Moving from the U.S. to the UK is a very exciting process that requires advance planning, budgeting, research, and significant preparation — whether you’re moving to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, or England. Living abroad is an exciting adventure – and one that requires thoughtful pre-planning!
There is so much to love about the UK, from its rich cultural history (the Beatles, Harry Potter, Dickens, and more), to its actual history (the Tudors, the modern-day Royal Family, etc.), and, of course, an abundance of football (aka soccer) teams, if you’re into that kind of thing.
If you’re planning on moving from the U.S. to the UK, you’ll need to develop a plan and a budget. Unfortunately, moving isn’t free. Check out our moving cost calculator to get an estimate of what your move might cost.
Many Americans who visit Great Britain are inspired to move to Europe.
In 2018, Non-EU citizens, including U.S. citizens, accounted for approximately 62 percent of long-term immigration to Great Britain. Yet, deciding to move to a new country is different from simply visiting. To move to the UK, you’ll need to secure a UK visa, and meet certain requirements, as well as be aware of international moving options.
It can be an incredibly challenging endeavor, especially if you are unaware of the various UK visa options, requirements, and international moving options.
Here are some other articles that might help you plan your move:
- Best USA to UK movers: The international moving industry has some bad movers in it. When all of your belongings are at stake, don’t take chances. These are the top international movers we recommend.
- Ship your car overseas: Taking your car with you? (Remember, you will need to drive it on the other side of the road!) Use a company that prioritizes professionalism, cares for your vehicle and is experienced. (Read more about importing a vehicle into the UK on the UK government website.)
- International Moving Costs: Moving internationally comes with its own set of expenses. Learn more about the specific costs associated with an international move.
What are the best international movers?
|Company||Price||Vendor Type||Quoting options||Storage||Minimum Move Size|
|JK Moving Services||$$||Carrier||Phone/virtual estimate||Yes||1 bedroom|
|North American Van Lines||$$$||Carrier||Phone/virtual estimate||Yes||1 bedroom|
|Allied||$$$||Carrier||Phone/virtual estimate||Yes||1 bedroom|
How to move from the US to the UK
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Moving from the U.S. to the UK is a substantial undertaking. You’ll need to do a lot of legwork to make it happen because of strict UK visa requirements. Don’t be deterred, though, because there are great UK visa options available to U.S. citizens, if you meet specific requirements.
Below, we will have a closer look into the type of visa you can pursue when moving from the U.S. to the UK. We’ll also look at the general process of moving to the UK including getting free quotes from the top movers.
UK visa information
Several long-term and short-term visa options are available to Americans who want to live in the United Kingdom for an extended period. And if you want to take your family members with you, there’s a visa process for that, too. Any family member that comes with you will need a UK visa to live in the UK.
Any U.S. citizen who enters the UK will require a visa to stay within the country beyond six months. U.S. citizens can stay in the UK up to six months as a visitor, on a tourist visa.
Since 2016, the UK has become stricter regarding immigration after Brexit. Moving from the U.S. to the UK is notoriously difficult. But it’s not impossible. You just need to follow the visa regulations and requirements set forth by the UK government.
You can eventually obtain a UK resident visa if you want to live in this country indefinitely, or you can become a UK citizen with these visa options. However, a resident visa and becoming a UK citizen all require a lot of time, paperwork, money, and effort. Here are some of the different visa options.
A partner or spouse visa
If you want to live in the UK full time, you can apply for a partner or spouse visa if you are married to a person who is a British citizen. If you move to the UK on this type of visa, you can work and study in the country.
You can remain in the UK for 2 years and 9 months on this type of visa, after which point you’ll need to file an application to extend your stay.
After spending five years on this type of visa, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain, otherwise known as permanent residency.
However, you must meet several requirements to move to the UK on a partner or spouse visa. The requirements are as follows:
- You must prove one of the following: you’re in a civil partnership or marriage that is recognized in the UK, you’ve been living together in a relationship for at least two years, or that you are a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner and will marry within 6 months of arriving in the UK.
- You must be able to prove that you have a good knowledge of the English language.
- You must prove, typically through bank account statements, that you can financially support yourself and your dependants.
A work visa
Moving from the U.S. to the UK is a decision often made for career/professional reasons, study, or family/relationship.
To work in the UK, you will need a work visa, or you will need to be on a type of visa which allows you to work. For example, on a student visa, you are able to work, but you have limited working rights –– you can’t work a full-time job in the UK on a student visa.
There are a wide range of work visa options for the UK. These include Temporary work visas, Skilled worker visa, Start-up visa, Global Talent visa, and more. Learn about all the different UK work visa options on the UK government website.
Each type of work visa has different application requirements, and will permit you to live in the UK for a specific amount of time, after which you may be able to extend your stay, or apply for indefinite leave to remain.
A UK ancestry visa
When applying for visas to live in the UK, you can apply for a UK ancestry visa if you meet these eligibility requirements. These include the following:
- You are over the age of 17.
- You have enough money to support and house yourself and any dependents, without the use of public funds.
- You can work and plan to work in the UK.
- You must show you have a grandparent born in one of the following circumstances:
- Born in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man
- Born before March 31, 1922 in what is now known as Ireland.
- Born on a ship or aircraft that was registered in the UK, or belonged to the UK government.
- You can not claim ancestry through step-parents, but you can claim it if you or your parents were adopted.
This type of visa allows you to stay in the country for five years. After, you can request indefinite leave to remain as long as you meet regulations.
A student visa
A student visa is an excellent visa option for those wishing to live long-term in the UK for the duration of their studies.
Unlike the other visa options, you cannot apply for indefinite leave to remain with a student visa even if you have been staying in the UK for five years.
If you intend to stay in the UK for longer than six months for study purposes, you will need to apply for a student visa.
You will also need to apply for this type of visa if you intend to work or take an internship while studying in this country.
You can apply for a student visa to study in the UK if you meet the following requirements:
- You’re 16 years old or older.
- You’ve been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor.
- You have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course.
- You can speak, read, write, and understand the English language.
- You have parental consent (if you’re age 16-17).
How to move your belongings from the U.S. to the UK
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Moving from the U.S. to the UK likely also means moving your clothes and some belongings.
Are you wondering how you can move your things from the U.S. to the UK? This is a common concern as many people don’t want to leave their belongings when moving overseas. Fortunately, there are a few transportation options available to those making an international move.
However, you need to ensure that you use a recognized and reputable company with experience in moving household goods from the U.S. to the UK. You must also provide the international moving company with the origin and destination details and the volume of the goods you need to transport.
It’s also a good idea to provide them with your estimated budget and how quickly you need to transport your possessions from the US to the UK.
If you need your goods to be quickly moved from the U.S. to the UK, you can use an air international freight moving service. However, air freight is incredibly costly and is usually suitable for those who only plan to move the volume of possessions that could fit in a one-bedroom apartment.
Additionally, air freight is a popular option for those who need to move antiques and priceless art collections. In general, air freight transit times from the U.S. to the UK can take between 5 to 10 days.
International air freight companies:
If your moving budget is more conservative, you will likely want to choose sea freight as your international moving transportation service. However, sea freight transit times are much longer than air freight.
You can expect your belongings to take approximately 8 to 14 weeks to reach you in the UK when you ship them in a container from the U.S.. There are two container options available with sea freight.
Most Americans moving to the United Kingdom choose to use a shared container service. This is because sharing a container is much more cost-effective as you only need to pay for the space your goods occupy.
However, this option doesn’t suit everyone, as you will have limited space on what you can ship and will likely have to leave some of your belongings behind. This option is good for those who only need to move a few furniture items, a small office or a small one-bedroom apartment.
Unlike a shared container, an exclusive container allows you to ship much more. You will have the entire container load to use, which is ideal when moving large households.
Depending on how many possessions you’re moving, you will have to book a 20ft or 40 ft shipping container. However, an exclusive container is more expensive, so you need to make sure you need this much space for your household move.
International sea freight companies
Why are people moving from the U.S. to the UK?
There are over 100,000 U.S.-born citizens living in the UK. In general, many U.S. citizens choose to leave their home country and relocate to the United Kingdom for better work opportunities and because of family ties.
Some Americans who decide to immigrate to the UK do so because they met their spouse while visiting the country. Americans working full-time in England are covered by strong labor laws and receive generous employee benefits. As a result of these generous benefits and ample holiday (vacation) time, UK employees also earn far less than their American citizen counterparts doing the same job at the same companies.
There are many reasons why the UK is a popular destination for Americans. Here are some more.
Many Americans choose to move to the UK because the taxes are better. US taxes for income tax are, however, lower in the U.S. than in the UK. Although personal income tax in the United Kingdom is higher than in the United States, the country does not have direct property taxes. In comparison, the U.S. levies property taxes at the local and state level. Additionally, the United Kingdom does not have social security taxes.
Brits receive their healthcare from the National Health Service (NHS) and medical services are free “at the point of use for the patient.” However, the NHS is taxpayer funded. The “free” healthcare is an attractive option for Americans who are used to paying high premiums for health insurance.
Neither the U.S. nor the UK has a perfect healthcare system. The UK lacks specialty doctors at the level they exist in the U.S., and with the NHS, it can be hard to get in for an appointment, a preventative test (like a colonoscopy), or a needed surgery.
American expats living in the UK will have access to the NHS at little to no cost. Additionally, medication is also usually subsidized, making it much more affordable than in America.
If you are an American who enjoys arts, culture, and sporting events, the UK might be the best choice for you. This prosperous country is known for its rich cultural history and leading arts and sporting events.
Many of the world’s major sporting events occur in major cities like Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow, and London. It’s also easy to catch public transport with minimum hassle to attend an art show or music festival, such as Glastonbury.
Many also move to the UK thanks to great working conditions or a company job offer. The exchange rate of the Great Britain Pound (GBP) is higher than most other currencies. If you land a new job in the UK, you can enjoy what feels like a pay bump — especially when traveling to other countries where your money will go further.
Frequent travelers will enjoy living in the United Kingdom, given its close proximity to the beaches of Greece, the lights of Paris, the food of Italy, and more.
The UK is a geographic hub because of its proximity to many popular countries and its access to 24 different international commercial airports. In addition to accessible international flights, you can also look forward to Eurostar train trips and ferry ports that will take you where you want to go at affordable rates.
Americans with families often consider becoming expats in the UK because of the country’s strong education system. There are many renowned universities in the UK, such as the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Edinburgh. Additionally, any American who has become a resident of the United Kingdom has the right to send their child to a public school for free.
Cost of living
It is no secret that living in America is expensive. This is why many U.S. citizens are choosing to move to the UK. On average, the cost of living in the UK is approximately 0.49 percent lower than the U.S.. Although this figure seems to be not much of an improvement, it is.
For example, rental costs in the UK are 22.55 percent lower than in the US. Additionally, the cost of food is also much cheaper in big cities in the UK when compared to cities in the U.S. Moving from the U.S. to the UK makes sense from a financial perspective if you’re solely looking at the cost of living.
Some of the best cities to move to in the UK
When you decide to move to the UK, you should identify your preferred UK cities in which to live. Some cities are better to move to if you have children in university, while others are better for work opportunities. Additionally, if you are planning to retire in the UK, some cities will be more suitable than others.
That’s why it’s best to do your research when debating between popular UK cities as your new home. Below you will see a few of the best cities in the UK that Americans should consider moving to:
Below are some of the common frequently asked questions related to moving from the U.S. to the UK.
Can a U.S. citizen live in the UK?
Yes. A U.S. citizen can live in the UK provided they have the proper visa to stay in the UK. They will only be allowed to remain in the UK for the specific period stipulated by their visa.
Is it difficult for an American to move to the UK?
Yes and no. In recent years it has become harder for Americans to move to the United Kingdom. Most Americans need to obtain a specific type of visa that demonstrates their reasons for moving to the UK.
To obtain a relevant visa and move to the UK, they will have to meet the specific visa requirements stipulated by the UK government. Once a visa has been obtained, the rest of the moving process is relatively easy.
How much money do you really need to immigrate to the UK?
How much money you will need to immigrate to the UK will vary greatly depending on your expenses and how many belongings you take.
Additionally, the origin and destination of your move will also affect how much you need. For example, moving from Los Angeles to the United Kingdom will have a different price when compared to a move from New York to the United Kingdom.
It can cost upwards of $1,400 to ship a 40 ft container containing household goods from the U.S. to the UK during peak season. In addition to this moving transportation cost, you must also consider that you will likely need money for your first few months of living expenses, depending on your visa.
What are the requirements to move to the UK?
The specific requirements you will need to meet as a U.S. citizen to move to the UK will depend on the visa you are applying for.
Is it easy to get a visa to live in the UK?
The application process for obtaining a UK visa is not too difficult, but it is a time-consuming process. Yet, just because it is a fairly simple procedure does not mean you will automatically be granted the visa you apply for. When applying for a UK visa, you will need to do the following:
- Fill out an application form in English.
- Pay the specific health surcharge and visa fee if necessary.
- Get your biometrics taken.
- Provide proof of your salary in some instances.
- Prove that you don’t have a criminal record.
- Have a valid passport.
How do I become a UK citizen?
If you are a U.S. citizen and want to become a UK citizen, you must meet a few basic requirements to apply for British citizenship. They include:
- You need to have no criminal record.
- You have to be 18 years or older.
- You need to be residing in the UK currently.
- You will have to pass the “Life in the UK” test.
- You will have to meet English language requirements.
- You can’t have traveled outside the UK for more than 90 days in the year you wish to apply for citizenship.
- You have to have been granted indefinite leave to stay in the United Kingdom.
- You will have to have, in most instances, lived in the UK for five years.
How long does it really take to move from the U.S. to the UK?
How long it takes to move from the U.S. to the UK will depend on several different factors.
Factors include things like when you began your visa application and which method of transportation you are choosing to move your belongings. It will also depend on if you’re moving via a work sponsorship or through family ties.
A visa application can take two to three months before you receive approval. If you don’t plan on taking any belongings with you, you can move as soon as you receive your visa.
If you are moving your belongings with you, you can still move immediately once you have your visa. However, it could take months for you to settle as sea freight transportation can take weeks to months before receiving your household goods.
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