It’s estimated that around 200,000 US expats are currently living in the UK. American citizens move to the UK for many reasons, most commonly to join a partner or work. 

The UK appeals to expats because it’s closer to other countries in Europe, it offers free health care to all residents (in addition to other state services), and there are plenty of job opportunities. Still, moving to a new country is challenging, and that’s why it’s good to know a few important things about this transition. 

Moving to UK From USA Checklist

Here is a concise overview of how to move to the UK from the US: 

  • Get a UK visa and residence permit. 
  • Prepare to move your things.
  • Find accommodation. 
  • Open a bank account. 

Get a UK Visa and Residence Permit

Contrary to popular belief, you need a visa to move to the UK if you are an American citizen. The only exception to this is that if you are visiting with no long-term plans, you can stay in the UK without a visa for six months – but you cannot work during your visa-free stay.

Since the UK offers several immigration options, you have to do some research and see which one suits you best. The following work visas offer a pathway to getting a permanent residency – or your indefinite Leave to Remain (IRL):

Also, as an American citizen, the visa application process is slightly different for you, so make sure you know exactly how to apply for a UK visa before submitting your application.

Prepare to Move Your Belongings

There are essentially two ways you can ship your belongings to the UK when you move: 

  1. By air. This option is fast, but it’s costly. So, if you are travelling on a budget, you should consider sending your belongings by ship.
  2. By ship. The cost of transporting your household and personal items by ship is almost five times cheaper than by air. However, it takes several months to receive your things. If you want to use this option, consider moving your things a few months before your trip. 

You should also keep in mind that when you move your things, you must evidence every single item you are taking with you. In addition to this, you have to fill out an application for transfer of residence relief (ToR1) so you don’t have to pay customs charges for your belongings. You can find the form here. 

Find Accommodation

It’s important to remember that you need to prove your “Right to Abode” to rent in the UK. So you must provide your current passport and evidence that you are legally staying in the UK either temporarily or permanently. In addition, you can provide your BRP or a valid document issued from the Home Office supporting your legal stay in the UK.

Before you move, you should do your research to have a rough idea of how much renting or buying costs in the UK. Most expats recommend visiting the UK and seeing the places in person, and since US citizens can stay up to 6 months without a visa this shouldn’t be an issue. 

Open a Bank Account 

You need a bank account to rent in the UK, but you can’t get a bank account without an address. This is one of the biggest obstacles expats have to overcome when moving to the UK. However, there are several options available for you: 

  1. You can hire a relocation agency. The agency will help you find properties that are suitable for you, especially if you have pets. Your consultant will also connect you with an estate agent who will negotiate the terms of your tenancy and provide support letters. If you are moving with the “Intra-company transfer” pathway, your company may already have a preferred agency they work with. 
  2. You can open a bank account with the help of your bank in the US. Your bank in the US may help you open an account in the UK if they have a branch or are partnered with a bank there.
  3. Find a UK bank with international account options. Some banks in the UK provide options for international accounts for non-residents that you can open from abroad. A few of the most popular banks for expats are the following: 
    • Lloyds Bank 
    • Barclays 
    • HSBC

How Can I Immigrate to the UK from the USA Without a Job Offer?

To immigrate to the UK without a job, you have to meet the criteria for other non-work visas: 

Visa typeRequirements
UK Ancestor VisaYou can apply for this visa if you have evidence that one of your grandparents was born in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man. Usually, you can stay for up to 5 years with this visa, but then you can apply for your ILR.
Investor VisaTo get this visa, you must have at least £2 million ($2,760,000) to invest in UK’s economic growth.
Global Talent VisaTo get this visa, you need to be an expert in academia, research, arts and culture or digital technology.
Innovator VisaFor an innovator visa, you must have a business idea about something that has not been done before in the market and you need an eligible sponsor. 

Moving Pets to the UK From USA

You can bring your cat, dog, or ferret with you if you move to the UK from the US. But, you have to make sure that your pet meets the entry requirements to avoid quarantine or having to send your pet back. Your pet must be: 

  • Vaccinated against rabies. 
  • Microchipped. 
  • Equipped with a health certificate.

In addition to this, you must also provide evidence that your dog was treated for tapeworm 24 hours before you travel with your dog. If your pet needs to be quarantined, you cannot transfer them to the quarantine premises, instead, your pet will be moved by an authorized official- you can check the details here.

If you have another pet (other than a cat, dog, or ferret), you can still bring them, but you must follow different guidelines. The Home Office provides you with all the necessary details on their webpage.

Moving From the US to the UK for College

You can move to the UK for your studies if you’ve been accepted to an approved institution. In this case, you need to apply for a student visa. If your visa application is successful, you can live in the UK for up to 5 years while you finish your degree. 

After you graduate, you can apply for one of the following: 

  • Post-work study visa. This visa allows you to stay in the UK for two more years, work or find a job so you can switch to a work visa. 
  • Graduate entrepreneur visa. You can apply for this visa if you have an innovative business idea and you want to establish that business in the UK.

Joining Family Members in the UK From the US 

You can move to the UK to join a family member. Usually, the most common visa applications are to join a partner, but you can also apply for one of the following: 

Moving to the UK From the US for Retirement

The UK no longer provides a retirement visa for foreign nationals. However, if you have enough money, you may be eligible for an investor visa and move to the UK to spend your golden years. But, you should be aware that age is a determining factor whether you get a visa or not.

Is It Hard to Move to the UK as an American Citizen?

It’s not hard to move to the UK from the US if you meet one of the following criteria: 

  • You have a job offer there. 
  • Your company is transferring you. 
  • You are moving to join a partner or family member. 
  • You have some kind of ancestral relationship with the UK. 
  • You have enough money for investment. 

Anyone who does not belong to these categories might have a more challenging time getting a long-term residence permit. 

Cost of Moving to the United Kingdom for Americans

Generally speaking, you need to have at least $20,000 up to $40,000 depending on your situation and how you plan your moving process. You should be aware of the following expenses: 

Types of ExpensesCostNotes
Visa fees$2,000- $3,000Keep in mind other fees that go with your application, such as the cost of translating documents, submitting your biometrics, or courier service. Also, the visa fee is liable to change depending on what type of visa you apply for. 
Healthcare surcharge$860This fee is usually paid when you apply for your visa.
Flight ticket$1,000The average price for a flight ticket from the US to the UK is around $1,000, but you may find cheaper tickets down to $160.
Shipping costs$6000-10,000If you choose to ship your things by sea it’s cheaper than by air, but it may take up to 5 months to get your belongings. 
Rent $1,200Some of the cheapest apartments in London costs $1,200 per month. But, the rent fees differ from city to city- it all depends where in the UK you move to. 
Bringing pets$6,000This includes vet bills, vaccinations, transportation crate, airline fees and transportation fees.
Personal savings$1,750You need to have at least $1,750 when you first arrive in the UK. 

These are just the general expenses you need to keep in mind. In addition, you have to consider travel health insurance fees, payments to change your cell provider, car rentals, furniture purchase after you arrive, and so on. 

Do I Need Health Insurance When I Move to the UK?

You don’t need health insurance when you move to the UK. As a result of the health care surcharge you pay when you apply for your visa, you can access the NHS, which is the UK’s free national health care plan. However, some expats prefer to have private health insurance to avoid waiting times in the NHS. In that case, you can purchase health insurance if you want to.

Can I Get UK and US Citizenship?

You can get both US and UK citizenship. But, while US/UK dual citizenship comes with many benefits, it also has its disadvantages. The biggest downside is that US citizens are usually required to file taxes in the US, even if they are not living or working there. However, due to tax treaties with the UK, you may not be required to pay taxes or have reduced taxes- you should check with the IRS before you plan your move.