United Kingdom

Think UK, and perhaps the British royal family, Adele and David Beckham will come to mind. The United Kingdom (UK) is not just home to many famous celebrities, but also home to many expatriates. If you are keen to relocate and settle down here, read on to learn more about living in this majestic country!

Overview

The UK is made up of 4 countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. One of the most powerful economies in the world, the UK ranks 5th by nominal GDP, which is a leading factor in attracting talents from all over the world.
Weather & Climate
Like most of north-west Europe, the UK has a temperate oceanic climate, making it unpredictable. Generally, it has warm summers and cool winters. The summers are cooler than the rest of the European continent, but its winters are milder. The warmest months are July and August and around the coast February is the coldest month, while inland it is January and February. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year with late winter and early spring getting the least rainfall and autumn and winter are usually the wettest period.
Holidays
National Public Holidays include:
  • New Year’s Day
  • St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland only)
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • May Day
  • Spring Bank Holiday
  • Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland only)
  • Summer Bank Holiday
  • St Andrew’s Day (Scotland only)
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
Public holidays in the UK are referred to as bank holidays. The official holidays vary depending on the different regions, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Do’s and Don’ts
There are strict regulations about the type of items that are prohibited or restricted in the UK. Violating these regulations might make you liable to criminal charges or even deportation. It is important to know the exact items that are banned to avoid getting yourself in this situation. You can click here to view the exact list of prohibited items and also find out more information on customs and quarantine.
Fun Facts
  • In 1811, it is estimated that 25% of all women in the UK were named Mary
  • People in the UK drink tea more than any other nation
  • The UK has 31 heritage sites protected by the Unesco
Cost of Living
The UK has a relatively high cost of living because it has higher housing prices, transport and energy costs. These costs vary from one city to the other, with those in the north of the country being less than those in the south with London being the most expensive. Salaries in the UK are comparatively good.
Tax Rates
Income Tax – The basic income tax rate is 20% for an income between £12,571 and £50,270 , 40% for an income between £50,271 to £150,000 and 45% for an income above £150,000 (as of 2021)


Goods & Services Tax – There is a 20% value added tax on most goods and services.

Famous Things
  • Royal Family
  • British Premier League
  • Tea and Scones
  • River Thames
  • Stonehenge

Visa & Employment Passes

Since 2010, the UK government has introduced a 5-tier visa system for those who wish to live and work in the UK. Do read up the necessary information on the immigration website to understand which visa you are eligible for:
  • Tier 1 visa: For ‘high-value migrants’ from outside the EEA (e.g. investors, entrepreneurs etc.)
  • Tier 2 visa: For ‘skilled workers’ from outside the EEA with a job offer in the UK (e.g. general work, intra-company transfer, minister of religion, sportsperson etc.)
  • Tier 4 visa: For students aged over 16 from outside the EEA who wish to study in the UK
  • Tier 5 visa: Temporary work visa

Visa And Citizenship
UK offers various visas and it is important to check which visa you should obtain. Since late 2018, UK Visa and Immigration has updated its application procedures for settlement, citizenship and temporary work/study stay. Moving forward, most of the applications will have to be filled up online. For more information, do visit the UK Government website.
Work Permit Process For Foreigners
Before applying for a work permit you will need:
  • A confirmed offer of employment from a licensed UK employer, who will also act as your sponsor
  • Your employer must issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship
  • Pass the points-based assessment. These vary according to the type of work permit sought

There are three main categories of UK work permits for foreign expats
  • Tier 2 General-Skilled Worker
  • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
Job Opportunities
Some popular industries popular industries in the UK include public administration, education, and health. The average salary is £29,600 per annum as of May 2021.

To stand a better chance, do look out for networking opportunities with companies that you are interested in, check out some of the online job portals or professional and trade associations.
Job Seeking Sites

Housing & Connectivity


Buying Property
The median house price for foreigners is £256,405 as of March 2021. Foreigners, independent of whether you are a resident, have the legal rights to buy property in the UK. The good news is that in recent years, UK has hit a record-low in interest rates on mortgages. Expats are able to apply for mortgage but the terms are dependent on the individual banks. This makes it important to understand the different types of mortgages in the UK:


1) Fixed rate mortgages
This type of mortgages guarantee that the same interest rate will be applied for the duration of the agreement – most often up to 5 years.

2) Variable rate mortgages
This type of mortgages are subject to changes in interest rates, which could be based on either the Standard Variable Rate (SVR) or Bank of England (BoE) rates.

You can find more relevant information on applying for mortgages and dealing with banks here. There are also different products where their availability are subjected to buyers in specific situations. For example, first time buyers might be entitled to a different offers than other buyers.

There are several sites that provide listings for UK property on sale and rent such as RightMove, Zoopla, Onthemarket and Tepilo. You can also engage estate agents for your house-hunting. This is often the preferred method as you will be able to tap on the local knowledge expertise of these agents. When engaging the help of an estate agent, do ask about their service inclusions so that you can select the appropriate agent who fits your preference and budget.
Housing Rental
Renting would be more appropriate if you are intending to relocate and stay in the UK for only a couple of years. Buying a property in this case would not be as cost-efficient as it may be harder for you to recuperate stamp duty and other costs in the short-term. Make sure you understand all the rules and boundaries involved in renting, as well as your own rights when renting a property. You can check out a free version of “A guide for Tenants.” Furthermore, it is good to know that rental in big cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow will be slightly more expensive as compared to rental in smaller towns. The average rental per month is £996 as of 2021.

Mobile Network Providers

Prices vary but there are many deals and the average is about £40. UK mobile companies operate on the GSM standard and you might need to have your phone unlocked. The four biggest networks are EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone, but they also have piggybackers. The best coverage depends on which area you are in, so find out from the locals which one has the best signal. The average mobile phone bill per month is £46.50 as of 2021.
Internet Service Providers
  • The average internet monthly bill is £31.10 as of 2021. EE has some of the fastest speeds and Virgin Media has good speeds and service. BT has the UK’s best coverage and Zen Internet is known for its top customer service. Prices start from £14.49 at Plusnet and Vodafone has many great deals.
  • The average monthly utility bill, including water, electricity and gas is £92 as of Jan 2021. In the UK most homes are already connected to the water supply, electricity and gas. If they are not most homeowners are willing to help tenants with these. If you are buying the home, you will have to arrange to do this yourself. There are many different gas and electricity providers in UK, here are some of them:

  • The processes for all of these are very straightforward in the UK and you are free to choose from any utility provider. Water utilities usually are one provider per region. For buyers that use less water, it is advised that you install a meter, if your house doesn’t have, to pay by metered rates instead.

Getting Around

You will need a current driving license with an international driving permit to drive in Britain. Along with that, you would need a proof of ownership or rental agreement of your vehicle as well as any other insurance documents. You can read more about the specificities of driving in UK, such as knowing about the road rules here.
Public Transport System
The average transportation cost is £81 per month as of Jan 2021. UK has a reputable public transport system which consists of a combination of buses, trains and trams. Some bus schedules are designed specifically to accommodate school and business timings. As such, there is a lack of noon and weekend services.

Black cabs (London’s official taxi) can be hailed on the street or at designated areas. If the yellow TAXI sign is switched on, it simply means that the cab is available for hire. The black cabs are metered with a minimum charge of £3.20 and you can check out the rates here. Alternatively, Uber’s services have rapidly expanded in the big British cities since its official UK launch in 2012, and also serve as a travel option on top of taxis and minicabs.
Intercity Transport System
With an extensive network of intercity coaches and trains, getting around UK from one city to another is rather convenient and efficient. This means you can easily head over from Birmingham to Manchester over the weekend within a couple of hours. The main operators for intercity coaches are National Express, Megabus, EasyBus, Scottish Citylink, Ulsterbus and Goldline in Northern Ireland (cf. Translink). For great deals, you can check out comparison sites like CheckMyBus.

Do bear in mind that coach tickets must be purchased in advance as they are not allowed to be purchased directly when boarding. The main operators for intercity trains include National Rail, The Trainline, Virgin Trains, Network Rail and Great Western Railway.
Driving In The UK
You can use your foreign driver’s license for up to a year in the UK, if it’s not in English, its best to get an international permit. Along with that, you would need a proof of ownership or rental agreement of your vehicle as well as any other insurance documents. You can read more about the specificities of driving in UK, such as knowing about the road rules here.

The average price of a car in the UK ranges from £12,000 – £36,000, depending on the car models. The average annual insurance costs will be £484. The average yearly maintenance and servicing costs for a car in the UK is £273 as of 2021.

Healthcare


UK boasts itself as one of the world’s leading healthcare systems. The National Health Service (NHS) provides healthcare services and funding to anyone living in the UK legally and on a permanent basis. All expats in the UK are entitled to free emergency treatment at NHS hospitals, regardless of immigration status. However, this service may be subjected to long waits and the uncertainty of appointments.

Alternatively, private hospitals will be speedier, but they are highly specialised in a particular type of care and the cost of treatments is expensive. Thus, most people do not choose this option unless they have health insurance.

Health insurance in UK There are many health insurance providers who offer international coverage. These are specially catered to expats when moving back to their home country or when generally travelling overseas. Employers in the UK are not legally obliged to provide medical insurance to their employees. As such, you will need to pay for your own health insurance. Thus, it is important that you do your research (you can check out this article on InterNations) and compare across various health insurance products when choosing your policy.

Banking


The simplest way to open a UK bank account would be doing it in your own home country first to ensure a safe and easy process. There are major world banks that have a presence in the UK to assist in this matter. Having a UK bank account rather than an international account is more beneficial as you would not have to deposit any money for the account to be active. Major banks in the UK include HSBC, Barclay’s, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Standard Chartered and Santander.

To set up your UK bank account:
  • Provide a proof of your address and a valid form of ID
  • You might also be required to provide your contract of employment and a HM Revenue & Customs P2 ‘PAYE Coding Notice’
  • Some banks may also require that you show a National Insurance (NI) number
These steps are just basic guiding steps. Should you need more information, you can head to the government’s Money Advice Service and online comparison websites for more details. HSBC provides a helpful guide for expats moving to the UK that specifies the types of bank accounts available and their benefits as well as useful financial advice.

Education

If you have children, you might want to prioritise choosing a school and let that guide the choice of which city to live in. This is because majority of government-funded schools in the UK and certain private schools admit students based on catchment areas.
International Schools
International schools are the most popular choice amongst the expat community, their children are allowed to resume studying the same syllabus from back home. This really accommodates for expat families who are not down for a long-term stay and ensures a seamless transition for their children’s education. The current international schools in the UK encompass the American, French, Japanese, Canadian and Australian national curricula. As international school fees are more expensive, you could try to negotiate for an allowance into your employment contract and add in the coverage of the cost of school fees.
Public Schools (aka private/independent schools)
The term “Public schools” are perceived as the most exclusive and prestigious private schools in the UK. Some well-known examples include Eton College, Harrow School and Wellington College. Most public schools are highly selective, as many contain boarding facilities for students as well. Apart from public schools, the other two forms of fee-paying schools in the UK include Private schools and independent schools. Whilst independent schools are overseen by a board of governors or trustees, private schools are run by the owners, thus are comparatively more selective.
Government Schools (aka State Schools)
On the contrary, government-funded schools are labelled as state schools, as most provide education free of charge. Some students from state schools will also be selected to attend more academically-oriented secondary schools called grammar schools through the 11-plus exam. However, international students must have a British or European Union passport in order to enroll into a state school, which might be something you’d like to consider. In order to view the quality of the teaching, facilities and qualifications of the schools, you can visit the school’s Ofsted (Office of Standards in Education) report.
Universities
The UK boasts incredible rankings for its universities according to the QS World Universities Rankings 2021. The University of Oxford holding the 5th ranking in the world, while the University of Cambridge follows after at 7th, Imperial College London and UCL (University College London) coming in at 8th and 10th place respectively.

Other notable universities also include the University of Edinburgh coming in at 20th place, the University of Manchester at 27th position, King’s College London (KCL) at 31st position, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) at 49th position, the University of Bristol at 58th position and the University of Warwick at 62th position.

Pet Relocation

Shipping a pet to the UK is a tedious task that requires a significant amount of time and preparation. Here’s a general breakdown of the costs needed to relocate with your furry friend.
Requirements
There are certain rules and regulations to met when bringing your pet into the UK. If any of these rules are not met, your pet may be quarantined for up to four months. Some of these rules include:
  • Your pet must arrive within five days before or after your arrival
  • Fill in and submit this declaration form confirming that your pet is not for selling purposes
  • Your pet has been microchipped
  • Your pet has a passport or health certificate
  • Your pet has been vaccinated against rabies, and for dogs to be vaccinated against tapeworms
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