If moving to the UK is your main goal at the moment, the most important step to getting there is also the most boring and tiresome: getting a visa.
Visiting the UK for a short trip may be as easy as hopping on a plane and setting off on your way (if you are visa-exempt, that is), but if you want to actually move to the UK there’s a longer process involved.
We all know that nobody really wants to go through the excruciating process of dealing with bureaucratic procedures, the paperwork, the waiting and running around at Embassies.
Unfortunately, you can’t move to England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland – or anywhere abroad, for that matter – without a bit (read: a lot) of paperwork. Since we know that visas are quite the hassle and headaches, we’ve tried to simplify them for you.
But there is a lot of great reasons to move to the UK – which if you’re already planning a move, you probably already know about. So in the end, the long process will be worth it.
Do You Need a Visa to Move to the UK?
Yes, you need a visa if you want to move to the UK for long-term purposes. Citizens of the EU, USA, and Commonwealth countries (among others), typically do not need a visa to stay in the UK for up to six months, but if you intend to stay longer than six months you will need a visa, regardless of nationality.
EU citizens: Before Brexit, EU citizens did not require a visa to work or live in the UK – they simply had to register their stay. But after Brexit, the exact requirements for EU citizens are still unknown and will be decided during the course of 2020.
There are two main reasons foreigners will move to the UK long-term: for work or to join a family member. Students on a Student Visa also technically move to the UK, but unless they find a job, they cannot stay permanently and have to return home after their studies.
How to Move to the UK for Work?
If you want to work in the UK, you first need to find a job, then apply for a work visa. And not just any job; for example, you can’t really move to the UK and work as a bartender or wait tables – at least not legally. Work visas for the UK are issued to the following:
- Highly skilled workers. You must have a job offer for a skilled position or a position in the Shortage List. This includes scientists, engineers, medical practitioners, architects, etc. You can find the shortage occupations in the UK government official website.
- Intra-company transferees. If you receive a job offer to work in the UK branch of an overseas company.
- Religious workers. If you have received a job offer in a religious organization, as a minister of religion, missionary, or as a member of a religious order.
- Sports workers, such as coaches. You have to be recognized at the highest level of your profession internationally.
The UK has an immigration system based on points. So, you will need to reach a certain amount of points to be eligible to move there. The points are calculated using your education, English language proficiency, your age, and most importantly, your qualifications. Calculate your points here.
Up until 2020 (pre-Brexit), EU citizens were not subject to this system, but this will change starting from 2021.
How to Move to the UK to Join a Family Member?
If you already have a spouse or family member living in the UK, you have to apply for a family visa before you can move there to join them. You can move to the UK to join your:
Spouse or partner. You and your partner must be married in a legal or traditional marriage, in a civil relationship, or engaged to be eligible for this visa. You must also prove you have a joined annual income of at least £18,600 a year.
- If you are under the age of 18, you can join your parents in the UK as a dependent. The parent must be able to financially support you. Learn more about the UK Child Family visa.
- If your child is in the UK, you can apply for a visa to join them, if you can financially support both yourself and your child. Learn more about this type of visa.
If you will only stay with in the UK with your family for less than six months, you do not need a visa, provided you are from a visa-exempt country.
Things to Know If You Want to Move to the UK
Once you have applied for your UK visa and your move to England seems a sure thing, it is time to think about your next steps:
- Find accommodation
- Set up a bank account
- Get a national insurance number
- Get health insurance
Once you are past the visa hurdle, the most challenging part of your move to the UK is finding accommodation. It’s recommended that you spend no more than 30% of your income on renting accommodation, but if you intend to move to London or another large metropolitan area, be prepared for very high rent costs.
In London, rent averages to over 50% of income in a one-bedroom flat. In the South-East, East, and South-West regions of England, rent also averages 30% to 40%, whereas in Scotland and Wales it is more affordable, with the average cost being about 25% of income.
Purchasing a home, even if you have the financial means, is not the most ideal solution, at least not until you have a more permanent residence status.
Set Up a Bank Account
Once you have accommodation, you will be able to open a bank account, which you will need for your salary or rent payments. If you are already a member of an international bank, you could ask for your account to be transferred into the UK, meaning you don’t need to register with a whole other bank.
To open a bank account, you will need a picture ID, such as your passport or driver’s license, as well as proof of residence, such as a utility bill.
You will also likely need to transfer money to help cover the initial period of your stay in the UK. To transfer money abroad, you can use your bank or an online money transferring service such as TransferWise.
Keep an eye out for the exchange rate, however.
Get a National Insurance Number
Once you move to the UK, you have to apply for a National Insurance number (often referred to as NINO), to make sure that your contributions and taxes are recorded on your name. To apply for a National Insurance number, you have to contact local job centre and book an appointment.
Get Health Insurance
All UK citizens and residents are eligible to use UK’s National Health Service (NHS), which is a public health insurance system funded by taxpayer money. You will have to get your NHS number to make use of the public healthcare system.
Under NHS, most healthcare services, such as medical consultations, hospital treatment, prescription medication, childbirth, ambulance services, etc. are all free of charge.
In addition to NHS, there are also private health insurance providers, which some people opt for because you will usually have far less waiting time and a greater deal in options (i.e. you can use private hospitals). However, private health insurance is by no means a requirement for UK residents.