If you’re planning on moving to the UK, our guide below should be your first port of call. Before you arrive, you’ll need to know what to expect about your new life in the United Kingdom, including:
- What visa you need to work or study in the UK.
- The cost of living in the UK.
- How to find accommodation.
- Your rights to public services in Great Britain.
Discover what type of UK visa you need
To live and study or work in the UK, you’ll need a visa to guarantee your stay. In most cases, the process of getting your visa will start in your home country. However, if you’re just starting your journey to the UK, your first step is deciding which visa you need.
- Student visas
You’ll need a student visa if you intend to take a short or long-term course at a UK academic institution. Students must apply for this visa if they come from a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Depending on the length of your course, your visa type will vary. For example, If you intend to study for an undergraduate degree, you’ll need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa.
However, for all types of student visas, you should:
- Be at least 16 years of age.
- Have an acceptance letter from the college or university.
- Be able to write and speak English fluently.
- Be able to support yourself financially.
- Work visas
If you’re from a non-EEA country, you’ll need to apply for a visa to work in the UK. Depending on the nature of your work, there are several types of work visas.
For example, if you have a job offer for a skilled role, you or your employer will have to apply for a Tier 2 (General) Visa. Whereas if you’re transferring overseas for the same company, you’ll need a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa.
Like student visas, your work visa application is usually conditional on you meeting a specific requirement. In this case, your application has a better chance of success if accompanied by a job offer from an employer.
Learn about the cost of living in the UK
The cost of living means the average price of living and paying for everyday expenses in a particular country, town or city.
Knowing the cost of living where you plan to live can affect your choice of occupation, accommodation and the amount of savings you’ll need to transfer to the UK. For example, a one-bedroom flat in Middlesbrough could cost the same as a room in a four-person houseshare in London.
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Other factors such as the average price of utility bills, local transport and groceries are considered when determining the cost of living in different UK cities. Websites like Numbeo can help you learn more about living in each UK location. Their database includes detailed information on average prices for expenses such as restaurant meals for two, take-away coffee and taxi journeys.
By understanding the costs of living in the UK, you’ll be able to work out what you can afford with your disposable income. For instance, your ability to have a car, save money or send money to family overseas.
Budget for flights and shipping costs
Moving to a new country can be overwhelming. With so much to consider, the price of transporting yourself and your belongings may be overlooked. A great idea is to include the shipping and flight prices in any budget you make for moving overseas.
For example, the average shipping cost for 200kg of cargo from Shanghai to London, is around 582 USD. For context, the baggage allowance for an economy ticket on British Airways is 69kg. That free allowance consists of one piece of hand luggage and two checked-in items, all at a 23kg maximum.
With this in mind, it’ll be easier to work out how much to send via freight and what to take on your flight.
Find accommodation in the UK
If you’re a student, finding accommodation can be easier than if you’ve come to the UK to work. That’s because universities can offer you student accommodation or connect you to platforms, like Unite Students and iQ, that specialise in student housing.
Alternatively, most university towns and cities provide affordable housing to students, usually in the form of house shares. If you are searching for accommodation without a host institution’s support, it is advisable to research available housing before moving to the UK.
When you first arrive, you should spend some time visiting accommodation in person before choosing which property to rent. While you are doing so, a cost-effective temporary accommodation solution is to stay at a local bed and breakfast (B&B) or an Airbnb.
Both alternatives tend to be better value than hotels, and you could benefit from the homeowner’s local knowledge and advice. Before signing any rental agreements, make sure you are aware of your responsibilities and also that you have checked that the rental amount is a fair price for the local area.
If you’re not a student, websites such as SpareRoom and Gumtree are great starting points in finding private rooms, studios and small flats.
Research the UK healthcare system
To ensure that you receive the necessary healthcare while in the UK, it’s important to be aware of the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS offers free general healthcare and emergency medical treatment to all UK residents.
General healthcare tends not to include dental and optical treatment for over-18s, depending on individual circumstances. Patients in England usually have to pay for prescriptions; this is not currently the case in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
The entitlement of non-UK citizens to the NHS depends on the length of their stay in the UK.
However, some services are free to all. These include emergency treatment, family planning services and compulsory psychiatric treatment.
If you have a lawful residency of 12 months or more, you will be entitled to full NHS treatment.
Alternatively, if you are on a course lasting six months or more in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, and all courses in Scotland, you are entitled to full NHS treatment.
Nationals from the EEA should get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to the UK. This card entitles the holder and their family to full NHS treatment, no matter the length of their stay. Your EHIC card is valid until its expiry date. After that, you’ll need to apply for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
Some countries, such as Ukraine and Moldova, have Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with the UK.
These agreements allow the nationals or residents of applicable countries to receive some NHS treatments due to illnesses arising during your stay.
If you’re planning on an extended stay in the UK, you should register with your local GP once you arrive.
Find out how to set up a bank account in the UK
When you move to the UK, you’ll need a bank account to receive, send, deposit and save money. There are many high-street, digital and mobile banks all offering bank accounts with excellent features.
To set up a bank account, you normally need to have evidence of your identity, such as:
- A passport.
- A driving licence.
- Proof of address.
Proof of address may be difficult to obtain if you’ve only just moved to the UK, but there are several ways around this. You could use your employment contract, payslip or a P2 PAYE Coding Notice as proof of address.
A Coding Notice is a letter you’ll receive from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) informing you of your tax code. To learn more, read our guide to opening a bank account in the UK.
Discover how the UK tax system works
With your National Insurance number, you’ll be able to pay the correct amount of tax. Most people pay tax in the UK, but in reality, taxes are deducted directly from your salary. The two main taxes in the UK are income tax and national insurance.
Income tax is a tax you pay on your income, such as your salary from your employer or some profits you make if you’re self-employed. There is a tax-free allowance for most people of £12,500, i.e. you’ll only pay tax on earnings above this amount.
National insurance is a type of government tax you pay on your earnings.
Your National Insurance number helps HMRC and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) work out how much you’ll pay in contributions and your entitlement to certain benefits.
Read our guide on how to get a National Insurance number in the UK.
Check your entitlements to state benefits.
If you move to the UK, you may qualify for some financial support from the government, in the form of state benefits. Some reasons you may be entitled to help include having a disability and working part-time.
The following are examples of the types of benefits available in the UK:
- Income support.
- Universal Credit.
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- Housing Benefit.
- Disability Living Allowance.
- Pension Credit.
- Tax Credits.
To qualify for financial help, you will need to prove your habitual residency in the UK and meet several other criteria depending on the particular benefit.
For example, before you can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must have lived in the UK for at least three months prior to your application.
The benefits that you may receive will be dependent on your nationality, with EEA nationals generally having more eligibility than non-EEA citizens.
When you rent accommodation in the UK, always think about household bills. In some cases, your bills are part of the rent, but tenancy agreements like this are rare. Everyday household bills include:
- Council tax.
Council tax is a tax set by local councils to pay for the services they provide, such as waste collections and street lights. Everyone who rents a flat, room or owns a property has to pay council tax. There are exceptions and reductions, however, for certain people such as single-person households and students.
Integrate within the community
When moving to the UK from another country, it may be difficult to feel part of your new community. However, you can quickly get to know people in your local community or workplace by joining clubs or societies like the YMCA and the Red Cross.
These might be commercially run or set up by voluntary groups, councils or local religious groups.
Find the cheapest way to send money back home
Once you’ve settled in your new surroundings, it could be a great time to send a gift back home. According to World Bank projections, international remittances will top $470 billion in 2021. This estimation shows the considerable impact cash gifts can make to friends and family overseas.
If you’re planning on transferring money to loved ones abroad regularly, you’ll need to find the best options on the market. Azimo is the cheaper, faster and safer way to send money home.
But don’t just take our word for it. Use a comparison website like Monito to see which money transfer providers offer the best overall deals. Usually, it’s Azimo.
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