How to Move to the UK from the US
Moving to the UK from the USA is a journey filled with excitement and opportunity. Whether your move is motivated by a career, education, or new experiences, you’ll find invaluable insights here.
From navigating the visa process to understanding the UK’s healthcare system, we’ll provide a thorough walkthrough of what to expect. Let’s take a step towards a new chapter in the UK and see what the country offers for an American citizen.
Getting a UK Visa and Residence Permit as a US Citizen
The type of visa depends on your skills and the type of work you are looking for in the UK. Let’s explore the common visa options and visa requirements when moving to the UK from the US.
Here are the most common work visa types:
- Skilled Worker Visa
- Intra-company Visa
- Innovator Visa
- Health and Care Worker Visa
- Student Visa
- Partner Visa
- UK Ancestry Visa
Skilled Worker Visa or the UK Tier 2 Visa
The Skilled Workers Visa became the UK Tier 2 Visa in December 2020.
You can work in the UK with the UK Tier 2 Visa if you have a job offer from a UK employer. Plus, you can stay in the UK for up to 5 years with this visa.
Here’s what you need for a work visa:
- Your passport
- Your sponsor’s certificate and number
- Your job title, salary, and code
- Your employer’s name and license number
Let’s see some of the eligibility criteria for the UK Skilled Worker Visa route for American citizens:
- At least 70 points on the points-based system
- Being offered a position in a UK company with a sponsorship license
- A unique Certificate of Sponsorship number
- A certain minimum salary threshold is in line with the job role.
- The offer being a ‘genuine vacancy’
- An appropriate skill-level job
- Enough money to financially support yourself (and any dependents)
You can apply for an intra-company visa when moving to the UK from the US.
This visa is for workers who transfer to the UK branch of their employer. You need to have worked for your employer for a certain time. You can work part-time or temporarily, and you can bring your family member with you. You can’t stay in the UK permanently with this visa.
Here’s a brief guide to help you navigate the process:
- Make sure you meet the role requirements and work for a company with a UK branch.
- Get a certificate of sponsorship from your employer; it confirms your job and sponsorship.
- Complete the application on the UK government’s website and submit the necessary documents.
- over the application fee and healthcare surcharge, then attend a biometrics appointment.
- Typically, it takes about three weeks to hear back on your application.
Are you from the USA and have entrepreneurial aspirations in the UK? Here’s what you need to know:
- Innovative Business Idea: A unique, viable, and scalable business plan with potential for job creation and growth.
- Endorsement Required: Validation for your business idea from a UK endorsing body
- Funding Needs: At least £50,000 to invest in your business.
- English Proficiency: Demonstrating a certain level of English language skill
- Maintenance Funds: Enough money to support yourself without accessing public funds.
Health and Care Worker Visa
If you’re a doctor, nurse, or other health professional, this visa is for you. You’ll need a job offer in the UK to apply for the health and care worker visa.
This visa type lets you bring your family with you. Moreover, you don’t have to pay for healthcare.
Let’s see what you’ll need first:
- Check that your job offer is from a UK health and care sector employer and meets the visa requirements.
- Ask for the sponsorship certificate from your UK employer. It’s crucial, as it contains information about the role you’ve been offered.
- Prepare your passport, job offer details, and evidence of your English language proficiency.
- Fill out the application form on the official UK government website.
- Pay the visa and healthcare surcharge. This fee covers your visa processing and access to the UK’s National Health Service.
- Attend a biometrics appointment. Provide your fingerprints and photographs at a visa application center.
- Wait for the decision. The processing time varies, but you can expect a decision within a few weeks.
Do you aim to study abroad? You can apply for a UK student visa if you want to study in the UK for more than six months. You need to have a place in a UK school and enough money to pay for your tuition and living costs.
Your visa will last as long as your study program, up to five years. You can apply online six months before your studies start. You need to show your valid passport and a letter from your school that confirms your acceptance. You cannot live in the UK permanently with a student visa.
This visa lets you move to the UK permanently if you are in a real relationship with a UK citizen.
You can apply for two types of partner visas: unmarried or married. The unmarried partner visa needs proof that you and your partner have lived together like a married couple for two or more years.
Some factors to consider when applying for a partner visa to relocate to the UK from the US are:
- The married partner visa needs you to be legally married to a UK citizen.
- You can get married in the US. Your spouse also needs to earn enough money to support you. The minimum is 18,600 GBP per year.
UK Ancestry Visa
Ever wondered if your British ancestry could be your ticket to living in the UK? Enter the UK Ancestry Visa, a unique opportunity for American nationals with a British grandparent.
If one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you might be eligible for this visa.
You’ll need to prove your relationship to your British grandparents, have enough funds to support yourself, and plan to work in the UK. Fill out the application online, and get ready for a journey back to your roots.
So, if you’ve got British heritage, why not turn it into an exciting new chapter in your life? Your ancestral ties could be your passport to a new adventure!
Work Culture in the UK: Is It Different from the US?
Moving to England from the USA, you’ll encounter some differences in your work environment. The work culture in the UK may vary from what you’re accustomed to in the US.
Generally, the British prioritize work-life balance, shorter working hours, and longer vacation time. Expect a more relaxed and collaborative work environment.
The month of August, for example, will be more flexible if you have an office job. Most Europeans holiday in August.
You’ll also get more vacation time and paid parental leave, whether you’re the one who gave birth or not.
Driving in the UK for US Citizens
As an American, you can drive in the UK with your driver’s license for up to a year. After a year, you’ll need to get a provisional license and display learner plates. You’ll also need to drive with a qualified British driver until you pass the UK test. Once you arrive in the UK, you can apply for a provisional license.
Key Aspects of Living in the UK
Discover the essential facets of life in the UK, from cultural nuances to practical living. Let’s see the key elements that define the British experience.
Healthcare System in the UK
The healthcare system in the UK is distinctly different from that in the US. It offers unique advantages for US citizens. For instance, the National Health Service (NHS) provides comprehensive healthcare to all residents. Largely free healthcare in the UK is unlike the US system. Moreover, private health insurance offers individuals the opportunity to access private healthcare facilities.
As with most Americans, you’ll find this system reduces the financial burden of healthcare significantly. While routine services and emergency treatments are usually free, some charges may apply for certain prescriptions, dental treatments, and optometry services. However, these costs are relatively lower compared to the US. Additionally, you have the option to supplement NHS services with private healthcare for more immediate or specialized treatments.
The inclusive nature of the NHS means that once you’re a resident in the UK, you’re entitled to its benefits.
Tax in the UK for US Citizens
If you are a US citizen living or working in the UK, you still need to file US taxes every year. It’s because the US taxes its citizens based on their worldwide income, not their place of residence.
When you are a tax resident in the UK, it’s also expected that you pay UK taxes. One of the factors in paying taxes in the UK is spending more than 183 days in the UK in a tax year.
The UK tax rates vary depending on your income level and type of income. The UK also has a value-added tax (VAT). It applies to most goods and services.
How can you avoid double taxation by using some tax strategies?
- The US and the UK have a tax treaty.
- It allows you to claim a foreign tax credit for the taxes you pay in the UK. This can reduce your US tax bill by the amount of UK taxes you paid.
How can you report UK financial accounts and assets to the US government?
- If you have more than $200,000 in foreign assets, you have to file a Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) report.
- If you have more than $10,000 in foreign bank or financial accounts, you have to file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR).
Insurance in the UK
In the UK, car insurance is mandatory if you own a vehicle. Home insurance, while not legally required, is highly advisable to protect your property. If you’re renting, contents insurance can safeguard your personal belongings. Life insurance is also common, offering financial security for your family.
Aligning your insurance needs with UK standards will ensure you’re adequately covered. This adaptation not only offers security but can also streamline your transition to life in the UK.
Education in the UK
The UK’s education system has a stellar global reputation, and here’s the scoop for people from the US.
Differences? Well, the UK focuses more on specialization early on, so you dive deep into your chosen field quickly. Plus, bachelor’s degrees typically take three years—a year less than in the US.
Thinking of continuing your studies or switching schools in the UK? Just ensure your credits are transferable and get ready to immerse yourself in a new academic culture.
And the universities? Oh, they’re top-notch! Think Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London. They’re global academic heavyweights.
Qualifications? The UK’s rigorous standards mean you’ll be getting an education that’s respected worldwide.
So, pack your bags (and books) and get ready for an educational adventure in the UK.
Transportation in the UK
The UK has a well-developed public transport system. It includes trains, buses, subways, trams, and ferries. You can use these to travel within and between cities and regions.
To use public transport, you need to buy a ticket or a pass. You can buy tickets online, at stations, or on board. You can also use contactless cards or mobile apps to pay for your fares.
You need to have a valid driver’s license, insurance, and vehicle registration to drive in the UK. You also need to drive on the left side of the road.
Transportation in the UK is convenient and efficient. However, it can also be expensive and crowded. As an alternative, you can always cycle, walk, or share a car.
Accent and Language: What to Expect
If you’re moving to the UK from the USA, be ready for the distinctive British accents and variations in the English language. You will hear different ways of speaking English in the UK. Some words and phrases used in British English may be new or different for you. Some accents may be hard to understand.
Also, it’s better to try to be careful with some words. As there are some different meanings of some words, you can find yourself in an awkward moment.
Best Places to Move to the UK from the US
Here are the major cities you can consider moving to from the USA.
London is the UK’s capital and a global city that offers many opportunities for American expats in finance, culture, and entertainment. London is very diverse and has different vibes depending on the area. However, living in London is also very expensive, especially the rent. Expats can choose to live outside the city and commute by tube or train.
Birmingham is the UK’s second-largest city and a multicultural metropolis that is more affordable than London. Birmingham has a rich industrial heritage and a vibrant mix of museums, nightlife, shopping, and canals. Birmingham is also well connected by train and airport to other UK and international destinations. Expats can live in the city center or in the surrounding countryside.
Manchester is a northern city that is famous for its football clubs and its manufacturing and media industries. Manchester is a blend of old and new, with a Victorian town hall, a modern waterfront, and a nearby national park. Manchester has a great cultural scene, with shopping, dining, and nightlife options. The cost of living and housing in Manchester is more reasonable than in London.
Leeds is the largest city in Yorkshire and a youthful and dynamic city that was once a mill town. Leeds has a booming economy, with a large financial and legal sector, a growing tech industry, and a popping arts scene. Leeds is also home to four universities, which attract young people. Leeds is close to the beautiful Yorkshire countryside and has excellent transportation links. Leeds is investing in its infrastructure to improve its quality of life.
Bristol is a green and lively port city in the southwest of the UK, where expats can enjoy the start-up scene, the floating harbor, and the historic attractions. The city is also close to many beautiful beaches and villages in the West Country. Bristol offers various housing options, from urban flats to coastal homes.
Prepare to Move Your Belongings
Here are some tips to help you before moving to the UK from the US:
- You can ship your things by air or by sea. Air is faster, but the sea is cheaper.
- List all your items and fill out a form to avoid customs charges.
- Show your passport and visa to rent in the UK.
Average Cost of Moving to the UK From the US
As you’re aware, relocating from the USA to the UK involves various expenses.
Here’s a breakdown of some typical costs:
- Visa Application Fees: Depending on your visa type, fees can vary significantly.
- Shipping Belongings: The cost varies based on volume and service type.
- Flight Tickets: Prices fluctuate, so book in advance for better deals.
- Initial Accommodation: Budget for temporary housing before finding a permanent residence.
- Healthcare Surcharge: Paid as part of your visa application, granting access to the NHS.
- Living Expenses: Consider the first month’s living costs in the UK.
As you’re moving from the US to the UK, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. From securing the right visa to figuring out your fish and chip order, every step is part of this unique journey. And remember, you’re not just moving; you’re expanding your horizons and embracing new cultures.
So, as you close this guide, remember that every form you fill out brings you closer to your new home. Let’s have a great start to your new adventure in a new country—may it be as brilliant as a sunny day in London.
If you’re wondering about the cost of living in the UK, you can also read our article: Living Costs in the UK
Frequently Asked Questions
Can American retirees move to the UK?
Yes! American retirees can move to the UK with the right visa, like a Retirement Visa, and proof of financial independence.
Can a US citizen move to the UK permanently?
Yes, you can! With the correct visa, like a spouse visa or work visa, and meeting certain requirements, permanent residency is definitely achievable.
Can I move from the US to the UK without a job?
It's possible, but trickier. You'd need a visa that doesn't require a job offer, like a family visa or investor visa, and enough funds to support yourself.
Is moving to the UK a good idea in 2023?
It could be even a fantastic idea. The UK offers a rich culture, diverse cities, and historical charm. Just weigh up your personal and professional goals.
Is it cheaper to live in the UK or the USA?
It varies. Some parts of the UK, like London, can be pricey, but generally, living costs in the UK can be more affordable than in major US cities.
Can I drive in the UK with my US driving license?
Yes, you can, but only for a limited time. You can drive on your US license for up to 12 months, after which you'll need to switch to a UK license.