Moving to the United Kingdom

From the iconic silhouette of London's Big Ben to the rolling green hills and craggy cliffs in the Highlands of Scotland, the beauty of the United Kingdom's culture and landscape has drawn people from around the world for centuries.

It follows that throughout history, the United Kingdom has been an attractive destination for immigrants and expats. While the country’s diverse economy and liberal immigration policies once made it easy for expats to move to the UK, immigration requirements have become tighter over time. Now it's generally only expats with specialist skills that are in demand.

In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. While there has been much speculation, it remains unclear what the implications of this move will be for EU nationals moving to the UK until negotiations are completed. 

There are a number of strong sectors in the UK economy, including IT, engineering, finance, healthcare, energy, oil and gas, and construction. Expats with experience and sought-after skills in these sectors will find that there is plenty of scope for career progression in Britain.

Most expats moving to the UK from Western European countries or North America experience very little culture shock. However, new arrivals do have to make some adjustments to accommodate the high cost of living, typically cold and rainy climate and urban congestion in cities such as London, where a large proportion of expats move.  

Healthcare in the United Kingdom is by and large free and the National Health Service (NHS) is often said to be one of the country’s greatest assets. The standard of hospitals and medical facilities in the UK is good and expats will find that doctors and medical staff are well trained and knowledgeable. Expats eligible to take advantage of the NHS should note, however, that while the service is free, appointments can be difficult to make and waiting times are often lengthy.

Expats moving to the UK with children will find that there are plenty of schooling options available, but the standards of education and schooling facilities vary considerably. Foreigners living in the UK are eligible to send their children to state schools which are funded by the government. Those who opt to have children educated at a private or international school should budget accordingly or try to negotiate an allowance into their employment package as fees are often astronomical.

Public transport in the UK is generally of a high standard and the quality of road infrastructure is excellent. Expats living in any of the major cities such as London, Manchester or Edinburgh won't need to own a car as public transport is comprehensive and getting around is relatively stress-free.

Expats moving to the UK will also have access to a wealth of historical and cultural attractions available in a relatively compact space. City nightlife venues are excellent and expats in the UK will be treated to an abundance of high-quality restaurants specialising in a variety of exotic cuisines. Furthermore, the country is host to a number of exciting international sporting events and music festivals. Finally, when expats feel they need a break from the fast-paced city life or the gloomy weather, the UK is well positioned for easy and affordable travel to Europe and beyond.


Fast facts

Population: Over 67 million

Capital city: London (also the largest city)

Other major cities: Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Manchester

Neighbouring countries: The UK shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. It is separated from France by the British Channel.

Geography:  The UK is located off the northwestern coast of continental Europe. The majority of the UK is split across two islands – the island of Great Britain and the northeastern part of the island of Ireland. There are also a number of smaller surrounding islands that make up the British Isles archipelago.

Major religions: Christianity

Political system: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Main languages: English

Money: The currency of the UK is the British Pound Sterling (GBP) which is subdivided into 100 pence. In order to open a bank account in the UK, most banks require proof of a local address and a form of official identification, such as a passport. 

Tipping: 10 to 15 percent of the bill if a service charge has not already been added.

Time: GMT (GMT+1 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard.

Internet domain: .uk

International dialling code: +44

Emergency contacts: 999 or 112

Transport and driving: Driving is on the left-hand side. There is a variety of public transport options available in the UK and the transportation network is generally well formed, both across the country and within most cities.