Moving to the UK from the US

Cor blimey, mate! You’ve taken the brilliant step of seriously looking into moving to the UK, meaning that you may soon join the land of Adelle, Will and Kate, David Beckham, and eating fish and chips while drinking hot tea and watching the BBC.

If you’re moving to the UK alone, that’s no problem. We’ll tell you what you can expect from working life in this sceptered isle, and the best places to live. Are you moving to the UK with a family? We’ll take care of you like the Brits take care of their Queen, minus the funny guards.

So grab a Cornish pasty, pour yourself a pint of lager, and stop climbing the apples and pears (stairs) of your mind. We’ve got you covered, from the tippy-tip of Cornwall in the south-west, up to Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (but not the Republic of Ireland).

You can even get free quotes for shipping your possessions. If you fill in the form at the top of this page, you can see how much moving to the UK would cost.

An infographic showing tips for moving to the UK from the US

Cost of shipping to the UK

We’ve calculated the average international shipping rates and durations for some of our most sought-after journeys from the US to the UK.

The rates are sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth $53,620 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance). These prices were last updated in August 2019.

The durations are sourced from SeaRates.com, and were also last updated in August 2019.

RouteCostDuration
New York to London

998 ()

10 days
Los Angeles to London

3,313 ()

25 days
Houston to London

1,692 ()

16 days

Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.

Select the size of your move to get free quotes

Cost of flying from the US to the UK

Though air freight can be up to 18 times more expensive than ocean freight, according to Transporteca, it’s occasionally a price worth paying. If speed is of the essence, and you’re willing to take the financial hit, here’s what it’ll cost to move your effects to the UK by air.

RouteCostDuration
New York City to London

2,490 ()

3 days, 10 hours
Los Angeles to London

2,490 ()

3 days, 10 hours
Houston to London

2,490 ()

10.5 hours

Cost of living in the UK

Now you know how you want to move everything you can’t live without across the Atlantic – but before you enjoy your new home in the land of queuing, let’s take a look at how much living in the UK will cost you.

According to Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey, which ranks the 209 most expensive cities in the world, the UK has five cities – London, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Belfast – in the top 160.

London is 23rd, but it still came behind New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – so things could be worse. And as you can see from the figures below, things are slightly cheaper in the UK.

MetricUKUS
Milk, bread, rice, eggs and cheese for a week$11.01$14.26
Inexpensive restaurant meal$14.65$15
Bottle of beer$4.58$6
Cinema ticket
$12.20$12
Monthly gym membership$35.53$36.12

(Data comes from Numbeo.com and is correct as of August 2019.)

VAT

VAT (value-added tax) is also a cost of living factor when you’re living in the UK. The 20% tax is included in almost all prices, so you won’t get a nasty surprise at the checkout – but it’s there all the same.

The only exceptions to this tax include food items and children’s clothes, but again, you won’t have to take it into account while shopping anyway.

There is no VAT in the US, but you’ll be familiar with the concept of sales tax, which is between 2.9% and 10.5%, depending on which state you’re in – unless you live in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon, which don’t have sales tax.

Mountains in Scotland at sunrise

The UK is home to countless beautiful landscapes like this one in Scotland

Public transport in the UK

 UKUSA
Cost★★½★★★
Availability★★★★★★
Quality★★★★★★
Speed★★★★★★

Driving in the UK: how does it compare?

MetricUKUS
Cost of a new Toyota Corolla

$23,096 ()

20,617 ()

Cost of a litre of petrol

5.82 ()

2.77 ()

Cost of bills in the UK

Having seen the Tower of London, gazed at the Angel of the North, and generally started living in the UK, you don’t want to then be blindsided by bafflingly big bills.

The good news is that you most likely won’t have to deal with your bills punishing your usual habits with extortionate demands. As you can see below, your monthly expenses will, if anything, drop when you move to live nearer the Queen.

Bill (monthly)UKUS
Gas and electricity

118 ()

175 ()

Water

40 ()

38 ()

Internet

21 ()

44 ()

Income tax for average wage (including federal taxes)20%22%

Climate in the UK

 

Does it snow in the UK?

Indubitably, it does. The UK enjoys 23.7 days of snow, on average, though much of this is on the tops of large hills and mountains.

However, this figure can change dramatically, depending on where in the UK you’re planning on moving to. If you’ve got your eye on Scotland, prepare yourself for 38.1 days of stunning snowflakes per year – which rises to 76.2 days if you live in Cairngorms.

On the other hand, those of you moving to Cornwall will only see snow for 7.4 days out of the year.

If you’re facing some snowy weather in the UK (and particularly in London), stay under the covers. A matter of inches will cause traffic and public transport to slide to a halt, so working from home is generally a good idea.

Average temperature per month in the UK (Aug 2018 – Jul 2019)

MonthTemperature (°C)
January
3.7
February6
March6.8
April8.4
May10
June13.2
July16.4
August15.3
September12.4
October9.6
November7.3
December5.8

Average rainfall per month in the UK (Apr 2018 – Mar 2019)

MonthRainfall (mm)
January63.6
February72.8
March132.9
April86.3
May48.5
June35.4
July55.3
August84.9
September104.5
October104.4
November122.6
December119.5

Housing cost in the UK

If you’re chuffed (happy) with everything you’ve seen so far, and if you’re charmed enough by the quirks and foibles of the Old World to want to start a new life in London or Londonderry, you’ll want to know how much you can expect to pay for accommodation.

Check out the table below for a broad look at housing prices, then fill in this form to get shipping quotes from our professional suppliers, and get the ball rolling on this move of a lifetime.

Cost

LondonEdinburghCardiffBelfast
Renting 1 bedroom (per month)

1,781 ()

859 ()

771 ()

674 ()

Renting 3 bedrooms
(per month)

3,187 ()

1,477 ()

1,256 ()

1,063 ()

Buying / feet²

1,140 ()

373 ()

306 ()

188 ()

Average house price in the UK: $280,835

Average apartment price in the UK: $244,747

Cheapest place to buy a house in the UK: Newcastle-under-Lyme (average price £62,519)

The best neighbourhoods in the UK

Best for families: Bath

This picturesque English city is the best place to raise your kids, according to data gathered by MoneySuperMarket.

It has 30 schools ranked “Outstanding” by schools inspectors Ofsted, plenty of parks and stunning Roman architecture to enjoy, and a decent average salary of $36,343.

Wolverhampton and Newcastle upon Tyne came second and third respectively, which all shows that you should look beyond the most famous British cities to make a new home for you and your family.

Best for students: Dalston

If you’re moving to the UK to study, you’ll almost certainly be landing in London – and that’s just spiffing (excellent).

Dalston, in the east of the city, has become a hipster hub over the past decade. This of course meant gentrification was inevitable – but despite the creeping onslaught of big brands, the multicultural area is still on the cutting edge when it comes to food, art, and general coolness.

It’s also one of the cheapest places to rent in London, has a fantastic nightlife, and is blessed with Overground transport links which can get you to the city centre in no time.

Best for singles: Glasgow

An incredible 69% of people in Scotland’s biggest city are single, meaning you should always have the chance to make plans with a single friend, and shouldn’t feel especially pressured to settle down.

Rent will typically be 2.14% of your earnings – less than half as much as would be in London – which means that you’ll have more to spend going out and having fun. There’s a wonderful culinary and bar scene in Glasgow, meaning there’ll be plenty to enjoy.

Best for hipsters: Brighton and Hove

This southern city is undeniably the hipster champion of the UK – and, in our estimation, the world. Located on the English coast, Brighton and Hove overflows with a passion for art, food, coffee, vintage clothes and music.

The location’s impossibly friendly atmosphere is complemented by the way its people care about the environment. The city contains the UK’s only Green Party member of parliament, who has held their seat since 2010.

Brighton and Hove is also just a stone’s throw from France, if you fancy throwing on a beret, hopping on a train, and enjoying the delights of mainland Europe.

Working in the UK

The odds are that you’ll have a fantastic time working in the UK. The country was ranked 10th in the world for workplace happiness in 2019. In August of the same year, the employment rate was 76.1% – the joint-highest since records began.

All of this points to a world-class economy with happy employees – but let’s get down to brass tacks and look at what you can expect to be paid.

CityAverage annual salary
London$43,467
Edinburgh$34,931
Glasgow$32,316
Belfast$30,275

(All information comes from PayScale.com, and is correct as of August 2019.)

Work visas 

Moving to the UK from a country in the European Union is much easier (for now) – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible if you’re coming from the States. 

If you’re a skilled worker who’s earned a job with one of the countless approved companies in the UK, you can apply for a Tier 2 general visa from three months before your start date.

Need to stay for up to three years? It’ll cost you £610 to apply, plus another £610 for each of your dependents (family members, basically.) 

Want to make the UK your home for more than three years? The cost doubles to £1,220 ($1,488,) plus – yes, you guessed it – another £1,220 ($1,488) for each of your dependents. For a family of five, that means spending £6,100 ($7,440) for the right to live in the UK.

In either case, it’s 15% more expensive to apply for the visa from inside the UK.

You’ll also have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of around £800 ($976) for you and each of your dependents.

Make sure to get the following documents:

  • A certificate of sponsorship from your employer
  • Proof that you’re being paid the “appropriate rate” – usually at least £30,000 ($36,600) per year
  • A bank statement showing you have had £945 in your account for 90 days before your application
  • Evidence showing you are able and allowed to travel 
  • Your travel history over the past five years

After you’ve collected and prepared all of this information, be ready to visit a visa application centre to get your fingerprints taken and your photo taken for a biometric residence permit.

100% of New York-based applicants for this visa get an answer within 30 days, but it doesn’t usually take that long. Half the people get a response within two days, and 99% get a reply within 15 days, according to the UK government.

Remember to collect your biometric residence permit within 10 days of when you wrote that you would arrive in the UK.

Jobs in the UK for students

The UK is a corking (excellent) place to attend university. Not only do Cambridge and Oxford occupy the top two spaces in the Time Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2019, but London alone has four institutions in the top 40.

To make your dream come true of studying in the UK, you need to apply for a Tier 4 general student visa. You can do this from three months before your course is set to start, and should get a decision within three weeks of sending off the application.

Before you apply, make sure you:

  • Have been formally offered a place on a course at a UK university
  • Can speak, read, write and understand English
  • Have enough money to pay for your course and support yourself

And get together the following documents:

  • A valid passport or other valid travel document
  • Evidence you can support yourself and pay for your course
  • Proof your legal guardian consents to you getting the visa, if you’re under 18
  • Proof of your relationship with your legal guardian, if you’re under 18

It costs £348 to apply for this visa from outside the UK. You must pay an additional £348 per person for each dependent you want to come over with you. You’ll also have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of around £1,000 ($1,220).

If you’re successful, you can come over to the UK a month (or less) before your course starts.

Expat healthcare

The UK’s universal healthcare system consistently ranks highly on a global stage, all while costing the taxpayer a fraction of what people pay in many other countries.

After you’ve paid the Immigration Health Surcharge included in your visa application, you’ll be able to use the National Health Service (NHS).

All of the services offered to everyone else in the UK will also be available to you, for free, apart from certain services including prescriptions, dental treatment, and fertility treatments.

Do you need private insurance?

Waiting times can vary and sometimes last months, but the NHS has an excellent reputation, from its GPs to the operations it performs – plus it’s free.

Private insurers, on the other hand, charge hundreds or even thousands. You’ll pay British insurers an average premium of £1,435 per year, though this provide you with reduced waiting times and – in theory, at least – a better standard of care.

Can you use the state healthcare services?

You absolutely can, though you don’t have to. A report in 2017 indicated that 10.6% of the British public has private insurance, meaning that the rest of the population entrusts the NHS with their care.

Schools in the UK

The UK’s education system can offer you and your children top quality state schools and private schools – though confusingly, the terms “public school” and “private school” both refer to private institutions in the UK.

Each child has to attend school from the ages of five to 16, and the great majority attend state schools – around 91%, as of 2019.

A report from 2017 showed 49% of kids go on to enroll in higher education.

Best state school: The Henrietta Barnett School

This London-based girls’ school, which teaches around 750 students, has a 100% rate for its graduates going onto higher education or employment, according to school inspector Ofsted. 100% also get Grade 5 or above in their English and Math GCSEs.

In its last report on the school, Ofsted said its inspectors agreed with a parent who told them: “Henrietta Barnett is a brilliant school, we do not have a single bad word to say about it.” The report added that “the school provides an excellent education for its girls.”

Best private school: St Paul’s School

St Paul’s is more than 500 years old, and it’s long held a reputation for moulding the children of some of the richest people in the UK.

The education it provides is top-notch – but it comes at a cost. As well as a £2,700 ($3,288) deposit, you can expect to pay £20,712 ($25,216) per year until your kid is 11, when the price rises to £25,908 ($31,542.)

Conclusion

Moving to the UK is a wonderful decision to make, old bean (friend,) and by this point you should have all the knowledge you need to make the jump to life across the pond.

You can look forward to excellent healthcare, education, and entertainment while living in the UK. The food is also fantastic, if only because it’s such a multicultural country that you can get an Indian, Italian, or Chinese meal wherever you live.

So if you’d like to get free quotes for shipping your belongings to your new home, fill in this form and start your exciting new life in the UK.

Just don’t refer to the UK as England, and you’ll be fine!