Working in the USA?

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Working in the USA

Because of the country’s sheer possibilities, working in the USA may be an attractive option for you. Besides the dream of making it from rags to riches, there are many reasons for choosing the USA as your expat destination. The InterNations Guide tells you all you need to know, from working conditions to job-hunting.
It is common for US employees to take pride in their work.
  • Americans work hard and the work environment in the States is highly competitive; overtime is quite common and working conditions might seem strict.
  • The hidden job market plays an important role in the US; therefore, unsolicited applications may be the way to get a foot in the door.
  • Taxation is due on the federal and state level, nonetheless, the income tax in the US is comparatively low.
  • Americans are very direct when it comes to business and a “Let’s get to the point” -approach is normally preferred.

According to recent news reports, people from various countries, including those with a valid visa and residence permit, have encountered difficulties when entering the United States. Unfortunately, the full extent of those issues seems to be unclear. Before you decide to move or travel there, or leave the country temporarily if already living in the USA, please consult a US embassy and an immigration lawyer if you fear you might be affected.


In all likelihood, working in the USA is different from what you are used to in your home country. Compared to some European nations, working conditions might seem somewhat harsh, and the general attitudes and values of employees working in the USA are also dissimilar to those prevailing in other cultures.

The average workplace in the USA can be highly competitive, with decisions being made at the executive level with little to no consultation of lower-level employees. The good news is that the old cliché about working in the USA still rings true, at least to a certain extent: employees can indeed work their way up the career ladder by performing well and showing initiative and motivation.

Work Hard and Give Back

In the USA, it is common for people, even in low-paid and simple jobs, to take pride in their work. Mobility is also an important aspect of working in the USA, especially for people who want to get ahead. Generally, employees and business people are expected to jump at a career opportunity, even if it means relocating with their entire family.

A considerable number of companies and business people also take on a variety of social responsibilities towards their local communities. Voluntary work, charity donations, philanthropic foundations, and fundraising activities are common and highly regarded practices. Given the minimalistic social safety net, US society relies very much on these values and endeavors.

Risky Business: General Employment Guidelines

People working in the USA are often employed at will, meaning that they are not protected from dismissal by any clauses in their contract. There may either be no written contract at all or one that doesn’t specify the need for a valid reason for dismissing an employee. Likewise, the employee is free to leave at any time without having to specify a reason.

Employees who are not a member of a trade union should consult an official employee handbook to find out more about their rights and duties. These handbooks are often distributed by the employer.

There are, however, a variety of anti-discrimination laws, all of which are taken very seriously to ensure equal opportunities for all people working in the USA, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, or disabilities.

Your Negotiating Skills Are Required: Working Conditions in the US

A few general guidelines are worth keeping in mind for most people working in the USA. An average working week is around 40 hours, although in the US, working overtime is fairly common and often expected. Furthermore, employers are not required to grant employees any paid vacation, sick leave, or federal holidays, which means that if you plan on working in the USA, you should be ready to negotiate this with your employer. Parents of newborn children are, however, entitled to twelve weeks of unpaid leave.

In general, there are a couple of points that might be interesting for expats working in the USA to discuss with their employer:

  • Is the employer prepared to provide relocation assistance, i.e. financial and/or practical support?
  • Does the employer provide a benefits package, e.g. health insurance, pension plan, spending account (see below)?
  • Is there a sign-on bonus for new employees?

Many employers choose to hire immigration lawyers to handle the visa application process for overseas employees. As this usually costs them several thousand dollars, international employees might be required to cover the cost if they decide to resign or leave before their specified period of working in the USA has come to an end.

If possible, expats who are working in the USA and who have been sent on an assignment by their employer should always try to secure a deal granting them the same working conditions they used to have at home.

Looking for more information on business values in the US? After reading our articles on US Business Culture and Working Conditions in the US, you'll be sure to make a good impression when you start your new job.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


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