This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor of Guides.Global (email@example.com).
It was written on 21 September 2016. The law and practice in the United States change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.
Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.
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The United States of America is a young country, but it is inarguably one of the most powerful and most influential.
The US declared independence from Britain in 1776 - at the time, comprising just 13 states. It is now made up of 50 states: 48 adjoining (or "contiguous"), plus Alaska to the north-west and Hawaii off the coast in the mid-Pacific.
The US is massive. It's the world's third biggest country by land mass, the third biggest by population and the biggest by GDP. It has the world's second largest military, outnumbered only by China.
Its size, and the relative independence enjoyed by each of its states, means that the country is very diverse: in geography, in climate, in ethnicity, in culture and even in law. That's why we decided to write separate guides for different states.
People from across the world want to live in the US - for a host of different reasons. Many aspiring expats want to study at American universities, try their luck in the job market or join family who already live in the US. Many more wish to retire to one of the States' sunnier regions.
The Country: The United States of America ( The United States of America)
Adjective: American ( American)
The Nationality: American (American)
The People: Americans (Americans)
Languages: (2011) English 79.2%, Spanish 12.9%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 3.3%, other 0.9%. The US has no national language, but English is the official language of 31 out of the 50 states.
Time Zone: Various
Currency: United States Dollar
Currency Code: USD
ISO International Country Code: USA
Internet Domain: .us (though .net, .org and .com are far more common)
Telephone Dialling Code: +1
Capital City: Washington, D.C.: population 672,228 (2015)
Terrain: Incredibly varied. See our state guides.
Climate: Again, this varies massively. See our state guides and see the Köppen map below to get a general idea of the regional climates.
Click on the image to expand.
Median age: 38 years.
Life expectancy at Birth: 78.88 years
Urban population: 80.7% of total population
Expat population: Around 13% of total population (2013)
Religion: Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4% (2007 estimate from the CIA World Factbook.
Ethnicity: White 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate from the CIA World Factbook).
Hispanic wasn't included on this list because someone from a Latin country could fall under any race/ethnicity - around 15% of the US is Hispanic.
UN Human Development Index: 8 of 187 countries. This index attempts to measure a country's achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and a number of other areas. In effect, it looks at the extent to which the people in a country enjoy a long and healthy life, a good education and a decent standard of living. It is a very useful indicator of what a country will be like as a place to live.
UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 8 of 144 countries. This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality this index and the HDI would show the same result.
Population Below Poverty Line: 15.1%.
Healthcare in the United States is very advanced, but can be expensive. Getting good health insurance is extremely important.
World Health Organization ranking of health systems: 31 of 191 countries
The US is ranked 103 out of 162 countries included in the 2016 edition of the Vision of Humanity "Peace Index". This is just ahead of Cambodia and just behind Uganda. Iceland comes first. Syria comes last.
The methodology may be open to some debate but this is a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure.
This is another interesting snapshot, from the same people.
Law in the United States evolved from Anglo-Saxon ("common") law but is now very distinct.
The legal system in America works on several levels. Federal law, which originates with the constitution, applies to the entire country. Each state also has its own constitution, government and laws. See a brief explanation of the court process here.
The United States is ranked 19 out of 102 countries included in the 2015 edition of the World Justice Project's "Rule of Law Index". This is above Portugal, Spain and Poland but below France and the United Kingdom. The US scored particularly well in the 'open government' category.
The US also scores fairly well on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. The United States is ranked 16 out of 168 countries included in the 2015 edition of the index. This is behind the UK (10) and Canada (9) but ahead of France (23) and way ahead of its southern neighbour Mexico (95). Denmark is top. Somalia and North Korea are bottom.
The US has the world's largest economy, in nominal terms.
Nearly 80% of the country's workforce is in the service sector, but is the world's second-largest manufacturer, with major outputs including petroleum, vehicles, aerospace and communications.
The New York Stock exchange is by far the largest in the world.
Agriculturally, the United States has around 3,730,000 km2 worth of farmland. Corn is far and away the most-farmed product - 354 million tonnes of it were harvested in 2013 - followed by beef (a mere 11.7 million tonnes).
GDP by sector
Inflation: 2016: 1.1%
Public debt: 71.8% of GDP
Unemployment: General: 4.9%; Youth 10.8%
Currency: Dollar (see our Currency Guide for more information and the exchange rate history)
Very car-based. Internal flights are readily available. Public transport over long distances is relatively sparse, though some city public transport systems are good.
America believes very strongly in the 'American Dream' - work hard enough and long enough and you can achieve anything. Whether or not this is truly the case, it influences American business culture. Business people are likely to have a very strong work ethic and are generally willing to put in long hours to get the job done.
Although you may notice a somewhat informal atomosphere within American offices (workers are like to address their bosses by their first names, for example), there is a distinct hierarchy within most places of business in the US.
Meetings begin on time. Punctuality is highly valued.
Business communication strives to be direct and to the point, though it is usually polite. You are not likely to find any of the euphemisms or that you might come across in, say, the UK. This can be a bit jarring to a foreigner unused to a direct negative response in a business environment. You will also be expected to 'speak up' and voice any ideas or misgivings you might have.
As already mentioned, the United States scores fairly well on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. The United States is ranked 16 out of 168 countries included in the 2015 edition of the index. This is behind the UK (10) and Canada (9) but ahead of France (23) and way ahead of its southern neighbour Mexico (95). Denmark is top. Somalia and North Korea are bottom.
Our guides contain a mass of information about living, working, doing business, retiring & investing in the US. Check them out here.
When preparing this factsheet we made extensive use of:
In addition we would like to thank our colleagues, contributors and readers for their invaluable input.
I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.Francine Carrel 21 September 2016
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