A move to United Kingdom can open hundreds of fantastic opportunities. The UK is a leader when it comes to global trends, from culture and fashion to business and careers. London is often seen as the great expat destination, but if the buzz and bustle of this huge city isn’t for you (there are near 9 million people living in this city, just one million less than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined) it’s easy to move between England and the three other countries that make up the UK. Cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Belfast all have unique characters and plenty on offer. The UK also boasts some incredible nature and there’s a huge walking and outdoor culture. The land (including its many islands) was shaped by an Ice Age and from the south to the north there are a variety of landscapes and some impressive coastlines. With an excellent standard of living, more culture and history than you could shake a cup of tea at, and Europe right on your doorstep, there’s a lot on offer in these four countries.
Table of Contents
Moving to the UK tips
1.Get your passport, travel documents, and National Insurance number ready
2.Work out what to take with you and check that it meets UK import regulations) then arrange shipment (click here for more)
3.Make sure you have local currency in hand and research banks
4.Get some insurance!(click here for more)
5.Check for answers to your nitty-gritty questions on the UK’s government portal
6.Commence the job hunt if you don’t have a job already
7.If you have kids, start researching schools and making applications
8.Research areas to live, including which country or city if you still have to decide
9.Make sure you’ve got somewhere to stay for the first few weeks (especially if you’re headed to London)
- For most people, visiting the UK for a limited period is relatively easy. There are also a range of visas that will allow you to work for a set period of time, longer periods, and for family members to join someone living and working in the UK. You can check whether you need a visa(click here for more) and find out about the various immigration visas on the Gov.UK portal. Working rights in the UK will allow you to work in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
- Right to work
- If you already hold a British passport or are a citizen of the EEA, you’ll automatically have the right to work in the UK, and there are some options available for Commonwealth citizens like the UK Ancestry Visa . The most common visas, however, are divided into 5 ‘tiers’ (click here for more) and eligibility is determined by a points-based system. The main visas for working are in three of the Tiers. Tier 1 is for high-value migrants (for example, investors and entrepreneurs), Tier 2 for skilled workers working in a sector determined by the government as having a shortage of workers (generally you need sponsorship for this), and Tier 5 is largely geared to working holidays. You can check your eligibility on the website. If you’re applying for a Tier 2 visa with sponsorship from your company, they should be able to help you with the process. The timeframes on the visas will also vary so it’s worth browsing the Govt.uk portal – it’s actually very helpful, and you can even manage your application online .
- Other passes
- To live with a family member in the UK for more than 6 months, you’ll need a visa (even if you’re not working). You should apply to extend or switch your visa(click here for more) at least 28 days before your existing permission expires, with a standard processing time of 8 to 12 weeks – but the family member can’t be on a temporary work visa for you to be eligible. There may also be the option to apply to settle in the UK(click here for more) if you meet the requirements.
- Customs and importation
- Generally, UK customs are quite easy about what is allowed into the country. There are restrictions on the usual items like weapons and some food and plant products from out of the EU, so if you’re unsure it pays to check first (click here for more). If you’re travelling into the UK from an EU country you’ll be able to bring an almost unlimited amount of goods, but from outside the EU there may be some limits for tax- and duty-free items .
Moving to the UK for work
- The main industries in the UK are banking and finance, business services, industry, agriculture, oil and gas, and tourism. In terms of the big cities, London has a lot of opportunity when it comes to finance, legal, business, the public sector, and technology services, but many of the other large cities are excellent options for job seekers. Leeds is the largest financial and legal centre out of London, Birmingham is strong in the medical industry and in trade, and cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Belfast have a range of opportunities across industries.
- According to one recruitment and advertising company, the highest salaries are earned in London, which may not come as a surprise. Following London (at an average £35,009) is Cambridge, then Bristol, Edinburgh, and Glasgow (click here for more). For more comparisons on income by region take a look at this report from the Telegraph. Across the UK the average salary is around £27,271 (click here for more)but the top highest 10 careers were earning between £56,315 and £133,677. If you’re thinking about choosing your location based on salary or industry, it’s also a good idea to factor in living costs – particularly accommodation.
- You will need a working visa if you don’t already have a right to work in the UK. Make sure you know what the terms of the visa are as overstayers aren’t treated lightly. In many cases you’ll be able to renew a visa, so know when you should begin that process to help ensure things run smoothly for you.
- National Insurance Number
- NI numbers are kind of like a personal account number, and they’re used in administration of the UK’s social security system and for tax. Although you’ll need to get one soon after arrival (and to make sure you get taxed at the correct rate), you can begin working in the UK as long as you can prove your right to work. There are companies who will manage the application process for you, but it’s just as easy (and cheaper) to apply for one yourself(click here for more) . You’ll need to make an appointment with Jobcentre Plus and bring
- in proof of identity, an account of your past years of work and travel, and details about your arrival in the UK.
- Job search
- If you don’t have a job before you move, there are plenty of recruitment agents and job boards in the UK. Depending on your industry, you may like to contact some global recruitment companies like Michael Page , Robert Walters, Morgan Hunt , Asoria Group , and Hays . Some top job boards include Reed , the UK government job centre , LinkedIn Jobs, Indeed ,CV-library.co.uk, and Scot Jobs for those looking in Scotland.
- Holidays and leave.
- There are several bank holidays (click here for more) in the UK which (depending on your job) you may be entitled to take with pay or get paid time and a half if you need to work. For most people working a 5-day week, you should receive 28 days of paid annual leave a year inclusive of public holidayes. And, again depending on your contract and how long you’ve been working at your job, you may be eligible for sick leave (click here for more) . For extended illness, Statutory Sick Pay is available for up to 28 weeks. Maternity (52 weeks) and paternity leave (2 weeks) is also available.
- As you might have guessed, English is the official language of the UK. However, the government also runs language programmes to encourage the native languages of Welsh in Wales and Gaelic in Scotland – though you’re not likely to encounter them on a day to day basis in most major expat areas. Because of the multicultural nature of much of the UK there are over 300 different languages spoken in British schools, so if English isn’t your native language you’re bound to find someone to chat to in your native tongue!
- The UK can be an expensive place to live, especially if you’re planning on living in one of the big cities. Although London has dropped to number 29 on the global scale of most expensive cities to live (click here for more), a four person family’s monthly living costs without rent is estimated at £2,719.24 (click here for more). Your main expenses in the UK are likely to be accommodation and transport. There’s a lot of variation on the cost of basic living expenses, even down to the supermarket brand you choose for buying groceries. Eating out is often expensive, but if you shop at the right place groceries can even be relatively cheap. This living cost estimator is a useful tool to help with planning.
- The British Pound is the UK’s currency. It’s seen a lot of fluctuation on the exchange market in the last few years with Brexit and European politics, but it’s still relatively strong. At the moment, £1 has a rate of about USD$1.3, AUD$1.7, and SGD$1.8 but up to date rates are available from XE
- There are several bank options in the UK, but some of the biggest are HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, and Santander UK (click here for more). Before you choose you should check whether your existing bank is affiliated with any UK banks, which can make the process easier, as well as researching the different options and packages available. Rates for using your card overseas, savings, and other perks can vary. It’s also worth keeping in mind that not all banks exist in all four UK countries but many of the banks are affiliated with others so you shouldn’t have much difficulty. To open an account you’ll at minimum need to have your ID and proof of address, but usually for a standard account you’ll also need evidence of employment. Without credit history your account options can sometimes be limited but, if this is the case for you, after a short period of time you should have no problem upgrading your accounts.
- Home country accounts
- If you’re keeping your home country accounts open, make sure to let your bank know before you leave and try to make an appointment to see them and discuss your options.
- Sending money
- There are several high street money transfer firms who can help you make your transactions, and who will usually offer fairly good rates, including TransferWise, WorldRemit, and Western Union. If you’re comparing companies look for their exchange rate, their fees, as well as any charges on the recipient end. It’s always worth checking with your bank about the services they offer too.
- Non-UK residents are only taxed on income earned in the UK. The tax year runs from 6 April to 4 April the following year. To pay tax you’ll need to have a National Insurance Number, something you should arrange shortly after your arrival in the UK. For may employees of companies, you’ll be on a PAYE system and your employer will automatically remove tax and your National Insurance payments before paying you (which will be reflected on your payslip – make sure your employer has your NI number so that you’re being taxed correctly). If you’re a contractor of self-employed you’ll likely need to register with the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and pay tax yourself, normally at 20% of your net profits. You can get an income tax estimate from this calculator and also find out the details about tax on the government website . It’s also nice to know that in the UK you’re entitled to a tax-free portion of your annual earnings called a Personal Allowance – in 2016/17 this was £11,000.
Living in the United Kingdom
- Probably the most popular place for expats to first move to is this huge and world-famous city. With nearly 9 million people, London has thousands of jobs as well as being a huge cultural centre with history, arts, an active nightlife, and thousands of events and activities for all tastes and interests. It’s a vibrant and exciting place to live(click here for more) but it’s also expensive and busy and it’s certainly not for everyone. Many people who work in the city live in the Greater London area or further afield and commute in on the train and subway networks. There are some quieter and quite lovely areas to live that are still commutable – have a look at some recommendations here
- Other big cities in the UK
- Some other good choices include Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and – if you want to head across the sea – Belfast. Factors to consider would be your job industry, the kind of lifestyle you want, how much you want to travel and where to, and your prefered climate. The further North, the cooler the weather (and often the larger the hills). If you feel like a little diversion from the seriousness of sorting out your life, why not try The Times UK’s quiz to identify the best place for you to live? (click here for more)
- House hunting
- There are no shortage of agents across the UK, both for renting and buying. There are also some useful website where you can begin the search yourself. You could have a look at Right Move , On the Market , Find a Hood (which focuses on finding your ideal neighbourhood), Zoopla , and the London focused Find Properly. Old favourites if you’re looking for a rental is Spare Room UK or Gumtree .
- Many expats choose to rent when they first move to the UK, especially if they’re moving to London. Most houses come furnished or partly furnished, but some come unfurnished with just a few whiteware items. You are responsible for ensuring that everything is in the same condition when you move out as it was when you move in, so it’s a good idea to record any existing damage on your Tenancy Agreement before you and your landlord sign. Tenancies are generally periodic (weekly or monthly basis) or fixed-term, and a deposit (usually the equivalent of 2 weeks’ to a months’ rent) will be put down and returned when you leave the property. Landlords are required to put deposits in a tenancy protection scheme like DPS . You can check the ins and outs of renting (and being a landlord) online
- You don’t have to be a citizen (or even be resident) to buy property in the UK, but it can be easier to purchase as a cash buyer with no need to take out a mortgage. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. The UK site Money Advice Service has some useful guides about buying property in Scotland(click here for more) and the rest of the UK (click here for more), and the Expat Arrivals website has some great advice about buying property in the UK geared specifically towards expats .
- Council tax
- This can be one of those surprising little extra costs if you’re not prepared for it. It’s a system of local taxation that you pay to the local council based on the number of people living in a property and some other factors. You’ll almost certainly have to pay this even if you’re renting or boarding. Have a look at the details on the government portal .Generally your annual payment is split into 10 separate payment across the year, which can be paid online.
- Internet and landline
- Most internet providers in the UK also offer landline phones and some also have television subscriptions. Sky, BT, TalkTalk, Vodafone, Virgin Media, and Post Office are big providers – you can make some useful comparisons on the uSwitch website .
- Mobile phone
- Some of the top mobile providers in the UK are EE, Vodafone, Three, and BT Mobile, all of which offer a range of prepaid and account options with a variety of call, SMS, and data allowances. Look out for different deals before you make your decision. Currently most networks are offering free roaming in most EU countries, although you’re likely to need to pay additional roaming costs if you’re travelling in other regions. EE offers the most extensive phone coverage on UK soil and has some fast 4G speeds, which can be useful considering that more remote areas of the UK won’t always get the most reliable service. There’s a handy tool for checking providers’ signal and coverage on Mobile Phone Checker and various comparison tools online, including this.
- In most living situations in the UK, you’ll be responsible for managing your electricity, gas, and water services. Often you’ll find that the services are already set up and all you need to do is update your accounts with the service provider (though you may also have the option to shop around if there are other options in your area and you think you can get a better deal). If you need to find out who your supplier is, you can run a search on the Ecoes website and the website Switch Which has a comparison tool for energy providers. Most companies have flexible payment options, including online, direct debits, and via post. Gas is regulated by the company Ofgem and isn’t available in all locations, but is generally quite a good option when it is. Electricity is generally monitored by a credit metre. Water is provided by regional companies. In Scotland and Northern Ireland tap water is supplied by a government agency, while in England and Wales there are a number of privately owned companies. Again, in most cases the water should be set up already when you move so you can simply get in touch with the company to update details and check if there’s anything else required before you move in.
- National Health Service
- The NHS is often considered one of the Britain’s greatest assets. Public healthcare is free to all British citizens and expats from countries that have a reciprocal agreement (such as the EU, Australia, and New Zealand). Anyone who has lived legally in the UK for 12 months or more is also entitled to free healthcare. You can find out about services and look for hospitals and locations for healthcare on the NHS website . There are also some excellent private healthcare options in the UK
- The post
Royal Mail provides a pretty good postal service across the UK and internationally. Info and prices about mail are available on the website, as well as a postcode finder (postcodes are essential when sending things in the UK, trust us).
- Expat advice
- The UK is a major destination for relocation, so there are many forums and websites dedicated to expats. Some places you might like to start looking at include Internations , Expat Info Desk , Expat’s Guide to the UK , and Expat Arrivals . You should be able to find specific places for whatever region or city you move to – Professor Google is always a great help. For future Londonites, Moving to London and Randomly London might also be good places to start.
- Update your address
- All your bills, bank accounts, loyalty cards, and relatives (well… at least the ones you like) will need your new address. Make sure you also update your details on the UK.Govt portal when you have a permanent location too.
- Schools terms vary across the UK, but the school year generally kicks off in mid-August or September and breaks off in June or early July for summer. There are four levels of education in the UK – early years from ages 3 to 4, primary education from ages 5 to 11, secondary education from ages 11 to 18, and then tertiary education. In England the major high school examinations are the GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) with the option to go on and study A-levels, with equivalents under slightly different systems in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. All children between the ages of 5 and 16 in the UK are entitled to a free place at a state school. There are also many private schools which will cost around £3,000 to £6,000 a term, and some international schools geared towards expats. While most schools follow the national curriculum there are several types of schools that are set up and run in different ways (click here for more), including free schools, academies, and state boarding schools. To help make your decision, you might want to have a look at the Ofsted (Office of Standards in Education) performance of different schools. It’s also important to look at the admission criteria for the schools you’re considering, especially to provide guidance on the best time to apply. Although international students can expect the same offering as British nationals there are some schools who won’t prioritise international students if there’s no indication they’ll remain in the UK, so keep this in mind as well. It’s worth getting in touch with schools as soon as you know where you’re planning on moving to.
- You definitely won’t be alone in loving your pet in the UK. It’s estimated that 12 million households (44%) have pets (click here for more). If you’re bringing in a pet the import will be considered as part of your personal belongings and there are some regulations that go with importation . Cats, dogs, and ferrets will need to be microchipped, have a vaccination against rabies, and a veterinary certificate (or equivalent). There are no restrictions on most other pets. Links Asia do have a Pet Relocation Service to help you move your pet across to the UK with you.
- The UK is very well connected. An extensive train network runs from the South of England up north into Scotland (though it gets a little more patchy as you head into the Highlands), national and regional bus services run frequently with local busses also in operation, and ferries connect the mainland up with the many beautiful islands off the coast and with Northern Ireland. There are also plenty of flights between the major cities. Be warned that bad weather can have an impact on the operation of train lines!
- Public transport
- London is famous for its underground tube system, and its public transport is linked with busses and trains. However, if you’re travelling in London be warned that during peak hours public transport is packed so expect delays. The Transport For London (TFL) app is worth downloading on your phone to check for delays, and Citymapper is another great app to help you navigate and plan your way. Several train companies operate across the UK and most have train passes with discounts on standard ticket prices (weekly, monthly, and annual are the most popular). The National Rail website has information about all routes and also has live departure boards and updates. To find the best fares, especially for longer journeys, it’s best to book in advance – Trainline’s search engine looks across all routes. For travel by coach, the National Express and Megabus offer good national options, and for regional and local services you can have a look on individual company websites for prices and timetables.
- Oyster card
- The Oyster Card is the pay card you use on London’s transport system, including the Underground, trains, and busses, and can be topped up at many corner stores as well as counters and automatic machines at stations. However, you can now simply use your contactless credit card to tap in and out instead of an Oyster Card, which means you don’t need to worry about topping up. Very convenient if you don’t intend on using public transport too often or if you only visit London occasionally.
- Private transport
- Because cities and towns in the UK are so well connected, many people don’t bother with owning a car – especially for those who live in London where extra fees apply. By UK law you will need to register your vehicle and there will be an applicable tax (click here for more), the cost of which depends on its age, engine capacity, and CO2 emissions. If you’re hoping to travel away from the larger centres it can be useful to have a car, especially in more rural areas where local busses can be limited (especially in winter) – check the cost of petrol using this calculator. If you already have a car that you’d like to bring across with you, we can help you with the transport(click here for more)
- Public WiFi
- These days most major cities will have their own free wifi in public areas, and many places like cafes and restaurants also have their own wifi.