San Francisco

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Moving to San Francisco

Are you dreaming of moving to San Francisco, the cultural hub of the Bay Area, and of waking up to the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge? There’s more to the City by the Bay than California’s liberal culture. With our guide on moving to San Francisco, you’ll learn about the climate, visas, and public transportation.
San Francisco is a popular destination for expats and tourists alike.
  • Even though San Francisco is located in sunny and warm California, you should prepare yourself for chilly and foggy weather.
  • The neighborhoods in San Francisco are as diverse as its population. Whether gay, married, or young professionals, there is a place for everyone.
  • There are different types of visas for expats. If you’re moving to San Francisco for a limited amount of time, you need to apply for one of the nonimmigrant visas; otherwise, an immigrant visa might be the one for you,
  • The public transportation system in San Francisco is quite good; within the city limits you should be able to find public transportation at any hour of the day.

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.


Anybody interested in US history probably knows that moving to San Francisco will take you to the source of a very significant civil rights movement. After all, this is where immigrants and former service men experienced the Summer of Love in the 1960s. However, San Francisco is not only a Mecca for liberals and hippies; it is the cultural and financial center of the entire Bay Area.

Dressing in Layers: The Weather in San Francisco

If you are expecting a warm Californian climate with temperatures allowing for shorts all year long, you may have to think again. While moving to San Francisco will indeed take you to "sunny" California, the city’s climate is not what many expect. On the contrary, San Francisco is in fact known for its chilly, foggy summers.

Once the morning fog lifts, temperatures rarely reach higher than 70°F (21°C), and often linger at around 60°F (16°C). After your move to San Francisco, it is best to dress in layers to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Even days that start out hot and sunny may see temperatures drop quite rapidly once the summer fog rolls in. Expats moving to San Francisco in winter will experience a lot less fog.

While San Francisco might not bring you the type of Californian weather you had anticipated, it will certainly get you acquainted with the city’s own set of microclimates. Weather conditions vary considerably within San Francisco itself. It may be foggy and drizzling in one part of the city while it’s bright and sunny in other areas. If you are looking for San Francisco’s sunniest corners, you will usually find them nestled in the protective cover of the hills.

San Francisco’s Neighborhoods

San Francisco is located at the northern tip of the San Francisco peninsula, sharing borders with San Mateo in the south. The city itself is divided into a number of neighborhoods, each with its own unique character, demographics, and microclimate. When moving to San Francisco, picking a location can be hard, but these brief descriptions may be able to help you on your way.

The Inner Richmond: For the Outdoorsy Ones

In the northwestern quadrant of San Francisco, you will find the Inner Richmond area. Just south of the Golden Gate Bridge and immediately north of Golden Gate Park, this neighborhood offers people who are fond of the outdoors plenty of opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of the streets. Clement Street in particular is packed with a wide variety of Asian cuisines, and some indeed consider the area “Little East Asia.” Besides the international cuisine, you’ll also find international cinema or Eastern-style bazaars in the Inner Richmond. Rental prices are also very reasonable in the area.

The Marina: A Young and Trendy Neighborhood by the Water

Just west of the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina district has a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The walk from Marina Boulevard through Crissy Field to the bridge is sure to relieve any stress you might have built up at work. You can also find art galleries, international eateries as well as a double-digit list of boutiques in the area. For some expats moving to San Francisco, rent is a main concern, and the Marina is not among the city’s cheapest areas. For those who enjoy the smell of the ocean and the fresh morning air, though, it will be well worth the costs.

The Castro: The Gay Universe

In the very heart of San Francisco, the Castro sputters with vibrant energy. This, the so-called gay capital of the world, boasts a lively nightlife, oodles of cafés and bars, as well as quite affordable restaurants. Contrary to the food prices, however, rents are among the city’s highest for people moving to San Francisco’s most spirited neighborhood. The Castro is well connected, with three Muni lines, which makes a car unnecessary for most residents.

The Outer Sunset: A Family Place

For expats on lower budgets who decide to move to San Francisco, the Outer Sunset in the southwest represents a cheaper alternative than the more popular neighborhoods closer to the city center. The neighborhood represents San Francisco’s ethnic diversity with a lot of residents originating from different countries. The middle-class working folk generally make up the population of Outer Sunset. With several well-regarded public and private school, the area is also a strong family place. The fog is a particularly frequent visitor to this area, but the gorgeous view of the ocean along with the many charming restaurants and stores alleviate any worries you might have.

Not quite ready to tackle the US housing market? You can find more information on Renting a Home in the USA in our Extended Guide article on the topic.


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

Raul Gonzales

"Thanks to InterNations, I quickly found useful tips of where to search for a flat. And I met great global minds at the same time."

Li Wang

"As I already connected with several Chinese women before moving to San Francisco, I quickly felt at home here."

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