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Moving to Chicago

If you’re planning on moving to Chicago, you may enjoy this tidbit of information: it is said that its name is derived from the Native American “shikaakwa”, meaning “smelly onion”. If this does not persuade you to move to Chicago, read our InterNations Guide for information on neighborhoods, health, visas, and transportation!
A survivor of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Chicago’s Water Tower is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
  • There is a place for everyone in one of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. Most of the five general areas — Lakefront, North Side, Downtown, West Side, and South Side — offer a lot of green space.
  • The type of visa you’ll need to apply for in order to move to Chicago depends on the purpose of your stay.
  • Chicago has the second largest public transportation system in the US. Therefore, even if you do not own a car, you will get around the city quite easily.
  • There are several renowned hospitals in Chicago. Make sure you have a healthcare plan that fits your needs, otherwise treatment will be extremely expensive.


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.


The First Skyscraper and More: A Brief History

Chicago was founded in 1833. Historically, the city has been a transportation hub between the eastern and western USA as well as between the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. Due to its geographic location, Chicago has been used for both shipping and rail transportation. While the Illinois International Port District in Chicago hasn’t been performing up to par financially in the last decade, it remains one of the USA’s few inland cargo ports able to compete with regular cargo ports.

The Great Chicago Fire back in 1871 left the city’s entire Central Business District in cinders, and the city you will see when you move to Chicago is the result of a long rebuilding process. One of the only buildings that survived the fire was the Water Tower. The city’s impressive skyline is a sight to behold. In fact, the world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1885!

The city’s architecture is one of its highlights, and the city’s infrastructure is another favorite aspect among expats. Furthermore, soon after your move to Chicago, you will note that the city is as diverse as it is entertaining!

Chicago is one of the most notable cities in the entire country — but the US has a lot more to offer! After exploring your new hometown, you should definitely take the time and experience the many other legendary cities that make the US so attractive to tourists and expats alike.

There’s a Place for Everyone: Where to Live in Chicago

Due to its size, Chicago has neighborhoods for most tastes and budgets. Which neighborhood is best for you depends on several factors: whether or not you plan on moving to Chicago with your family, if you prefer living in an apartment or a house, and, of course, the price you are willing to pay.

Before moving to Chicago, it is a good idea to pay the city a visit and simply walk around to get a feel for the different neighborhoods. Usually there is a “For Rent” or a “For Sale” sign in the window of available apartments and houses with a private telephone number of the owner or the realtor.

Discover Chicago’s Most Popular Neighborhoods

There are 77 neighborhoods in Chicago, and below we will list a few which are well-liked by residents. The city can be divided into five general areas:

  • North Side - Lakefront: If you prefer moving to Chicago’s lakefront, Lincoln Park and Lakeview are within walking distance, immediately north of the downtown area. Lincoln Park is a relatively calm and family-friendly neighborhood with tree-lined streets, good public schools and a low crime rate. Apartments and brownstones are readily available here, and residents can enjoy all 1,208 acres (4,888 m2) of the neighborhood’s namesake park along with its zoo. Similarly, Lakeview has plenty of green spots. The second-largest community area in Chicago is known for the pride parade held each June, its endless options for bars, as well as its thriving theater and comedy scene.
  • North Side: Lincoln Square and Roscoe Village are some of the preferred living spaces among people moving to Chicago’s North Side. Lincoln Square, a once German-influenced neighborhood, offers a variety of music, arts, and crafts. Single-family homes are common here, which naturally attracts many families with children. Roscoe Village is safe, not too far from downtown, and there is a wealth of outdoor activities along the Chicago River. The brick homes and the number of families living there give the neighborhood a friendly small-town feel. 
  • Downtown: If you are moving to Chicago without children and will be working in the city with a relatively comfortable income, the Loop neighborhood might be your best bet, as you’ll be right in Chicago’s financial and governmental heart. The striking architecture and the various cultural attractions make the Loop a great place to settle.
  • West Side: Logan Square is a good choice for expats moving to Chicago who can’t count on too generous a paycheck. The relatively low rents and the leisurely parks make it a popular neighborhood among working-class Chicagoans. The neighborly connection is very strong at Logan Square; the weekly farmer’s market run by locals is only one of many examples.
  • South Side: Hyde Park offers pretty much anything from small studio apartments to mid-sized mansions. Home of the University of Chicago, it is popular among students and consequently, it is one of Chicago’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. If you are looking for international flair, you can surely find it here!

In general, most neighborhoods in Chicago contain some form of park, be it in the Loop area, Grant Park, Lincoln Park, etc. Whatever your reasons are for moving to Chicago, the third-largest city in the US, you will be able to go for leisurely strolls in a lush green area close to your home.

Before moving into your new home in Chicago, get informed about your rights and duties as a tenant in our guide to renting accommodation in the US.


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

Friedrich Schloßberg

"At first, I tried to google all information on Chicago. Then I found InterNations and some of its local scouts gave me a personal tour."

Kristina Serou

"It is great to live in the Windy City and to enjoy the American way of life. However, I am also glad to attend InterNations events to meet other expats."

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