Country Guides June 23, 2022

Ultimate Guide for Moving to the United Kingdom

Milly Andrews

Born and raised in Portland, Milly has had a lot of experience moving and writing about the relocation process.

The UK is, and always has been, one of the most popular destinations for America’s expats – it’s estimated that close to 200,000 American citizens live in the UK today. If you’re looking to become a UK resident, you should learn everything there is to know about moving to the United Kingdom. Luckily, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide for what awaits you before and after the move to this island country.

The First Step of Moving to the United Kingdom From the US – Make Sure You Know the Basics

The UK is one of the best places to live in Europe (and wider), so it’s not a surprise many consider relocating here. However, before getting international moving services, there are a few things you should learn first:

  • The county’s official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but it’s often referred to as the UK or Britain.
  • England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are four parts of the UK – it’s inaccurate to use one of these regions as a country’s synonym (England, for example, is not the same as the UK).
  • The official language is English, so you won’t have to work on breaking the language barrier. However, depending on the region you’re relocating to, you may hear Scots, Welsh, Scottish Galic, or Irish.
  • The UK’s governmental system differs from America’s – Queen Elizabeth II is a ruling monarch of the UK’s constitutional monarchy.
  • The official currency is the pound sterling (£), which currently equals $1.23.
  • The driving side is left, which can take some time to get used to if you opt for overseas vehicle shipping. If not, remember that British public transport is well-developed in large cities, but you may encounter issues while getting around without a car in smaller places.
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) office is the UK’s equivalent to the IRS, with Pay As You Earn (PAYE) taxation policy which implies that taxes are automatically deducted from your payroll.
  • The emergency number is 999,
  • You’re not obliged by law to open a local bank account, but it can help you avoid higher transaction fees,
  • Not everyone’s a fan of British cuisine,
  • You can relocate with dogs and other pets as long as you have the proper documentation and if they are microchipped and fully vaccinated.

Search for the Appropriate Visa Before Looking at Places in Queen’s England

How hard is it for an American to move to England? It depends on your reasons for relocation, the time you want to spend in the UK, and the visa type you wish to obtain. A visa and a passport are the most important documents needed to travel abroad. However, remember that those staying for only six months or shorter won’t need to obtain visas – but working without a work permit is illegal.

On the other hand, if you’re planning a long-term stay, the UK offers various visa types. The majority of them can be grouped in:

  • Work visas – can be valid for up to four years. However, if you’re relocating abroad to the UK for the job, keep in mind that your employer must also fill in a work permit.
  • Family visas – you should obtain one of these visa types if you’re relocating with a partner, a family member, or a person who holds a work permit.
  • Student visas – if you want to become one of many international students in the UK, look at the requirements for this visa type.

How long can Americans stay in the UK? The answer is indefinite – if you have the right documents. Therefore, visit the UK’s official website or contact the embassy for more information.

But how do I move to the UK permanently, you may wonder. You may spend some time in the UK before obtaining an Indefinite Leave to Remain, and the required amount depends on your visa type. On the other hand, if you want to apply for British citizenship, you can do it after three years in the best-case scenario – when you’re married to a UK citizen. In all other cases, you must live abroad for at least five years.

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Learn More About UK’s (Weird) Laws

Even though you’re not relocating across the world, you’re relocating to a whole other country, which can and will have different laws. It’s up to you to get informed about them and avoid doing anything that may be considered illegal. Still, note that the UK has some pretty unusual laws. For example, remember that:

  • You can’t fly a kite in public,
  • Walking cows down the street during the day is illegal,
  • All swans belong to the Queen, so it’s illegal to injure one,
  • You can’t slide down the icy road,
  • You can’t shake your rug in public.

UK Has Lower Cost of Living Than the USA

One thing that makes the UK one of the best places to live abroad for Americans is lower living costs. If you’re moving abroad alone, you’ll have to set aside around $4,700 for a comfortable life in London, while you’ll need thousands of dollars more for the same lifestyle in NYC.

Housing costs represent the biggest expenses, and they tend to be more affordable here than in the US. The median home price in the UK is around $341,000 as of March 2022, while the average home cost in the US is about $405,000. Even if you plan on renting while living overseas, you’ll be faced with smaller expenses – on average, rent in the UK is around 19% lower than in the States. Grocery bills also tend to be lower in the UK but keep in mind that the price of transportation and utility is higher in the British cities.

Evidently, the UK’s not exactly the most affordable country in the world. However, it won’t be any more expensive than what you’re used to – just the opposite.

How Much Money Do I Need to Move to the United Kingdom?

Shipping overseas doesn’t come cheap, so if you want to move abroad, you’ll need to ensure enough money is saved. Count on several different expenses, such as the cost of hiring an international moving company, visa application expenses, travel costs, packing services, as well as money you’ll need until you settle in the new home. Ideally, the sum of around $10,000 should be enough for all the relocation expenses. Therefore, if you don’t have it already sitting in your bank account, be sure you start saving up as soon as possible.

The British Economy Is One of the Strongest in the World – But How Hard Is it for an Exactly to Find a Job?

The UK’s unemployment rate is currently at 3.8%, which is lower than the global unemployment rate (5.9%) but slightly higher than in the US (3.6%). However, remember that the UK’s job opportunities depend on the region you’re relocating to. Keep in mind that the best job market you’ll find in London.

Sectors that employ the most in the UK are retail and wholesale, administration, social work, healthcare, education, and so on. However, if you’re looking to get a visa through the skilled worker shortage occupation program, you have the most chances if you’re career is in:

  • Science (physics and biochemistry),
  • Engineering (mechanical, electrical, civil),
  • IT,
  • Medicine,
  • Education,
  • Graphic design.

Additionally, keep in mind that the average salary in the UK amounts to around £29,600 per year or £1,950 per month. Naturally, the sum will ultimately depend on your work field and your place of living. For example, you’ll earn significantly more if you decide to move to London – but you’ll also meet higher expenses. As a full-time worker in the UK, you’ll be working 35-40 hours per week, and you’ll be entitled to 28 days of annual leave.

If you are interested in learning valuable tips on how to secure a job in the UK, check the following video:

The UK Is Among the World Leaders When It Comes to Education and Healthcare System

When you plan to move to a new country, one of the most important things to consider is its healthcare system. World Population Review places UK’s healthcare among the top ten best systems in the world for 2022. The UK’s National Health Service is a healthcare system through which every British resident is entitled to cost-free public insurance. Therefore, until you get a permanent residency, you’ll have to pay for medical treatments. That is why many American expats opt for private insurance that offers quicker service.

Simultaneously, note that the UK is second on the list of countries with the best education worldwide. With universities such as Cambridge or Oxford, Imperial College London, and the University of Edinburgh, you won’t make a mistake choosing the UK as a place where you’ll study abroad. However, keep in mind that the UK also has a high-quality primary and secondary education system – with schools that are much more affordable than in the US.

medicine
National Health Services is called Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland

Getting Used to British People

Although the US and UK both represent Western culture and share the same language, don’t think you won’t experience a certain amount of culture shock after moving internationally.

Unlike popular belief that the UK is not exactly among the friendliest countries in the world, you’ll be amazed how welcoming British people can be. Although they may seem a bit reserved at first, you’ll be amazed how fast you’ll be able to make friends. Still, there will be many British quirks you’ll grow to love. Remember that Britains:

  • Enjoy sarcasm and dark humor,
  • Drink tea whenever the opportunity presents itself,
  • Are excessively polite,
  • Consider football (not soccer!) a religion.

Is the UK a Good Place to Move To?

Excellent job opportunities, relatively affordable costs, and a rich cultural heritage are all relocation benefits you can meet if you choose the UK for your future home. The UK has made a name for itself in art, literature, philosophy, and science and continues to do so today. Moreover, did you know that you can find even twenty-nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK territory? That includes Stonehenge, Tower of London, New Lanark, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal, and more.

To answer the question – yes, the UK is an excellent place to relocate to. After you move overseas, not only will you be able to enjoy an exceptional quality of life, but you’ll be surrounded by a centuries-old culture. You’ll need an entire lifetime to visit all the places in the UK that are worth visiting – so be sure you start as soon as you move.

Best Cities to Call Home After Moving Overseas

Birmingham

Although not popular with expats, Birmingham is a perfect palace if you search for scenic views, good job opportunities, and affordable housing. Canal-side dining and the endless entertaining option don’t spark your interest? Don’t worry, if you love spending time outdoors, you’ll be able to explore beautiful nature, trails, hikes, lakes, waterfalls, and more.

Glasgow

Once an industrial hub, Glasgow’s now considered a hipster paradise. Friendly people, a mix of modern and traditional, quirkiness, live music venues, pubs, clubs, and stunning green surfaces make this city a perfect place to settle down. If you’re in love with different art forms, you’ll be glad to know that art, music, and culture are an essential part of life in Glasgow. After all, did you know that Glasgow has been a UNESCO City of music since 2008?

Cardiff

Named Caerdydd in Welsh, Wales’ capital is known as one of the most vibrant and unique UK cities. Cheer during many sports events in some of the world-class stadiums, go shopping, explore the wildlife surrounding Cardiff, discover the lively nightlife scene, or enjoy the amazing view and even better dining at Cardiff Bay – the possibilities are endless.

Belfast

Belfast’s popularity has significantly increased over the years – and not just for the expats. Many companies have decided to move their headquarters here. However, it’s still quite affordable while offering all the amenities of a big city – fantastic nightlife, great restaurants, artisan shops, various festivals, and so much more. After all, how cool would it be just one short drive away from Castle Ward, aka Winterfell?

London

We can’t talk about the best cities to live in Europe and the UK without mentioning the country’s capital. This bustling metropolis offers a vibrant social scene, plenty of job opportunities, and the highest salaries in the UK. A busy and fast-paced way of living is more suitable for young professionals, but, truly, London’s beauty and vibrance can be enjoyed by many, regardless of age.

The UK Has a Lot of Rainy Days – Stereotype of Fact?

The truth is if you want to live abroad, and you’ve chosen the UK, you must be prepared for the UK’s unpredictable weather. But one thing is certain – not all days are rainy days in the UK. This island country has all four seasons, with freezing winters and hot summers, so keep that in mind when deciding what to pack. Additionally, when deciding where to live, remember that Scotland is the coldest region of the UK, while Wales usually has mild winters and warm summers.

As for the amount of rain, it varies depending on the area you’ve chosen to move to. North West England, for example, tends to get a lot of rain, while Southern England gets less rain and has generally warmer weather.

London has 106 rainy days per year, on average

Hiring a Top-Rated Overseas Shipping Company Is the Best Insurance for a Successful International Move

Moving to the United Kingdom from the USA can be quite a complex process that demands a lot of your time, energy, and nerves. However, with the help of a top-quality company, all that relocation stress can be avoided. Therefore, once you decide that it’s time to move, make sure to research all the international companies nearby and opt for the one that can, without a doubt, provide you with the best relocation experience. Secure a move without a fuss, and be sure you begin enjoying the new life in the UK from the start.

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