Moving to the UK From the USA: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re planning on moving to the UK from the USA, you’ll need to develop a plan and a budget to do it as efficiently and painlessly as possible. Because international moves involve crossing borders and often flying across international waters, you’ll have to use a professional moving company if you’re moving more than what you can take in a suitcase. You’ll also need to apply for visas and budget for taxes.

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Unfortunately, moving internationally isn’t cheap –– it can cost between $2,000 and $15,000 to move abroad –– and international relocations have a lot of moving parts. Check out our moving cost calculator to get an estimate of what your move might cost.

Dive into our step-by-step guide so you can choose the best international moving company for the job and get your ducks in a row before you set off on your dream European lifestyle.

The best international movers

The best international movers are at the top of their game. They have a robust range of services and a proven track record of going above and beyond for their customers. Three of our favorite international moving companies are JK Moving Services, North American Van Lines, and International Van Lines.

Company Price Vendor Type Quoting options Storage Services BBB Score
JK Moving Services $$$ Carrier Phone/virtual estimate Yes Packing/unpacking, furniture assembly, car shipping, corporate relocation, military moves A+
North American Van Lines $$$ Carrier Phone/virtual estimate Yes Packing/unpacking, corporate relocation, car shipping, packing supplies A+
International Van Lines $$$ Carrier and broker Phone/virtual estimate Yes Packing/unpacking, office, relocation, furniture assembly, car shipping, military moves A

How much does it cost to move to the UK?

Moving to a new country is not cheap. Unlike local or interstate moves, you can’t throw everything in a car or grab a quick rental truck and do everything yourself to cut costs. The Atlantic Ocean presents its challenges, so you’ll need to ship, mail, or hire movers to coordinate on your behalf.

The average move from the United States to the UK ranges from $2,000 to $14,500, but that’s just movers, and that’s a wide range. The cost of moving to the UK is far more than the cost for movers and getting your belongings there.

We’ve prepared a table of cost ranges for various move sizes, so you can set your budget accordingly.

Move Size Cost Range
1 bedroom $2,500–$3,700
2 bedroom $4,500–$6,500
3 bedroom $8,000–$10,000
4 bedroom $11,000–$15,000

Keep in mind that these are only ranges and your unique moving situation will contribute to your total costs. We recommend shopping around, planning in advance, and taking advantage of price matching promotions where you can.

The following factors play a role in how much you can expect to spend moving to the UK:

  • Your visa application and processing fees
  • Airfare and other flight expenses
  • Desired moving services
  • The volume and weight of goods you’re transporting
  • Housing deposits
  • Safe pet transport
  • The distance between your origin and destination locations
  • The time of year

How to move to the UK from the USA

Relocating yourself to the UK isn’t always the most straightforward process, so you’ll want to take your time with each step if you have the luxury to do so. Let’s walk through it.

Plan a visit

You’ll have an easier transition and a better house-hunting experience if you’re able to get the lay of the land in person. Take at least one trip to the UK before your move so you can scout neighborhoods, visit flats, and make informed decisions that fit your and your family’s needs.

Declutter and organize

Before packing, you’ll need to decide exactly what you intend to take. We recommend leaving anything behind that you can easily replace once you’re abroad, as excess belongings will certainly add to your moving expenses.

You know yourself and your belongings best, so take the time to sort through them, resell what you can, and donate what’s left. Once your items are in order, you can hire packing help or begin the process yourself.

Pack

Gather moving supplies, including boxes of all shapes and sizes, bubble wrap, cling wrap, moving blankets, newspaper, and anything else to safeguard your items in transit. Many professional moving companies sell packing supplies, but they come with a premium price tag.

If you’re on a budget, you can ask liquor stores and other Big Box retailers to hold onto boxes for you or recycle boxes from online shopping. Neighborhood groups can be a great resource, so don’t be afraid to ask around. You can also check out our guide on where to buy moving boxes for more free and cheap options.

Pack your items securely or hire professionals to ensure your household goods arrive in one piece.

Gather important paperwork

Family birth certificates, social security cards, passports, and important health information should be easily accessible through the moving process. Safely store it on your person in a dedicated folder or locking suitcase to avoid anything getting lost in transit. Documentation is especially important if you intend to move your pets with you.

Types of visas

There are many visas with varying requirements, and it can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.

Here are a few of the common visas for Americans moving to the UK:

  • Partner/spouse visa: Eligible to Americans married to a UK citizen, valid for two years and nine months before you’ll need to request leave to remain or other permanent residence permits
  • Skilled worker visa: Available to Americans working for a UK business that acts as a sponsor (replaced Tier 2 general work visa)
  • UK ancestry visa: Available to Americans over the age of 17 who have enough money to support themselves without public funds and plan to work. Applicants must show proof of ancestry to a UK country
  • Student visa: Available to students who plan to stay in the country for six months or longer

We recommend consulting an immigration attorney or other qualified professional to choose the best option for your needs.

Make your travel arrangements

Once you’ve gotten your ducks in a row, you can begin planning to actually get yourself to the UK. You can hunt for the best deals on flights by using Google Flight’s price tracking feature, your credit card’s travel protections, or third-party aggregators like Kayak, Experian, and Going.

If you’re flying with pets or kids, ensure you have all the proper documentation for safe and efficient transport. Looking for more information? Read our guide on moving with pets.

How to move your belongings to the UK

Moving from the U.S. to the UK likely means moving your clothes and belongings. While it’s ideal to downsize and replace anything you can when you settle in your new country, you’ll still need to make arrangements for anything that can’t fly with you.

Air freight

Who it’s best for: 

  • Art or antique collectors
  • Movers with a flexible budget
  • People with just a few personal items

Not ideal for: 

  • Heavy or large shipments
  • Movers on a tight budget

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 far and wide the most expensive international shipping option, so we only recommend it for Americans planning to move less than a one-bedroom apartment’s worth of items.

Air freight is a popular option for moving antiques and priceless art collections because it offers more security and faster shipping times than other methods. Air freight transit times from the U.S. to the UK generally take five to 10 days, which can allow you to settle into your new home quickly.

International air freight companies:

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Other options to consider:

Sea freight

Who it’s best for: 

  • Movers with a smaller budget
  • Movers with flexibility

Not ideal for: 

  • Movers on a tight moving schedule

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 eight 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.

Shared container

Most Americans moving to the United Kingdom choose to use a shared container service. 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 because you will have limited space to ship items. This option is good for those who only need to move a few pieces of furniture, a small office, or a small one-bedroom apartment.

Exclusive container

Unlike a shared container, an exclusive container allows you to ship more of your belongings. You will have the entire container to load as you see fit. Some exclusive containers even have enough room to ship a car, a small boat, or a large household’s worth of items.

Depending on how many possessions you’re moving, you will have to book a 20- or 40-foot shipping container. However, an exclusive container is a pricier moving option, so you may want to talk to a moving coordinator who can help you estimate your needs.

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  • 10% discount for veterans and seniors
  • Very competitive rates due to their national coverage
  • Services local, long-distance, and international moves
  • Can service most domestic moves within 48 hours
  • 24/7 customer service
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  • Over 74 years in business
  • More than 1,800 trucks in the fleet
  • 1,500 local agents covering all 50 states
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Things to know when moving to the UK from the USA

More than 137,000 U.S.-born citizens living in the UK as of 2024. 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.

England, Wales, and other attractive parts of the UK have seen an uptick in long- and short-term expats looking for relief from the tumultuous U.S. political landscape, but you’ll need to consider a few key things before you take the leap.

Taxes

Many Americans choose to move to the UK because the taxes feel more equitable. U.S. income tax taxes tend to be lower than in the UK, but citizens generally feel like they get more bang for their buck. 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, which can allow your income to go further in your new country.

That said, it’s important to meet with an accountant or tax attorney before you move to the UK because you may still have Internal Revenue Service (IRS) liabilities to consider.

Healthcare

Brits receive healthcare from the National Health Service (NHS), and medical services are free. The NHS is taxpayer-funded, which makes the national insurance available to everyone. 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. Prescription medication is also usually subsidized, making it much more affordable than in America. Common American prescriptions can even be found over the counter in some places.

The lifestyle

If you are an American who enjoys arts, culture, and electrified sporting events, the UK might be your best choice if you want to move to a new country where you already know the language. This prosperous country is known for its rich cultural history and leading arts and sporting events.

Many of the world’s largest 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 like Glastonbury.

People also move to the UK thanks to great working conditions or a company job offer. The Great Britain Pound (GBP) exchange rate 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.

Geographic location

The United Kingdom is an excellent home for frequent travelers, 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 look forward to Eurostar train trips and ferry ports that will take you where you want to go at affordable rates.

Education

Americans with families often consider relocating to the UK because of the country’s robust 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.

American expats who have settled in the United Kingdom can send their children to a public school for free.

Cost of living

It is no secret that living in America is expensive and the cost of living is climbing with inflation. On average, the cost of living in the UK is approximately 0.49% lower than in 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% lower than in the U.S. Additionally, the cost of food is much cheaper in big cities in the UK compared to cities in the U.S.

Moving from the U.S. to the UK makes sense financially if you’re solely looking at the cost of living.

Brexit

Since Brexit, EU citizens have much less flexibility to move to the UK, but Americans are largely unaffected. However, it’s still important for immigrants from all areas to be mindful that the UK isn’t as connected to the rest of Europe as it once was.

Immigrants will want to open a UK bank account as soon as they arrive, as most merchants are limited in the types of payments they can process. Brexit also makes imported goods more expensive.

Read up on British news about Brexit to assess whether it’s the right fit for your needs and any tips to navigate the changing landscape.

Best UK cities to live

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. If you are planning to retire in the UK, some cities will be more suitable than others.

Research popular UK cities so you can feel confident choosing your new home. Look beyond the tourist hot spots. If you have the time, consider taking a longer trip to Europe, so you can get the lay of the land and identify your priorities.

Below you will see a few of the best cities in the UK that Americans should consider moving to:

Scotland:

  • Edinburgh
  • Glasgow

England:

  • London
  • Birmingham
  • Southampton
  • Oxford
  • Cambridge
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Bath

Northern Ireland:

  • Belfast
  • Londonderry

FAQs about moving to the UK

Can a U.S. citizen live in the UK?

Yes, a U.S. citizen can live in the UK, but they’ll need to have a UK visa and meet the visa requirements. There are different types of visas, but family and skilled work visas are among the most common. It’s important to note that visas have time limits, so you’ll want to make other arrangements if you seek permanent residence.

Is it difficult for an American to move to the UK?

It can be difficult for an American to move to the UK if they aren’t able to meet the visa requirements. There are different types of visas and different application processes, so it can be helpful to read all you can before you move to find the best visa option for your situation.

Can I move to the UK without a job?

Yes, you can move to the UK without a job if you qualify for a spousal, ancestral, or student visa. If you don’t qualify for these visas, you may want to meet with an immigration attorney to discuss other options.

How do I become a UK citizen?

You can become a UK citizen after you’ve held indefinite leave to remain if you meet the following requirements:

  • You’re at least 18 years old
  • You have proof that you’ve been in the UK for at least five years
  • You have demonstrable proficiency in English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic
  • You have passed the “Life in the UK” exam
  • You have plans to continue living the UK
  • You have good character according to the naturalization guidelines

The UK government requires a £1,580 (about $1,988.87 USD) fee with your application, and you’ll need to submit biometric data, including fingerprints and a photo. Expats married to a British citizen may have a different application process, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with all the requirements before you apply.

You can find more information about the requirements for British citizenship on gov.uk.

How long does moving from the U.S. to the UK take?

The time it takes to move from the U.S. to the UK varies on a number of factors.

These factors include when you begin your visa application and which transportation method you choose to move your belongings. It will also depend on whether you’re moving via a work sponsorship or through a family member.

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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