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Moving to San Jose

San Jose is a popular expat destination due to its status as the 'Capital of Silicon Valley'. The city is at the heart of technology and innovation in the USA, and indeed globally, attracting many giant tech companies to establish a presence there. As can be expected, these companies, in turn, have attracted highly skilled workers from all over the world.

While electronics manufacturing dominates, other major industries in San Jose include finance, aerospace, real estate, retail, insurance and medicine. Legal services and tourism are also prominent sectors. While there's a healthy job market, San Jose has a highly educated population and competition can be fierce. Expats looking for work in the city will do well to network, and should be prepared to compete with highly experienced candidates from some of the top international universities. 

San Jose is a multicultural and multi-ethnic society and foreigners are generally made to feel welcome. It goes without saying that as the heart of the tech industry, San Jose is one of the wealthiest of American cities. In line with this, the cost of living is also amongst the highest in the US. Housing, in particular, is in demand and will be one of the biggest expenses. However, high salaries often offset the elevated cost of living; households in San Jose generally have a higher than average disposable income.

Although it’s one of the largest cities in America, San Jose still maintains somewhat of a small-town feel. A temperate climate, relatively low crime rates, high salaries and lots of family-friendly facilities, ensure that San Jose offers expats an excellent quality of life. The city is also a good place to raise a family, and expats with children need not worry about their children’s education. There are many good public and private schools in the San Jose metropolitan area. The region is also especially renowned for its tertiary institutions – most notably, Stanford University in nearby Palo Alto.

San Jose is located near the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay and is surrounded by mountains. This beautiful region offers many recreational facilities, including parks, beaches and hiking trails. Those looking to escape the city can venture to Yosemite National Park, visit the Napa Valley wine region, or spend a day on one of the nearby beaches along the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco is also just a short drive away, and a ride along the Pacific Highway offers an opportunity to explore the magnificent western coastline.

Working in San Jose

Expats moving to San Jose will find themselves in the heart of Silicon Valley, famous for its large concentration of high-technology engineering, computer and microprocessor companies. As a hotbed of technological innovation, San Jose has also become a Mecca for start-up companies. Beyond the traditional employers associated with Silicon Valley, other sectors that play a prominent role in San Jose’s economy include government, education and healthcare industries. 


Job market in San Jose

As an expat destination, San Jose attracts highly skilled expats and budding entrepreneurs who are looking to capitalise on the Bay Area’s progressive attitude and the opportunities available in the high-technology and internet industries. While top US universities in the Bay Area, such as Stanford and Berkley, produce some of the best engineering and computer science graduates, there is still a shortage of adequately qualified workers in San Jose. This is due to the fact that the economy of Silicon Valley is constantly growing with new companies opening offices in San Jose each year.


Finding a job in San Jose

Highly skilled expats with expertise in their field are likely to find a position in San Jose. Networking is important. It helps to make connections and keep one's ear to the ground for new opportunities or upcoming start-ups. Online job portals, local newspapers and recruitment agencies are also good sources for finding work.

In addition to having the right skills, qualifications and experience, expats wanting to work in San Jose must ensure that they have the correct work permit for the USA.

Accommodation in San Jose

Finding suitable accommodation in San Jose is one of the biggest challenges facing expats moving to the city. Those lucky enough to be headhunted by tech companies in Silicon Valley will find that the company will often provide accommodation or assist them in finding a suitable home. However, for many others, finding the perfect home in San Jose can be a bit of a struggle.

San Jose is one of the largest cities in California and as such there are plenty of housing options available for new arrivals. However, with the influx of high-income earners moving to the city because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, property prices and rental rates in San Jose are continuing to rise each year.


Types of accommodation in San Jose

There is a variety of different housing options available in San Jose. Whether one is looking for a luxury apartment in the city centre, a large family home in a leafy suburban area or a skyscraper condo unit, San Jose has plenty to choose from.

Young professionals and single people often choose to live in Downtown San Jose because of the area's proximity to most of the city’s major attractions and facilities. However, residents living in central areas of San Jose can expect to pay a premium as property prices here are incredibly high. Japantown is also a popular option for those wanting to live close to the city centre. While the buildings in this area are a little older than elsewhere, they certainly have a lot of character. Those looking to raise a family in San Jose opt for housing in the West San Jose neighbourhood. Although properties are by no means cheap, residents do benefit from larger houses and a lot more open spaces.


Finding accommodation in San Jose

Expats intending to settle down in San Jose usually opt to buy property. However, the majority of expats initially rent accommodation for a few years before they decide on whether to remain in the city long-term. Expats looking to buy property in San Jose should be aware that demand is very high, and good properties tend to sell quickly so it’s best to have proof of funds before searching for accommodation.

Whether expats plan on renting or buying property in San Jose, they can get a headstart by trawling the internet, even before they arrive in the city. There are a large number of useful real estate sites, classifieds and online versions of local publications which have property sections. New arrivals can also approach property management companies to assist them in their search for a home.

However, expats should always view accommodation in person before committing to anything. While in the city, expats may also stumble on some great housing options simply by exploring a neighbourhood they like on foot and taking note of any sale or rental signs.

Those looking to find their ideal home fast should enlist the services of a real estate agent. These professionals can narrow down accommodation options according to an individual’s specifications, provide photos and answer any questions one may have about a property and the rental or buying processes.

Agent fees are generally paid by the person selling the property or the landlord. However, it's advisable to check with the real estate agent before using their services, simply to avoid any hidden fees at the end.


Renting accommodation in San Jose

San Jose’s rental market is presently controlled by the landlords. The demand for property in San Jose is high and since many of the city’s residents are high-earning professionals working in Silicon Valley, landlords are in a position where they can charge high prices for accommodation.

The rental process

As in most of the USA, to secure a rental property, potential tenants will need to obtain an application form from the landlord. Subsequently, the landlord will contact their chosen tenant and together they will sign a standard lease agreement. Having a US bank account will act in one's favour when applying to rent accommodation in San Jose, especially for expats without a social security number.

Furnished or unfurnished

San Jose has a mix of furnished and unfurnished accommodation. Furnished accommodation oftentimes includes everything from appliances to bedding and curtains. These properties tend to be more expensive and also tend to be work on shorter leases. However, unfurnished accommodation rarely means a completely bare apartment or house. as these properties usually still come with large appliances like ovens, washing machines and fridges.

Leases

Most rental contracts are valid for a year.

Deposits

Tenants will be required to put down an amount equivalent to a month’s rent as a security deposit. This deposit is refundable once the tenancy agreement has come to an end. If any damage has been done to the property, the deposit will be used to fix the cost of repairs.

Utilities

Expats renting accommodation in San Jose should consult the conditions of their lease to find out the details on utilities. The landlord may assume responsibility for utilities like gas, electricity and water, but tenants will usually be expected to pay for extras such as telephone services, internet and cable TV packages. Expats should spend some time looking into different service providers as one can often find a good range of inclusive deals for telephone and internet services.

Areas and Suburbs in San Jose

The best places to live in San Jose

The majority of expats moving to San Jose do so because of its proximity to the heart of Silicon Valley. When looking for accommodation, deciding on suitable areas and suburbs of San Jose is one of the main challenges facing expats.

Some expats relocating to San Jose to take up a job in Silicon Valley will find that their employer will find them suitable accommodation close to their office. This will take away much of the stress of deciding where to live. However, those not lucky enough to be in this position will need to narrow down a few areas in which to search for suitable accommodation.

Being one of the largest cities in California, San Jose naturally provides plenty of different areas and suburbs to suit the needs of its various residents. From young, single professionals who move to the city to take up employment at one of the many high-tech companies in the region to expats relocating with a family on a more permanent basis, there are homes in San Jose to suit any expat's requirements.


Popular neighbourhoods for expats in San Jose

San Jose

Downtown San Jose

The heart of San Jose is home to the headquarters of both major and up-and-coming tech companies. For those working at any of these companies, living in Downtown San Jose has its advantages. Those searching for property in this area will find that there is a wide variety of options available. From charming Victorian buildings and California-style bungalows to newly constructed, high-rise condominiums, there are properties to suit an array of tastes. 

As well as being close to the office, residents living in Downtown San Jose have easy access to a myriad of activities on offer in the city centre. Thanks to the area's fine dining establishments, fascinating art galleries and exciting theatres, expats living close to the city centre will find plenty to keep them occupied. Downtown San Jose is also great for those that enjoy an active lifestyle as it's easy to get about on foot and there are plenty of trails for joggers and cyclists.

Willow Glen

For expats who want to live in a more residential area and still have access to the facilities of Downtown San Jose, Willow Glen is an option well worth considering. This neighbourhood has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, which is often hard to come by in the city. It's a pedestrian-friendly area with a whole host of restaurants, cafés and shops.

As it's located so close to San Jose’s downtown area, Willow Glen is home to some prime property and this is reflected in the high prices. Expats will find lots of Victorian and Spanish-style buildings in Willow Glen which are great for those looking for a home with character. There are also plenty of modern townhouses and condominiums available here. On average, properties in this neighbourhood are a little larger than those found in Downtown San Jose.

Silver Creek Valley

This is a small, affluent part of San Jose which offers residents a peaceful sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of San Jose’s city centre. Prospective residents will find several housing options on offer, ranging from luxury homes with landscaped gardens to more modest single-storey properties.

A major draw of Silver Creek Valley is the suburb's location close to some of San Jose’s top schools. Furthermore, Silver Creek Valley provides a clean and safe environment for children to grow up in. There are also plenty of parks and recreation facilities to keep little ones entertained. In addition, most properties come with a good-sized outdoor area. The downside, however, is that it's further away from the city centre and most places of work. 

Blossom Valley

This is a safe suburban part of San Jose. Blossom Valley is close to many of the large high-tech company offices. The properties in Blossom Valley are reasonably priced in comparison to other parts of San Jose. Housing mainly consists of housing developments and condominiums.

Although Blossom Valley is located some distance away from San Jose’s city centre, one of the major advantages of living here is the area’s great shopping facilities, as residents have access to lots of shopping malls, department stores and boutiques. For expats who enjoy the great outdoors, living in Blossom Valley allows residents access to great hiking trails and golf courses.

Healthcare in San Jose

Expats will have access to both public and private healthcare in San Jose. The care offered by its medical institutions is of a high standard and patients have access to advanced technology and highly trained staff.

Health coverage in the United States is a major issue, however, and private health insurance is recommended for expats given the high costs of healthcare in the country. The city’s healthcare network includes hospitals, clinics, private practices and pharmacies.

There are several public hospitals in the San Jose area giving patients access to a range of general and specialised services. Some of these are independent, non-profit hospitals which offer their own range of general and specialised services. San Jose’s public hospitals offer a high standard of care, although expats should expect to be in the waiting room for longer periods of time than they would at a private institution.

Public healthcare in San Jose isn't free of charge and expats are advised to sign up for a medical aid or health insurance scheme. It's also important to note that in some cases, chronic or long-term care may be denied to those who can't afford it.

San Jose’s private hospitals and clinics offer a world-class standard of care. Some of these are nationally recognised for the level of healthcare they provide in a diverse range of fields from cancer and stroke care to joint replacement and paediatrics. The one thing that these institutions have in common, however, is the high costs attached to them. All but the wealthiest of expats are likely to find that health insurance is a necessity if they want to receive care from a private hospital in San Jose.

Below are some of San Jose’s most prominent hospitals:


Private hospitals in San Jose

El Camino Hospital

Websitewww.elcaminohospital.org
Address: 2500 Grant Road, Mountain View

Good Samaritan Hospital

Websitewww.goodsamsanjose.com
 Address: 2425 Samaritan Drive

Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center

Websitewww.kaiserpermanente.org
Address: 700 Lawrence Expressway

Stanford Hospital

Websitewww.stanfordhealthcare.org
Address: 300 Pasteur Drive

Education and Schools in San Jose

As the heart of the high-tech sector in the US, the greater Silicon Valley area is renowned for its education system, and most notably its tertiary institutions.

Public education in San Jose is administered by several school districts, the main one in the metropolitan area being the San Jose Unified School District. 

Educational institutions in San Jose consist of public, private and international schools.


Public schools in San Jose

Public schools in San Jose generally offer a high standard of education. However, parents are advised to judge each school on its individual merits. It's a good idea to visit a school in person, meet with the headteachers and request a tour of the facilities.

Attendance of public schools is determined by geographical location. Students attend the public school that falls in the school district they reside in. Parents will need to provide proof that they reside permanently within the specific school district. It follows, then, that choosing a home in a good school district is therefore paramount for expats moving to San Jose with children. In general, the better public schools in Silicon Valley tend to be in the more upmarket areas.

Charter schools

Charter schools are public schools governed by a non-profit board, including members of the local school community, and operating on a performance-based contract with the local school district. Charter schools have more flexibility in terms of their academic programmes and curricula. They tend to offer a higher standard of education than mainstream public schools. These schools are tuition-free and open to any child who wishes to attend. However, competition for a place at a charter school in San Jose can be quite high. If more students are applying than there is space, there will be a lottery to determine who is admitted. 


Private schools in San Jose

There are many private schools in San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley region. Many of these schools have a religious affiliation, usually Catholic. Each private school has its own admission requirements which may involve tests and personal interviews, and have more freedom to follow their own curriculum and academic programme.

There are no residential boundaries for children attending private schools in San Jose. Nevertheless, competition for places at the best private schools can be fierce and parents should start the application process as early as possible.

Tuition at private schools can be expensive. On top of basic fees, other expenses may include school uniforms, extra-curricular activities, textbooks and school excursions. 


International schools in San Jose

Given the multinational makeup of San Jose, it follows that there are several international schools in San Jose and the wider Silicon Valley region catering to a variety of nationalities. These schools either follow the curriculum of their home country or offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme.

International schools are often a good option for families living in San Jose on a short-term assignment. However, fees at international schools can be exorbitant. Expat parents should ensure they factor this into their contract negotiations if planning a move to San Jose for work. Space can also often be limited, so the earlier one applies the better.


Tertiary education in San Jose

There are some world-renowned tertiary institutions in the Silicon Valley region, most notably Stanford University in Palo Alto. Other notable institutions in and around San Jose include Santa Clara University and San Jose State University. There are also a number of community colleges that offer quality tertiary education.

Lifestyle in San Jose

With its sunny weather, multicultural population and strategic position in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose offers expats a pleasant and rewarding lifestyle. It might not be as glamorous as neighbouring San Francisco but for those looking for a modern city that still retains somewhat of a small-town atmosphere, San Jose is definitely worth considering.

There's something to appeal to every taste and interest in San Jose. From wineries to museums, theatres, parks and markets, there is always something to enjoy in the city.  Further afield, mountains and national parks offer day and weekend getaways for those wanting to explore the wider California region. 


Shopping in San Jose

Shopping opportunities are abundant in San Jose with many large, modern shopping malls such as Westfield Valley Fair, the largest mall in San Jose. Other popular malls include Westgate, Westfield Oakridge, Eastridge Mall and Almaden Plaza Shopping Center.

Santana Row is an upscale shopping district offering luxury brands and high-end boutiques alongside high-end restaurants. For those looking for something more unique, there are older, more eclectic shopping districts, such as in the Downtown Historic District, along Paseo de San Antonio and at the San Jose Market Center on Coleman Avenue.


Eating out in San Jose

Although San Jose’s dining scene may not be as well known as neighbouring San Francisco’s, there are plenty of good restaurants to be found in the city. With the warm climate, diners can enjoy many lovely outdoor eating options. As can be expected in such a multicultural and ethnically diverse region, there's a wide variety of cuisine available. From budget takeaway outlets to fine dining establishments, from traditional American steakhouses and seafood specialists to Italian, Mexican and Asian fare, there is something to suit every taste and budget. 

Downtown San Jose is particularly popular for eating out, with many restaurants, bars and coffee shops lining the streets. Santana Row has many dining establishments as well; it’s best to book if wanting to eat in this upmarket area. 


Nightlife and entertainment in San Jose

Expats will be spoilt for choice when it comes to nightlife and entertainment in San Jose. 

Downtown is arguably the most happening area with restaurants, bars, theatres, museums, live music and comedy venues catering to every age and lifestyle.

San Pedro Square, in particular, has many popular pubs and restaurants, and even a microbrewery to enjoy. The area also hosts an outdoor cinema and a farmer’s market. The SoFA District (South of First Area) is the centre of visual arts and entertainment in Downtown. Known for its eclectic and creative crowd and venues, there are many coffee shops, theatres and galleries to enjoy.


Sporting and outdoor activities in San Jose

As with most of California, outdoor activities are a major part of the San Jose lifestyle all year round. 

From the San Jose Rose Garden to the Japanese Friendship Garden, the city has many outdoor parks and gardens for families to enjoy a relaxing day out in the sun. Walking and running are also popular pastimes in the city, particularly along the city’s established trails. A network of bicycle trails also makes it relatively easy to cycle around the city.

Lake Cunningham offers opportunities for fishing and boating, while national parks such as Yosemite National Park and Big Basin Redwoods State Park are great for those wanting to explore the wilderness for a weekend of camping or hiking. 

California’s beautiful beaches are also not far away, and a drive along the Pacific Highway offers an opportunity to explore the state’s magnificent coastline.

What's on in San Jose

It may be better known for its tech industry but there are a variety of exciting annual cultural events in San Jose. The Bay Area's strong craft beer culture is celebrated along with music, art and, as can be expected, technology festivals and conferences. Aside from major events that take place at specific times of the year, there is always something going on in the city for locals and expats from all walks of life.

Here are some recommended yearly festivals.


Annual events in San Jose

SubZERO Festival (June)

Expats looking for something a little outside of the norm are sure to find it at this exciting festival, which prides itself on representing San Jose's various subcultures. Entertainment is provided by a host of artists, musicians and performers representing a wide variety of genres and styles.

San Jose Jazz Summerfest (August)

One of the most popular music festivals on the West Coast, the San Jose Jazz Summerfest started as a small event in 1990. It has grown into a multi-stage cross-genre extravaganza that lasts for three days. Attendees get to see a range of international stars and up-and-coming artists in a variety of music styles including jazz, salsa and Latin.

San Jose Renaissance Faire and Fantasy Fest (August)

Step back in time for a day of jousting, pageantry and of course, plenty of food and drink. Hundreds of costumed actors take part in the festival, ensuring an exciting and unique experience for attendees.

Luna Park Chalk Art Festival (September)

Over the course of a day, San Jose's artists take to the sidewalks of Backesto Park, filling them with over 250 pieces of vibrant chalk-based art. Food and drink stalls cater for hungry attendees, while the festival's main stage hosts local musicians to entertain visitors.

Beerwalk Willow Glen (October)

Lager-loving expats can get to know some of their fellow beer connoisseurs while exploring the neighbourhood as this festival sees craft beer tastings being held at local art studios, boutiques and bars.

Getting around in San Jose

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is responsible for public transport in and around San Jose. What the city lacks in subway routes it makes up for with an integrated transit system consisting of buses, light-rail and long-distance trains which will be easy for expats to navigate.


Public transport in San Jose

Trains

VTA runs a light-rail network in San Jose which operates 365 days a year and is open between 4am and 1.30am, depending on the line. Trains usually arrive and depart every 15 minutes but this can vary depending on the route and the time of day. Tickets must be purchased beforehand from a ticket vending machine at the station or via the EZfare mobile app. If using VTA services frequently, it's a good idea to pick up a Clipper card, which can be loaded with credit. One-day or monthly passes can also be loaded onto the Clipper card.

Another option is the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), which is especially useful for sightseeing. Tickets can be bought through ACE’s website or at stations and official vendors.

For longer distances, expats can take the Caltrain which travels between San Francisco, San Jose and Gilroy. The Clipper card can be used for the Caltrain, or tickets can be purchased via the official Caltrain mobile app or at vending machines prior to boarding.

Buses

VTA operates a comprehensive bus network which serves nearly 30 million passengers a year at more than 3,800 bus stops throughout Santa Clara County. 

Route numbers and destinations are visible on bus stops as well as above the bus’s windshield. Commuters should aim to arrive at their bus stop five minutes before scheduled arrival times. Buses are usually stopped by holding one’s hand up and passengers should have their fare or Clipper card ready before boarding. If paying in cash, the exact amount must be used as bus drivers do not carry change.


Taxis in San Jose

A multitude of cab companies are available to expats who would want to travel by taxi in and around San Jose. Taxis can either be called in advance or hailed on the street and are also available at the airport. They are, however, more expensive than other modes of transport, but some companies offer discounts for longer distances.

Popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are operational in San Jose and can be utilised via their respective mobile applications.


Cycling in San Jose

VTA has concentrated efforts into improving conditions for cycling in San Jose and gearing its transit system towards accommodating cyclists. The Bay Area has a bike-sharing system known as Ford GoBike consisting of approximately 7,000 bikes across San Jose, San Francisco and the East Bay. Single-use, 24-hour and monthly passes are available, which can be purchased via the official mobile app or a Clipper card.


Driving in San Jose

Driving is a common way of getting around in San Jose, though the city's traffic is some of the worst in the US. On the plus side, navigation is relatively easy thanks to the grid layout of the streets.

International Driving Permits aren't recognised by the state of California – however, valid drivers' licences from foreign countries, states or territories of which the driver is a resident are. Nevertheless, once expats become residents of California they will need to get a local licence. Expats from certain countries can transfer their drivers' licence without needing to retake a drivers' test. Other expats will be expected to pass a written traffic law test as well as a driving test which can be applied for at one of several Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in and around San Jose.


Walking in San Jose

Walking in San Jose is a popular pastime, whether it’s to work or for leisure. Downtown San Jose is particularly walkable, while suburban areas are more spread out, though they are usually covered by the public transport system. Given the generally good weather and the city’s relative safety, expats who enjoy getting around on their own two feet will enjoy living in San Jose.