Moving to the UK
A Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to the UK
All your requirements for moving to the UK are covered in this essential guide. From taxes to childcare, even British humor; we talk you through all the necessary steps to move to the UK.
The large and flexible jobs market, the history and culture, and of course the English language – they all contribute to making the UK an attractive potential relocation destination for expats.
Plus, the well-developed service economy and flexible housing market help make the moving process more convenient. Rented accommodation is often furnished, public transport is good and society in many of the big cities is diverse.
On the other hand, one downside is that the cost of living in the UK is relatively high. In addition, some expats may feel less welcome in the country since the recent referendum (Brexit), and depending on how negotiations progress, it could become harder for non-Brits to move to the UK.
Find out everything you need to know before moving to the United Kingdom with our extensive guide. You can learn all about how to get there, what life is like, and how to make the most of this unique culture.
Nice To Know
Here are some things you may not have heard about the UK. Let us clear up some false stereotypes and possibly confirm a few too.
- Not all Brits eat fish and chips! Today, you are just as likely to find a curry house or Chinese takeaway on an English high street as you are to find a fish and chip shop.
- Monarchical rule. The United Kingdom is often seen as the home of parliamentary democracy, but it’s one of the only democracies in the world that doesn’t have a constitution. This leaves the monarch with the theoretical right to veto any act of Parliament, though it hasn’t happened since 1707.
- London dominates the UK. It has the lion’s share of economic wealth and houses over a seventh of the population (8.6 million people). There is only one other city with over a million residents, and that’s Birmingham with a relatively modest 1.2 million people, although Manchester, with a population of just over half a million, is often called the UK’s ‘second city’.
- It probably doesn’t rain in London as much as you think (over 70% of the time it’s not raining in London).
In the current climate of Brexit and growing concerns about immigration, you might be forgiven for thinking that the process of moving to the UK is getting harder. In fact, the process of moving to the UK is still relatively straightforward and the people are generally welcoming.
The UK remains a country that is very used to new arrivals. People from all over the world live in the UK and it is a place that is proud of its diversity and multicultural past. Whatever your background, it is quite easy to feel at home in the UK.
Also, in terms of the logistics of moving, the UK is friendly to expats – it has always had a lot of people moving in and out of the country. It also has a relatively mobile population (people moving around inside the country a lot). This means there are good and well-established services to help with your move. As long as you are well informed, the moving, shipping, and storing of your household goods should not be difficult or too expensive in the UK.
The housing market is also very fluid and, although it’s not cheap, it is relatively quick and easy to find rented accommodation, especially in the big cities. The tenancies can have a defined end date or a monthly lease.
If you are moving to the UK with pets be aware that there are some strict rules. The UK has managed to keep the disease rabies off its shores by insisting on vaccinations and passports for animals. If your pet does not have a passport it may well be required to spend time in quarantine before you can take it home with you. Make sure you read our full guide on the different requirements you are likely to face when moving to the UK with your pet.
Wondering how to get a UK visa or work permit? It can seem complicated, but often the process is not as difficult as it first looks. We’ve put together the information you need in this section on UK visa and work permits. You’ll find information on the different UK visa types, as well as the requirements and costs.
If you are moving to the UK, then it is most likely that you will be looking to get a working visa or work permit. This entitles you to live and work in the UK for periods of about two years at a time (before needing to be renewed). EU citizens don’t need a work visa, but this may change after Britain leaves the European Union.
Work permits are awarded based on a system of points and categorization. Firstly, types of applicants are divided into tiers. For example, ‘Tier 1’ applicants are likely to contribute to the economy as experts, employers, or investors. These applicants have fairly light visa requirements and don’t need to have a job offer before applying.
After you have lived in the UK for between five and ten years, you’ll be able to apply for citizenship or permanent residence. This comes with its own set of requirements and tests, not least the infamous citizenship test that, among other things, might test your knowledge of the game of cricket.
Accommodation in the UK can be pretty expensive, especially in the big cities. Britain is a nation obsessed with home ownership and most people aim to buy, rather than rent. However, in the current financial climate, many are unable to achieve this goal.
If you’re wondering how to rent a house in the UK, be assured that it is a relatively easy process. Rental contracts are often quickly done, turnover is pretty high, and many flats and houses for rent come fully furnished.
Average house prices have come down a little bit in the last few years, but average rent remains high and is still getting more expensive. Given this, buying a house in the UK might be an attractive option for foreigners. The housing market is fairly relaxed and mortgages are still easier to access than in some other European nations. Watch out for tax rules on second home ownership and capital gains tax.
Traditionally, not a country of apartment blocks, the most common types of houses are two-story family dwellings. More recently, more apartment style blocks are being constructed to meet housing needs in the major cities.
Whether you want to rent or buy, or are deciding which is best, our guide to accommodation in the UK gives you a thorough overview of the housing market.
The country has pride in its NHS (National Health Service), the ‘free at the point of use’ public healthcare system in the UK, but there are also health insurance options that might make staying fit and well easier.
The NHS will cover nearly all your healthcare needs, irrespective of your residential status, and it’s unrivaled as the best healthcare system in the UK. The NHS runs the best hospitals and you will find it hard to find a doctor locally who is not registered with the service. The few people (about 10%) who opt to take out private insurance do so to get advantageous treatment (shorter waiting times or a private room), but nearly always at the same hospitals.
Also, giving birth in the UK is relatively straightforward. The maternity services are excellent. Just be aware that there are some areas where the NHS does not pick up the whole cost. These include some prescriptions, dental care, and eye care.
Opening a bank account in the UK is easy to do and the taxation system is relatively simple to understand. Read our guide on the first steps you need to take and get a basic understanding of the UK tax rate.
In the UK the best banks still offer their consumer banking services for free. Some of the banks you can join are among the biggest names not just on the high street but also in the world of high finance: HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, for example.
The tax rate in the UK is progressive (taxes get higher the more you earn) but it is relatively easy to understand with only a few different levels of tax. The tax rate, in general, tends to be a little lower than many European countries, but higher than the US.
Are you trying to figure out the differences between state, public, private, and international schools in the UK? Look no further. InterNations GO! provides in-depth information about the complex UK education system.
The school system in the UK is not all about gothic towers and neat uniforms. In reality, the quality of schools varies hugely. Most are free to children in the immediate locality and run by the local authorities with the central government setting the curriculum. However, there is still a legacy of a more selective and independent schooling system for children aged 11 and upwards. These include a few older grammar schools, private schools, and some newly created ‘academies’ or ‘free schools’.
The higher education system in the UK has a long and exclusive tradition. Today a large number of young British people attend university and there are lots of them to choose from. League tables are published to help you see which are the best schools and universities.
Many expats find work in the UK an interesting and rewarding experience. The UK business culture is fairly unique and worth researching before you move. If you’re wondering how to get a job in the UK, then you might want to have a look at the Shortage Occupation List that the UK government maintains. If you are looking for a job in a field for which there is a shortage, your chance of getting a working visa might improve.
The average salary in the UK is not high by Western European standards and has been declining in recent years. However, UK social security is quite comprehensive and the National Health Service is free. Get up to speed on what you can expect from this unique working culture with our full guide to working in the UK.
The cost of living in the UK is high. With housing, utility, and transportation cost all climbing in recent years, the UK is only getting more expensive to live in.
However, there are things and places that can be explored for free or at a low price, such as museums. Many expats are motivated to move to the UK because of its rich history and cultural scene. Whether it’s comedy or music or fine arts, there’s a lot to discover on this island.
Another major attraction is that it’s easy to get around. Despite having one of the oldest public transportation networks in the world, UK trains and buses are in good order. Driving in the UK is also comfortable, with good roads and services. Just make sure you know the ins and outs of the strict rules of the road. Getting it wrong can be expensive.