10 Things To Know Before Moving To The UK
Despite recent political turmoil (Brexit, rising inflation, having three prime ministers in less than a year), the UK is still a very desirable country to live in. UK residents are lucky to have good healthcare facilities, free education, and a relatively high standard of living.
But if you’re considering relocating to the UK, you need to understand what it means for you, your family, and your lifestyle. Here are 10 things to know before moving to the UK.
1. Newcomers pay a surcharge to access NHS healthcare
The NHS is a gold standard healthcare service. British citizens and full-time residents get free NHS healthcare — but if you’re in the UK on a work, study, or family visa, you may need to pay the health surcharge.
As of February 2023, the healthcare surcharge is:
- £470 per year for a student or Youth Mobility Scheme visa
- £470 per year for visa applicants who are under 18
- £624 per year for all other visa applicants
You’ll pay this as part of the immigration application process. You don’t need to pay the health surcharge if you’re in the UK on a tourist or visitor visa.
2. Make sure you’re on the right visa
Speaking of visas, there are a LOT of different types of UK visa that allow you to enter the country. These include:
- Family visas (including spouse visas)
- Student visas
- Work visas
- Tourist visas
The type of visa you need depends on how long you’re planning to stay in the UK, and what activities you plan to do when you’re here.
3. It’s relatively expensive to live in the UK
The UK is a relatively rich country. When ranked on gross domestic product, the UK is the fifth richest country in the world. This is reflected in the cost-of-living in the UK.
The cost-of-living is also on the rise at the moment, driven by heightened inflation caused by the war in Ukraine and the ongoing energy crisis, among other factors.
That means living in the UK is particularly expensive at the moment, especially compared with central and south Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
This is balanced out with higher wages — but you’ll still need to carefully calculate the affordability of living in the UK, particularly if you’re planning to move to a high-cost city like London, Winchester, or Cambridge.
4. Renting a home is popular — especially in city centre locations
House prices in the UK have seen massive growth over the last few decades. A semi-detached 3-bedroom house in Reading worth £110,000 in 1998 sold for £335,000 in 2017. This property’s value has risen by more than 204% in less than 20 years. By comparison, the average annual salary has grown by just 62% in the same time.
This means home ownership is getting more difficult — particularly for younger people who don’t have significant savings. So if you’re thinking of moving to the UK permanently, bear in mind that you may be renting for a while. This is especially true in central London and other expensive areas.
Many people eventually move out of London to buy a home and commute to work each day. That’s why surrounding towns like Beaconsfield and Epping are known as “commuter towns”.
5. How to send money back home
Lots of people move to the UK to earn more money, so they can send some of it back home to support their families. Fortunately, there are lots of easy ways to send money abroad from the UK:
- Bank transfer
- Money transfer service
- Prepaid debit cards
- Foreign currency exchange service.
Compare fees and exchange rates based on the amount of money you want to send to find the best option for you.
6. Childcare is expensive — but education is free
Childcare is notoriously expensive in the UK. So if you have a young family — or you’re planning to have a baby soon — consider how this will impact your finances.
According to Money Helper, a part-time childminder costs £118.30 a week on average, rising to £163.77 a week if you live in London. Day nursery is even more expensive, costing £137.69 a week on average.
On the plus side, when your child turns 3, they may become entitled to 30 hours’ free childcare each week. And from the age of 4-5, they’re entitled to free schooling up until the age of 18.
7. Speaking English is really helpful
Most UK citizens speak just one language: English. So unlike in other countries, where many people are bilingual or even multilingual, you’ll need to have a reasonable grasp of English to get by here.
If you lack confidence in your English speaking skills, Duolingo and other language learning apps are a good way to pick up the basics.
8. UK cities are very multicultural
Cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leicester have really diverse populations. London has the biggest Lunar New Year celebrations in the UK (and outside Asia), a testament to its significant East Asian population. More than 21% of people living in Birmingham were born in Asia or the Middle East. Conversely, rural areas are more likely to be predominantly white and UK-born.
Some people find it useful to seek out a familiar community when moving to another country. Not only can it be reassuring when you’re acclimatising to a new place, but you’ll also find more resources and services that cater for you (such as health services in other languages).
Finding your community can also open up new financial opportunities, such as joining a ROSCA with friends, family, or colleagues.
9. You may need to quarantine your pets
If you’re planning to bring your pet to the UK with you, you’ll need to follow the quarantine rules.
People moving from the EU and a handful of other countries can bring their cat or dog to the UK with a pet passport. Some countries require a Great Britain pet health certificate, while others — including India, Pakistan, and Nigeria — require you to get a rabies test and vaccination for your pet, along with other stipulations.
Find out more about bringing your pet to the UK.
10. How to manage your finances in the UK
Like all countries, the UK has its own financial system that you’ll need to figure out if you decide to move here. You’ll need to:
- Set up a UK bank account — this is essential for day-to-day transactions, as well as getting paid by your employer
- Create a savings account — saving money helps you achieve your medium to long term financial goals, so finding the right UK savings account is important
- Understand how your income affects your visa — some visas require you to prove you have enough money to support yourself while you’re in the UK
- Learn how to build a UK credit score — your credit score is essential for signing up for certain services (like a mobile phone contract) and for borrowing money (such as getting a mortgage).
The Bloom Learning Hub is designed to answer all your questions about relocating to the UK, particularly around managing your money. Learn about finding trustworthy financial advice in the UK, and the safest place to keep your money while you’re living here.
Want to know more about what to expect from life in the UK? See these 10 things all newcomers should know about British life and culture.