The Definitive Checklist for Moving to the UK
As if the idea of moving halfway across the world wasn't stressful enough, there are loads of "life admin" bits that go along with it. Hopefully this list will help you in facilitating your big move!
1. Save Money For the Move
Unfortunately, moving abroad can be super expensive, and the exchange rates are not in favour of American expats moving to the UK. Before I moved abroad, I worked two jobs and saved up for a year to be able to afford all of the visa fees, flights, and general moving costs. And once you make it abroad, keep in mind that the exchange rate means your money won't go quite as far. As of the date of this blog post, the USD to GBP exchange rate is 1 to .73, which means that if you moved abroad with $2,000 in your savings, suddenly you've only got £1,459.
2. Make Sure Your Visa Paperwork is in Order
It sounds like an obvious one, but if you're planning to spend over 6 months in the UK, you'll need a visa in order to stay. I've got several posts on this, so I won't go on about it, but you'll need to make sure you've got your biometric passport ready for when you enter the UK, and it doesn't hurt to have print outs of all your paperwork to bring along with you, as well.
For more info on visas, check out:
4 Different Types of UK Visas You Can Apply For
My ILR Settlement Visa Process
3. Decide What Your Essentials Are
Before you physically move abroad, you need to decide what you'd like to pack. I was lucky to move before I'd accumulated much stuff, and ended up moving with just two large suitcases. My childhood mementos and things were left in the care of my parents, but everything else (clothes, books, assorted things) went to charity shops before I moved. In a way, it's a nice reset and helps you whittle down to the essentials, but it does mean that you need to be choosy about what you bring with you and what you leave behind.
4. Research Living Situations/Cost of Living
It's nice to at least have an idea of where you'd like to live before you make the move. When I came abroad for university, we were required to find our own living accommodation in London in the first few days we lived there, and it was stressful beyond anything I've ever experienced. For one, flats in the UK are listed either pcm (per calendar month) or pw (per week), so make sure you're you're looking at the correct figure. Some sites to use for flat rentals are below:
Rightmove - generally a quality, popular site for finding properties
Zoopla - another site for finding properties in the UK
Spareroom UK - a good tool for finding flatshare openings
Cost of living will vary based on where you want to live. For example, It's important to note that London is set on a zonal system that looks a bit like a dart board - central London and Zone 1 is the bullseye, and then it goes out to Zone 2, Zone 3, and so on and so forth all the way up to Zone 6. Cost of properties will generally follow the rule that the further out, the less expensive they'll be, but of course there are pockets of cheaper and more expensive areas within these zones. Outside of the city will again be cheaper, depending on where you prefer to live and what the transport links are like.
5. Get a UK Bank Account
One of the first things I did when moving to England was set up a bank account in the country. A lot of US banks will charge international fees if you want to use your card abroad, so it's definitely beneficial to get a UK bank account (not to mention you'll want employers to pay into your UK account if you plan on working abroad). You'll need a UK address in order to do this,
One thing that may become an obstacle in moving abroad is that your US credit history will not transfer over to the UK. Because of this, it's worthwhile to set up your UK bank account ASAP and start building up good credit in the UK.
6. Transfer money - Transferwise
Once you've got your bank account set up, you'll need to transfer money across to your new account. We use Transferwise for moving any money from my US and UK accounts, as you won't incur international charges. I'm sure there are other services that do this as well, but we've been very happy with Transferwise thus far.
7. Research the Job Market, Get an NI Number
If you're planning on working in the UK, you'll need to suss out the job market, and make sure you're eligible for work. Your visa will always stipulate if you're able to work in the country or not, and once you are, you'll need to get a National Insurance number as well.
For more in depth information about finding a job in the UK, see my blog post here.
8. Pay Your NHS Surcharge
One amazing thing about the UK is its National Health Service. This means that healthcare is readily available for anyone who lives in the country, but as an expat, my visa required that I paid an annual surcharge for the NHS. I believe it was £500 for my 2.5 year visa (had to pay again each time I renewed my visa), which is practically free compared to healthcare in the US, but still something to be aware of as it's required to be paid as a lump sum. You will then be issued an Immigration Health Surcharge number, which will allow you to register with a GP in the UK.
9. Unlock Your Mobile Phone
It is possible to stay with your US phone provider and get an international plan, but if you're planning on spending more than a few months living abroad, you'll most likely want to switch your phone over to a UK contract. Before you leave to move, you'll need to make sure your phone is "unlocked" in regards to international travel (means they'll be allowed to roam on international networks), and then you'll be able to insert a foreign SIM card into the device once you move, provided by a local carrier.
10. Pet Passports and Transfer
If you're moving a furry friend abroad, there are several steps you need to go through. You'll need to make sure your pet is up to date with microchips and vaccinations, and get your veterinarian to sign a UK Health Certificate. You will also need a pet passport, and to arrange mode of transport for the pet. Though I've not personally transferred a pet abroad, from my research on it, I've determined that one of the best ways to bring a pet across is actually by ship, as they'll be able to stay with you on the boat and get fresh air and exercise whilst travelling.
11. Research Local Transportation
Depending on where you plan on living, you'll want to have at least a basic understanding of the public transportation in the area. The UK generally has a very wide net of public transport - London has the Underground, of course, and other cities like Manchester have the trams, and the National Rail Network is incredibly extensive - so it's easy enough to get around this way, if it's your preferred method. Foreign licenses are accepted up to a year after you move abroad as well, at which point you'll need to pass a driving test in the UK.
I hope this has been helpful (and not too overwhelming!) If you have any questions for me about moving abroad or my process of moving and living in England, please do not hesitate to reach out. Also - make sure to follow up with my travels and adventures on Instagram @elisedumont!