Have you decided to move to the United Kingdom? Whether you’re moving for study, your career, or for personal reasons, the UK is filled with great places to put down some roots.
Here are our 13 tops tips to help make your move to the UK a smooth and stress-free process.
1. Sort Out Your Visa
The first thing you need to do before moving to the UK is to figure out your visa requirements.
As an American, you’ll need entry clearance to come to the UK. The visa you’ll need to apply for will depend largely on your reasons for moving.
Visit UK Visas.gov.uk to learn more about the entry requirements and the application process.
2. Get to Know the Place You Want to Move To
If possible try to get to know the place you’re moving to before you set off.
The UK is made up of four countries - England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, each of which has its own unique character and customs (and even different languages!). You should also do some research on the city or specific local area you’ll be living in.
If you haven’t yet picked an area you want to move to, you could start by reading our Expat Guide to Moving to London for some helpful information about the UK’s capital city.
If you’re not able to visit different locations around the UK before you move, you could use Facebook or other social media forums to connect with expat community groups in the UK and ask them for advice.
3. Consider Finding a Temporary Place First
It is often a good idea to find somewhere temporary to live while you’re looking for a more permanent home.
If you are moving to the UK to study or career-related reasons then your University or employer will likely help you to move. All Universities will offer on campus or nearby accommodation options, while many employers own property or have company rental agreements which can provide you with somewhere comfortable to live while you settle. If you’re very lucky your job might even come with a rental property!
You can look for accommodation through popular real estate websites such as Rightmove.
4. Understand the Cost of Living
Whatever your reasons for moving to the UK, you must make yourself aware of the cost of living. This allows you to make sure you don’t run into financial difficulties after a few months and ensures you can plan your finances accordingly.
It’s also worth adjusting your mindset and accepting that some things will cost more or less than they do at home. It’s tempting when you go overseas to convert everything into your home currency and make decisions based on this, but it won’t always be possible to do so.
Create a budget that takes into account things like:
- Your monthly income – Your salary, your student loan, or any other type of regular income, from investments for example. Don’t forget to account for taxes! Students can read our guide to taxation for international students in the UK here.
- Other income or cash – Are your parents planning to send you money? Do you have savings you can take to the UK? Does your US bank account enable you to make withdrawals overseas?
- Expenses – Rent, utilities, food, entertainment, and transport, plus anything that wouldn’t be classed as “non-essential”.
5. Sort Out a Phone Connection
Check with your cell phone provider how easy it is to use your phone overseas.
Many networks will have an overseas partner so that when you’re abroad you can simply pick up that network. However, if you’re planning to call home often it may be cheaper to take out a new contract. Alternatively, if you’re planning to use apps such as Skype, Messenger, and WhatsApp to call home, you may be better taking out a mobile data only contract and then taking advantage of the free call functionality those apps provide.
6. Get a National Insurance Number
Applying for a National Insurance (NI) Number should be one of the first things you do, and in some cases can be done while you’re applying for a UK visa. It is worth doing so as soon as possible because you’ll need it to start working in the UK.
You can apply for a NI number by calling the application line.
7. Obtain Proof of Address ASAP
When it comes to starting your new life in the UK, obtaining proof of address is crucial. You’ll need it for many important tasks such as opening a bank account, so it’s a good idea to do it as soon as possible.
How can you obtain a proof of address? This usually requires you to receive an official letter, such as a utility bill, which includes your name and new address, although in the short term a tenancy agreement or a declaration from your University or employer might be acceptable.
You could also:
- Update your address with your bank back at home, which means you’ll receive a statement from them at the new address.
- Register with the local council. You may need to do this for council tax purposes anyway, so it’s good to check.
8. Open a Bank Account
Opening a bank account as soon as possible will make your life a lot easier. You will need proof of address and your identity when you open an account. If you’ve just moved, using your passport or US driving license along with your tenancy agreement or a letter from your employer or University will usually be accepted.
Once you have an account, look to keep it active and ensure any UK income and direct debits are paid in and out of it.
9. Use Government or University Resources to Find Work
If you’re moving to the UK without a job already lined up there are plenty of ways to find one.
There are several recruitment websites you can use including Monster, Indeed, and TotalJobs, while the UK also has a government-run employment agency called Jobcentre Plus (JCP). You’ll find a JCP branch in many neighborhoods and they can provide a lot of resources in terms of looking for a job and preparing for interviews.
If you’re moving to the UK to study and you’d like a part-time job, your university will have a Careers department that can help. They can provide advice and be useful in helping you to find a job with some link to your studies, rather than taking on a “traditional” student job such as working in a bar.
10.Sort Out your Tax
When you start working, you’ll need to start paying taxes. In most cases, taxes will be automatically deducted directly from your salary each month. You’ll then receive a payslip to let you know what was taken and if needed, you can ask for a refund at the end of the tax year, or change your tax code so you pay the correct amount of tax.
If you have other income – a second job, rental income, or investments for example – you will need to file your taxes every year. The HMRC website, the UK equivalent to the IRS, has lots of information that will help you.
You can refer back to our international student guide to UK taxation that we also mentioned earlier too.
11.Registering with a GP
The UK is famous for its healthcare system as it’s mostly free to access – even for people who move from another country to live in the UK.
To access healthcare in the UK you should register with a GP. You can find a local GP surgery online at the NHS website. When you register, you’ll have to fill out a form and prove your identity and your address. Even if you’re rarely ill it is recommended that you do this. It’s better to be registered with a doctor and not need one than to need one and not be registered!
12. Get Health Insurance
As part of your visa application, you will have to pay a healthcare surcharge to use the NHS. While you can benefit from free healthcare in the UK, it doesn’t hurt to also have private health insurance. Not everything is covered by the NHS and you can avoid the sometimes lengthy waiting times if you have private insurance.
If you’ll be traveling back home to the US or outside of the UK regularly, you could also consider an international plan that will cover you for treatment both in the UK and abroad.
13. Treat Homesickness with Expat Groups
According to the most recent UK Census in 2011, there were nearly 200,000 Americans resident in the UK. It can be helpful to access the UK’s US expat communities – in person as well as online – to deal with any potential homesickness.
You can find groups online on Facebook or expat sites such as UK-Yankee.com. There are many forums or meet-up events where you can discuss any problems you might encounter in your new country. While you will undoubtedly make friends with fellow students, work colleagues and neighbors, it is always nice to share your experiences with other people who’ve gone through the same move like you!
Your Smooth, Stress-Free Move to the UK
The UK is a great place to live, and the above tips will help you get settled quicker by getting the most important things out of the way so you can focus on moving on with your life.