The United Kingdom remains a highly desirable relocation destination. With a high quality of life and education, a strong economy, stable political and social systems and a unique, rich, cultural heritage, Britain holds huge appeal for foreign nationals looking to start a new life in a different country.
The logistics of an international move to the United Kingdom are a major factor to plan well in advance before making your dreams a reality. Ultimately, the how you can move to the UKwill depend on your individual circumstances, such as your work, education, and family members.
In this guide, we will outline important considerations if you are a foreign national planning a move to the UK on a long-term basis. You can use this article as a starting point to plan your relocation and to learn more about the practical and logistical steps you will need to take if this is a goal for you and your family.
Visas and Immigration for the United Kingdom
Individuals who are not British citizens, UK permanent residents, or those without pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, will require immigration permission from the Home Office. This means you will need to apply for and be granted the appropriate visa or immigration status before making your move to the UK.
There are several immigration categories offering long-term move to the UK. Some of the more common routes include:
This visa category is for individuals who are the spouse, civil partner, fiancé, proposed civil partner, or another eligible family member of a Britizen citizen or settled person in the United Kingdom.
Skilled Worker Visa
This visa category is for individuals who have been offered an eligible job category for a government-approved employer based in the United Kingdom.
Health and Care Worker Visa
This visa category is for individuals who have been offered an eligible job in the UK health and social care sector for a government-approved employer.
This visa category is for individuals who have been endorsed by a government-approved body to run a UK-based innovative business.
Global Talent Visa
This visa category is for individuals who are recognised by the British government as being potential leaders and leaders in the areas of digital technology, academia and research, or arts and culture.
This visa category is for high net-worth individuals who want to invest a minimum of £2,000,000 or more into UK-based businesses and the economy.
This visa category is for Commonwealth citizens who can demonstrate concrete evidence that their grandparents were born in either the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man.
British National (Overseas) Visa
This visa category is for individuals from Hong Kong who have a British National (Overseas) passport.
There are many other visa categories and immigration routes, so you will want to research the best option for you and your family.
Housing in the United Kingdom
Renting is usually the better option for those relocating who want to be sure they are happy with the area before committing to buy. Renting in the United Kingdom has becoming increasingly common across all types of property and all locations in recent years. Whether you are looking to rent or to buy a property, either as an outright purchase or with a mortgage, you will want to be sure you have chosen the right location.
The type, quality and size of housing in the United Kingdom will depend on the area you are looking to live in. Location will also be a factor in the availablity and cost of property. Some areas are known for higher property prices, such as London, Edinburgh and Oxford, while others are generally more affordable, such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Transportation in the United Kingdom
Transporation in the United Kingdom allows individuals to easily travel within the country and abroad through links via cars, trains, ferries, cycles, buses, trams, undergrounds, and aeroplanes.
The road transit system is extensive and many Brits own their cars which are driven on the left side of the road. This is the most popular method of transit in the country and motorways are well-maintained.
Public transport, such as buses, undergrounds, and trams, are available throughout the country. Rapid transit systems are available in London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Glasgow, and Liverpool. Bus systems are available in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
The passenger rail system in the UK is the oldest in the world. High-speed rail lines are spread throughout Great Britain with trains connecting areas in all four nations. The Channel Tunnel train connects the UK to the continent from London to Paris.
There are over 450 airports and airfields in the United Kingdom connecting the island to the rest of the world, with most airports offering flights to European capitals. Heathrow Airport in the suburbs of London is one of the world’s busiest airports.
Finally, cycling is a popular and eco-friendly method of transportation in the United Kingdom. Safe cycling infrastructure includes 14,000 miles of dedicated cycle paths. Some cities offer segregated cycle lanes to increase uptake of this transit method. Cities such as London, Glasgow, and Bristol have popular bike rental schemes to encourage cycling as a sustainable and healthy option.
Education in the United Kingdom
Organised education in the United Kingdom dates back to AD 597 and some of the most sought-after schools in the world are located here. The public system of education differs in each of the devolved nations – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – so you will need to thoroughly research the education system in your nation and the local area.
British schools are open for pupils five days a week from September to July. The school year includes three terms with half-term breaks at Christmas and Easter. The summer holidays are approximately six weeks long, but this can depend upon the local area authorities. Education in the UK is compulsory from the age of 5 to 16. Students can choose to undertake Further Education from the ages of 16 to 18 and may continue to Higher Education around the age of 18 for university courses or vocational training.
State schools are available for all students through their right to education in the United Kingdom. They are run by the government and funded by taxes. In the UK, you will find many religious state schools affiliated with different faith backgrounds, such as the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. A smaller number of Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu state schools also exist. However, the majority of state schools are secular. The levels of pupil selectivity in schools can also differ depending upon the type of school you seek. Grammar schools are selective State schools and comprehensive schools are non-selective State schools.
Public schools are selective, fee-paying schools that often have specific admissions criteria depending upon the demographic of students they seek to educate. They can be day schools or boarding schools. Some international families may choose to send their children to public schools with an international focus or preparatory schools to prepare their children for the new education system with an eye towards university.
In England, academy schools exist which are independently managed by voluntary organisations but receive public funding from the government. Academies have more control greater control over factors such as the ability to alter school days and terms, freedom to set pay rates and staff conditions, and the ability to determine the majority of curriculums. The devolved nations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland administer their education systems, exam schemes, and qualifications, so the ages and specifications of each level for the specific nation will depend on where you choose to move.
Work in the United Kingdom
You will need to be certain that your desired or existing immigration status or visa allows you to work in the UK. Some visa categories, such as Family Visas and Ancestry Visas, include the right to work for visa holders. Other categories, such as the Skilled Worker Visa and Health and Care Worker Visa, include work as a required part of immigration permission. Your visa category may also place restrictions on the type of work you can do while in the UK, so you will need to be sure understand the conditions that apply to you.
Finding work in the UK can vary in difficulty depending upon your education, background, and desired sector. The job market in London is the busiest and provides the most availability for foreign talent. However, many sectors such as healthcare and social care, education, and manufacturing are strong throughout the entire country. Recruitment websites and agencies are helpful to find jobs in the UK if you do not already have connections or opportunities through a current employer.
Work culture in the UK is generally hierarchical and teamwork-focused. British people place great importance on work-life balance and labour rights are strong. You will be guaranteed a minimum of 28 days paid time off including public holidays (also known as ‘annual leave’) included in your work contract, no matter the industry or job. Additionally, you may find many maternity contracts due to guaranteed paid maternity leave.
Health Insurance in the United Kingdom
Health insurance is one of the most important considerations when planning a move abroad as health systems differ drastically throughout the world. Healthcare in the United Kingdom is free at the point of use via the National Health Service (NHS).
The NHS was founded in 1948 out of the post-war social reform movement. Heavily impacted by two world wars, the British government determined that a publicly funded system of healthcare was the best way forward to ensure the health and well-being of all people in the United Kingdom. The NHS is based on three important operating principles:
- Healthcare should be comprehensive
- Healthcare services should be universal
- Healthcare services should be free at the point of use
The devolved nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland manage their respective healthcare systems which are funded by taxes. Taxpayer contributions are distributed amongst the devolved healthcare systems per considerations such as population numbers, health needs, and budget constraints.
If you choose to make the move to the United Kingdom, you and your family will have unrestricted access to the National Health Service by paying for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee at the point of your visa application.
Through this IHS fee, you will have access to non-emergency care via a General Practitioner (GP) or specialist medical professional, 24/7 emergency care in hospitals, and prescription medications. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free whereas in England you will be required to pay £9.35 per item for some prescription medications.
You may choose to obtain private health insurance or you may receive this as a benefit through your employer. Despite access to the NHS, some people choose to use private health insurance in the United Kingdom to avoid potentially long waitlists for specialist medical professionals, to have elective medical procedures, or to have more options for healthcare providers. If you have private medical insurance in your home country, you may choose to inquire with your insurance company to determine if you can access extended coverage whilst you are abroad. However, please note that you are required to pay for the IHS fee even if you choose to opt for private health insurance – this is a requirement during the visa application process. All of these factors should be considered before your move to the United Kingdom.
Entertainment in the United Kingdom
Entertainment in the United Kingdom is rich and varied throughout the country. You will have no shortage of musical, theatre, and sporting events available on any given day. Cultural differences mean that each region and city in the UK has its traditions and entertainment to provide to locals and foreigners alike.
The arts hold great importance in British culture, with some of the most celebrated writers in the English language such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen have written their finest works in the UK. Scotland even has an annual holiday on 25 January to celebrate its most beloved writer, Robert Burns. Popular and classical music events such as live concerts, summer music festivals, and club nights are unmissable.
Sports such as golf, football, and tennis originate in the United Kingdom and remain well-loved. Football matches are screened weekly from living rooms and pubs throughout the country with some football players being celebrities in their own right. You can attend matches in person to support your favourite team and experience the excitement firsthand.
Finally, the UK has countless museums, galleries, and art spaces – many of which are publicly funded by the government and free to visitors. Days out to places such as the National Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, and Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow make are free and memorable activities.
Relocating to the United Kingdom
Once you have sorted the practical points of moving to the United Kingdom as a foreign national, it’s time for relocation! To expedite and make your move as smooth as possible, you may choose to undertake relocation on your own or to hire a relocation services specialist to assist with the process.
During the relocation process, you will need to move, ship, and store your household and personal goods to a location of your choice. You may be able to import household and personal goods duty-free, depending upon your specific circumstances. You can either choose to pack belongings in hold luggage on an aeroplane or opt for international shipping via a removal company. If your goods arrive in the UK before you do, you will need to arrange for storage.
You may also want to bring along pets such as cats and dogs to the United Kingdom. Your pets will need to be microchipped, be up-to-date with their vaccinations including rabies and tapeworm treatment, and have a pet passport.
Finally, you will need to ensure that you have all vaccinations required for a person of your nationality arriving in the UK. If you are coming from a high-risk country, you may be required to have a Tuberculosis screening before departure and be issued a certificate.
Moving to the UK FAQs
Can a US citizen live in the UK?
A US citizen can live in the UK if they have the proper immigration permission to do so, such as a work visa or family-based visa.
Is moving to the UK easy?
Moving to the UK can be easy if you are highly organised, plan the move well in advance, and have the means to support yourself or find a suitable job.
How much money do you need to immigrate to the UK?
The amount of money you need to immigrate to the UK will depend on your specific situation and the location where you want to live. Generally, you will be required to demonstrate that you can or will be able to support yourself without reliance on government benefits. You may also need to demonstrate evidence of savings in your bank account.
What is the easiest way to immigrate to the UK?
Immigration routes into the UK depend on your circumstances and eligbility. There are several work visa routes for different types of workers, investors and entrepreneurs, and there are also visas for people with family members who are British citizens or UK residents.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.