Moving to England from America: what you need to know
More Americans than ever are deciding to ‘up sticks’ and move to the UK. This can be a daunting process to undertake, so we have put together some advice and information to help make the process easier. Please note, there are numerous visa options and entry routes available moving to the UK, and even more rules and requirements to meet.
We have included the information you are most likely to need to move to the UK to work or study. This is on the assumption you have no other routes in, such as family who are currently UK citizens or any hereditary entitlement. Any of which can fast-track the process. All facts and figures are correct at time of print and subject to change. For full information, visit the UK government website here.
Table of Contents
What are the requirements to move to England from the United States?
US Citizens do need a visa for the UK. To live in the UK, you must first apply for a long-term visa that is specific to your circumstances. If you are planning to make the move permanent, you can apply for, UK citizenship, ‘indefinite leave to remain’ [ILR], or ‘indefinite leave to enter the UK’[ILE].
You can move to the UK without a job if, you are going to be living with a partner, spouse, or family member. Also, if you are starting your own business or are a student. However, you will have to prove you can support yourself financially and have suitable accommodation.
A visitor’s visa can be purchased on arrival, which allows you to stay for up to six months. You will not be allowed to work while on a visitor’s visa.
Long-term visas are specific to your individual intentions of being in the UK, and must be applied for, and issued before arriving. Long-term visas cannot be applied for while in the UK.
So, for example, if you are there on a visitor’s visa or at the end of a student visa, and wish to begin working in the UK, you must return to the US to apply. You will usually be able to work to support yourself on a student visa while studying.
You will not be able to continue working after your student visa has expired unless you are a dependant of a resident.
➤ Work visa
There are several types of work visas depending on the role you intend to take on.
- Skilled worker [skilled job, public sectors such as NHS, role in a UK branch of an overseas company, work in a religious community, or elite sportsperson or coach]
- Temporary worker [sportsperson, arts and entertainment, charity volunteer, work experience, research training, or religious work]
- Business, talent, and investor [starting your own business, investing in an existing business, working as a leader in the arts, research, culture, academia, or technology]
- Domestic service worker in a private household
- Business representative.
To apply for a work permit visa, your application must be sponsored by your new employer. You must be in possession of a letter of confirmation of employment, and a Certificate of sponsorship from them.
The visa will last as long as the contract of employment, plus one month, but cannot be longer than 5 years and 14 days. To continue to work passed this time limit, you will need to apply for, leave to remain, ILR, or you will need to become a UK citizen.
You will be allowed into the UK 14 days before the start of your work visa, but you must not begin working during this period. You must also pass a points-based assessment as part of the application process.
➤ Unmarried partner visa
An unmarried partner visa allows you to live in the UK if you are in a relationship with someone who holds an ILR or ‘settled status’.
You will be allowed to find work once this visa is granted but will be subject to the same restrictions as those with an ILR.
➤ Spouse visa
A spouse, or marriage visa allows you to live and work in the UK if you are married to someone with UK citizenship or has ILR. You must both be over 18. You must have met each other and have been legally married.
This is to prevent any arranged marriages. You must intend to live together permanently and have suitable accommodation.
You must have sufficient funds to support yourselves and any dependents, and your partner must be earning a minimum of £18,600 [approx. $24,600] per year. You must also be able to satisfy the English language requirements.
➤ Student visa
To gain a student visa, you must be over 16 and:
- Provide evidence that you have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor.
- You must have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – the amount will vary depending on your circumstances.
- Can speak, read, write, and understand English.
- You have consent from your parents if you are 16 or 17 – you will need evidence of this when you apply.
The length of the visa will depend on the length of your course. For example, a degree level course will be up to 5 years.
Lesser qualifications may mean the visa expires after 2 years. You can request an extension to continue your studies and this must be done within the last 3 months of your current course.
➤ Indefinite leave to remain & indefinite leave to enter
ILR and ILE are essentially the same thing. They are the first level of permanent residency in the UK and give you permission to live and work in the UK with no time limit. To apply for ILR or ILE, you must have lived legally in the UK, for at least 5 years.
You must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK during any 12-month period in those 5 years. You must also pass the ‘life in the UK test’ and meet English language requirements. Your employer must provide a letter confirming they still require you to work for them. This must include details proving they are paying you the appropriate level of wage.
Under ILR and ILE, you will remain a US citizen and will have to follow certain restrictions. You will also not be entitled to some of the benefits enjoyed by UK citizens. This includes financial aid under the UK benefits system, and restrictions when using NHS services. Also, ILE and ILR needs to be renewed every 10 years, and you will lose your ILR status if you leave the country for more than 2 years.
➤ UK citizenship
To become a UK citizen, you must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, before applying to the Home Office, and have held ILR or ILE status for at least 12 months.
If you are married to a UK citizen, you do not need to wait 12 months, but you must have lived in the UK legally for at least 5 years.
You must also:
- be over 18.
- prove your knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic.
- have passed the life in the UK test.
- intend to continue living in the UK.
- be of good character.
To be judged as being of ‘good character’, you must disclose any-and-all criminal offences, inside and outside the UK. This includes traffic offences.
Although, these are only taken into consideration under certain circumstances. You must prove your finances are in good order and there may be checks into your character.
What is the process of moving from America to England?
You will need a passport that does not expire for 6 months after relocating to the UK from the USA. You will need to be able to support yourself, and your family if they are moving with you. You will also need to arrange suitable accommodation.
This may require at least one visit to arrange all this before receiving your visa[s]. You can travel to the UK on a visitors’ visa, which allows you to stay in the country for up to 6 months, as long as you do not work while you are there.
You do not need to apply for this in advance, visitor visas can be applied and paid for on arrival in the UK. If you stay for the 6 months and manage to make all your arrangements, you will need to return to the US before applying for any long-term visas.
You cannot apply for a visa from in the UK. Once your visa is arranged, you may enter the UK up to 14 days before you are due to start working or studying but no earlier. You must not work during this time. Any visa extensions or application for ILR or ILE can be made from within the UK.
You should consider hiring a professional moving company such as Earth Relocation, who specializes in helping people move to the UK, to ship your possessions.
When you don’t have enough goods to fill up your own container, Earth Relocation’s “groupage containerization” is highly recommended. Partial container shipments are an economical solution for shipping overseas. Get a quick quote here.
If you are taking pets with you, you will need to ensure they have been microchipped and vaccinated. Paperwork must be completed in advance to avoid lengthy quarantines and charges. You need to make plans for any children going with you, for their education, before you arrive in the UK.
Pros and Cons of moving to England from America
There are many differences between living in the UK and the US. Here are just a few things an American moving to the UK may need to be aware of.
- Greenery: You are never far from greenery in the UK. Even in large cities there are plenty of public green spaces, woodland, and parks to enjoy.
- NHS: The NHS is completely free to residents for basic health care, so you do not need health insurance. You will have to pay a small fee for prescriptions and dental care is not covered.
- Retail Prices: All retail prices in the UK are quoted including taxes. No tax added at the checkout makes it far easier to know what you are going to pay at the till.
- Houses: Houses are generally smaller in the UK and are not often open-plan like they generally are in the states. They are usually two storeys and packed together tightly in urban and suburban areas. Gardens in newer housing areas, and town centres, are often small, and parking is at a premium everywhere. If you do end up living in a house with a driveway or garage, it will likely be able to accommodate only one car.
- Roads: Roads are narrower and you will have to get used to driving on the left. Roundabouts are everywhere. They will take a while to get used to, but they are highly effective at keeping traffic flowing. There is a vast network of speed cameras, but they are mostly bright yellow, and sign posted to give you plenty of warning as you approach them.
How much does it cost to move to England?
Average UK rent, as of October 2020, is £974 per calendar month. Central London rent prices will be 60-70% higher on average.
Visa prices vary depending on their restrictions, duration, and your circumstances. You will need to apply for the visa that specifically matches your reason for moving to the UK. Here are a few of the most common ones to give you an idea of prices:
- 6-12 months student visa $247.
- Start-up [entrepreneur] visa $472.
- Innovator visa $1329.
- Talent visas from $198 to $791.
- Investor visa $2112.
- Work visas from $794 to $1588.
Costs of shipping your belongings to the UK depends on the types, quantity, size, and weight of the items you wish to take over. To get a free quote customized to your moving needs click here.
Earth Relocation has regular consolidation services from our New York & California locations through which you can save money on your ocean freight shipment.
We pack your goods at your residence and transport them to our warehouse where we consolidate them with other cargo destined for the same area. Groupage containers afford the safety of containerization without the expense of a whole container. Talk to a moving expert.
➤ Import tax from the USA to UK
For items you have owned for 6 months or more, there will most likely be no import tax or duty on any possessions you wish to bring into the UK. Any duty or tax that will be payable, depends on, what it is, where you bought it and how much it is worth.
Find a good shipping company to help you with the move. They will be able to advise you on what taxes and duties need to be paid on your items and what items fall into restricted categories.
➤ How much does it cost to bring a dog from the USA to the UK?
Some dog species that are legal in the US are illegal in the UK so check that you can bring your pets with you first. You will need an appropriate shipping crate to suite your dog, these range in price from as little as $30. The largest cost will be the shipping fees.
Depending on the size of the dog, shipping will cost between $1000 and $4500. To export you pet from the USA, you will need a country specific USDA certificate from an accredited veterinarian.
To avoid commercial import tax and customs VAT [value added tax], you must obtain a ‘Transfer of Residency’ [TOR] declaration. You must also be in the UK to receive your pet within five days of its arrival.
You will need to follow strict guidelines to avoid a lengthy quarantine period. Your dog must be microchipped and registered first.
It must then be vaccinated for rabies and have a rabies anti-body test. You will then need to gain an EU health certificate [this may change after January 1st, 2021].
You will also need to have your dog treated for tapeworm. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on current costs of microchipping, vaccines, and treatments. All endorsed paperwork must be in order, and the move completed within 1 year of the rabies vaccine.
Moving to England with Kids
If you are relocating to England from the US with children, you will need to apply for a family visa. There are stringent conditions that must be observed including finances, custody, and schooling.
The application will be subject to the conditions of your own visa to reside in the UK. It is a legal requirement for any child residing in the UK to receive education between the ages of 5 and 16. This can be public school, private school, or home schooling.
The Easiest way to move to the UK from America
The easiest way to move to England from America is through family entitlement. If you can prove that you have UK ancestry, or your parents are expats, the process of moving to the UK will be much quicker and easier.
Having family already residing in the UK will also help with your application. Whether you have entitlement or not, be completely co-operative and open. This will avoid any delays or awkward questions when applying for your visa.
Hiring a specialist immigration lawyer can help you battle through the myriad visas, processes, and general red tape.
There are law firms that specialize in guiding people through the immigration process and getting you settled in the UK.
Tips for moving to England from America
Some useful advice to help you prepare for your new life in the UK.
- Banking. You may want to apply for a UK bank account. Check with your bank to see if this is necessary: most UK banks are large international banks [such as HSBC], so your bank may already be part of the same banking group which will make switching easier. Cheques are not really used in the UK anymore, and most transactions are contactless, or chip & pin, so make sure your cards are compatible.
- Driving. Try to get a copy of the British ‘highway code’ and read up on any differences between the US and UK. It is not just that they drive on the left, many traffic signs and regulations are different.
- Medication. If you are on any medication, you will need to speak to your doctor to make sure you have enough to last you while you make arrangements in the UK. Remember, some medications available in the US, are not in the UK, and some cannot be brought into the country, so check this first.
Health care system in England
The NHS is free to use for anyone in need of essential treatment. This includes:
- Treatment in a hospital Accident and Emergency department.
- Seeing a GP [general practitioner doctor].
- Family planning services.
- Treatment for some infectious diseases.
- Compulsory psychiatric treatment.
All NHS services are free if you have a visa to stay longer than 6 months. Remember, prescriptions are chargeable, and NHS does not cover dental treatment.
Job market: jobs in high demand in the UK in 2020
Gaining a work visa will be a lot easier if you are going to be taking a position that the UK job market struggles to fill. Here is a list of the top 10 positions UK employers are desperate to fill, and how much you can expect to earn.
Front End Developer
Software Test Engineer
Full Stack Developer
➤ Can you move to the UK without a job?
Yes, but only if:
- You are going to be living with a partner, spouse, or family member and can prove you will be financially supported and have suitable accommodation.
- You are starting your own business and can support yourself financially and have appropriate accommodation while doing this.
- You are a student and can prove you can support yourself financially and have suitable accommodation.
➤ How can an American get a job in England?
Applying for a job in the UK is pretty much the same as in the US. An internet search will be able to show you what jobs are available.
Many employers will be happy to carry out interviews remotely, via video call, so you may not need to meet face-to-face until you begin work. When you are offered a position, your employer will need to provide you with a letter confirming their wish to employ you.
They will also need to provide you with a certificate of sponsorship. When you have these, you can start the application process for a work visa.
Schools in the UK
Children can start free education from the age of three and must receive education between the ages of 5 and 16. The UK’s free education system, and its universities are among the best in the world.
Tuition fees for universities are high compared to other industrialised countries, but not as high as in the USA.
Weather in England
The UK has a very temperate climate. It does get a lot of rain, but probably not as much as people in the UK say- and the rest of the world believes. Winter temperatures often drop below zero [centigrade], but rarely by much
.Temperatures in the summer months can fluctuate a great deal. It is not uncommon, especially in recent years, for temperatures to break 30 degrees C [86F). But bear in mind, they can also drop to close to single digits within the same month.
The general climate varies a surprising amount across the country, far more than in any one state in mainland USA. In general, the south of England gets a lot more sun than the north & Scotland.
Average living cost in England
In 2019, the average full-time salary was £36,611 and average part-time salary was £12,495. Generally, the cost of living in the UK is slightly lower, however it varies greatly depending on where in the UK you are planning to live, and who you ask.
Many people say their money goes further in the US. Rent in the centre of large cities is going to be comparable to the US and rent outside city centres is slightly lower than in the US.
If you are planning to buy a property, be prepared. UK properties are, on average, depending on the area, 50- 90% more expensive to buy. Petrol [gas] and diesel costs are roughly twice that of the US, but your weekly shopping bill should off-set this.
Life in the UK
The culture is quite different in the UK. People are generally polite and accepting, but small talk can only go on for a short while before it is viewed as awkward. Regional accents and dialects can make it difficult to understand what people are saying. The only way to overcome this is immersion, and to politely ask what any strange phrases mean.
➤ Things to do and see in the UK
The UK has some of the best museums in the world. It is also known for its areas of outstanding natural beauty, rich history, and more modern attractions. There are many theme parks, amazing zoos, and safari parks to visit.
The national sport is soccer [known simply as football in the UK], it is a central part of the culture and a favorite talking point. The theatre and live shows are immensely popular, especially in larger cities. You will be able to find almost every kind of sport and activity imaginable located in or near to any major city.
➤ Top British tourists’ attractions
- The British museum.
- Buckingham palace.
- The Tower of London.
- Giants Causeway.
- The London Eye.
- Loch Ness [Scotland].
- Edinburgh castle [Scotland].
- Paul’s cathedral.
- Tate modern.
- Madame Tussauds
You will usually be able to work to support yourself on a student visa while studying, but you will not be able to continue working after your student visa has expired unless you are a dependant of a resident.
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