Think UK, and perhaps the British royal family, Adele and David Beckham will come to mind. The United Kingdom is not just home to many famous celebrities, but also home to many expatriates. If you are keen to settle down here, read on to learn more about living in this majestic country!
You would probably want to look for a job to earn some “quid” (slang for pounds in the UK). Well, for a country with the third largest economy in Europe, there is an unemployment rate of merely 4%. This is the latest statistic at the end of July 2018 (joint lowest since 1975). It is safe to say that getting a job is not a huge problem. You can visit sites like Expatica’s UK job pages to find up-to-date and reliable selection of jobs in the UK. All sorted according to different sectors.
Furthermore, if you originate from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, check out EURES (European Employment Services)! EURES doesn’t only offer advice on legal and administrative issues, they also host their own Spring and Autumn job fairs.
There are also public government sites where you can use government-run search engine for jobs throughout the UK. Check out Universal jobseeker . If you prefer face-to-face interactions, there are actual JobCentres on the high streets of larger towns throughout the UK.
Visa and citizenship
UK offers various visas and it is important to check whether you even require a visa. You can do that here. For more about the visa and citizenship procedure, you can simply key in your details and it will guide you through the next steps. Find out more about the immigration processes here.
Depending on the place and time in which you were born, you might also be eligible for citizenship. To learn more, head to GOV.UK.
Cost of moving
The cost of moving varies a lot across the different companies as there is little transparency in the industry. However, you can easily get a quote on the Moovaz website. Key in where you are moving from, expected move date and items to be shipped over and a quote would be generated for you. The website allows you to conduct a video survey of your items at your own time and convenience, with any camera-enabled smart device.
Ensure that you do not bring restricted items
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.
Sounds all too scary and penalising? Fret not, as professional movers can often advise you regarding these regulations. If you are using Moovaz, the team will provide you with the necessary information needed when they assess your items.
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.
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 availabilities 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.
Renting would be more appropriate if you are intending to 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 and Glasgow will be slightly more expensive as compared to rental in smaller towns.
Cost of living
The cost of living will be the highest in cities like London as compared to other cities like Manchester as shown below:
(Data from TransferWise)
One main reason for the high expenses required for UK expats like yourself would be the conversion of your home currency to sterling. Banks are usually profiting from their provided exchange rates despite claiming that they offer ‘fee-free’ money exchange. As such, you can consider opting for an exchange service like TransferWise, to overcome the hidden extra costs.
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.
For British citizens and foreigners legally living in the UK, state schools are free-of-charge, due to its funding from taxes. State-funded schools are usually found in more affluent areas and these offer better teaching and facilities. 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.
The admission criteria is not generalisable, as each school’s criteria vary greatly. International students are of equal status to the British students however, admittedly, some schools are less willing to offer places to students who are only on short-term stay in UK.
The private schools in the UK are otherwise known as independent schools, and they generally adopt the British curriculum but have a more extensive range of subjects. There is an increasing trend of private schools in the UK offering students the chance to study the International Baccalaureate. Private schools offer better quality of teaching and smaller class sizes, but due to these benefits, the fees for private schools are more expensive. Each year, a limited number of scholarships are extended to gifted students, which might be something you’d like to consider.
International schools are the most popular choice amongst the expat community, as 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.
The UK boasts incredible rankings for its universities, with the University of Oxford holding the 5th ranking in the world, while the University of Cambridge follows after at 6th, Imperial College London and UCL (University College London) coming in at 8th and 10th place respectively. Overall, the brilliance of the UK universities helms the country’s second place position in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings 2018.
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.
UK has a reputable public transport system which consists of a combination of buses, trains and trams. The bus schedules are designed specifically to accommodate schools and businesses’ timings. As such, there is a lack of noon and weekend services.
The famous red double decker bus, and ‘the Tube’ which you’ve definitely heard of before at least once in your life – they sum up what the London public transport entails. The bulk of public transport in London requires Travelcards and Oyster Cards, which can make your travelling a lot more cost-efficient as well. You can visit TFL.gov.uk for more information.
Car Sharing and Taxis
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 £2.60 and you can check out the rates here.
Another cheaper option would be minicabs, which requires booking. However, do remember to ask for prices beforehand as they will not be featured on a meter.
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.
The main operators for intercity transport are National Express, Megabus, EasyBus, Scottish Citylink and 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.
Mobile Network Providers
In a report by Ofcom, the top 4 UK mobile network providers include Tesco Mobile, Three, O2 and EE. These 4 providers are good based on customer satisfaction, 4G coverage, contract value and added extras. In fact, EE is well-known for being the UK’s most comprehensive 4G network.
When it comes to internet, speed, reliability and value are of utmost importance. BT Broadband, Virgin Media Broadband and Sky Broadband are one of the dominating broadbands in the UK. Similarly, when choosing an internet service provider, contact them to confirm if the area you are in is covered.
The simplest way to open a UK bank account would be to do so 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, such as HSBC for instance. 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.
Here are the following steps in setting up a UK bank account:
- Provide a proof of your address and a valid form of ID
- If you are applying for a UK bank account, 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 and might not be comprehensive. 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.