a must.

There are some other options though. If you have ever opened a personal bank account in the U.S., you might be able to open a business account remotely. Additionally, depending on the nature of your business, you may be able to get by with a service like PayPal or Venmo, even though the latter is only usable with an American credit card.

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