Moving Guides: Cities
How to move to the UK? It’s a big question, and the honest answer is: with plenty of time and energy to help you jump through various legal and financial hoops. Luckily, we’ve spelled out everything you need to make relocating to the UK as easy as possible.
If you're moving but already settled in the UK, be sure to check out our domestic moving house checklist.
UK visa - who needs one?
In order to come to the UK, you may need a visa to enter the country or to stay for longer than six months. You should check the UK government’s official website to see if you need a visa to reside in, or even visit, the UK.
There are a number of different visa options available for short and long-term stays in the country. The government’s 'Check if you need a UK visa' tool is a fast and easy way to see what sort of visa you should apply for, depending on your nationality and circumstances.
It’s also possible that you will not need a visa to enter the UK. Citizens of several countries and territories, including the United States, Australia, Israel and Hong Kong to name a few, are able to visit without a visa. However, for a stay longer than six months, a visa will be required.
Additionally, a few Persian Gulf countries (Kuwait, Oman, UAE and Qatar) can purchase an electronic visa waiver for only £15, eliminating the need for a visa for visits of less than six months.
If you’re a citizen of British Overseas Territories or of Commonwealth countries and you were born before January 1983, you’ll be able to visit the UK without a visa, but obtaining a residency permit will be required in order to stay permanently.
Currently, citizens of European Economic Area countries (European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), as well as Switzerland, do not need a visa in order to relocate to the UK. However, with Brexit looming, there is a good chance that this will change in the near future.
As the UK has opted out of the Schengen zone, a passport is needed to enter the UK, even for EU/EEA/Swiss nationals. The only exceptions are citizens of the Republic of Ireland, as there is a separate travel/work agreement between the countries.
Unsurprisingly, there is a fee attached to UK visas. Generally for six month visas the cost is £89. Long-term visa costs depend on the circumstances of your visit but generally vary from £300-£800.
If you do need a visa to relocate to the EU, you can start the process via the link below. You’ll need a valid passport and proof of financial resources to support yourself during your time in the UK. They may also request specific information regarding your stay.
Proof of residency UK
If you are not from an EEA country or Switzerland, but you are granted access because of a relative who is, you may apply for a UK resident card. The residency card can help you:
- Qualify for government benefits more easily.
- Re-enter the UK faster and with less hassle when travelling.
- Prove to potential employers that you’re eligible to work.
If you’re an extended family member (a relative that isn’t a legal spouse or civil partner or a minor dependent child/grandchild) of an EEA/Swiss citizen, you must apply for a residence permit.
The residence card costs £65 per person. You’ll also have to pay £19.20 to have biometric information (a photo and fingerprints) done in order to process the application. The card lasts for five years.
You’ll find all the resources you need to begin your application process by clicking the button below.
Setting up electricity and gas
One of the first things you’ll want to do upon arriving in the UK is contract an energy supplier. That way you can be sure your new home will have electricity and gas from day one.
In the UK, electricity and gas are delivered separately via the national electrical grid and gas distribution networks, respectively. They are contracted through separate tariffs, although many energy suppliers offer a dual fuel discount.
If you’re building a new home, you will need to arrange for new gas and electricity connections. You’ll need to contact your gas and electricity distributor (not the same as your provider). If you’ve hired a contractor they should take care of all communication with the distribution network.
100% renewable energy
As you’re looking into contracting your electricity, be aware that not all tariffs are created equal. Every tariff has their own fuel mix, which is the percentage of fuel sources (renewables, coal, nuclear, etc.) that make up their electricity.
If you are concerned with the environment, consider contracting a 100% renewable energy tariff. Renewable, or green, energy comes from environmentally friendly resources that are, you guessed it, renewable. These include solar cells, wind farms and biomass (plant or animal material or waste).
Using renewable energy will greatly reduce your carbon footprint (the amount of CO2 you produce as you go about your life) and helps push the UK energy industry into a sustainable future. And now that the costs of renewable fuel have lowered, your bills will be comparable to a non-renewable tariff.
Getting a smart meter
If you’re new to the UK, things like taking a meter reading may seem strange or stressful. Don’t worry, though, getting a smart meter can make your energy bills and usage much easier and save you money!
Basically, a smart meter is one that can be connected to your smartphone (generally via your supplier’s app) and monitors your energy use in near real-time. This dramatically reduces, or even eliminates altogether, the need to submit meter readings while still avoiding high estimated energy bills.
Additionally, seeing your energy use in real time allows you to form energy saving habits and save money over time.
Best private health insurance UK
The UK’s health system is a complicated mix of private and public hospitals and doctors, and it can be confusing to know what coverage you need to live a healthy and crisis-free life in the UK. Read on to learn everything you know about private health insurance.
First of all, you should be aware that the UK does have public healthcare available to all settled residents (and everywhere except England, healthcare is available to any individual). That means that if you’re ill you will be treated with no charge. In addition, the UK has many private health insurance programmes that you can pay into.
Why purchase private health insurance if free public healthcare is available? Namely, to save time. The UK’s public health services often have fairly long delays for everything but dire emergencies, whereas with private insurance you largely get to skip the queue.
Is private health insurance worth it?
This is difficult to say, as it depends both on your medical needs as well as the amount of disposable income you have available. But be aware that the UK’s public health system provides sufficient care for everyone at no cost.
Still, if you think you will need to see medical specialists with any frequency and have the funds to pay for insurance premiums, private insurance may well be worth it to resolve any medical issues with minimal time and fuss.
If you are in the market for private insurance be aware that the largest private providers - Bupa, Axa PPP, Aviva and BMI Healthcare - are some of the most expensive in the market. There are, however, several smaller providers with lower prices.
Broadband and TV
One thing you’ll surely need to do for your new home is setting up your broadband internet, mobile and TV. It can seem daunting, but we’ve sorted through the best deals and everything else you need to know.
You should be aware that in the UK, broadband, landline telephone services, and in some cases TV, are generally bundled together. It’s possible to contract them separately, but we don’t recommend doing so as it will only increase your expenses.
Besides price, the most important thing to consider is the speed of your broadband connection. Once you’ve contracted a broadband supplier you can easily test your connection with our broadband speed tool.
In the UK, broadband providers have a minimum speed guarantee. If your connection is consistently slower than the stated minimum speed, you’re legally entitled to switch your broadband supplier.
Mobile service in the UK
A mobile network is often one of the very first things people buy in a new country. It’s essential to be able to navigate, communicate with your relatives back home and look up facts about your new home on the fly.
The UK only has four mobile networks, but many, many service providers use the networks. We’ve broken down everything you need to know on our mobile networks guide.
Exchanging EU driving licence to UK
If you’re wondering how to change an EU driving licence to a UK one, we have great news: you don’t need to, at least at first. EU licences are accepted in the UK for your first twelve months, which means you’ll be able to drive there without a problem. Unfortunately, as with all things UK/EU, this arrangement may be affected by Brexit.
Even if you’re not from an EU country, there’s a decent chance that you’ll be able to use your current licence in the UK. The British Government has bilateral agreements with countries including Canada, Japan and South Africa that allow drivers to use their native licences. You can see the full list of countries here. Just be aware that unlike in most countries, UK cars drive on the left side of the street.
Generally, the agreement to use a foreign licence is valid for a year. After that you will need to exchange your licence. You’ll need to fill out order form D1 and pay a £43 fee. Your licence should arrive within 3 weeks.
Be aware that the process for exchanging a licence in Northern Ireland is somewhat different compared to the same process in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).
Purchasing car insurance
If you’re planning on driving in the UK, you must contract car insurance. As you’re probably aware, car insurance covers the costs of fixing or replacing a damaged or stolen car and medical bills from an accident. In exchange you pay the insurer a premium, usually every month.
In the UK, it is legally required for all drivers to have car insurance. If you’re caught driving without coverage, you will receive a £300 fine and six points on your licence. Repeated offences will result in even bigger fines and possibly losing your licence!
To get all the info you need, check out our full car insurance guide via the link below.
Declaring and changing your address
If you’re moving to the UK, you’ll need to declare your address to several different agencies. The most important are:
- Your local council: for taxes and other reasons, you’ll need to register with your local council, this will depend on where in the UK you are relocating to.
- Your native country’s embassy: while this may not be mandatory, it is recommended that all foreign nationals register with their country’s embassy in the UK. In some cases, you may be required to register. If that is the case you will be informed by a UK immigration official.
Once you’re fully settled in the UK, there are loads of other organisations and businesses that will need to know your address. Check out our full change of address checklist UK for all the details.
Right to work in the UK checklist
Being able to work legally is crucial to making a move to a new country successful. How to do so depends heavily on where you are emigrating from.
Coming from a European Economic Area country or Switzerland
As of now, anyone with EEA/Swiss citizenship is able to work freely in the UK without a permit. Nationals from some countries that have entered more recently into the EU (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) will have to register with the Worker Registration Scheme, but are still entitled to work.
This ability for Europeans to enter and work within the UK has been one of the most contentious issues driving Brexit, and it remains to be seen if this status will continue once the dust settles. It does seem that most officials want to maintain an open border with Ireland, so it may be the one exception.
Coming from a British Commonwealth country
Most Commonwealth citizens will need to apply for a work permit, following the same procedure as all other non-EEA (plus Switzerland) countries. You don’t require a work permit if:
- You had one grandparent born in the UK.
- Or one or both of your parents were British citizens.
All other cases
Anyone who doesn’t fulfil any of the cases above will need to apply for a permit via a points-based system that favours highly skilled individuals. You’ll need to have a job offer from a licensed sponsor as well as a certificate of sponsorship. Your employer, not you, will make the final application at least four weeks before you begin working.
To complete the process you’ll need:
- A valid passport from your home country.
- Your birth certificate.
- Documentations of all degrees, references and qualifications.
- Previous work permits if applicable.
- Your entry visa.
Any documents not in English should be translated.
The UK Government has released a checklist for employers to check if workers are legally eligible to work in the UK. This is also a valuable resource for workers that lets them make sure they have all necessary documentation.
Insuring your new home
As you start to build your new life in the UK, you should strongly consider purchasing insurance to protect your possessions.
All property owners are required to have building insurance, so if you’re buying or building your new home, you’ll also need to contract a buildings insurance policy. If you’re renting, your landlord is responsible for holding the policy. However, keep in mind that building insurance only covers the costs of damages and repairs to the building itself.
That’s why Selectra recommends that anyone living in the UK, whether or not they’re the owner of the property, takes out contents insurance. This is a policy that protects your possessions and valuables in case of damage or robbery.
If you’re renting, you should specifically look at tenants' insurance, which is a subset of contents cover. Basically, in addition to insuring your own possessions, it also covers liabilities for damages done to any furnishings owned by your landlord.
If you are, or will be, a property owner, you will also want to purchase boiler cover. Boilers are the most common heating apparatus in the UK, and can be extremely expensive to replace or repair. A boiler policy will cover the costs of boiler repair and maintenance.
Moving to the UK from EU
As we noted in our Right to work section, right now the UK is still part of the EU and European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). That means that all EEA and Swiss citizens are able to move and work freely in the UK.
That being said, it’s still extremely important to register with the local authorities as we noted above. This is vital, both for tax reasons and because as Brexit changes EU citizens’ legal status you may be required to provide documentation proving that you’ve been living in the UK.
Brexit's effect on EU migration
How long the current status of EU immigrants remains is anyone’s guess. “Uncontrolled” immigration was the driving factor behind the Brexit movement and one of the most contentious points that anti-leavers have fought against.
It remains to be seen what, if any, deal will be struck between the UK and the EU on how to manage new immigrants, or what to do with the 2.9 million EU citizens already in the UK as well as the 1.2 million UK citizens in other EU countries.
Even if an immigration deal is reached, be aware that Brexit is likely to affect many other aspects of daily life, including the cost of energy, broadband rates and the possible return of roaming charges on international calls.
Opening a bank account
If you’re working, or even just living in the UK, you’ll need a British bank account. To open one, all you need is a few documents and to either visit or send said documents via post to your new British bank.
Firstly, you’ll need a document that proves your identity. Any bank will accept a valid passport as proof of identity. If you’re from an EU country, you can also use a national identity card.
Secondly, you’ll need documentation that shows your current address in the UK. Traditionally the following are accepted by banks as proof of address:
- Mortgage statement or rental contract.
- A utilities bill sent to that address within the last three months.
- A recent bank or credit card statement.
- Tax bills registered to said address.
If you need a bank account immediately but have just arrived, you may not have the listed documents. Some banks will also accept a letter from your employer or from a Jobcentre Plus (the national employment centre) office as an alternative.
UK education system
If you have children or are considering pursuing higher education for yourself, you should have an idea of how the British education system works.
There are five main parts to education in the UK:
- Primary - Education for all children age 5-11.
- Secondary - Education for all children age 11-16.
- Further education - where some students who have finished secondary school prepare and take A-levels, or Scottish Highers, and/or vocational courses.
- Higher education - university or equivalent education, as well as post-graduate education.
Primary and secondary education up to the age of 16 are legally required for everyone in the UK. Further education is optional, but in England and Wales it is needed for any students who wish to attend a university or other higher education.
For primary and secondary education there are both state-run and private (sometimes confusingly named ‘public’) institutions. State-run schools are completely free. Undergraduate university degrees are free in Scotland for students who are from Scotland or from any other EU country but students from the rest of the UK have to pay fees to attend Scottish universities.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland students have to pay fees of up to £9000 per year for undergraduate courses (more for postgraduate studies). For all UK students there are government loans available to help cover living costs while at university.
International university students
If you’re coming to the UK to study, you’ll need to apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). First, you should research which courses you’re interested in, before applying through the same web portal. You’ll also need a recommendation, ideally from a teacher who knows you well.
The process can seem confusing, but UCAS provides tonnes of resources to prospective students, including step-by-step guides in various languages.
Depending on your home country, you may need to apply for a visa. If that’s the case, your higher education institution will provide you with a letter of acceptance that you will need for your application and should have additional resources to help you in the process.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, students from outside the UK and other EEA countries face higher fees than UK students. Scotland has stated that they will continue to allow EU students to be treated as local students, but some politicians have proposed making EU students at English universities pay international fees starting in 2021.
Your specific visa will also determine if you’re able to work during your studies. If you’re coming from an European Economic Area country or Switzerland, you’re automatically allowed to work in the UK, regardless of your status as a student or not.
If you’re coming to the UK to study, you can find heaps of resources on Selectra’s student guides.
To see the full UCAS guide to applying you can click the link below.
Best place to live in the UK
The UK is actually four separate countries (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England) that are joined as one nation. Each one has multiple cities and regions that vary largely in their climate, food and customs.
So which is the best? That’s a difficult (not to mention contentious) question to answer. To give you an idea of some of the UK’s highest rated cities and towns, you can check out Expatica’s ranking of the best places to live in the UK.
Relocating to London
What’s not a matter of opinion however, is that London is by far the UK’s biggest city. If you are, like many others, moving specifically to London, here are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s big. With almost nine million people, London is by far the biggest city in the EU. It’s also, outside of the concentrated city centre, a fairly sprawling metropolitan area.
If you’re looking for housing in London, it’s important to have at least a basic idea of its geography and different boroughs. Londontown has a great map resource with a description of each region, down to the postal code!
It’s not cheap. London has some of the most expensive housing prices in the world! Be sure to keep that in mind as you plan your moving budget and begin your house-hunt.
Generally speaking, the closer to the centre of the city you’d like to live, the more you’ll have to pay. You can see the most expensive and cheapest areas with this mapping of the average rent by postal code provided by the UK government.
Relocating to NI
Another UK region with its specific quirks, moving to Northern Ireland has some particular distinctions when compared to moving to the rest of the UK.
The reason why is fairly logical, as Northern Ireland is on a completely separate island from the rest of the country! It is, of course, on the island of Ireland, sharing a border with the Republic of Ireland.
You may see the locals frequently crossing the border into the Republic. In fact, there’s no border or security checks at all to travel between the two countries. It’s very important to know that if you are coming from a country that requires a visa to live in the UK, your visa does not entitle you to visit the Republic of Ireland! You’ll be able to cross by foot or by car, but it is legally prohibited.
Additionally, some laws vary between Britain (Scotland, Wales and England) and Northern Island. Several industries, including gas and electricity, vary drastically between NI and Great Britain.
Moving to the UK is a big decision, and the process of actually making it happen is a long one:
- Some of your first priorities will be getting your visa and residency certificate if needed. You’ll also want to be sure you have all the official documentation you need to be able to work legally in the UK.
- Next up, you’ll want to set up your gas and electricity, broadband and TV and possibly private health insurance. If you drive, make sure you’ll be able to use your licence for your first year in the UK.
- Once you’ve found a place to live, you want to officially declare your address and purchase contents and/or building insurance.
- Finally, you’ll need to open a bank account, and if needed, register your children or yourself to a school or higher education institution.
Have a bit of patience and before you know it, you’ll be drinking tea, eating biscuits and enjoying everything British cuisine and culture has to offer in no time.