The United Kingdom — made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — is a land chock full of cultural quirks and idiosyncrasies.
But if you’re thinking of moving to the UK, there’s more to learn than simply adjusting to our rigorous approach to queuing, the unpredictable weather, or the correct order of jam and cream on a scone (according to the Queen, it’s jam first).
To make the move a happy one, you’ll also need to know about visas, working and living arrangements, healthcare, and finance. And in this guide, we’ve got you covered.
Important note: All information in this article is correct at the time of publication.
The United Kingdom at a Glance
- Capital City: London
- Currency: Pound Sterling (£)
- Population: 66.44 million (source)
- Official Language: English
- Average Wages: £585 per week for full-time employees (source)
- National Minimum Wage (from April 2020): £8.72 (25 and over); £8.20 (21 to 24); £6.45 (18 to 20); £4.55 (Under 18); £4.15 (Apprentice) (source)
How to move to the UK: Are you eligible to move?
First thing’s first: You need a valid passport to enter the United Kingdom. So, before you make any plans to move, make sure your passport is fully up-to-date.
The next step is to research the legal requirements according to your circumstances, nationality, and where you’re moving from.
EU citizens moving to the UK
Since the UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020, the UK and EU entered a transition period. During this period, talks will iron out the details. At the time of this publication (March 2020), EU citizens do not require a visa to move to the UK. This might change, depending on the outcome of the negotiations.
Note: Read this guide to the UK government’s EU Settlement Scheme for updated information about the rights and status of EU citizens moving to the UK.
Non-EU citizens moving to the UK
For non-EU citizens, moving to the UK can be a great deal more complicated. Freedom of movement does not apply, so you will either have to secure a job and the requisite visa before moving, or come to the UK to study on a student visa. At the end of your studies, you can apply to extend your stay, assuming you meet the necessary criteria.
Of course, there is another option: be super wealthy. If you have a spare £2 million to invest in the UK, you can apply for a Tier 1 investor visa.
Moving to the UK from the US / Canada
For Americans and Canadians looking to make the move to the UK, the process can be quite time-consuming, expensive, and fraught with complication.
Typically, to smooth the way, you’ll need to be eligible for a skilled worker visa or a family visa. If you don’t meet the criteria for one of those, moving to the UK will be tough.
Canadian citizens, however, may be eligible for a UK Ancestry Visa. This is because Canada is part of the Commonwealth. So, if you can prove that one of your grandparents was born in the United Kingdom, this could be an option.
You can check which visa you need on the UK government website.
Moving to the UK from Australia
Like Canada, Australia is also part of the Commonwealth, meaning Australians can apply for certain visas based on their family history.
As an Australian citizen, you can apply for “right of abode in the UK” if one of your parents was born in the UK and a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies when you were born or adopted.
Australians can also apply for a UK Ancestry Visa. To do this, you must:
- Apply before you travel to the UK.
- Be at least 17 years old.
- Be able to prove that one of your grandparents was born in the UK.
- Prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants.
When you move to the UK, one of the first things you’ll want to do is open a bank account.
This is usually a straightforward process. You might want to make a permanent switch away from your current bank, or keep your old bank account and set up an extra one in the United Kingdom. This will also depend on whether your current bank allows you to have an account while not being a resident.
You may wish to fund your UK account with your home currency, or transfer money back to your home country, which means converting that currency into, or from, pound sterling (GBP). UK banks can do this, but they may mark up the exchange rate and add fees.
Instead, open a Revolut account and transfer money globally – with no rubbish exchange rates. You can also set up direct debits with a Revolut account, which means you can pay for things like utility bills and gym memberships in the UK using Revolut.
Working & Living in the UK
Securing a work visa for the United Kingdom can be challenging. There are many different short-term and long-term work visa options, which you can browse on the official Gov.uk website.
Depending on where you decide to live, the UK can range from eye-wateringly expensive to modestly affordable. Naturally, London comes out on top when it comes to high cost of living, but this can be offset by higher-than-average salaries – depending on your job, of course.
Check this tool from Numbeo to compare the cost of living of various towns and cities across the UK.
If you’re planning on renting from a private landlord in the UK, then expect them to check that you’re eligible to do so. This is called a Right to Rent check, and it means that you’ll need to prove that you have the right to reside in the UK by showing original copies of the necessary documentation.
The UK’s healthcare system is among the best in the world.
Access to the publicly-owned National Health Service (NHS) is free at point of use for all UK residents, and for EU nationals with a European Health Insurance Card — although this is set to change post-Brexit.
Note: If you’re moving to England, prescription medicines cost £9.00 per item. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all prescriptions are free for residents.
When you apply for a visa, you may need to pay a healthcare surcharge.
|UK Emergency Contact Numbers|
|Ambulance||999 or 112|
|Police||999 or 112|
|Fire||999 or 112|
|NHS Direct||111 (for when you require medical advice or attention, but the situation is non-life-threatening)|
- Moving to the UK - Guidance from the Government
- Check if you need a UK visa
- The Revolut Moving Abroad Checklist
And that’s it. Armed with this info, you’re a step closer to a life in the UK. Good luck with your move!
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