lyvly's guide to moving to england from the usa

If you've decided that life in the UK is what you want, ahead of looking for houses or flats to rent, there are a few things to understand and check off your lists before you make the big move. It's a lot to consider, so we have created a guide to tells you how to move to England permanently. 

Before you move

Jobs and Visas

Whilst there's a lot of confusion over Brexit in the UK, one thing is clear, it won't affect your chances or ability to work in the UK. The changes being made to Britain's relationship with Europe will only really affect EU citizens. There's an obvious advantage to relocating to England for work - everyone understands you. We may be two nations separated by a common language, but most of the words are the same! 

The UK's economy is one of the strongest in the world, with a low unemployment rate of under 4%. The largest market for jobs is in London, with more than 6 million jobs available (not all at once obviously!), nearly 120,000 more than this time last year. The workplace culture is also different to the US. 

Average London work

In terms of finding somewhere to work, we have a complete guide to this here, so won't go into too much detail again. A major obstacle, like working in most foreign countries, is getting a visa. The question of 'How to move to England without a job' is quite tricky, and the advice would be, have a visa before arriving. The majority of workers from outside the EU are on the Tier 2 (or skilled worker) Visa. You would need to be employed by a licensed sponsor to be eligible to work in Britain.

There's a skills shortage in the UK, and the government has an official 'shortage occupation list', a good place to check a) whether your job is something the UK is crying out for more of and b) how high your chances are of getting a visa. 

If you're moving because you have a full time job, your future employers will most likely be sponsoring you to be here. You will need to secure sponsorship before applying for a visa, which you'll be eligible for up to 3 months before you start work. 

You can check on the UK government's website if you need a visa. 

The other avenue for long-term workers is when you are looking to start a new business, either with the Innovator or Start-up visas. There are conditions depending on which visa you apply for, surrounding the kind of endorsement, funding and innovation, which will affect whether you will be granted a visa. 

Something that unites all of these visas options, is that it will cost you money before coming to Britain. For instance, a Tier 2, or skilled worker visa, can cost from £464 to more than £1220 depending on how long you are planning to stay, where you’re coming from and the kind of job you’re doing.

Tier 2 Visa costs

Expected length of stayHow much it will cost Up to 3 years£610Up to 3 years (shortage occupation)£464More than 3 years £1,220More than 3 years (shortage occupation)



To be eligible for a skilled worker visa you’ll need a few things:

  • An offer letter from your new employer, proving you have a job waiting for you here. Your employer will acts as your visa sponsor. 
  • A Certificate of Sponsorship from your sponsoring employer
  • A passing grade on the points-based assessment for your specific visa type

The point based assessment can feel a little complicated to digest but basic requirements are:

  • The ability to speak English
  • An appropriate salary offer
  • “Maintenance,” or having £800 in your bank account for at least 3 months prior to your application
  • A certificate of sponsorship that meets at least one of four requirements (to be met by your employer)

Once you’ve been given a Tier 2 Visa, you can stay in the UK for 5 years and 14 days, so long as you’re still employed by a business willing to sponsor you. 

On top of the visa fees, there’s also something called the Healthcare Surcharge. It costs £400 for each year that you plan to stay in Britain to have access to the NHS. Often your employers will pick up cost of your visa and anything on top, but it’s not legally required, so far from guaranteed. It’s definitely worth finding out the information up front to factor into your costs ahead of moving. 

For more information about UK Visa requirements, Expatica has a more in depth explanation and the GOV.UK site can help you work out what you’re eligible for and how much it may cost.

Finding somewhere to live 

London's property market is notoriously quick moving, expensive, and definitely difficult to find somewhere long-term if you're still abroad. Firstly you've got to work out where you'd like to live - where something like Lyvly's London guide would come in handy - understand if you can afford it (more on that 👇) and then jump through the hoops of the rental market. 

Tenany lease required

If you don't have all of these, it will be difficult to find somewhere to live in London long-term, and you certainly shouldn't move in somewhere without this - it can cause all sorts of legal issues and disputes with a landlord in the future. 

One interim solution would be a short-term stay somewhere, whilst you got all the relevant information together, companies like Airbnb, VRBO or Homestay will give you a few months to find your feet and a place to settle properly. Citysuites also offer serviced apartments for a little more money and security, if you're feeling a little fancy (or someone else is paying!)

To bypass having to move, then move again quickly, Lyvly's solution is to make it possible to go long-term from day one. You can view 3D tours of our home from the USA, reserve a room and go through referencing all before you arrive, meaning you'll have a new furnished home and housemates as soon as you touch down in London.


banking and money transfer

Without a UK address, opening a UK bank account can be tricky, because you need proof you live here before they'll let you do anything. If you've only just arrived or want to open one up before moving, then you may hit a snag.

Multi-national banks like HSBC do have international account options that you can arrange overseas before arriving, but they can require things like lump sum deposits or monthly fees. 

You've got a couple of options, either a 'challenger bank' account or setting up something like Transferwise's borderless account. 

Companies like Starling or Monzo. are relative newcomers to British banking. They are all app-based, so can feel more convenient and designed with modern living in mind. You are able to set up with just a passport or another form of ID, so if you are new the UK and don’t have any proof of address yet, it wouldn’t matter. You will need to supply an address to have your new card sent to, but there’s fewer requirements than you may experience with a traditional banking organisation.


Knowing your budget 

Depending on where you are moving from, how much it costs to live in London can seem like a bit of a shock, as well as a little confusing. Monthly rental costs often won’t include bills, and you’ll have to consider very British expenses like council tax and the TV licence. 

When you are budgeting, using something like a salary calculator, to understand how much you’ll be paid each month is a great way to work out what you can afford to spend on rent, travel, eating, drinking etc before you unwittingly move into a place that is way too much for your budget. Luckily with Lyvly, your household living costs are taken care of in your rental payment. We sort out all the bills for your whole household, so before moving in, you’ll know exactly what everything will cost. Our all inclusive rent means we take care of all your household admin. 

  • Utility bills 
  • Council tax
  • TV licence 
  • Broadband

The moving process

Relocation companies

There are countless relocation companies across the world, offering their expertise to individuals and companies. They can help out with departure, shipping, immigration issues like visas and generally will provide a service that helps handle the the tasks you have no idea how to get started on. 

Companies like Altair or Cartus in the US have locations across the globe, and will have experts in helping you navigate customs or finding a place to live. 

There are rules around importing certain items to the UK - such as food, alcohol, tobacco, cash or personal medication, as well as some that are simply prohibited by UK Customs, you can find the rules on the restrictions here, but generally household goods like your furniture, clothes and household appliances shouldn't cost you anything extra beyond the shipping fees. The relocation companies will be able to advise and organise any paperwork around this. 

With Lyvly homes being fully furnished, you would be able to keep relocation costs to a minimum. All the homes come fully furnished bedrooms and living rooms, as well with stocked kitchens. A suitcase full of clothes, bedding and towels is all you need to get started. 

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When you arrive


For people living in the UK, NHS treatment free of charge. Whether or not your treatment is free is dependant on being a resident of the UK, rather than which country you are from. There's obviously the 'healthcare surcharge' mentioned above, but once that's with your visa, it's free at the point of use. 

You are able to register with a local doctors surgery (a GP) for everyday medical complaints and use emergency services for more serious situations. Prescriptions are subsidised by the UK Government, but most people still have to pay £9 for them. 

Dentistry is one of the few NHS services that patients have to pay for. It can range from £22.70 for emergency pain relief or fillings to £260+ more complex procedures. NHS dentists don’t work on the same basis as local GPs, you do not need to live in the area they are based to register as a patient, so finding a surgery near your place of work is absolutely fine.


National Insurance Number

Confusingly, It’s not anything to do with insurance - it’s actually about paying tax and towards your British state pension. You need an address in the UK to apply for it, but without one you may end up on an emergency tax code and lose a big chunk of wages whilst you are waiting. 

You'll will also get something called a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) created when granted a visa. This holds a number of pieces of information about you - name, DOB, fingerprints, immigration status etc. It's also going to have your NI number printed on the back.

You will be given a 10 day window and a specific post office where you can collect it. You can also choose to have it sent to your sponsor (i.e. your employer) If you don’t collect within 10 days, then you could face a fine of £1000. So make sure you don’t forget!

Traditional High Street banks

Current accounts (equivalent to a checking account) are normally free of charge, as is withdrawing cash the majority of the time - some ATMs can charge up to £2 but they are generally in independent shops rather than attached to official bank branches.

CeLL Phone 

To sort out a new SIM card, there are a number of avenues to go down. Most modern phones are compatible with British networks, but you may need to get yours unlocked before moving to Britain. Once here, there are 3 ways to get a sim card: Pay as you go, sim only and contract.

  1. Pay as you go -  the most straight forward - buy a sim, top it up with money and you’re ready to go. Data, calls and texts tend to be more expensive than in a contract agreement. 
  2. Sim only - use with your current phone, you just buy the sim card and pay a fixed monthly fee. These are generally cheaper than contracts as you are not also buying a phone.
  3. Contract - these generally last for 2 years and are more expensive and they come with a new phone, the cost of which will be spread across the length of the contract.

For Sim only and contract agreements, you will need to provide bank details, ID and proof of a UK address.

Taxes - home and abroad

If you're employed by a company in the UK, then all taxes and national insurance payments are handled by your employer. It's all covered by PAYE (pay as you earn) and you're taxed on a sliding scale of earnings. 

Tax BandEarnings Rate Of Taxation Personal allowance Up to £12,500 0% Basic rate £12,501 to £50,000 20% Higher rate £50,001 to £150,000 40% Additional rate more than £150,000 45%

UK tax on earnings (2019/20 tax year)

However, US citizens have to file expat tax returns with the Federal Government every year, no matter where they live. This feels very odd to us Brits! 

It's quite a complicated topic to cover, and we aren't experts, so don't want to be giving advice on filing your return, but the very shortened version is you can avoid paying tax on the first $101,300 of foreign earnings and there is a treaty between the US and UK which would help you avoid being taxed twice. As I say, this isn't our area of expertise, so please refer to these guys and the IRS for more detailed breakdown. The takeaway from this should be - you will have to file a tax return and keep it in mind when you come here!

Moving to a new city or state is daunting enough, relocating across the pond could be overwhelming. Use this guide as what it is, a guide, not a bible. It's a great starting point to help you through every stage of getting here. 

Lyvly is a community full of expats, who've all done what you're considering. We're a great option to help you move, from letting you see where you could be living from anywhere in the world, to having a place secured before you move and a ready-made community of 500 people to connect with from when you arrive. 

Check out our available rooms and let us know your details, one of our team will be in touch to help you start your Lyvly life. 


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