Every year, thousands of people end up moving to London from the US – or at least start thinking about it. After all, Britain is a great place for native English speakers since they won’t struggle to communicate. It can also be cheaper to live overseas compared to certain parts of the US. If you’re an American moving to London there are quite a few things you will want to consider before the big day. For example, you will need to figure out your budget compared to back home and decide what kind of visa you should get. It’s also important to think about the biggest differences between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Of course, you will also need a place to live! Before you even buy your plane ticket to London you should draw up a budget that includes rent, utilities (more on those later), food, and entertainment. Renting a furnished apartment in London can help you save on the cost and hassle of purchasing your own fittings. Here’s a detailed look at how to move to London from the US, with answers to your biggest questions.
Do you need a visa to move to London from the US?
Depending on how long you want to stay, you may or may not need a visa as an American moving to London. 65All in all, we cover the different types of visas below so that you can make the best decision for your specific circumstances.
What are the key differences between living in the USA & the UK?
There might be a little bit of culture shock at play when moving to London from the US! Here is a look at some of the biggest differences that people notice when they arrive in the UK’s capital from the States.
1. Healthcare system benefits
Taking advantage of healthcare in the US often requires health insurance, which most Americans obtain through their employer. The healthcare system in the States can be quite complicated since it’s important to find doctors and hospitals that accept a person’s specific insurance plan. Getting healthcare at an emergency room or through an out-of-network provider can often result in eye-popping medical bills. Unlike in the US, there is free healthcare in the UK. In the UK citizens are all covered by the National Health Service (NHS). Some people also choose to utilize supplemental private insurance. If you are a foreign resident in the UK you may not be entitled to participate in the NHS scheme. However, if you are moving to London from the US short term, you may be able to access healthcare services through travel health insurance. Be sure to check the details of your policy.
2. Your apartment (probably) won’t have A/C
If you’re an American moving to London you may not be prepared for the temperature differences. Although the UK has enjoyed one of its hottest summers ever, in general houses and apartments are not equipped with air conditioning. Some newer condos and apartments have in-unit A/C, but in general, more than 90% of dwellings in the UK are not air-conditioned. If you’re wondering how to move to London from the US without A/C, don’t worry. Although there can be scorching days, in general, the climate is much milder than in most US cities in summer.
3. Fewer expenses on your cell phone plan
Moving to London from the US likely means getting a new mobile plan – and number – since the majority of US mobile contracts have high charges for foreign use. Even if your current mobile service includes reasonably priced overseas coverage, it’s still smart to switch. Why? In the UK, cellular phone service is significantly cheaper than in the US! In general, contracts are shorter, giving the user more flexibility, and overall cost less than similar services stateside.
4. The UK’s complicated tax system
Although the US tax system is not known for its simplicity, things are also pretty confusing across the pond. When moving from London to the US, you need to be prepared to deal with UK tax rates. The basic tax rate for the UK is 20%. For 2022 and 2023, your income up to £37,700 will be taxed at this rate. If you are in a higher income bracket, you should expect to pay more. The UK tax rates for personal income from £37,701 to £150,000 are 40%, with a jump to 45% for taxable income over £150,000. Having this ballpark tax scheme will help you estimate how much you will need to pay in taxes on your earnings as an American moving to London.
5. Language differences
As you’re researching how to move to London from the US, you probably aren’t too concerned about language differences. After all, both countries are full of English speakers! However, there are some significant variations in US vs British English that you need to keep in mind! Many words are spelled a little differently in the UK than they are in the US. Whereas an American would write neighbor, a British person would spell it neighbour. And the same goes for many words that end in -or, like flavor/flavour or ardor/ardour. If you have ever traveled to Canada, you have already experienced US vs British English! Another language difference to look out for is more nuanced.
Above all, the British vocabulary is slightly different from the American one. In Britain, a truck is referred to as a lorry. Similarly, most people will say lift instead of elevator and toilet instead of a bathroom. If you’re an American moving to London, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these sort of words before you arrive. You can also continue to build your British vocabulary as you get settled!
6. Utilities will be billed quite differently
If you’re in the process of moving to London from the US, you will want to be prepared for some changes around how you pay for electricity, water and natural gas in your new home. Unlike the regular monthly bills you would receive in the US, utilities in the UK are billed at various intervals. So if you’re an American moving to London you will want to be sure to inquire about options for all of these utilities. In general, your water bill needs to be paid twice a year. However, electricity and natural gas schemes often allow you to elect to pay monthly, quarterly, or even annually. If you are moving to a flat with a roommate, you may not have much control over when you pay your utility bills. Also, keep in mind that utilities in the UK can cost a little more because there are no government-backed subsidies for the use of fossil fuels – a questionable practice in the US.
So how can you move to London from the US?
Let’s say you have already set up your budget, scouted housing, and educated yourself on the differences between the UK and the US. But wait! How exactly are you going to pay your ongoing expenses as an American moving to London? US citizens can live in the UK as tourists for up to six months without a visa. However, if you want to earn money, you will need a visa. One of the biggest questions people researching how to move to London from the US need to answer is which type of visa is best for them. Here are some ways you can get a visa to study or work in London.
1. Get a student visa
A student visa is a great way for an American moving to London to get access to healthcare, job opportunities, and sometimes housing as well. Of course, you do need to apply for a degree – quite an undertaking on its own. If you want to move to London from the US, there are two types of study visasto consider. Anyone over 16 is eligible for both student visasand study English in the UK visas. A student visa has fairly strict requirements. The first – and most important! – is being accepted to study at an institute of higher learning.
So if you’re wondering how to move to London from the US as a student, the first step is to figure out some schools to apply to! Once accepted, you can take advantage of Blueground’s brand-new Studentground program. It’s a student housing solution featuring discounted rates for fully furnished apartments, rent-free when you’re away, flexible durations, and a seamless rental experience close to campus.
Student visas also require you to demonstrate that you have enough money to pay for your course of study. Another requirement is that student visa holders can read, speak, and write in English. (Since you’re already reading this article, consider that last box checked off.) There is a £363 fee to apply for a student visa in the UK. If you know someone who is not fluent in English but would like to move to London from the US, a study English in the UK visa could be just the ticket. This visa allows people to live in the UK and take part in English language courses for anywhere from six to eleven months. This study English in the UK visa costs £200, and there is also a £470 surcharge to cover the cost of healthcare during the term of residency.
2. Get a work visa
If you’re an American moving to London, you may be wondering if there is a work visa for US citizens in the UK. The answer is “yes” – with some important considerations around eligibility. There are a number of different work visas in the UK. If you’re wondering how to move to London from the US and earn your daily bread, the first step is figuring out which type of work visa is your safest bet. Generally, you will need a UK employer to sponsor your employment visa if you want to live in the country long-term. If you have certain in-demand skills you may be eligible for a Skilled Worker visaor a Health and Care Worker visa.
If you want to do short-term volunteer work in the UK, you may be eligible for a short-term work visa. There are a number of different qualifying circumstances — just remember that you will generally not be able to stay in the country long-term. If none of these circumstances apply to you, don’t despair. You may be able to qualify for another type of UK visa.
3. Be a celebrity or have exceptional talent
If you aren’t looking to further your studies or work for a traditional employer, you may be able to qualify to work in the UK anyway. Professional athletes, for example, are eligible for a Sportsperson visa. There’s also the Global Talent visa, which is designed to permit leaders in academia or scientific research, arts and culture, and digital technology to live in the UK. Also, if you are a celebrity, you likely do not need a work visa for any country!
4. Get an investor visa
Another way to move to London from the US is by starting a new business overseas. Although the UK investor visa program has recently been phased out, the government still welcomes startup founders and innovators. If you have capital and talent to invest, you can either apply for an Innovator visa or a Start-up visa. Both of these programs let you stay in the UK for quite a while! An American moving to London on an Innovator visa can stay for three years and then extend for another three years if your business is a success. If you opt for a Start-up visa you can stay in the UK for two years – but you cannot extend your stay beyond that. However, at the end of your visa, you may be eligible for a different type of work visa.
5. Get a tourist visa, of course
Are you wondering how to move to London from the US if you don’t meet any of the above conditions? Don’t worry! With a tourist visa, a US citizen can stay in the UK for up to six months at a time. This is plenty of time to experience London and enjoy everything it has to offer. If you are an American moving to London on a tourist visa, you obviously won’t want to sign a year-long lease. Luckily there is plenty of short-term housing available, including furnished flats in London.
Now that you have answers to your biggest questions about how to move to London from the US you’re ready to buy your plane ticket! We have covered the different types of visas you can get as an American moving to London, the ins and outs of the healthcare system, what to expect from your utility bills in the UK, and even the quirky language differences. Moving to London from the US doesn’t have to be an onerous undertaking! Just be sure to budget well and plan ahead!