The U.K. is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. One of the most powerful economies in the world, the U.K. ranks 5th by nominal GDP, which is a leading factor in attracting talents from all over the world.
Read more: Visit our Covid-19 Update – Going to the U.K. page for the latest news about moving or travelling there during the pandemic.
(Last updated: 29 January 2021)
Weather + Climate
Like most of north-west Europe, the U.K 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.
Cost of Living
The U.K. 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 U.K. are comparatively good.
The basic income tax rate is 20 percent for an annual income of £12,571 to £50,270, 40 percent for anything between £50,271 to £150,000 and 45 percent for anything above £150,000.
Goods + Services Tax
There is a 20 percent value added tax on most goods and services.
- The British Summer
- Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- The good balance of national parks and stunning coastlines amidst the bustling cityscapes
We’re Not Fans of
- Unpredictable weather, the rain and foggy days
- High tax rates and cost of living
Visa + Employment Passes
Work Permit Process for Foreigners
Before applying for a work permit you will need:
- A confirmed offer of employment from a licensed U.K. 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 U.K. work permits for foreign expats:
- Tier 2 General – Skilled Worker
- Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer
- Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
It is important to note that for every change of employment you will need to get a new Certificate of Sponsorship.
For more information: https://www.visalogic.net/uk/work-permits/4/124
Visa + Citizenship
U.K. offers various visas and it is important to check which visa you should obtain. Since late 2018, U.K. 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 U.K. Government website.
The U.K. government has introduced a 5-tier visa system for those who wish to live and work in the U.K. 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 U.K. (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 U.K.
- Tier 5 visa: Temporary work visa
Top Industries: Public Administration, Education, Health
Average Salary (as of November 2020): £31,461 per annum
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.
Renting would be more appropriate if you are intending to relocate and stay in the U.K. 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.
Foreigners, independent of whether you are a resident, have the legal rights to buy property in the U.K. The good news is that in recent years, U.K. 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 U.K.:
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 U.K. 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.
Average Utilities Cost: £139.08 per month (including water, electricity and gas)
In the U.K. 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 U.K., here are some of them:
The processes for all of these are very straightforward in the U.K. 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.
Mobile Network Providers
Average Mobile Phone Bill: £45.60 per month
Prices vary but there are many deals and the average is about £40. U.K. 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.
Internet Service Providers
Average Internet Bill: £30.30 per month
EE has some of the fastest speeds and Virgin Media has good speeds and service. BT has the U.K.’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.
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 U.K., such as knowing about the road rules here.
Public Transport System
Average Public Transportation Cost: £113.6 per month
The U.K. 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.
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 £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 U.K. launch in 2012, and also serve as a travel option on top of taxis and minicabs.
Driving in the U.K.
You can use your foreign driver’s license for up to a year in the U.K., 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 the U.K., such as knowing about the road rules here.
The average price of a car in the U.K. ranges from £12,000 – £36,000, depending on the car models. The average annual insurance costs will be £484 (as of April 2021).
The annual running costs for a car in the UK is £3,081.
Intercity Transport System
With an extensive network of intercity coaches and trains, getting around the U.K. 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 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.
Here’s a quick guide to some of the daily essentials and services you might require when you first arrive in the U.K.
The simplest way to open a U.K. 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 U.K. to assist in this matter. Having a U.K. 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 U.K. include HSBC, Barclay’s, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Standard Chartered and Santander.
To set up your U.K. 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 U.K. that specifies the types of bank accounts available and their benefits as well as useful financial advice.
U.K. 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 U.K. legally and on a permanent basis. All expats in the U.K. 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.
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 U.K. 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.
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 U.K. 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 U.K. 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 7th, Imperial College London and UCL (University College London) coming in at 8th and 10th place respectively. Overall, the brilliance of the U.K. universities helms the country’s second-place position in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings 2021.
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 U.K. and certain private schools admit students based on catchment areas.
Private Schools (a.k.a., Public Schools)
For British citizens and foreigners legally living in the U.K., private schools are free-of-charge, due to its funding from taxes. Private 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 U.K.
Government Schools (a.k.a., State or Independent Schools)
The government schools in the U.K. 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 government schools in the U.K. offering students the chance to study the International Baccalaureate. Government schools offer a better quality of teaching and smaller class sizes, but due to these benefits, the fees for government 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.
All Things British
Here are more facts and information we think it’d be useful for you!
- Royal Family
- British Premier League
- Tea and Scones
- River Thames
In 1811, it is estimated that 25 percent of all women in the U.K. were named Mary.
Dos and Don’ts
There are strict regulations about the type of items that are prohibited or restricted in the U.K. 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.
Public holidays in the U.K. are referred to as bank holidays. The official holidays vary depending on the different regions, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. National Public Holidays include:
- New Year’s Day
- St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland only)
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- May Day Bank Holiday
- Spring Bank Holiday
- Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland only)
- Summer Bank Holiday
- St Andrew’s Day (Scotland only)
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
Cities in the United Kingdom
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