Moving to the UK Guide

Monday, 4 Jul 2016

Moving to UK

When moving to the UK to work or study, there are a number of things that you must be aware of. These include your right to reside, work or study in the UK, travel options, potential accommodation and your right to avail of public services in the UK.

What Visa Do I Need When Moving to the UK?

Student Visas

A student visitor visa is available if you intend to take a short course in the UK, such as an English-language course. Students must apply for this visa if they come from a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. Certain other eligibility requirements must be met. You must prove that you are over 18 years of age, that you have been accepted on an approved course and that you have the funds to support your own upkeep.

This visa allows you to stay in the UK for either 6 months (for short courses including English-language courses) or 11 months (for an English-language course only). The charge for each visa is £83 and £150 respectively.

If you intend to study for a longer period in the UK - for an undergraduate degree, for example – you must apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. In order to obtain this visa, you must be 16 years of age, or over, must have been offered a place on a course, be able to write and speak English fluently, and must be able to support yourself financially.

For younger students from outside the EEA intending to take up primary or secondary level education in the UK at a privately funded school, a Tier 4 (Child) student visa must be applied for. In order to do so, a place must have been secured at a school.

To find out more about eligibility, visit

Work Visas

Nationals from outside the EEA must apply for a visa in order to work in the UK. There are several different visas available, depending on your type of work. For example, a Tier 2 (General) Visa is applicable to those who have been offered a skilled job in the UK, or a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa is applicable to those whose employer overseas has offered them a job in a UK branch of the organisation. An important criterion of most visa applications is that you have been offered a job and/or that you can support yourself financially.

It is crucial to check the website to find out details relating to your particular circumstances:

Travelling to the UK

When moving to the UK, you will most likely travel to an airport in one of the UK’s bigger cities, such as London, Birmingham or Manchester. Most cities in the UK are serviced by an airport, and most of these offer destinations across Europe, if not further afield. Airports tend to have good transport links into city centres.

National rail services link all major cities in the UK. You can plan your journey at the National Rail website, which will choose routes from all major train operators:

Alternatively, bus companies run cross-country services. For example, National Express has an extensive network. See their website to plan your journey:

How to Find Accommodation in the UK?

If you are a student, finding accommodation should be relatively straight forward. Universities often offer accommodation on campus to their students, which is often a more affordable option than seeking rented accommodation. Universities have their own dedicated accommodation teams to facilitate this. This accommodation can be applied for once a student has accepted a place at a university. Alternatively, most university towns and cities offer affordable accommodation to students, usually in the form of house shares.

If you are searching for accommodation without the support of a host institution, it is advisable to research available housing before you move to the UK. When you first arrive, you should spend some time visiting accommodation in person before choosing which property to rent/ buy. While you are doing so, a cost-effective temporary accommodation solution is to stay at a local bed and breakfast (B&B), which offers exactly that – a room, usually with ensuite facilities, plus a daily breakfast. B&Bs tend to be better value than hotels, and you can benefit from the local knowledge and advice of the owner, who usually resides at the same property.

Before signing any rental agreements, make sure you are aware of your responsibilities and also that you have checked that the rental amount is a fair price for the local area.

The following websites can be used to find properties available to buy/ rent in the UK:

What is UK Health Care Like?

In order to ensure that you receive the necessary health care while in the UK, it is important to be aware of the National Health Service, which offers free general health care and emergency medical treatment to all UK citizens. (This tends not to include dental and optical treatment for over-18s, depending on individual circumstances. Patients in England usually have to pay for prescriptions; this is not currently the case in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland).

The entitlement of non UK citizens to this free service depends on the length on their stay in the UK.

However, some services are free to all. These include emergency treatment, family planning services and compulsory psychiatric treatment.

If you have been granted lawful residency of 12 months or more, you will be entitled to full NHS treatment.

Or, if you are on a course lasting six months or more in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, and all courses in Scotland, you are entitled to full NHS treatment.

Nationals from the EEA should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to the UK. This card entitles the holder and their family to full NHS treatment, no matter the length of their stay.

Some countries have Reciprocal Health Care Agreements with the UK. These include:

Nationals of: Armenia; Azerbaijan; Georgia; Kazakhstan; Kyrgystan; Moldova; New Zealand; Russia; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; and Uzbekistan

Residents of Anguilla; Australia; Barbados; Bosnia and Herzegovina; British Virgin Islands; Channel Islands; Croatia; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Isle of Man; Macedonia; Montenegro; Montserrat; Serbia; St Helena; and Turks and Caicos Islands

These agreements allow the nationals/ residents of countries named above to receive some NHS treatments due to illnesses arising during your stay, but normally not for pre-existing conditions, where these are not life-threatening.

See the NHS webpages for more details on your eligibility:

If you intend to stay in the UK for a long period, you should register with your local GP. Appointments should be made to see the GP if you have non-emergency medical concerns.

If you seek urgent medical attention, you should proceed to your closest hospital with Accident and Emergency (A&E) facilities.

In the case of a life-threatening emergency, dial 999 for an ambulance.

Dental Care

The majority of adults in the UK pay for their own dental care, whether on a ‘pay as you go’ basis or through a health plan such as Denplan. Some patients are entitled to free dental care on the NHS. These include children under the age of 18, students under 19 and in full-time education and pregnant women or mothers who have had a child within the 12 months before treatment starts. Also, people on certain benefits do not have to pay, such as those receiving Income Support or Pension Credit.

For more information see:

Optical Care

The majority of adults in the UK pay privately for their eye care, usually at a high-street optician, such as Specsavers or Vision Express.

Certain people are entitled to a free eye test, such as children under 16, students under 19 in full-time employment, and those aged 60 or over. Those on benefits such as Income Support or Pension Credit may also be eligible.

See for more details.

How to Set Up a Bank Account

If moving to the UK it is advisable to set up a bank account, as this will allow you to pay your bills easily and will allow your wages to be paid to you. There are a wide range of high-street banks to choose from. You should research what each bank can offer you in your particular financial situation before you choose a bank. In order to set up a bank account, you normally need to have evidence of your identity, such as a passport of driving licence and confirmation of your address. The latter may be difficult to obtain if you have only just moved to the UK. There are a number of ways to get round this. You could try using a contract of employment that has been provided by your UK employer as proof of address, or perhaps a payslip, or a HMRC P2 ‘PAYE Coding Notice’, which is sent to you to inform you of what your tax code is. Or, if you don’t already drive you could apply for a provisional driving licence in the UK, which will include your address. There is, however, a charge for this.

For more options, see

Financial Responsibilities

On moving to the UK you will become a UK resident and will be expected to pay taxes, where applicable, and will be responsible for covering the cost of living, in the form of utility bills, etc.


Income tax:

This is a tax you pay on your income, such as a salary from an employer, the profits you make if you are self-employed, most pensions and rental income.

There is a tax-free allowance for most people of £11,000. You will only pay tax on earnings after this amount.

Council tax:

This is a tax that is set by local councils to pay for the services they provide, such as waste collections. Most people over 18 who own or rent a home will have to pay. There are exceptions and reductions, however, for certain people. If everyone living in a residence is a full-time student, for example, council tax need not be paid. The council will send you a council tax bill based on which price band your property falls into.

Note that a similar bill is charged in Northern Ireland called ‘Rates’.

Utility Bills

Water charges:

Whether or not you are required to pay water charges, and how the charges are paid, depends on what region of the UK you are living in.

In Scotland, most homes are supplied by Scottish Water.

You must pay water charges, but these form part of your Council Tax payment, if you do not have a water meter.

If you do have a meter, Scottish Water will bill you directly.

You must also pay for using the public sewerage system. This charge is also included in your council tax bill.

In Northern Ireland only non-domestic premises must pay water charges. Water charges do not apply to domestic customers.

Water is supplied by Northern Ireland Water

In England/ Wales you must pay domestic water and sewerage charges. Several different companies serve different areas of England. Most people are charged a set yearly rate, which should be made known to the customer in advance. A smaller number of people have a water meter, and are charged according to their usage.

If you rent a property water charges may be included in the cost of your rent.

Gas/ electricity:

Depending on where you live, you may have a choice of gas/ electricity provider. Bills are normally paid directly to the company, who will charge you according to your meter reading. Bills are normally sent out every three months. Many people set up a direct debit with their bank to pay an amount towards their bills each month, and so spread the cost.

What Are My Benefit Entitlements?

If you move to the UK you may be entitled from some financial support from the government, in the form of benefits, of which there are several different types. There are a number of criteria that need to be met before you can receive such support.

The following are examples of the types of benefits available:

Income support

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

Housing Benefit

Disability Living Allowance

Pension Credit

Tax Credits

In order to qualify for this financial help, you will need to prove your habitual residency in the UK and, depending on the particular benefit, meet several other criteria. For example, before you can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance you must have lived in the UK for at least three months prior to your application.

The benefits that you may receive will be dependent on your nationality, with EEA nationals generally having greater eligibility than non-EEA nationals.

Please note that each claimant is judged on their particular circumstances and that there may be regional variations across the UK.

In order to learn more about your eligibility for benefits, visit the Citizens’ Advice Bureau website: or .

Local Services

Post Office

All towns and cities and many villages across the UK have at least one Post Office providing a number of services. The Post Office is not only a place where you can pay for and post letters and parcels (to be delivered by the Royal Mail) but many branches also offer travel money, insurance, banking and passport application checking services.

Visit: to find your local branch.

Local Transport

Most towns and cities have local bus networks. These are more limited and less frequent in more rural areas. Scotland, England and Wales are also connected by an extensive rail network that links major cities. There are also many more local train networks across the country. Rail services are provided by a number of different train companies, including First Great Western, Virgin Trains, Scot Rail, and Arriva Trains Wales. In Northern Ireland, one company (Translink) runs the rail network, which only runs around the north and east coast of the country. It also provides a service to Dublin.

Some larger cities in the UK also run tram or underground services. The London Underground network is the most extensive. In order to travel on this network, it is advised to obtain an Oyster card, which will provide cheaper travel than buying individual tickets. Oyster Cards can be topped up online or at ticket machines. These cards can then be swiped to open barriers into/ out of the underground or on buses. The Oyster card, therefore, facilitates speedier and more convenient travel. Cards can be obtained either at a station or online at the Transport for London website

Council Services

The UK is divided up into different councils. Depending on what are you live in, there may be different tiers of council in operation, such as County councils, district, borough and city councils and parish, community and town councils. In other areas, there may be only one council. These councils are responsible for a vast array of amenities and services.

The more local district, borough, or city councils are responsible for the day-to-day running of the area and provide services such as rubbish collection, recycling, Council Tax (or Rates) collections and planning applications.

Integrating Within the Community

When moving to the UK from another country, it may be difficult at first to feel part of the community and to make friends outside of the workplace. However, you can quickly get to know people in your local community by joining a club or society. These might be commercially run, or set up by voluntary groups, councils or local religious groups.  Why not join a sports club, a reading group, or volunteer to give back to the community?

Organisations that you could get involved with include:


Red Cross -

Scouts Association / Girlguiding UK -,

St Johns Ambulance -

Prince’s Trust -

Local charities

Church groups

Sports clubs

No matter where in the world you may be travelling to the UK from, Send My Bag can help you ship everything internationally quickly and affordably, find out more on international shipping to the UK.

If you are moving to the UK permanently, we have some excellent advice on buying a home abroad that will help you avoid any time-consuming oversights. 

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