The Ultimate Checklist for Moving to the UK

Posted Country Guides / August 11, 2021
Daisy Wilson

Daisy was born in Salt Lake City and in her free time, she writes about moving and watches Charmed.

Moving to the UK – and moving overseas in general – is a huge decision to make. Knowing all the essential details before you make a big move is a determining factor when deciding whether to move to one of the most gorgeous European countries. Here is what you need to know if you’re considering moving to the UK as an American.

Welcome to the United Kingdom, or Great Britain, one of the largest European countries and one of the last kingdoms in the world. Known for its gorgeous natural gateways, rich history, the Queen, Shakespeare, Stonehenge, Harry Potter, roses, and tea, the UK is one of the most desirable tourist destinations and places to live as well.

With a population of 66 million people, the territory of the UK encompasses England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, all unique in their beauty and welcoming for expats all around the world. And speaking of expats, according to official estimates, the average number of US expats in the UK is around 139,000, which makes it one of the top choices for Americans for overseas relocation.

Begin With Exploring All the Pros and Cons of Moving to the United Kingdom From the USA

The UK covers a large area and has different countries within its borders. Many people are amazed by the beautiful countryside, well-known landmarks, and historical sites and places like London. However, you need to consider all the pros and cons of the relocation. Not only will you avoid the relocation stress, but you’ll be sure that relocating across the world is the best decision for you.

Check some of the positive and negative sides of relocating to the UK.

Pros Cons
Free healthcare It can be quite slow
Affordable airlines Expats' visa is expensive
Access to Europe Brexit made traveling abroad a daunting task
A lot of holidays leave Lack of work-life balance

Is the UK a Good Place to Move to?

When preparing for an overseas move, there has to be some information about that country’s time. When it comes to the UK, you have to know it’s rated as the best place to raise a family. So, if you’re relocating for love and want a family someday, know that England could be a perfect place to do it. There’s a top-notch education system, the crime rate is relatively low, and a great job market with different work possibilities. Where are some other facts you should know before relocating to GB:

  • The UK is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales,
  • It’s located mostly on the island of Great Britain in Northwestern Europe,
  • London is the capital city,
  • The official currency is the Pound sterling (approximately22 US dollars),
  • It’s the birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles,
  • The driving side is left.

How Do You Move to the UK as a US Citizen?

Can I just move to the UK? This must have crossed your mind when you realized you’d need a visa to travel abroad. Unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with all the required paperwork and documentation for every international move. However, if you have a thorough international checklist, the entire process will be smoother. The reason is simple – when you have all the required steps for applying for a visa, there’s no possibility of prolonging the application process. You might end up giving some pro advice to family and friends who want to move internationally to get visas.

Of course, the simplest way is to apply for a student, working, or another type of visa. The very next step is to explore the documents needed to travel abroad and what type of visa is the most suitable for you. Before you apply, it is important to understand whether you need a visa. For that reason, we present you with all the necessary details to help you attain your goal of living overseas.

British Visa Types for a Legal Stay in the UK

First of all, decide on the reason why you’re coming to the UK. Studies, work, and joining the family are the most common reasons why people decide to move abroad. Here are the types of visas you can apply for, depending on the reason for your visit:

  • Standard visitor visas are the most convenient choice for all of those who don’t want to stay more than 6 months and are coming to the UK for a holiday, family or friends visits, business trips or meetings, or short courses or studies. As a US citizen, however, you don’t need a visa for this kind of trip.
  • Marriage visitor visas are the most suitable option for all those who want to get married or register a civil partnership with a citizen.
  • If the reason for your relocation is studying, then there are a few possibilities of getting a student visa that lasts from 6 months to a couple of years.
  • Work visas are also very different, so you must check all options and find what suits you best. There are options for skilled workers, investors, entrepreneurs, start-ups, or temporary worker visas, and of course, the rules and required documents differ depending on the type you need.
  • Applying for a family visa is possible if you have a spouse or partner, fiancé, proposed civil partner, child, parent, or a relative who’ll provide long-term care for you, or you are under 18 and your family members are UK citizens.

Once you understand what type of visa you need, the next step is to apply online, at least six months before your planned date of visit. Scheduling the biometric appointment is the next thing to do. After this, you’ll get an answer in about three weeks.

How Do I Permanently Move to the UK – What Type of Visa Can an American Apply for When Moving Internationally

How long can Americans stay in the UK? If you’re just a visitor, you can stay up to six months without a visa. On the other hand, when you decide the UK is one of the best places to live abroad and prepare for moving overseas, you should explore visa options and apply for British citizenship.

In the UK, there are several work visas you can apply for as an American citizen. This includes Health and Care Worker visa, Skilled Worker visa, Intra-company visas, and International Sportsperson visas to Minister of Religion visas (T2).

Becoming an UK Citizen

If you have lived in the UK for 5 years and can speak English, Cymraeg (Welsh), or Scottish Gaelic, you may apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Also, you can apply for permanent citizenship in case you were born in the UK, or some of your ancestors were born here, or if your spouse is a British citizen and you have been living in the UK for the last three years. So if you have been wondering: Can I move to the UK without a job, the answer is – yes, if you have another good reason!

What Are the Job Opportunities in the United Kingdom?

Working in Europe as an American provides a lot of benefits! Not only will you be able to enjoy all the most desirable tourist destinations in Europe, but you’ll also get to enjoy the European standards when it comes to vacation days. Namely, in Britain, all workers are entitled to paid vacations for a minimum of 5.6 weeks, or 28 days, on a yearly basis. And that is just the minimum!

On the other hand, employers in the US are not obligated to offer paid vacation days, so people usually decide to shorten their holidays, which means less time to rest, be with family, or do something you enjoy.

All this undoubtedly influences the quality of life. Another important thing to know is that the UK has been named the 10th in the world for workplace happiness. So, if you’ve been asking yourself how to get a job in Europe as an American, it’s the right time to start searching the internet and explore jobs for Americans in Europe and how you can apply for those positions. Here is what Forbes says about the highest-paid positions in the UK:

  • Commercial manager – median base salary – £57,000 or $79,000
  • Finance manager or risk manager – median base salary – £60,000 or $83,200
  • Solutions architect – median base salary – £70,000 or $97,000.

Also, you should know that the opportunities for employment are numerous in the UK, especially if we compare the unemployment rates. At the moment, the unemployment rate in Great Britain is 4.7%, while in the US, this number goes up to 14.7%, according to a Statista report.

The United Kingdom Is Much More Than England – Best Places to Live Outside of London

The first thing you think of when someone mentions the UK is undoubtedly London. However, if you want to consider other places rather than relocating to London, there are many other cities all across Great Britain that might be a perfect match for you. Here is what we would recommend when it comes to relocating to another country in search of a new home.

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When Moving to England, Consider Manchester, Europe’s Economic Boomtown

Manchester, or the Capital of North, as Britons call it, is one of the most famous cities in England. Known for its industrial past, Manchester is even today one of the most significant spots in the UK when it comes to innovations, job opportunities, and a thriving economy. Moreover, Manchester has been recently named one of the fastest-growing cities in all Europe recognized nationally and internationally as the economic powerhouse. As Tech Nation’s report reveals, in Manchester, the number of investments increased by 277% in one year only.

Financial services, eCommerce, and ever-evolving creative and cultural industries make the job market so great. Those sectors inevitably affect the demand increase in skilled workers, and companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon,, and many more have opened their branches here.

Another advantage of life in Manchester is lower costs. Namely, living in Manchester is 20.67% cheaper than in London. When it comes to rental prices, Manchester wins again since renting a property here is 54% lower than renting it in London. So, if you are searching for a Victorian spirit, tech giant, and sports heaven, Manchester is definitely an option to consider.

Birmingham Has a Booming Expat Community

The city is located in the center of England and has affordable price tags with a flourishing economy. No wonder why you’ll find here one of the strongest expat communities. However, the cost of living matches the one in London, so be aware of the high housing prices.

One of Birmingham’s most famous landmarks is the Bullring Shopping Centre, a modern retail complex that attracts visitors from around the world. Other notable attractions in Birmingham include the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Cadbury World chocolate factory, and the Symphony Hall, a world-renowned concert venue.

Birmingham is also a hub for business and industry, with a strong economy and a thriving startup scene. The city is home to several universities and research institutions, including the University of Birmingham, which is consistently ranked among the top universities in the UK.

Glasgow Is the Best Choice if You Want to Experience All the Highlights of Scotland

Scotland is one of the most authentic parts of the whole UK. Wild nature, fairytale-like castles, completely different cultures, and lovely people are definitely Scotland’s highlights.

The capital of Scotland, Glasgow has become one of the most popular cities to live in the UK. The largest city in Scotland is the most common choice for students and young professionals due to good employment opportunities and low costs of living, which are 62% lower compared to London’s prices, including rent.

Another benefit of choosing Scotland’s capital as a home is that Glasgow makes it super easy to find a job as a foreigner. The oil and gas industry, engineering, financial services, healthcare, and the service industry are all in need of workers, so if you’re an expert in one of these fields, consider Glasgow for your next destination.

Aberdeen Is the European Offshore Oil Capital

Being the third most populous city in Scotland means there are many opportunities here. In fact, Aberdeen’s seaport is the largest one in the area, and its Heliport is among the busiest ones in the world. It’s also a leading business hub in Scotland which is one of the reasons why it’s attractive for many expats.

Aberdeen is also a hub for the oil and gas industry, with a thriving offshore sector that has contributed significantly to the city’s economy. Additionally, Aberdeen is home to two universities, the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University, which attract students from around the world and contribute to the city’s vibrant cultural scene.

Cardiff in Wales Is a Desirable Place to Live for Expats

Another unique place in the UK is definitely Wales, whose people have even kept their local Welsh language. Still, you don’t have to worry about breaking the language barrier since they speak English perfectly well.

Cardiff is best known as the Wales capital and its huge expat communities since it is undeniably one of the most affordable places to live in the UK. The cost of living in Cardiff is 20% lower than London’s prices. When it comes to renting, Cardiff prices are 62% lower compared to London. Moreover, if you’re searching for a less crowded place nestled in gorgeous nature, Cardiff is again the right choice for you. If you want to keep an eye on your budget and still try to live in the UK and enjoy unspoiled nature, consider Cardiff as the starting point, and you won’t make a mistake!

Belfast and Northern Ireland – Welcome to Britain’s Hidden Gems!

Many times before, thanks to its welcoming people and diverse, multicultural community, Ireland was listed as one of the friendliest countries in the world. Known as the Emerald Isle, Ireland will definitely enchant you with lush greenery, and unspoiled nature. However, there is one important detail to clear – only Northern Ireland is a part of the UK, and the capital city is Belfast, while the rest of the island’s territory belongs to the Republic of Ireland whose capital city is Dublin.

Belfast is the second-largest city in Ireland, whose turbulent history has affected its development. Although the smallest economy in the UK, in the last three decades, Belfast has reported significant growth, being one of the thirty fastest-growing cities in the nation.

The best thing about Belfast is the very affordable cost of living. Compared to London, the rent prices are 65% lower in Belfast, while the purchasing power is 3.76% higher than in London. High safety – Belfast has one of the lowest crime rates in entire Europe, everything within walking distance, and low unemployment rate (3.6%) are definitely the reasons for all families to consider choosing it for its base. If you’re looking for a safe, quiet, family-friendly place, and work in fields of the industrial economy like shipbuilding, aerospace, or even services, then Belfast is the best option for you!

How Much Money Do I Need to Move to the United Kingdom – What’s the Cost of Living and Other Expenses

Relocating to the UK means many things, and no matter if you’re moving abroad alone or not, it’s essential to explore the cost of living of the place you’re planning to call home. The UK inflation made things a bit harder by rising costs to the numbers like never seen in the last 40 years. That’s how the average utility cost is £170 ($208), renting a one-bedroom apartment is around £890 ($1,080), and monthly transportation costs are about £65 ($80).

When it comes to buying a house in England, the prices will depend mostly on the place you want to stay in. Still, affording a home will still be incredibly challenging – the average UK home price is about £280,000 ($340,000).

Learning how to stay in a new place surely means checking the house prices, and if you’re a millennial, you better throw out the avocado toast for better chances of buying a house in England. Even when you find a perfect home that’s somewhat affordable, you’ll probably be stuck with a 30 years mortgage.

Can Moving to the UK from the USA Provide You With a Lower Cost of Living?

Although we would all say that living in Europe must be more affordable than in the US, things can be quite different. According to Numbeo, there are many expenses in Britain considerably higher than in the US, like utility bills, for example. Believe it or not, utility costs in Britain are 30% higher than in the US. You will also have to pay more in restaurants, as well for childcare and clothes. Still, in general, living costs in the UK are still slightly lower than in the United States, by 0.49%. Let’s see what’s happening with housing prices and how much you should set aside for a house or apartment.

Check the Housing Prices Thoroughly Before Moving Internationally

If you want to buy a property, be ready for higher housing prices in the UK. The median house price in the UK amounts to $355,000 (£256,000), while the median price in the US equals $288,000, which is almost 20% less. Still, keep in mind that mortgage interest rates are 22% lower in the UK than in the United States (according to Numbeo), so when calculating the final costs, don’t forget about this difference.

Another detail to be aware of when it comes to such high house prices in Britain is the quality of the building. A majority of those houses out of the city center include larger yards and privacy since cities are not so densely populated as in the US. Of course, you will always get bigger square footage in the US since our homes are the second-largest average home size in the world.

Renting an Apartment in the UK Is Significantly More Affordable

When it comes to rental prices, the UK definitely has a considerable advantage. Renting an apartment in Britain is 22% more affordable than renting it in the US (according to Numbeo). This applies to all apartment types and sizes.

Healthcare Conditions for US Expats in the UK

Moving abroad means you should inform yourself about all the details regarding healthcare. Since we all understand how expensive checkups can be, knowing what is covered with a basic healthcare policy and whether you have the right to use it as an expat is of the utmost importance, especially before you get permanent residence or citizenship.

One of the biggest benefits of relocating and living in the UK is the public healthcare system and private health insurance. They are among the top-rated ones in the world, and with the global health issue, this is one of the biggest perks when relocating abroad. As an American expat in Great Britain, you are allowed to use the services of the National Health Service (NHS) if you’ve paid a health surcharge within your visa application. Compared to the American one, the UK health system is completely different. It’s provided directly by the government and entails many free services for all people. Another advantage of the British healthcare system is that they don’t oblige anyone to own property or work and pay taxes. However, your stay in the country has to be legal and with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Enjoy Free National Health Service When Moving to the United Kingdom From the US

One of the best countries to live in will surely provide free NHS. Living in the UK means free healthcare. In fact, the UK, like New Zealand, has a two-tiered system – a free option and the upgraded version you’ll have to pay. Considering not that many countries have this kind of healthcare, the UK surely could become your dream destination.

What National Health Services are Covered for Free and What Is Charged Extra?

Using the National Health Services means you’ll be able to use all the services equally as citizens of the UK, including:

  • Consultations with a general practitioner,
  • Treatment in cases of an accident and emergency,
  • Complete treatment in cases of highly infectious diseases,
  • Family planning services.

The checkups that are excluded and are additionally charged through the NHS policy are:

  • Dentists,
  • Specialist checkups,
  • Hospital treatment,
  • Eye tests,
  • Psychotherapy,
  • Chiropractic,
  • All types of scans and tests.

All those services that are not covered by the NHS can be easily supplemented by private healthcare insurance, so if you want to be fully protected, consider some of these options, too.

The British Education System Has World Class Schools and Universities

World-recognized, reputable, and centuries-old universities, like Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, and many more, are definitely the reason why many young people choose the United Kingdom as their destination. And if you are relocating with kids, we are sure that quality education will be one of the top priorities when making a final decision on where to live.

Schools, Colleges, and Other Specifics of the UK Educational System

When it comes to primary and secondary education, there are some crucial differences between the UK and the US system. First and foremost, in the UK, you’ll be paying for both public and private schools. For a public school, you should set around $7,000 yearly, while the price for secondary education is around $8,600. And, of course, private schools can be pretty expensive depending on the reputation of the institution.

Another crucial difference is that educational institutions in the UK are significantly more formal, demanding from their students to wear a uniform. Attending classes is compulsory until the age of 18. Also, higher grades in the UK are on par with colleges, so all students at the age of 12 or 13 and more are considered college students.

There Are Three Semesters in British Schools

An additional characteristic of the UK education system is that their school year comprises three semesters. Students of primary and secondary schools attend school until the middle of July. On top of this, the quality of education is pretty high. So, if you want your children to get broad knowledge and great mentors, the United Kingdom can provide both.

Are You Ready for Britain’s Changeable Weather Conditions?

Great Britain experiences all four seasons. Since the Atlantic Ocean mostly affects the temperature and climate, we could say that the main characteristics of the weather on the islands are humidity and changeability. Frequent rains, cloudy weather, and sunshine are things you’ll be experiencing every day.

Another thing to be aware of is that Britons measure sunshine in hours, not days. In 2020, there were 1,495 hours of sunshine recorded. If you are looking for the sunniest places across the UK, Bognor Regis, Eastbourne, Hastings, Isle of Wight, and Bristol are ultimate record-holders within the whole country. Still, if you’re relocating from California, Florida, or a similar place in the US that enjoys sunshine in abundance, be prepared for very different weather conditions.

Five O’Clock Tea Is a Custom You Should Get Used To!

You likely won’t experience too big of a culture shock when relocating to the UK since the common language is breaking all barriers – if we disregard the more or less easily understandable British accents that might confuse us from time to time. But, still, If you want to adjust to a new country and community more easily and feel like a real local, then you should definitely know the customs and traditions of British society.

The afternoon five o’clock tea, mixed with milk and followed by biscuits, served in a refined English porcelain tea set, is something you should introduce to your daily routine if you want to feel like a real Englishman. Of course, getting a bowler hat for gentlemen and a fascinator hat for ladies is a must. Not to mention that following all the ceremonies and events of the monarch family is a thing to write down in your agenda, like the Queen’s speech on a Christmas day around 3 pm.

Another benefit of those customs? You can easily use them to keep in touch with friends! Send your friends a selection of English teas, organize a virtual tea party, and share all the experiences and struggles of living in another country. This way, you’ll stay in touch with your friends and successfully deal with feelings of nostalgia and homesickness once you find yourself all alone in the new country.

What’s It Like to Be a Real Brit?

Living abroad in the UK sounds like a dream come true to many Americans. One of the reasons is that there won’t be such a huge culture shock. Another reason is that the UK is one of the most diverse and friendliest countries in the world. Having biscuits with tea is a British custom you should be aware of. However, if you’re not used to drinking tea, relocating to the UK will surely cause you to make some changes in your habits.

Learn the Language Differences if Relocating to England or the Other UK Countries

Of course, you probably think there’s no need to learn a new language. After all, it’s not like you’re relocating to China, right? However, there are some British expressions you should be aware of in order to adjust to a new country. Here’s a video with the most used expressions you need to check out.

Organize International Moving With the Help of a Reliable Overseas Moving Company

Relocating across the world is not that difficult to organize in the contemporary world, which is interconnected in so many ways. Having an international moving company to provide you with all the needed assistance when it comes to international moving, you can forget about the relocation stress and dedicate yourself to other tasks you have to fulfill, like deciding what to pack when relocating abroad, preparing for shipping a car overseas, or creating a relocating abroad checklist.

Finding a reliable overseas shipping company where you can book all types of moving services is of utmost importance if you want to facilitate the whole relocation. Whether it is about overseas vehicle shipping or professional packing services, or the simplest storage services, the process includes synchronizing a lot of details in advance to attain a successful relocation. Whether you want to move to the UK or to organize moving to the USA from the UK, remember that professionals can facilitate the whole process significantly.

How Much Money Do You Need to Move to the UK?

When it comes to the amount of money you have to set aside for relocation to the UK, there is no single answer to this question since every relocation is unique. The total costs of relocation are always based on the size of the move, or more precisely, the number of items you have in your inventory list. The more stuff you have listed in the inventory, the more money you will spend. Also, this information depends on many other details, like: will you ship your goods by air or by sea, will you transport your car too, or use a storage facility. Once you decide on all the details, you will know exactly how to set your budget and how much money you will have to get.

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