Perhaps it’s always been your lifelong dream, or you just recently discovered your love for this country. Either way, you want to move to England. Unless you are a citizen of a European country, the requirements can be quite strict. This article will help you through the visa process, housing search, and more.
1Learn about visas. The United Kingdom government website has an easy online form that will tell you what type of visa you need. Check it out here. Most immigrants will need a visa of some kind, allowing them to live and possibly work in the UK for a certain amount of time. Once you know which type to apply for, get started atvisa4uk.fco.gov.uk. It’s best to allow several months for your visa to get approved.
- If you need more information, the rest of this section explains the immigration and travel requirements in detail. Otherwise, [#logistics|skip ahead] to the next section.
- The United Kingdom is the state made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. You do not need a visa specific to England.
2Know the rights of European citizens. If you are a citizen of any country in the European Economic Area (EEA), you have the right to live and work in the United Kingdom. This includes all countries in the European Union, plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway. Citizens of Switzerland also have this right.
- All you need is a passport to prove your citizenship. While not required, you may also want to apply for a registration certificate. This may help you prove your rights when applying for various benefits.
- Family members of European citizens who are not themselves citizens must still apply for a visa. They can apply for permanent residency after the citizen family member has worked in the UK for five years.
3Apply for UK jobs. Search at monster.co.uk, fish4.co.uk, reed.co.uk, or indeed.co.uk. If a UK company wants to hire you, you can apply for a visa. How long this lets you stay depends on your job:
- Tier 2 visas are available for high-demand fields, listed in detail here. You may also have a chance if you are transferring within a multinational company, or if your employer can demonstrate that your job cannot be filled by a local worker. These usually allow three years of residency, extendable to six.
- Tier 5 visas are temporary work permits good for 6 months to 2 years. If you are not qualified for a Tier 2 position, look for work in a charity organization, or work as an athlete, entertainer, or religious worker.
- Tier 1 visas are only available to people starting a business, making multimillion pound investments, or recognized as leaders in their field. They’re typically good for five years and can be extended to ten.
5Apply for other visas. There are a few other ways to enter the UK for more than a short tourist visit. These require special circumstances, most commonly the following:
- Family (variable length and work status): Available if joining a spouse, fiancé(e), partner of two+ years, or child. Also available if you need to be cared for by a family member in the UK.
- UK ancestry visa (5 years, can work): Must be a Commonwealth citizen with a grandparent born in the UK.
- Tier 5 Youth Mobility (2 years, can work): citizen of certain countries, between 18 and 30.
- Visitor visa (usually 6 months, can’t work): A last resort. If you have the money to support yourself while waiting, you can arrive on a visitor visa, then try to get hired and apply for a worker permit. The odds are slim, but you get a vacation if it doesn’t work out.
Part 2 of 3: Before You Leave
1Find a place to live. Look for a hostel or hotel you can stay in temporarily when you arrive, and for potential living situations. You may need to wait until you arrive to sign a contract, but start looking a few weeks in advance for rentals, or a few months if buying. Try sites such as Gumtree, RightMove, Zoopla, or RoomMatesUK. Make sure you know how the property search may differ from your country:
- London prices are very expensive, averaging £1,900/month for a 2-bedroom flat (apartment). Consider other cities, or country towns within an hour of a city.
- Look closely — the listed rental price may be either weekly or monthly. Feel free to negotiate over the price.
- If you plan to buy a house, hire a real estate solicitor in the UK first.
2Check for housing-related fees. Before you sign a rental contract, ask which additional fees you will be paying. The cost varies greatly depending on your region and property, but here are some estimates:
- Utilities: Expect to pay about £120 a month for water and electricity, plus £70 for heating. This is the average cost over a year; heating costs are much higher during winter, and lower during summer.
- Council tax: at least £100 per month, but potentially much more.
- Television licence: In order to watch live BBC channels (even online), you need to pay £145.50 each year.
- Television, mobile, and Internet plans vary widely. This is in addition to the licence fee.
3Practice your English. If English is not your native language, start studying before you arrive. Life will be much easier if you can speak, read, and write in English. It may also be a requirement for some jobs, or for applying to become a permanent resident.
4Plan to move your pet. First, check here to find out whether your country is “listed” or “unlisted,” and for special requirements by country and species. For cats, dogs, and ferrets coming from most areas, you need the following:
- rabies vaccination (21+ days in advance)
- EU pet passport or third country veterinary certificate (a veterinarian can help with this)
- Dogs only: tapeworm treatment
- Unlisted countries only: Blood test (3+ months in advance, 30 days+ after rabies vaccine)
- Approved travel route and transport agency, listed here. If traveling from a hot climate, you may need to wait for cooler weather.
Part 3 of 3: After You Arrive
1Figure out transportation. Public transportation is reliable in London and most other large cities, while parking and gas prices are challenging. If you do decide to drive, click here to find out whether you can use your current licence.
- Train travel is common for longer trips, with price and speed ranging from convenient to absurd depending on the route. If you plan on traveling and are over 60 or under 25, buy a discount railcard.
- In London, buy an Oyster Card from a tube (subway) station. These give discounted prices on tube, bus, and city rail fares.
2Get an English banking account. A bank account and associated debit/credit card are usually free. A few of the largest English banks are Lloyds, HSBC, Barclay’s, and NatWest.
- Ask your current bank whether it has a “sister bank” program you can use while in the UK.
- You can try opening a bank account from overseas, but you may need to give a UK address.
3Apply for documents. There are a couple useful documents a visitor in the UK should have:
- National Insurance Number. This is used for tax purposes, and required for employment. Call Jobcentre at 0345 600 0643 to apply.
- Passport photo (with UK specifications). These are available at grocery store photo booths for £6 or less.
4Learn about UK healthcare. Emergency medical care is free for all visitors. Hospital visits are free to most visitors, including anyone who paid a one-time healthcare surcharge when applying. For other medical care, it’s up to the doctor whether to charge you. You may want to ask several doctors in your area about prices before you choose one.