Moving to Scotland is an exciting prospect full of adventure, but moving to a foreign country isn’t exactly an easy undertaking.
Logistics aside, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with Scottish customs and traditions to help settle in to your new life in a new country. Moving to Scotland from the U.S. requires advance research and planning to make your move as smooth as possible.
Scotland is less expensive than other areas of the United Kingdom — like London, for instance. But it’s not just lower living costs that draw people to Scotland. Free healthcare via the National Health Service (NHS) is particularly attractive to Americans.
Scotland is also full of beautiful castles, stunning Highlands and other hallmarks of Scottish culture, like haggis, wool and whiskey. The melodic Scottish accent is one most people could listen to for hours, although understanding it may take some getting used to!
Scots are generally thought of as friendly and accommodating and are regarded by many as a bit more rambunctious than some of their UK neighbors, like the English or the Welsh. The rest of the UK is comprised of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, each with its own distinct culture and feel.
If you’re thinking about moving, here are some tools to help:
- Our moving cost calculator provides an immediate estimation of what your move should cost. Just plug in your moving dates, the size of your move and where you’re moving to/from, and let the calculator do the rest.
- Moving your car to Scotland? Use an experienced car shipping company that prioritizes professionalism and care.
How Much Does it Cost to Move from the USA to Scotland?
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*Pricing above does not include gas, tolls, lodging, and other related moving expenses.
How to move to Scotland
Moving to Scotland from the U.S. requires lots of planning, research and paperwork, but we’re here to make your move as successful and pain-free as possible.
Obtaining a visa
If you’re an American citizen looking to move to Scotland, the first thing you’ll need to do is explore your visa options and determine which type you need to move to Scotland, whether that’s a student visa, partner visa, skilled worker visa, etc.
Learning more about visas and immigration on the UK government website will help you on your expat journey (this is also where you’ll file your visa application). Your biometric data is typically required during the visa process as well.
We should note that Americans who meet the proper qualifications can stay in the UK for up to six months within a 12-month period with no visa mandate, but your U.S. passport must be valid for six months after your date of departure. After that, you’ll be required to submit documentation to obtain your visa.
If you decide to move to Scotland after you’ve already found and secured a new job offer overseas, you’ll need to apply for a work visa from the Scottish government. In most cases, your new employer will assist you with this process as your visa sponsor.
In addition to sponsoring you, the employer may also need to complete a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) proving that you’re more qualified for the position than any existing “settled workers” in the European Economic Area.
If you want to study in Scotland, you’ll need to apply for an international student visa. Scotland has a robust education system, and pursuing a degree there is a great reason to move, whether you’re aiming to live in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, or beyond.
If you’re planning to bring family members along with you, the process is relatively quick and straightforward. Family members can apply for visas with you. Just be ready to supply proof that you can financially support them. You also want to confirm that you’ll all be living together.
Other important documents
Other required documents for moving to Scotland include proof of funds for studying purposes (typically done by providing your bank account details), a letter from your visa sponsor (if applicable), a valid passport, original qualifications, and a confirmation of acceptance for studies.
How to move your belongings from the U.S. to Scotland
Moving to a new country is no easy feat, but it can be well worth the hassle. Of course, you should only move with a reliable, experienced company. Some moving companies will conduct a home inspection to assess your needs and recommend the best course of action for your move.
If you don’t want to load up all your belongings by yourself, arrangements can be made for a moving company to pack and load your items for you. Once everything is packed and ready to go, you can have your items shipped via air or sea and delivered right to the door of your new home.
It’s crucial to compare and contrast international movers to evaluate your needs and what you can afford. Our list of the best international moving companies is a great place to get started.
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The best places to move in Scotland
Moving to Scotland is exciting, yet can also be daunting. It’s an undeniably gorgeous country, but no one wants to move across the globe only to end up in an unsafe or needlessly expensive area. Here are our picks for the best places to live as an American in Scotland:
- Edinburgh: As the capital of Scotland, this city offers an incredible mix of historical elements (like the Edinburgh Castle) and modernity, like the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. It’s not hard to see why the city is a fan-favorite among travelers and tourists alike. Edinburgh is also very walkable and has a robust public transportation system thanks to its many buses.
- Glasgow: This is the perfect destination for those who want a more affordable city but who still desire the benefits of metropolitan life.
- Dundee: This city is known as the “city of jute, jam, and journalism” thanks to its many successful industries. Housing costs are low, and you’re bound to be surrounded by friendly neighbors.
- Cromarty: This beautiful, family-friendly city is widely regarded as the best example of a well-preserved 18th-century city in Scotland.
- Inverness: Known for its excellent museums and attractions, Inverness will mesmerize you.
What’s life like in Scotland?
Moving to another country will likely incur feelings of culture shock and/or homesickness, which is totally natural. As a new resident (and potential future British citizen, if you end up pursuing that route), you’re sure to be stunned by the access to nature and the stunning scenery to be found in places such as the Scottish Highlands.
In time you’ll become acclimated to Scottish accents and British spelling (e.g., “favor” becomes “favour”). You may also need to get used to sometimes experiencing all four seasons in one day! Scotland’s weather can be unique and unpredictable.
Scotland isn’t just home to a rich culture and gorgeous landscapes. Scottish residents are also offered ample opportunities in a number of career fields, including healthcare, education, science, finance, and the creative arts. Potential residents can click here to learn more about working in Scotland.
As for working hours, Scotland has a reputation of rewarding its workers after their 35- to 40-hour work weeks. Employees can expect decent pay and a solid work-life balance. Ample vacation (aka “holiday”) time can be a major source of attraction for many Americans who might have had a very different experience in the U.S. workforce.
Renting in Scotland
If you’re cost-conscious, the cost of living can be an excellent motivating factor for moving to Scotland. Keep in mind that renting from private landlords is typically cheaper than renting from an agency, which is especially true if you plan to rent an apartment or house in a bigger city like Edinburgh.
Be cautious in your apartment hunt, though, as some owners rent illegally. If you decide to lease from a private landlord, always ask to see their registration number. If you choose to rent with an agency, you’ll find plenty of housing options on Lettingweb and other similar sites.
Scotland residents should know there are additional taxes for local services like garbage collection, schools, and general maintenance. However, these taxes depend on where you live and the type of accommodations you have. Check with your landlord or agency beforehand to learn more about the taxes you’ll be required to pay.
Moving to Scotland: FAQ
How expensive is living in Scotland?
In urban areas, particularly in city centers, the cost of living in Scotland can somewhat high — mainly because Scotland is a progressive nation with a flourishing economy.
However, Scotland is generally known as one of the less expensive places to reside in the UK. The Scottish economy has managed to remain largely stable even in the face of market disturbances brought about by Brexit.
Is Scotland safe?
In Scotland, like in any other country, there are plenty of safe and also not-so-safe areas. The areas with the lowest crime rates include Orkney, East Dunbartonshire, and Aberdeenshire.
What is the climate like in Scotland?
The climate in Scotland is referred to as “temperate oceanic,” meaning it’s milder than expected based on its latitude. The area is small, but strong southwest winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean into the western mountains often result in precipitation.
What are some of the main differences between Scottish and American cultures?
While there are many differences between the Scottish and American cultures, one of the most noticeable is the distinct Scottish accent. Scottish people speak with an accent that’s a combination of Scots phonology, Gaelic roots, and English vocabulary. Created a mere three centuries ago, this accent is one of the newest ones found in the UK.
Another thing you’ll likely have to get used to as an American (especially if you’re a late-night grocery shopper) is that most shops in Scotland close between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Moving to Scotland
The decision to move abroad is a big one and not one to be taken lightly. The more time you invest in research and planning, the more streamlined and hassle-free your move will be.
And remember that a move this big doesn’t happen overnight. Perform your due diligence, have your visa ready, and ensure you have enough money saved up for the trip!
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