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How Can I Move to England from the USA?

 

If you’re thinking about moving to England from the US here’s what you need to know.

The two types of legal resident status for American citizens who want to live in the UK are:

  1. As a temporary resident
  2. As a permanent resident with indefinite leave to remain or citizenship.

moving to England from the US

1. Moving to the UK as a Temporary Resident 

American citizens can live in the UK up to 6 months without a visa. If you want to visit more frequently you can apply for a 2, 5 or 10 year Standard Visitor Visa. This allows you to stay for up to 6 months at a time for the duration of your visa.

If you’re coming to work, study, get medical treatment, get married or on official business, you can apply for a specific visa. 

Can you work in the uk without a visa?

  • Not unless you have a specific visa which allows you to work

Can you study in the UK without a visa?

  • Yes up to 6 months. A study visa is required for 6 months or longer

2. Moving to the UK as a Permanent Resident

To become a permanent resident of the Uk you must have “Right of Abode” giving you the right to live and work without restrictions. A British citizen has right of abode. 

You may be eligible for British citizenship :

  • if you were born in the UK 
  • moved to the UK
  • married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen
  • have a British parent
  • if you have indefinite leave to remain  

If you want to live in the UK permanently but you don’t have citizenship, you’ll need to apply for “indefinite leave to remain”. Find out if you qualify .

How to Move to the UK from USA

As an American citizen you can travel, study and live in the UK for up to 6 months at a time. You can’t work in the UK without a work visa, so keep that in mind if you’ll be relying on an income to pay bills.

If you plan on returning often, start with the Standard Visitor visa. With a British connection through family, you may have a quicker path to ILR (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK.

Just for clarity, the UK stands for the United Kingdom which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales (Great Britain) and Northern Ireland. Living and working guidelines can be quite different between countries in the UK so double check if you’re headed to Scotland, N Ireland or Wales. These guidelines are specifically for England.

Renting Your First Home in the UK

Be aware of Right to Rent laws. You must have proof you have a legal right or the Right of Abode in the UK before a real estate agency will rent to you. If you’re only legally able to stay 6 months at a time, estate agents won’t let you sign a 1 year lease agreement. Be prepared for them turning you down even to rent for 6 months!

I know it’s a stinker. You may find a private landlord who will, but don’t count on it. Landlords and estate agents can get in trouble if they bypass this law. 

Expect to pay from $800. -1200. rent for a one bedroom apartment outside London. The closer the commute to London, the higher the rent goes. Much higher.

If you’re eligible to sign a lease or letting agreement, expect to pay Council tax in addition to your monthly rent. This varies from $100.-150. additional per month. Think of it like property tax that pays for local services. If you’re living alone, ask for the Single discount. You’ll pay by direct debit to the local council (town).

OPTIONS:  If you don’t have “right to rent” in the UK, you can still try renting month to month through Airbnb. Also look at local sites like Gumtree, Open Rent or try googling short term lets in “your town”.

UK Utilities and Phone

In addition to your rent and council tax, you’ll pay the normal utilities. Most utilities including broadband (internet), gas and electric are billed by direct debit from your UK checking account. 

Be prepared to read your own gas and electricity meter!  It helps to know where they’re located if you’re responsible for paying them.

A local UK phone number is very handy to have and not expensive. You can pick up a cheap phone with a rolling month to month SIM only plan for as little as $10. per month. Deliveries and appointments are all scheduled by text.

OPTIONS: Use your US cellphone with data roaming on if you have a plan. Check with your provider before you leave the US and make sure your data plan includes use in the UK. I use T Mobile but check out these options as plans change all the time. Use Whatsapp to make free international calls and texts.

Banking in the UK

You’ll need proof of address before you can open a UK bank account. If you have a short term rental or temporary address it’s OK to use it. A UK bank account and debit card gives you the option of scheduling UK bills and direct debits. One handy trick in the UK. You can set up regular payments like rent from your checking account via a “standing order”.

Your US credit card should work for most store purchases. As all CC transactions in the UK are done through chip and pin, it’s easy to add your card to Apple Wallet to make payments up to £30-45 anywhere including restaurants, bars and shops. I love it, you just tap and go.

OPTIONS: Make sure your US credit card does not charge Foreign Transaction Fees as these will quickly add up. Also check on your banks fee for ATM withdrawals. Mine charges $5. for each withdrawal so I try to make it count. Use your US debit card at the ATM and pull out cash or pounds at the best conversion rate. Google “pound to dollar” rate. In 2020, the exhange rate for the pound has varied between 1.18 to 1.30 US dollars.

moving to England from the US

Getting Around the UK

It’s entirely possible to live in the UK without a car if you choose to. If you live near a town or city, most have regular bus service. The most desirable towns have a train station too. It’s really not that difficult to use buses, trains and taxis to get almost anywhere you need to go. They don’t have the social stigma they do in the US.

Use bustimes.org to get bus schedules or try Google maps. Put in your destination, directions and then choose the public transportation option. It should spit up a list of bus and or train times to get you there.

OPTIONS: If you decide you really need to rent a car, sign up for a hourly rental company like Co-Wheels. Using your US driving license, you’ll rent a hybrid Toyota for about $7. an hour which includes fuel and insurance. It takes a while to get used to driving on the “wrong” side but it’s doable! The roundabouts and GPS (Satnav) help.

Moving to the UK

When you’re moving personal items to the UK, use up as much of your baggage allowance on your flight as you can. It’s cheaper to pay for extra bags than it is to ship them separately. Consider leaving behind items that are easily replaceable. Rent a storage space in the US or leave irreplaceable possessions with a friend until you decide if your move to the UK will be permanent.

OPTIONS: US electronics are so much cheaper that it pays to ship or bring them with you. If it costs over $100. buy it in the US and bring it with you. Especially if its dual voltage.

Moving to England from USA

Before you decide you want to move to the UK permanently, come and visit for several months. Get a feel for which part of the country works best for you. Just as the US has different cultures state to state, England is made up of counties and regions which can be dramatically different from one another.

The English climate can change considerably from south to north although you won’t find any sunbelts! Rain tends to sweep in from the Atlantic over Ireland and the west of England. By the time it reaches the east the drenching eases up. Unless you get a northerly flow off the North Sea and then bundle up!

Typically the southern coast of England gets the most sunshine with the warmest temps. It’s not unusual to see palm trees from Cornwall all the way to Brighton.

Find a short term rental or stay with relatives or friends. Use the National Rail network to explore different parts of the country. Stay in the UK long enough to understand how the differences in culture affect you. Nowhere is perfect, but if you have a sense of humor, love dogs and walks in the countryside or exploring delightful historic towns and culture, then England might be just right for you.

When you’re ready to start planning your move to the UK, using this checklist can help put it all together.

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Tessa
Tessa

I created HOF to inspire women over 50 to follow their dreams. Whether you’d love to move abroad, travel to Europe or just reboot your midlife, it’s never too late to start over and create a life you love!

Find me on: Instagram

17 Comments

  1. Sophie
    September 5, 2020 / 6:34 PM

    Very useful post, albeit a bit discouraging. I do wish they had a VISA for those who want to work remotely from USA part-time or those who simply want to half-year ex-pat it and have sufficient income. One of my children got a graduate degree in UK and I fell in love with the city she was studying in. Have visited dozens of times over the intervening years and would so love to have a second home (flat) there. But it sounds to me as if that’s nearly impossible.

    • Tessa
      Author
      September 6, 2020 / 5:26 PM

      Hi Sophie, Yes I can see that it seems discouraging but it’s not impossible. Especially if you’re not planning on working. I would start with the Standard Visitor Visa and then pursue or see if you qualify for “indefinite leave to remain”. You may have to wait to buy property, but then I always think its good to rent for at least 6 months to really find out what it’s like to live in a town. There’s always that little bit different perspective when you’re a resident vs a visitor! All the best x

  2. Ismael
    March 7, 2021 / 8:42 AM

    Hello everyone,
    I am planning to move from USA to UK and become a permanent resident of the UK.
    My wife and I will be working, we have some funds to start our own business! But I have six children, therefore, I would like to know if the schools are free of charge including the universities! What about health care programs? is it offered by the government at least for the kids?
    Your help and efforts are very much appreciated.

    • Tessa
      Author
      March 13, 2021 / 12:04 PM

      Hello – congratulations on making the move to the UK! Here’s a great resource to find out more about tuition for your children. If you are “normally resident” in the UK you’re entitled to free health care through the NHS. Good luck and welcome.

  3. sabrina lawson
    March 13, 2021 / 9:27 PM

    hi your post was very helpful but im still kind of confused , im engaged to someone born and raised in england he left when he was 18 but hasent been back in 12 years. he has dual citizenship and family still there . does him not going back in so long does that affect anything ? he really misses home and weve been talking about moving back there .now we have twin girls born here in the us and we want them to have dual citizenship as well how do we go about that ? im sorry im all over the place with my questions im just kind of excited and nervous about the decision does getting married in the us or england make anything easier or harder where shoukd we get married lol thank you so much inadvanced

    • Tessa
      Author
      March 17, 2021 / 2:17 PM

      Hi there – there are so many different paths to having the right to remain or live in England long term. If your fiance was born in England it doesn’t matter how long he’s been gone. He retains his English citizenship. I definitely think you have a chance at being able to live there too along with your daughters. The best advice I can give is follow the UK government website test for citizenship. I can tell you what I think but ultimately this will let you know for sure. Good luck!

  4. Nancy Lee
    March 27, 2021 / 2:41 PM

    Hi Tessa. I am 68 years old. I lived in London with my family from 1960-1961. I was only 7 years old, so turned 8 when we lived there. I attended the American School in London when it was still in its infancy. My father was doing part of his residency at the Maudsley Hospital. As a family of 6, we made the journey via the SS Rotterdam because commercial transatlantic flights were still quite new; my mother refused to fly. Longer story short, I can honestly say that there has been a nagging dream to return to live one day. I do think that the 6 month plan would work well for me. I do have the means to do so. My biggest concern would be the health care. How concerned do I need to be in this regard?

    • Tessa
      Author
      March 29, 2021 / 4:39 PM

      Hi Nancy – So nice to hear from you and your story is similar to mine! I left England on a boat as well but I was just a toddler. So thats the big question. You didn’t mention if you were born in England? If you were you’re eligible for NHS health care. If not, then you would still be eligible for some primary care if you are a temporary (less than 3 months) resident. This is the official explanation – scroll down to Free Services. If you have “indefinite leave to remain” status then you’re also entitled to free secondary care. Through birth, once I moved here I was able to get a British passport and because I was born here I had already been assigned an NHS number. The English are very good about keeping tabs on you! Good luck, I still feel you have a better chance at health care here VS the US/Medicare.

      • Nancy Lee
        March 30, 2021 / 2:30 AM

        Hi Tessa! I was born in South Carolina, USA. My father was an anglophile to the nth degree and it rubbed off on me more than my brother or sisters maybe because I was the youngest of the lot. We had the added bonus/privilege of celebrating New Years Eve in Paris (1961) and then traveled all over the European continent during the summer of 1961 before we packed up and returned on the SS Nieuw Amsterdam in September of 1961. We returned to London for the summer of 1964 then traveled to the Scandanavian countries and Switzerland. My other years of travel to London were 1970, 1988, and then 2005. Bottom line is: that one very, very formative year in London placed an indelible mark on me that just makes me quite different from anyone and everyone else that I grew up with here in the States. Would I be able to let a flat for 3 months over there? I think for starters a 3 month stay would give me a chance to be a “pretend” resident.

        • Tessa
          Author
          March 30, 2021 / 9:17 AM

          Hi Nancy – Thank you for sharing your story with me! There’s definitely something about England that can get in our blood whether we’re born here or not. I think you’re absolutely right to pursue being a “pretend” resident. Sometimes that’s all it takes to scratch the itch 😉 Yes you are entitled as a US resident to spend up to 6 months here at a time. Now because of the pandemic, you may find it harder to travel here without tests and quarantine, but that will change as we all get vaccinated. So I highly encourage you to start planning your next visit! Please let me know if I can help with the planning and take care.

  5. Sydney
    March 29, 2021 / 11:40 PM

    Hi Tessa,
    Thank you for all of the wonderful information! I studied in London to get my MA and unfortunately Covid happened at the same time, so I had to come back to the states without being able to get sponsored. I absolutely fell in love with it when I was there, and know it’s where I want to continue living. However, I do not have family there. I even tried going through an ancestry visa but that didn’t work as the family was too far back.
    Do you have any suggestions on how I could be able to stay there in my situation? I was hoping by doing school there that would allow me a door in but that didn’t work out…
    All the best.

    • Tessa
      Author
      March 30, 2021 / 9:12 AM

      Hi Sydney – So sorry you weren’t able to stay here in England! Yes this year has been super tricky for travel and establishing residency because of the pandemic. I would start with a standard visitors visa or if you are studying, perhaps pursue a specific visa for that. Both links are in my blog post under #1 Moving as a Temporary Resident. This would give you a chance to stay longer and see if you want to pursue living here with permanent residency. If I were you I would wait until summer when things have cooled down (that sounds funny but you know what I mean) as right now there’s probably a backlog of visa inquiries. But don’t give up and remember you can always visit for up to 6 months at a time. Good luck!

      • Sydney
        April 6, 2021 / 11:50 PM

        Thank you so much Tessa your response was very helpful 🙂 I will look at your blog post you mentioned!

  6. Tracy Maclean
    March 30, 2021 / 2:34 AM

    Thank you for this useful article- I am applying for a Passport through my Dad who was born in the UK. I have spent much time in England and am looking to retire in the Dorset region. Do you have an idea of how much the National Health fee is for a Brisitsh National coming in as I will be? I have heard up to £7000-8000?

    • Tessa
      Author
      March 30, 2021 / 9:24 AM

      Hi Tracy – Congratulations! You’ve picked a wonderful place to retire in Dorset. Once you have your British passport you can open a bank account, get a permanent residence and become eligible for NHS. There’s no fee as far as I’m aware even if you’re not a British national. When I moved here I had to apply for a passport but I was already in the system for NHS because I was born here. Here is a good all round explanation of what to expect – “NHS is free and available to anyone who needs it”.
      I have to say I am loving having the NHS after worrying about health insurance in the US. Absolutely no charges with free prescriptions if you’re over 60. It’s a revelation to not be asked for insurance or a CC and to get the help you need! Good luck on your move!

  7. Tonya Watson
    April 7, 2021 / 10:30 PM

    Hi there! Thank you so much for the information. I’ll be 54 this year. For about 10 years, my goal was to move to the UK at age 50. It just so happens, I became a grandmother at 50 so I pushed it back to 55. I’m usually great at planning events, vacations, etc. but when it comes to even initiating this plan, I get stuck. Reading your information, was great but unfortunately, didn’t leave me encouraged. I just don’t know where to start. I don’t know the job market or how much pay I would need to make in order to be comfortable. I plan to bring my mom but don’t want to live in same house with her (I know terrible right). A girl just likes her space but needs to make sure my mom is taken care of. I’m an only child. Help!

    • Tessa
      Author
      April 9, 2021 / 10:28 AM

      Hi Tonya – Good to hear from you! Love your goal, but you don’t say why you want to move to the UK? Have you thought about breaking this big life change down into manageable chunks? Just think of it as an event, vacation or short term plan for now and make that happen first. If you don’t have ties to the UK it will take a while to establish full time residency. Why not make a goal of a longish trip to explore options and where you might like to live here if you do make the move permanent. Congratulations on becoming a grandmother!! That’s an amazing role and one you might want to stick around for a little while longer. Let me know how you get on and take care.

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