How to send money to the US and transfer money from the US

The dollar, the world’s most traded currency, is held on a free-float exchange rate and is fully convertible to foreign currencies. Transferring money to the USA or sending money from the USA is free from any exchange controls but is regulated at state level. When sending money from the USA, you must use a money transfer provider who is regulated in the state you are sending the money from.

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US money transfer regulations

The dense network of banks, non-bank financial service companies and money transfer companies in the USA provide a number of options to send money to the US or from the US. The US dollar (USD) is a freely trading currency and the most frequently traded currency in the world, involved in 87% of all foreign exchange operations according to the last Bank for International Settlements survey in April 2013.

Regulation and supervision of money transfer providers known as Money Services Businesses (MSBs) is overseen by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a division of the US Treasury. There are different categories of MSBs depending on exactly what role the money transfer is providing.

State by state regulation

Money transfer is regulated on a state by state level in the US. If you are sending the funds from a particular US state (the state where you reside), the broker must be regulated to send funds from that state. Very few money transfer providers are regulated across every state in the US. Only Montana, New Mexico, South Carolina and Wisconsin do not require money transfer providers to be regulated at a state level.

First to third party transfer restrictions

If you are new to using an overseas money transfer provider and you are sending dollars from the US to a third party outside of the US (for example, a lawyer for a property transaction), be sure that the provider is regulated to be able to send your funds to an account that is not in your name. These restrictions do not apply if you are sending money within the USA.

US federal financial regulation

Monetary and financial regulation in the US reflects its federal organisation. The territory is divided into 12 districts, each with its own Federal Reserve Bank. At the national level, a five-member Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“the Fed”), oversees the entire financial system. The Fed directs national monetary policy, works to preserve national foreign exchange reserves and monitors price stability.

In addition to the Federal Reserve system, the Federal Deposit Insurance corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency oversee the banking sector at the state and federal levels. A separate agency, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), regulates capital markets.

Buying property in the USA

If you are looking to buy or sell real estate in the US there are several things to bear in mind. Find yourself a good local agent. Compared to commissions in other countries, expect US real estate commission to be much higher - often up to 6% which is usually paid for by the seller. Mortgages have become much harder to obtain in recent years and you will need both a history of US credit and proof of sustainable income (best shown with US tax returns). If you are planning to rent and have just moved to the US, be sure to send money to the US in advance of closing as deposits on apartments need to be made very fast.

Visas and work permits for the USA

If you are planning to move to the US for work or to study, you will need to obtain a visa. The visa application process for the US is complex, expensive and often can take many months; sometimes more than a year. You will need to seek advice from an immigration lawyer as to what visa options are open to you depending on what you plan to do. Moving over through sponsorship of a large international firm or studying at a well known US university will usually provide the smoothest paths to an initial visa.

Most US visas are capped to last only a certain number of years and after a certain period of time, you will need to decide whether you can stay and if you are eligible to apply for permanent residence, more colloquially known as a Green Card. You will need to obtain health insurance. This may be provided by an employer, and if you are a student, you can purchase this through your university.

Taxation in the US

Residents of the US are taxed on their worldwide income. If you are selling assets overseas and repatriating the funds back to the US, it is worth considering whether this will have any taxation implications for you, both in the US and in the country from which the funds are coming from.

Currency

The US monetary unit is the US dollar (USD, symbol $), made up of 100 cents (¢). Banknotes are printed in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100; coins are minted in denominations of 1¢ , 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1.

Sources

  • US Federal Reserve Board
  • US Securities and Exchange Commission
  • FinCEN
  • Bank for International Settlements
World First
Est. 2004
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Worldwide
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1-3 Days
USForex
Est. 1998
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$5 below $5,000
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Worldwide
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1-3 Days
Venstar
Est. 1990
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$15 below $10,000
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US
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1-3 Days
AFEX
Est. 1979
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£5 below £5,000
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UK, US
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1-3 Days
Currencies Direct
Est. 1996
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No Fees via FXcompared
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UK, Spain, France, South Africa
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1-3 Days

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