How To Move To The United Kingdom: The Complete Guide - Expat Focus (2024)

Find A Job

Your ability to find employment in the UK will depend to a certain degree on what happens after Brexit. However, the UK and EU governments seem keen to establish a reciprocal relationship that benefits all parties. For example, the UK government has recently announced that it does not intend to deport EU citizens who have not yet completed their full residency applications, even after Brexit has taken place. Work is still available in a wide range of sectors for third party nationals, and the UK government publishes an updated skills shortages list on the website. London and the South East currently have the highest number of new vacancies.

What are the legal requirements for foreign employees?

If you want to work in the UK, you will need a visa, either for temporary or permanent work. If you are from the EU/EEA and are currently entitled to take up work in the UK during the transition period, during which the UK phases out its relationship with the EU, you can still take advantage of the existing regulations where EU/EEA workers are prioritised. The transition period is due to end on December 31st 2020.

Otherwise, as a third party national, you will need to apply for one of the various forms of visa. British employment visas operate on a points system, with a different number of points being assigned to each type. There is more information on this in the next section.

You can apply for a skilled worker visa if you are coming to the UK to take up skilled work, or a temporary visa if you are intending to work in the UK for a short period of up to two years. Investors and entrepreneurs may be able to apply for a ‘high value’ visa.

If you have a letter of sponsorship from an employer, you can apply for what is known as a Tier 2 visa, which is applicable to highly skilled third-party nationals. At the moment, this does not apply to citizens from EU/EEA states, but it may do once Brexit’s transition period has finished. You can apply for a Tier 2 visa that lasts for up to three years, or for more than three years, although the latter is more expensive. Under this visa, you will be able to:

• work for your sponsor in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship
• do a second job in the same sector and at the same level as your main job for up to 20 hours per week (you must wait until you actually have the visa before you apply for a second job)
• do a job which has a shortage of workers in the UK for up to 20 hours per week
• do voluntary work
• study, as long as it does not interfere with the job you have been sponsored for
• travel abroad and return to the UK
• bring family members with you

A points system separates applicants into five categories/tiers. To be eligible for a visa, you must pass a points-based assessment, with a different number of points needed for each of the five categories. It works as follows:

30 points: you must have been assigned a certificate of sponsorship from your employer and met one of the following requirements:

• you are filling a shortage occupation role
• your employer has completed a Resident Labour Market Test
• you are switching from the Tier 1 Post Study Work category
• you are continuing to work in the same job for the same sponsoring employer (work permit extension).

20 points: you will need proof of an appropriate salary.

10 points: English language. To submit a successful Tier 2 General application, you will need to achieve a score of 10 points for your English language skills.

10 points: Maintenance. To meet the maintenance requirements, you must show evidence that you have available funds of £800. This needs to have been in your bank account for at least three months prior to the application being made.

Once you have been in the UK for five years, you can apply for permanent residency.

The website has full details of the visa application process, including the associated fees. These are on a sliding scale, dependent on the length of time for which the visa applies.

Are any skills in particular demand?

Engineers of all varieties (civil engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers etc.) are in demand and are listed on the UK government’s skills shortages list.

Medical staff, including nurses, speech therapists and occupational therapists, are also currently in short supply.

The IT sector lacks qualified personnel, such as web designers and business analysts.

Teaching is another sector where there is a skills shortage, particularly in STEM subjects.

What are typical working hours and annual holiday entitlement?

Business hours usually run from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., five days a week, although retail is usually seven days a week since the abolition of Sunday closing. The legal limit is 48 hours per week.

If you work full-time for five days per week, you will be entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave per year.

You can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, from 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, unless the baby is born early.

Minimum wage is currently set at £8.21 per hour.

Can my spouse work?

If you have a visa in the Tier 2 category, this can lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is the term given for British settlement or permanent residency. In this instance, you will be able to bring your spouse, as well as any other dependants, into the UK.

With a spouse or partner visa, you can work in the UK without restrictions. You will be eligible for this visa if you are married to a British citizen or a person who has settlement status in the UK (i.e. someone who holds Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status or Right of Abode (ROA)).

Are speculative applications to companies common?

Yes, you can make speculative applications to companies.

What is the best method of finding a job?

Online job boards or recruitment agencies are recommended, although you can also check the national press. EURES, the European job seekers’ board, is also a possibility even during Brexit. The LinkedIn networking site might also be helpful.

If you are currently in the UK and seeking work, most towns have a job centre which you can visit in person.

What is the recommended format for CVs/resumes and covering letters?

A standard one-page CV/resume is common. You may need to have this translated into English if you are from a non-English speaking country.

Which questions are illegal / can be asked in an interview?

The UK has anti-discrimination laws to protect you against discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Qualifications and training

It is advisable to have your qualifications translated into English.

Apply For A Visa/Permit

At the time of writing this guide, the UK is in the throes of leaving the European Union (EU). This means that the reciprocal agreements with the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) are subject to change. Whilst the UK have left without a deal as of January 31st 2020, there will be a transition period of at least one year, during which time no changes will be implemented. If you are in any doubt, you should check your government advice website, or contact your local embassy or consulate to seek clarification.

Entry requirements for the United Kingdom depend on your nationality. If you’re from an EEA country, or Switzerland, then you can enter the UK using either a valid passport or an EEA-issued National Identity Card.

If you are not from an EEA country, you may need a visa to enter the UK, as well as a valid passport. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay in the UK. You can check on the UK government website whether or not you need a visa prior to travel. In some instances, you may also need a visa if you’re transiting through a UK airport.

There are restrictions on what you can bring into the UK, which vary depending on the country you are travelling from. Certain items must be declared when you arrive at the airport, including:

• Items over your duty-free allowance
• Banned or restricted goods in the UK
• Any goods that you plan on selling
• More than £10,000 in cash (if you are coming from outside the EU)

Your baggage may be checked at random for items that you should declare.

If you are travelling with children, you may be asked to prove your relationship to them. This often happens if it is not immediately clear that you are the parent of the child, such as if you have a different surname. For this reason, it is best to prepare and bring some documents with you in your hand luggage, such as:

• Birth (or adoption) certificate
• Divorce or marriage certificates, if you’re the parent but have a different surname
• A letter from the child’s parent giving permission for the child to travel with you and providing contact details (if you are not the parent)


At first glance, the UK visa system may seem quite complex. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, it could also be subject to change once the post-Brexit transition period is over. These changes could affect both EU and non-EU citizens, in terms of eligibility to work, etc.The (current) most common types of visas for foreigners coming to the UK are detailed below.

Family visa

If you are intending to stay with family in the UK for a period of longer than six months, you will need to apply for a family visa. Family in this context is specified as a spouse or domestic partner (including fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner), a child, a parent, or a relative for whom you will be providing long-term care.

If you are visiting family members in the UK for less than six months, you may only need a standard visitor visa or marriage visitor visa. You can find out whether you need one or not on the government website.

Study visa

There are several types of study visa for those wishing to visit the UK for educational purposes:

Short-term study visa

The short-term study visa is for students who come from outside the EEA, meet eligibility requirements, and intend on completing a short course of study. This typically encompasses a language course, a training course, or a period of research for your degree. You are not permitted to work on this visa (including work experience and work placements) and it is not extendable.

General student visa

The general student visa is applicable to you if you are aged 16 or over, speak English to a good level, are from outside the EEA, can prove you possess sufficient funds to support yourself during your studies (or have a guarantor), and have been offered a place on a course of study. A healthcare surcharge applies, as well as a visa fee. The validity of this visa depends on the length of your course. On this visa, you can work most jobs. It can also be extended. In some circ*mstances, it even allows you to bring dependants with you.

Child student visa

This visa is designed for students from outside the EEA, who are between four and 17 years old, and who will be studying at an independent school in the UK. Applicants must have consent from their parent/s or guardian, proof of sufficient funds, and have a place on a course. A healthcare surcharge applies in addition to the visa fee. The length of stay depends on factors such as the age of the student and the length of the study course.

In most cases, student visas can be applied for from within the UK, or from outside of it.

Work visa

For those outside of the EEA that need a work visa for the UK, there are several different types available. These are categorised into short-term and long-term work visas, which are further broken down, with several tiers in each category. There are also some other visas, which fall outside of these two categories, which allow you to work.

Short-term work visa

Short-term work visas for the UK typically encompass charity and voluntary work, government authorised exchanges, religious workers, and seasonal workers. They also include the Youth Mobility Scheme. The exact types are listed below:

Temporary charity worker visa

This is for unpaid charity work only. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and a healthcare surcharge applies. It is valid for up to 12 months, or the specified time on your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, whichever is shorter.

Temporary creative and sporting visa

This is for people offered jobs in the UK as sportspeople or creative workers. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and a healthcare surcharge applies. It is valid for up to 12 months, or the specified time on your certificate of sponsorship plus 28 days, whichever is shorter. This visa is extendable.

Temporary government authorised exchange visa

This is for short-term work experience or training, an overseas government language programme, research, or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme listed here.

Temporary international agreement visa

This is for citizens outside the EEA who have been contracted to do work covered by international law while in the UK. For example, those working for a foreign government or as a private servant in a diplomatic household.

Temporary religious worker visa

This temporary visa is designed for people who want to visit the UK to do religious work, such as preaching or working in a religious order. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and must pay a healthcare surcharge. This visa is valid for up to 14 months.

Temporary seasonal worker visa

Seasonal workers outside the EEA will need to meet various eligibility requirements. For example, you must be over 19 years old and have sufficient funds in your bank account. You also must have a sponsor. The visa is valid for up to six months and the healthcare surcharge does not apply. You are only permitted to work in the job specified on your sponsorship certificate, and you are not permitted to take any other job or accept a permanent role.

Youth mobility scheme visa

The youth mobility visa is for eligible candidates, between the ages of 18 and 30 years old, from certain countries, who wish to travel and work in the UK. For a list of the applicable countries, you can check the government website. You must have a minimum amount in your savings. The visa is valid for up to 24 months.

Long-term work visa

The types of long-term work visa in the UK include:

General work visa: This is for those who have been offered a skilled job in the UK. You will need a certificate of sponsorship from your employer. This type of visa is valid for the time specified on our sponsorship certificate plus one month, or a maximum of five years. A healthcare fee applies.

Intra-company transfer visa: This type of visa is designed for employees of a company who have been offered a new role in a UK branch of the same company. You will need a certificate of sponsorship, and a healthcare charge applies. These visas are usually valid for 12 months for a graduate trainee, and between five and nine years for long-term staff, depending on annual earnings.

Minister of religion visa: This is for ministers from outside the EEA, who have been offered a job within a faith community. You will need a certificate of sponsorship. The healthcare surcharge does not apply. These visas are usually valid for up to three years, and in some circ*mstances, they may entitle you to work a second job or partake in voluntary work. You can also bring dependants with you.

Sportsperson visa: This visa is for elite sportspersons and/or qualified sports coaches. This status will need to be recognised by your sport’s governing body, who will typically be the authority endorsing your visa. Some other eligibility requirements may apply, along with the healthcare surcharge. This visa is usually valid for up to three years.

Other work visas

Other separate sub-categories of work visa and exemptions include the UK ancestry visa (candidates who can prove at least one grandparent was born in the UK), holders of exempt vignettes (usually diplomats, government officials, etc), domestics workers in private households, and representatives of overseas businesses. There is also a separate visa for Turkish workers and Turkih business people.

Investment, business development, and talent visas

Many countries have one singular investment visa for those investing a minimum amount into an aspect of the country, such as property. The UK visa system categorises investment, business development, and specified talents into the same tier (currently Tier 1). These include:

Innovator visa

This is for individuals from outside the EEA, who want to start up a business in the UK. Your business idea will need to be endorsed by an approved body, and you will need at least £50,000 in investment funds. You can find a list of the approved bodies on the government website.

Start-up visa

This is similar to the innovator visa, but you must be able to prove that the business idea is new and unique and viable, with a potential for growth. The business idea must be endorsed by either a UK higher education institution or a business organisation.

Exceptional talent visa

You will need to qualify, and be endorsed, as a recognised leader with exceptional talent or an emerging leader with exceptional promise.

Investor visa

In order to qualify for the investment visa, you will need to prove you have access to at least £2,000,000 in investment funds. You will also need to prove that these funds are either yours, your spouse’s, or your unmarried or same-sex partner’s.

Note: The UK previously had entrepreneur and graduate entrepreneur visas, but these are no longer available.

Work permits

The United Kingdom does not offer a work permit anymore. This was replaced in 2008 by a points-based immigration system. The only types of permit that the official government website mentions are:

• Biometric residence permit
• EU settlement scheme family permit
• EEA family permit

Any other mentions pertain to environmental permits, and the specific permits required by various establishments.


The permanent residence card has been discontinued following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Those wishing to continue living in the UK may be eligible for the EU settlement scheme instead. You can read more about the EU settlement scheme here.

The government website overview on the EU settlement scheme states:

“If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU settlement scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If your application is successful, you’ll get either settled or pre-settled status.”

Find out whether you are eligible for settlement here.

There is also a way to apply for indefinite leave to remain if you are a refugee or a person under humanitarian protection. Find out more here.

You are not automatically given British citizenship if you were born in the UK. Whether you get citizenship or not largely depends on when you were born, where your parents are from, and individual circ*mstances. You may be eligible to apply for citizenship later on if you were born in the UK. You can find out the details here.

You may also be able to apply for UK citizenship through naturalisation, or through a marriage or civil partnership with a British citizen, providing you have lived with them in the UK for at least three years. Other prerequisites are detailed here.

Get Health Insurance

Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.

When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.

Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.

Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.

Important questions to ask the insurance provider:

1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?

2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?

3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.

4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?

5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.

6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.

7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.

8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?

9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.

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Rent Or Buy Property

Renting Property

If you are renting from a private landlord, you will need to provide identification, and a full reference check will likely be carried out. This is because a UK Government policy called Right to Rent means that landlords have to check the immigration status of their potential tenants. You will need to prove to them that you have a right to reside in the UK.

A current or expired passport is sufficient for European Economic Area (EEA) nationals, but non-EEA nationals (including Commonwealth nationals) will be required to provide a valid passport and a valid visa.

The Right to Rent law doesn’t apply in Scotland, but agents/landlords will still require proof of ID and proof that you can afford the rent, so they will ask you to provide bank statements etc.

A holding deposit is charged by the letting agent to take the property off the market. The maximum amount an agent can charge is one week’s rent. Agents are no longer allowed to charge tenants for referencing checks, credit checks or other administration costs.

The tenancy deposit is paid up front, along with the first month’s rent, and can cost up to the equivalent of five weeks’ rent. The deposit must be held, by law, in a government-backed Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), and it will be returned to you, minus the costs of any property damage, at the end of your tenancy.

The tenancy agreement (called an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, or AST, in England and Wales) is the contract between you and your landlord, and it can vary in length. Typically, an agreement is drawn up to cover a 12-month period with a six-month break clause. This means that after six months the tenant or landlord may choose to terminate the contract. AST agreements have been abolished in Scotland and replaced with Private Residential Tenancy (PRT) agreements.

Properties can be rented furnished, unfurnished or part-furnished, and this will be stipulated in the agreement. Tenants will be required to sign an inventory, which will list all furnishings in the property, prior to moving in. You should always insist that the landlord provides an inventory, in order to avoid any disputes when it is time for your deposit to be returned.

Other documents that a landlord must initially provide to a tenant include a Gas Safety Certificate (which must be updated annually) and an Energy Performance Certificate (which rates the energy efficiency of the property, with A being the most energy efficient). A landlord cannot legally rent out a property if it has a rating lower than E.

It is a legal requirement for landlords to give you reasonable notice if they want you to leave. The amount of notice you or your landlord must give will be written in the tenancy agreement, but a one- or two-month notice period is typical.

There are many websites that you can use to assist you in your property search. (where the tenant deals directly with the landlord)

Also, individual estate agents have their own dedicated websites, as well as offices you can visit for face to face enquiries.

Rental prices per month vary greatly depending on the region.The average monthly price of rent in the UK is approximately £959 per month (March 2020). However, rental prices in larger cities will be higher, as there is more demand to live there. Expect to pay more than £1600 per month to rent in the capital. This cost can be reduced if you are happy to rent a room in shared accommodation or further from the city centre.

One of the important decisions to make when looking for rental accommodation is to stay within your budget. Think about whether you will require a short- or long-term let, and whether you are looking for a furnished or unfurnished rental property. Finding a property that has good transport links is often desirable, but the rental price will reflect this.

Buying Property

EEA nationals are treated the same as UK nationals when buying a flat or house in the UK and will need to supply proof of their ID and address. Non-EEA nationals will additionally need evidence of a visa. You are able to apply for a mortgage in the UK, but those with less than two years’ residency or no job in the UK face tougher requirements.

The process of buying a home usually takes two to three months, but it can take longer if you find yourself in part of a chain of buyers and sellers.

Once you have found your ideal home, the first stage is to make an offer. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the offer isn’t binding until the contracts are drawn up. In Scotland, the situation is different; the offer is communicated through the solicitors and is binding.

Your solicitor represents you throughout the whole buying process, and they also conduct searches with the local authority to see if there are any issues that could impact the property’s price. The fees for solicitors vary, but typically they are between £500 and £1500 plus VAT for a sale.

If you are applying for a mortgage then a valuation survey will have to be arranged to ensure the property is worth what you are paying for it. A structural survey is also advised.

Once final contracts are signed, the sale must proceed. A non-refundable deposit of 10% of the sale price is paid. This is referred to as exchange. After the sale is complete and the balance has been paid, the sale is registered at the Land Registry and stamp duty is paid. You can now pick up the keys to your new home.

Registering with estate agents in the areas that you are interested in buying is a very practical way of finding a home. There are numerous websites that cover property sales in the UK, including Rightmove, Zoopla and individual estate agents.

There are two different types of ownership, freehold and leasehold, and it is very important to know the difference. Freehold means you own the building and the land outright, whereas leasehold means you have a lease from the freeholder to use the home. Typical leases are 90 to 120 years, but you do need to look out for properties that have shorter leases, as these could bring additional costs if you need to extend them.

The home buying process is different in Scotland, so if you are thinking of buying there then you should refer to

The UK mortgage industry is very competitive, and there are a number of banks offering them, so it makes sense to shop around. Expats can apply for mortgages, and most banks will set their own terms. It might be that the rates are higher, or that there are more conditions, for expats. There is the option of using a mortgage broker, who will look into the options available to you, but some will come with a fee.

Move Your Belongings

Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.

Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.

If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.

The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).

Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.

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Register For Healthcare

QUICK LINK: United Kingdom health insurance

You will be automatically covered by the NHS once you arrive in the UK, but you must register with a medical practice and you will need to complete a GMS1 form, including the same information that you used when you filled out your visa.

If you are visiting, you can sign up with a surgery as a temporary measure if you fall ill. If you are an EU citizen and have an EHIC card, then you must bring this with you to any GP or hospital appointments.

If you are coming to the UK for more than six months, but are not planning permanent residence, you should inform the visa section and you might have to pay the IHS surcharge.

Open A Bank Account

There is a wide variety of banking firms in the UK, and each bank offers different things to their clients, but when it comes to best and biggest banks in the country, these five come out on the top of every list.

– HSBC Holdings
– Barclays PLC
– Royal Bank of Scotland Group
– Lloyds Banking Group
– Standard Chartered PLC

Expat Bank Accounts

All those moving to the UK from overseas must be aware that opening a UK bank account is necessary. Due to many banking issues for migrants, over recent years, many banks had to change their procedures to make the process easier. The most common difficulties when opening a bank account as an expat are mot having credit history in UK, or not having a valid proof of address, which is often an issue for those who have just landed.

However, many large banks designed some bank accounts to overcome these specific problems. Regarding these issues, the best UK banks accounts for expats are offered by Barclays, HSBC, Halifax, First Direct, Santander, Lloyds Bank and Nationwide.

Barclays “New to the UK” account

Barclays has an offer specifically designed for those who are new to the UK. It has a full range of banking services, including a contactless debit card, the ability to withdraw up to £300 a day, as well as online, telephone and mobile banking. Standing orders and direct debits can also be set up. The required documentation to open this account is: one form of ID, such as a passport, and proof of address, which can be a bank statement from the expat’s country of origin. This kind of account can be opened in any country where Barclays has a branch, if people want to open it before they leave home and arrive in the UK.

HSBC Basic Account

HSBC, as a bank with a global presence, also allows their clients to open an account before they leave their home country. The HSBC Basic Account includes a Visa Debit card, from which up to £300 a day can be withdrawn from ATMs; internet banking; mobile banking; and telephone banking. Direct debits and standing orders for bill payments can be also set up. Required documentation includes proof of ID and address in the UK. Those who have no permanent residence yet can open this account in two ways. One is to use a contract of employment or a house rental agreement. The other is to open the account with an address in the home country and then later change it to a UK address.

Halifax Current Account

Halifax customers can open a bank account that provides everything for general banking needs. For those who pay in more than £750 per month, the bank will give them £5 a month too. This offer includes all day to day banking needs, such as debit card, online and telephone banking, direct debits and standing orders. The advantage of using this bank is that it has a presence on every high street in the country, so the branches can be easily visited.

First Direct 1st Account

First Direct has slightly different offers from all the banks mentioned above, because it doesn’t actually have any branches, but it offers is 24/7/365 internet and telephone banking. This means that costumers can make a call and discuss their banking even at 1am during the holidays. The 1st Account offers a £250 free overdraft, as well as all the usual products. Customers can also deposit money at any of the many HSBC banks in the country, because HSBC is the parent company of First Direct.

Santander Bank Account

The Spanish owned Santander bank offers the 1|2|3 Current Account that provides 3% interest on balance as well as paying cashback on household bills. This account has the usual range of products. There is a charge for this account of £2 per month. Customers need to pay a minimum of £500 per month into the account and have at least 2 active direct debits to get the monthly cashback. The other offer is the Everyday Current Account that charges no fee. This one is a simpler account, which doesn’t pay interest on the balance or give cashback on bills.

Lloyds Bank Account

Lloyds offers the Club Lloyds Account that pays a 4% interest on balances between £4,000 and £5,000, for those who can pay in at least £1,500 every month. There are lower balances that also attract interest, but at a lesser value, such as 2% for £2,000 to £3,999 and 1% for £1 to £1,999. For those who can’t pay in £1,500 per month, there’s a Lloyds Classic Account that is free for all. It includes all the usual products and is available to anyone over the age of 18.

Nationwide Bank Account

One of the best Nationwide current accounts is the Flex Direct, which provides clients with 5% interest on credit balances up to £2,500. This offer also includes the usual products, such as debit card, internet banking, and the use of the many Nationwide branches that can be found all over the UK.

Account Choices For Expats

In general, expats have a choice of a current account or savings account. A current account is the equivalent of a checking account with overdraft, while the savings account is specific to expats, mainly with lower interest rates than the standard bank account. The typical expat current account comes with a debit card. Most shops around the country accept credit cards as well. Northern Ireland is the only country in the UK that still relies more on cash rather than cards, but cards are still accepted at larger shops and corporations.

Questions And Documentation

In order to open a bank account in the UK as an expat, all applicants need to supply their documentation including passport, visa or work permit, salary, and UK address confirmation. The banker usually asks why the person is in the country and why they are looking to open a bank account instead of using an international account. Expats must be aware that there’s a difference between a residency permit held by an expat versus someone who holds a temporary visa or work permit. Non-residents usually find it more difficult to open a bank account. The other difficulties for expats are the rules of deposit before opening the UK bank account. Generally, the full process takes two to three weeks before the account is open and ready to use.

Banking Details

When it comes to working hours, most UK banks are open from 09:00 to 16:30 Monday-Friday. There are a few branches that are only open from 09:30 to 12:00 and some branches are now open even on Saturdays. Major UK banks are stronger than the smaller business societies available to UK citizens, in terms of stability. If clients want to apply for a loan or overdraft, additional information is usually required, such as the reason for the loan or overdraft and a credit check. Banks also take up to two weeks longer to set up the overdraft or loan for an expat than for a citizen of the UK.

Transfer Money

There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.

International Bank Transfers

For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.

Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.

You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.

When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.

As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.

As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.

Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals

Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.

You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.

Currency Brokers

Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.

Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.

A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circ*mstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:

1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.

2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.

3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.

Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.

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Learn The Language

If you are coming to the UK to learn English, then you are of course coming to the home of the English language. Will you be able to get by in your native tongue, however, or will you need to speak English in order to navigate life in the UK? You may be aware that the UK has other native languages, too – what are they? We will answer your questions below.

The UK is a multicultural society and there is a case to be made that it has been from very early times, when the Romans came to Britain to conquer the native Celtic tribes, and establish Latin as a lingua franca. English is a melting pot of different languages, and Latin is one of these. However, the old Celtic languages did not go away entirely and their linguistic descendents remain in the following forms:

• Welsh: spoken in Wales (more noticeably in the north of the Principality)
• Scots Gaelic: spoken in Scotland and related to Irish Gaelic, although these are separate languages
• Cornish: another Celtic tongue spoken in the far South West of the country

All of these languages are completely unrelated to English but you will encounter them if you are travelling in these parts of the UK: road signs are bilingual in these areas and you will hear Welsh, in particular, spoken widely on Welsh media.

You will also hear many other languages, including Urdu, Punjabi, Polish, Gujurati, Arabic, Chinese and others. Many of these are spoken in particular regions: London is very multicultural, for example, and so are other British cities, but you may hear Polish and other languages in rural areas, too.

But it is of course English which is the official language here, and everyone who speaks a Celtic language will be bilingual in English, too. So if you are based in Wales, for example, you will not need to learn Welsh, although you might want to memorise a few words for greetings, to be polite.

If you are intending to spend a long time in the UK, you will need to learn English. People from ethnic communities here often report feeling excluded because of a lack of proficiency in English, and it must be said that the British themselves have historically not been proficient in other languages. However, French and German have been taught in British schools for decades and in addition, Latin and Greek are taught in some schools.

You will find plenty of provision in English language training if you are based in the UK. Many urban centres have language schools, particularly London, coastal cities such as Brighton and Hastings, tourist centres such as Bath, and university towns such as Oxford and Cambridge. Many of these are designed for younger students: the UK is considered to be a safe country for overseas parents to send their children to. It is also extremely popular as the home of the English language: there is a view that students will be learning English in its purest form.

However, if you are learning English as an adult, you will also find extensive provision. If you are working for a large company, you should check with your employer if they have an arrangement with a local language provider and if they offer in-house training. Also check with your local expat community to see if there are any volunteer or charity teaching organisations in your locality: some offer free or low cost language training.

In addition, you may be able to sign up for free classes with language schools who also train TEFL teachers: some encourage refugees to register for free classes, for instance. You will be a little bit of a guinea pig but your language training will be supervised! A full range of English for special purposes, such as academic training, medical and business English or English for engineering is also available in most schools and some offer online sessions.

You may be coming to the UK in order to teach English, perhaps if you are from an English-speaking country such as the USA, Canada or Australia. Although the UK is obviously a competitive market due to the number of qualified teachers here already, there are jobs available. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).

It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.

You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools. Some schools also consider it valuable to expose students to English speakers with different accents, particularly American accents, as many students, particularly business students, will be working in the USA or with Americans.

It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. Average yearly salaries are in the region of £27,000.

Choose A School

English education is free and compulsory between the ages of 5 – 16. It is divided into stages:

• primary education
• secondary education
• further education
• higher education

Compulsory education is further divided into Key Stages:

• Key Stage 1: 5 to 7 years old
• Key Stage 2: 7 to 11 years old
• Key Stage 3: 11 to 14 years old
• Key Stage 4: 14 to 16 years old

Children are regularly assessed throughout their education and this will usually culminate in national GCSE exams in a range of core and elective subjects at the age of 16. Once a student finishes secondary education they can continue with further education, perhaps in the sixth form of their current school or at another college to take their A-Levels, GNVQs, BTECs or other qualifications. Students who hope to go to college or university must complete further education and must achieve the grades requested by their chosen university.

Note that education in the UK may vary from region to region: if you are based in Scotland you will find a slightly different system. Scottish universities, for instance, have four-year degree programmes as opposed to the English and Welsh, which have three-year programmes.

Overall, the UK scores well in the international PISA ranking conducted by the OECD. It comes 14th in some subjects and 18th in others in the latest survey. Wales remained the lowest performing nation within the UK for all subjects. Scotland fared better than Northern Ireland at reading but was outperformed by Northern Ireland in maths and science. In reading tests, Wales scored below the OECD average, while England, Scotland and Northern Ireland were all above average.

British university education is amongst the best in the world, with globally famous provision in the form of Oxford and Cambridge, and its private sector is also popular among parents across the world, with schools such as Eton and Winchester regularly ranked highly by educational assessors (note that, confusingly, private schools are referred to as ‘public’ schools in the UK).

You will find some good provision in the state sector but there is some inequality of provision: big inner city comprehensives may suffer from challenges that are not experienced by, for example, a traditional grammar school in a rural town.

Some expats enrol their children in the public sector but your child’s English will need to be of an acceptable standard: the British are not known for their linguistic acumen and the language of instruction in all British schools is English. French, German and Mandarin are taught as second languages and some schools, mainly public (i.e. private) and grammar schools also focus on classical languages such as Latin and Greek.

State sector schools are monitored by an organisation called OFSTED. The Independent Schools Inspectorate monitors ISC schools. Accrediting bodies include the Council of International Schools and the Council for Independent Further Education.

Overseas students account for some 37.5% of boarders and 36% of all students at the 478 boarding schools in the 1,301-member Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents the majority of the sector. Several schools, including for instance Sherborne International, provide courses to prepare international students for A-levels, and 75 independent schools offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma, often in addition to A-levels.

London has the largest number of independent international day schools, including French, German, Spanish and Japanese schools. There are 128 IB World Schools, all of which teach in English. 94 of these are authorised to teach the IB Diploma, and six, including Dwight School London, Southbank International School and International Community School, offer all three IB programmes.

For instance, Hill House International School in London is a preparatory day independent school for children aged 4 to 13 years. Fees range from US$17K – 24K per annum.

Ecole Jeannine Manuel is a co-educational bilingual international French school for 3-18 year olds in London and is the sister school of its Paris namesake, ranked first among French lycées for the last 8 years. Annual fees are in the US$23K bracket.

Southbank International School is a leading International Baccalaureate school for 3 – 18 year olds with campuses in Westminster, Kensington and Hampstead. Fees range annually from US$22K – 41K.

The UK also has a number of pre-university boarding colleges, such as CATS Canterbury, which offers the IB Diploma alongside British exams, and its sister colleges in Cambridge and London, which offer A-levels and IGCSEs.

Other examples include the EF Academy Oxford which offers the IB Diploma and A-levels to international boarders. EF Academy Torbay also offers IGCSEs. Bath Academy takes boarding students for IGCSE and A-level programmes.

You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary so check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions. Competition can be fierce in the private sector so make sure you contact your selected school early on.

Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). You can also check the accreditation of your selected school with the organisations mentioned above.

You can teach your child at home, either full- or part-time, and can get help with home education from your local council. You must make sure your child receives a full-time education from the age of five, but you do not have to follow the British national curriculum.The council can make an ‘informal enquiry’ to check your child is getting a suitable education at home and may serve a school attendance order if they think your child needs to be taught at school.

How To Move To The United Kingdom: The Complete Guide - Expat Focus (2024)


How can a US citizen move to the UK? ›

Americans hoping to move to the UK will need to obtain a visa. The most common type of visas are the UK work visa and family visas. If neither applies in your case, unfortunately moving, to the UK from US can be difficult.

What are the requirements to move to the UK? ›

If you are not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, and you wish to spend six months or more in the UK for work, business, or as a family member of a long-term applicant, you will have to apply for a UK visa. Work visas and temporary residency will allow you to live and work in the UK legally.

How to easily move to England from the US permanently? ›

To move to the UK, you can apply for a long-term work visa by following these steps:
  1. Find employment.
  2. Find the correct visa type.
  3. Apply for the visa.
  4. Move to the UK.
  5. Get an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Can an American work in UK? ›

If you are a US national and would like to work in the UK, you will need to secure a work visa before you travel here. In most cases, to secure a UK work permit, you will need a suitable job offer from a UK employer with a sponsor licence granted by the UK Home Office.

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