Life's changes don't get much bigger than moving to another country.
We're here to help reduce the stress of relocating abroad with the Now Health International relocation checklist.
This week we're looking at what you need to do to help you move to the United Kingdom, and stayed tuned for advice on other locations in the near future.
This checklist will cover:
- All the things you should know before you move to the UK.
- The steps you need to make throughout the process.
- Other tips to smoothen your relocation and make it as stress-free as possible.
Let's get started with the first step!
1. Apply for the Correct Visa
First, you will need to research information regarding your visa requirements.
The UK has a number of different visa schemes with specific conditions. These include:
- General visitor visas. These are for those staying in the UK for leisure purposes. The permit allows individuals to stay up to six months per visit, although they can last longer as well. You aren't allowed to undertake paid or unpaid work with such a visa.
- Study visas. These are issued to individuals coming to the UK to study, and generally, last for the duration of your studies. You'll have limited rights to work in the UK.
- Business visitor visas. These are issued when you need to stay in the UK for your job. They tend to allow you to stay for up to six months, and conduct business-related work and research.
These are some of the main visa categories issued, but there is a range of other visas available including investor visas and sportsperson visas. You will find more information on the UK Government website. You should consider talking to an immigration specialist if you're unsure about the visa you need to apply for.
Visas tend to come with specific conditions, such as having a sponsor, a specific sum of savings, or proof of work. Ensure you have the paperwork you need ready before applying, as this may help to speed up the process.
2. Find Somewhere to Live
We all have our must haves when choosing somewhere to live, and your "wish list" is likely to be very similar regardless of whether you're relocating to the UK or moving at home in the US.
Consider the following:
- Where is your place of work or study?
- What are the job opportunities nearby if you decide to leave your current job post-relocation?
- Local amenities. Do you need to be near schools or parks for your children? Are you moving solo and want to be near social opportunities? How easy is it to get to the shops?
- Does the area have anything specific in terms of support for the expat community? Use Facebook and Meetup to discover opportunities!
- How much will it cost to rent or buy a property?
- What will your other living costs be? How much are these in relation to what your salary will be?
- What do the local transport networks look like? Think about when you'll drive or when public transport might be best.
Once you have a specific area in mind, you can then opt to either rent or buy a property. While it is likely your employer or university will provide assistance with your relocation, it' worth knowing the below points prior to moving.
Renting in the UK
Many people choose to rent when they first move to the UK, and it can help you to get a feel for an area before you permanently move.
You can source rental properties through popular sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla. To rent in the UK you'll typically need to provide proof of your earnings or savings or have a UK guarantor. As you are moving to the UK, you should also be asked to provide evidence of your "Right to Rent" in the country. Your visa, which highlights your eligibility to be in the country, is sufficient evidence of this.
You'll also need to make a deposit payment which by law must be placed in a deposit protection scheme. The deposit cannot be more than five weeks' rent for properties with annual rent below £50,000, or six weeks' rent for properties with annual rent above £50,000.
Buying a House in the UK
You may choose to buy property right away upon moving to the UK. You'll likely need to take out a UK mortgage - unless selling a home in the US will enable you to buy one outright - and you'll need a solicitor to deal with all the paperwork and the process of buying a home.
You'll need to have building insurance if you buy a home, and if you rent, having a home contents insurance is also likely to be a requirement of your tenancy.
3. Set Up Your Utilities
Once you know where you're going to live, you need to sort out utilities.
In terms of utilities:
- Water - Your water supplier depends on where you live. You may pay a flat rate for your water or have a meter to pay for what you use.
- Gas and electricity - You can freely choose from a range of providers. Typically, it is cheaper to choose the same provider for both your gas and electricity.
It doesn't take long to organize these, and there are plenty of comparison sites to help you find the gas and electricity provider that will be best for you. These include Money Supermarket and Compare the Market.
In addition to these utilities, you will need to sort out your Internet, TV and phone line connections. For access to the Internet, you'll need a UK landline. There are plenty of internet providers in the UK, although the entire network is managed by BT OpenReach. If you plan to watch live TV, you'll also need to register for a TV license.
4. Move Your Belongings to the UK
To move your belongings when you relocate, you may want to organize an international removals company to take care of it, or you can organize transportation yourself.
Don't forget that when moving from the US to the UK, you're able to claim tax exemption on some customs charges. You can do so by completing and submitting a transfer of residence document.
Your pets can also move with you as long as they meet certain conditions under the Pet Travel Scheme.
5. Open a UK Bank Account
Opening a UK bank account is a straightforward process, but you'll need proof of your UK address. This could be a utility bill or a letter from your university or employer.
Many of the UK's major banks provide "basic" current bank accounts which you may need to take out on a short-term basis if you haven't yet started building a UK credit profile.
6. Apply for a National Insurance Number
Importantly you will need to apply for a national insurance number - this is compulsory for anyone looking to claim benefits or work in the UK. Your national insurance number is unique to you and ensures the national insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded against your name.
You may also be required to provide your national insurance number for other financial matters, such as setting up an ISA savings account.
. Find more about applying for a national insurance number here. Once you have one, remember to keep it safe and do not share it with anyone who does not need it to prevent fraud.
7. Understand the UK Tax System
When relocating to the UK, you need to be aware of how the UK tax system works. If you work or have any other income, you'll need to pay taxes in the UK.
The UK tax year runs from 6 April and most income tax is automatically collected from your salary through a system called Pay As You Earn (PAYE). If you're self-employed, you will have to register and file your own tax return. Find out more at the HMRC website, which is the authority in charge of UK taxes.
If you're a student considering relocation to the UK, you can read Now Health International's guide to taxation in the UK for international students here.
8. Deal with Your Local Council
Whether you're renting or living in your own home, you'll also need to pay council tax. This tax is used to pay for the provision of public services, such as the fire department, rubbish collections, and other services that are delivered and budgeted at a local level.
Find your local council here and register to pay the tax in monthly instalments. You can also choose to pay for the whole year at once.
If you are eligible to vote, you can also register to vote with your local council. You may be able to vote in local elections if you're are an Irish, Commonwealth or EU citizen that is resident in the UK. You can find out more about your eligibility to vote here.
9. Transfer Your Driver's License
If you are planning to drive in the UK you will need to transfer your driver's license. This is easy to do and your local council can help you with the process. In some situations, you might have to apply to take lessons or a test. You can find out more here. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is the main body responsible for driving licenses.
Remember that you need to have car insurance if you drive a car in the UK. You can find insurance yourself or use price comparison websites to help you.
10.Purchase Health Insurance
The UK healthcare system is free at the point of use and run by the National Health Service (NHS). However, as a non-UK citizen coming from outside of the EU, you might need to pay a healthcare surcharge (called the immigration health surcharge or IHS) as part of your immigration application in order to be able to access the service. You can find out whether you will have to pay the surcharge here.
It's important to note that not all services are free on the NHS and you might need to pay for items such as prescriptions, dental treatment, and eye tests. In addition, waiting times for doctor appointments on the NHS can be long depending on where you live. You might therefore also want to consider purchasing health insurance to allow you to access private medical care.
Don't forget that if you already have a US health insurance plan its unlikely to cover you for care abroad without additional costs or a change of policy. You might want to consider an international plan that will cover you for treatment both in the UK and back home in your country of origin. Once you have health insurance, you should also consider registering with a local doctor, or 'GP' (General Practice) as they are referred to in the UK.
Relocating to the UK
Use this checklist, as well as the other resources here at Now Health International, to help make your move as straightforward as possible.
Check out our expat guide to London here, and learn about our international health insurance plans here.