Moving to England from US
England, Lifestyle, Living Abroad, Moving

Moving to England from US: 10 Things Americans Must Know Now

Are you thinking about moving to England from US?  The United Kingdom is on an island in Europe and is a beautiful country full of history.  Plus, seeing the countryside and rolling green hills is nostalgic.  Passing gorgeous ancient cathedrals and ruins like the Abbey Gardens are what you will see daily.  

You may be thinking, how can an American move to England?  More and more, I hear people talking about jumping ship and leaving America to move abroad as an expat.  And England is at the forefront of those countries to consider.  Some people may think it would be easier to move to England from America since they speak English.  However, moving to England from US is not as easy as one may think.  It does come with its own set of challenges and learning curves.  

There are many reasons why someone would want to move to England from US.  Some of you may move to England due to a job offer, getting married, as an expat, or maybe you just want a break from living in America.  Or you may be in the military and moving to England from US to work on an RAF base like RAF Mildenhall or RAF Lakenheath.  

Do any Americans live in the UK?

I moved here to England from the US almost four years ago.  I was on active duty in the Air Force and got an assignment to work on RAF Mildenhall.  So that’s when my daughter and I packed up our belongings and moved to England.  We were full of excitement, ready for new beginnings and meeting new people.  

Whatever reason you may be considering moving to England from USA, I will walk you through the process of how you can move to England, things you need to know.  I’ll also give you steps to take once you make it across the pond and start settling here in the UK.  

So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

Moving to England from US

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How to move to England from USA?

You will need a VISA

If you just want to visit, you can stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a VISA. But I know you don’t want to move to England for only 6 months.  Therefore, moving to England from US for longer than 6 months, you will have to apply for a VISA.

Here are the different types of VISAs for Americans
Long term Skilled Work Visa (Tier 2)

This is a skilled worker visa that you can apply for if you consider moving to England.  These types of jobs are in Health Care, Estate Managers, Civil and Electrical Engineers, IT Specialists, Pharmacists, Nurses, Veterinarians, and tons More.  Click here to see the entire list of eligible skilled worker jobs. 

To apply for the Skilled Worker Visa, you must:

  • Have an approved UK employer (sponsor)
  • Have a job offer before applying for a work visa. 
  • The employer must pay you a minimum salary. 
  • The employer has to be on the list of approved occupations.  
  • Have a “certificate of sponsorship” from the employer explaining your position at the job.  

The work visa can last up to 5 years. Additionally, you can apply for a chance to live in the UK and work permanently.

Temporary Work Visa (Tier 5)

This applies to those who want to move to England and work but for a shorter time frame.  With this Visa, the positions are those working for the government, doing charity work, being a religious worker, doing seasonal work like picking fruit, driving heavy goods, Creative workers like you are an actor, singer, dancer, etc. 

You can also apply for a Graduate Visa if you’ve studied and completed your UK Bachelor’s degree or any other degree on a UK Student Visa.  Apply to stay an additional two years.

To apply for the Temporary Work Visa, you must:

  • Have a certificate sponsorship before applying from a licenses entity such as a school, a government dept, an approved exchange organization
  • Have money to support yourself, about £1,270 in your bank account. 
  • Be 18 years or older

The Short Term Visa last from 12-24 months, depending on the type of work visa you have 

Student Visa (Tier 4)

A Student Visa is for anyone that wants to take courses in the UK, such as going to college and getting a Bachelor’s degree. You can apply for a study Visa starting at the age of 16. 

To apply for the Student Visa, you must:

  • Must have a place that has offered you to study (sponsor),
  • Have the parent’s permission if their a minor, 
  • Know how to speak English to get approved for a visa.
  • Have proof that they can support themselves while in the UK

You can stay in the UK for an undergrad degree for 2 years.  Once 18 years old, if studying for a graduate degree, you can usually stay for up to 5 years

Fiance Visa

Have you seen 90-day fiance’? LOL. Anywho, you can apply for a marriage visa as a partner or spouse.

To apply for the Fiance Visa, you must:

  • Want to marry a British or Irish citizen
  • Plan on getting married in the UK
  • Give notice of entering a marriage or civil partnership in the UK
  • Be a fiance, fiancee’ and can get married within 6 months of arriving in the UK at a license place..venue
  • You are genuinely in a relationship and have been living together for 2 years
  • Be 18 years old
  • Have proof that you can support yourself while visiting England.
  • You and your partner must plan to live together in the UK permanently 

There are so many other factors that come into play with this fiance Visa like do you guys have a kid that lives in the UK that is British or Irish?  So I would advise you to check out the complete requirements on the United Kingdom government website.  It would probably be wise to get a lawyer as well to help with all the logistics. 

Moving to England from US - Abbey Gardens
The gorgeous Abbey Gardens in Bury St. Edmunds

Read Next: See this post on tips for a PCS move overseas. 

Shipping your household (furniture)

Once you get all of the logistics out of the way and get approved for moving to England, let’s talk about shipping your things abroad.  

Expats moving to England from US

For expats moving to England from the US, you may want to start purging your household items as much as possible.  If moving on your own, without help from your employer, then you should seek out some moving companies that will ship some of your bulkier items to England if you choose to do that. 

For the heavier shipments, say (13,000) pounds, it will go on a ship.  For other items like your clothing, accessories, etc., you can pack those in your carry-on luggage.  You should try to pack the essentials that can fit in your luggage.  Things you would want and need to use right away once arriving in England.  Because since the bulk of your shipment will be on a boat, it could take up to 3 – 4 months before getting to England.  So you don’t want to be stuck having to purchase all new things because your goods are stuck on a boat.

If you do not want to ship your household, have a yard sale or put your furniture in storage. Selling your furniture may be a good idea, especially if you plan on moving to England permanently. Because if you are paying for this move on your own, this could be expensive. Plus some of the houses in England are smaller, and the outlets are 220.  I talk more about the housing situation in England in this post.

Storing your household items

Then another option to consider is storing some household goods that you will or cannot use while living in England.  For instance, I decided to put my Washing machine and dryer in storage because the appliances are bigger with US specs.  If you do not have a transportation package, storage will be an expense you will have to pay. However, if your moving with the military, all of these moving expenses are covered by the government. Yay!!

Moving to England from US- City of Bath in the UK
City of Bath, UK

What to do with your Car when moving to England from US

When I first learned that I would be moving to England from the US.  I was conflicted on whether I should ship my car or not.  Fortunately for me, I was moving on military orders, so the military covered the shipment.  However, I was still conflicted because it is an American spec vehicle and an SUV.  

I was concerned because the driving conditions and roads are very different from the US.  I talk more about the challenges of driving in England in this post

Anyhow, if you decide to ship your US-spec vehicle to the UK (like I did).  There are a few things you will need to do upon arrival

Need an MOT

You will have to get an MOT done on your car.  An MOT is an inspection of your vehicle to ensure it is in good working order for UK road standards.  You cannot register your vehicle or drive the car without an MOT.  So this must be on your priority list of things to do when moving to England. 

Need a Light Conversion

Next, you will have to get light conversion work done on your car.  This is because, in America, we drive on the right-hand side of the road so the lights are prone to shine a certain way.  However, in the UK, they drive on the left-hand side of the road so the lights shine in the opposite direction.  There are other things they need to do (depending on the make, model, and year of your car) to get your car lights to UK spec standards.  The light conversion costs between $250 – $300.

After you have all of that work done, you can apply to register your car through DVLA

Moving to England from US - Picture of Cotwolds Village

Looking for housing in England 

Looking for a house in another country can be challenging, especially since some homes in the UK are smaller than in the US.  Still, whether you are moving to England solo or with a family will determine what type of accommodation you would prefer.

I recommend you start doing your house-hunting on Rightmove and Zoopla.  I used Rightmove the most, but they are both great websites.  You can also download the apps for convenient research and access.  

I would advise that you start doing your research before moving to England.  This will give you an idea of how much the rent will be and the best areas to reside.  To add, moving to England from US, IMO, would be best to live somewhat close to where your employer is located.  

When researching Zoopla or Rightmove, it will probably be confusing because the British words are different from American words.  Here are a couple of terms to help you navigate the type of housing available.

  • Flat means Apartment
  • Semi-detached house means Duplex
  • Detached house means a single-family home
  • Bungalow means one story house
  • Garden means yard or backyard 

Once you move to England, make sure you see the property you are interested in living.  This is because the house may look big on the website, but sometimes they are a lot smaller in person.  Then you would want to see the surroundings, check out the neighborhoods, see if it’s close to grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants, etc. 

If you are in the military and want to live on base, check out this post to see how to apply.

British Pounds

Setting up a Bank Account after moving to England from US

You will have to open a local bank to pay your bills.  The currency in England is the British Pound.  The account you will be opening is a Sterling account, a British Pounds account.   

Local banks in England are Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank, HSBC, and Natwest.

Some things that you will need to open a new bank account in England are:

  • Proof of identities such as a driver’s license and passport 
  • Home Address 
  • Your Employer
  • Personal info
  • Contact info

Since I moved here with the military, I decided to go with the on-base banks, which are Keesler Federal Credit Union and Community Bank.

I’ve been a member of Keesler Federal for over 10 years now, so that was easy for me.  However, I opened an account with Community Bank because someone told me I couldn’t use Keesler to pay my bills, which isn‘t true. I still have both accounts, but my preference is Keesler. It’s just easier working with them versus Community Bank. 

Paying Bills after moving to England from US

Paying bills in the UK is a bit different from the US.  You will need to have a sterling account to pay your local UK bills.  That goes for paying the rent in England, your water, electricity, and cell phone. 

The difference in paying bills in the UK is that most companies require you to pay them automatically through your bank account.  For instance, with BaseLets Estate Agents, I had to fill out the paperwork with my bank’s sort code, rent amount, date to start withdrawing the money, and end date.  In most cases, you won’t be able to rent without that paperwork.  Crazy right?  

Another thing that may be different with utilities in England is the water and electricity bill.  When I first moved here, we had to read the meter every month or two and input it on the website to get an accurate bill payment.  So yeah, some things in England are of the Stone Age, but eventually, they catch up.  Now I have a smart reader installed, which has helped a bunch.  

Picture of Durdle Door landscape
Durdle Door in the UK

Can I drive in the UK with an American License?

This has been a big question for anyone thinking of moving to England from US. 

Yes, when moving to England, you can drive legally with a US license for up to 12 months.  After that, you will need to apply to get a UK license with the DVLA Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency. 

Even though you can drive in the UK without taking a test and getting a license, you should still study the Highway Code, Road Safety, and Vehicle Rules.  Because driving in the UK is a HUGE difference than in the US.  Say Magic Roundabout…what?!

What happens if you don’t have a US license?

My advice would be to get a US license before moving to England.  That’s because it could take upwards of 6 months or more for approval for a UK license.  It’ll be a whole lot easier to obtain your license in the USA and drive for 12 months without having to wait.  Then in the meantime, you could work on getting your UK license while still being able to drive on your US license. 

Getting a cell phone in England after moving to England from US

Ahhhhh…A must-have companion is your cell phone.  When moving to England from US, you will want cell phone service.  

Buying a SIM Card at the airport upon arrival

When you first arrive at the London Heathrow airport, you can buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card there.  Pay as you go is pretty much what it means.  You will choose a certain amount of data like 10-100 GBs. Then you will pay for that SIM card.  Once your data starts to run out, you can “top-up” and pay to get more data.  That’s what I did when I first moved to England until I decided what company I wanted to choose.

There are several Cell Phone Companies in the UK.  The top network companies are Three, Vodafone, and EE.  I chose to go with Vodofone for my cell phone plan, and I’m satisfied with them.  

However, before using your cell phone that you perhaps brought with you from the states, you have to get it unlocked from your previous plan and company.  Without getting it unlocked, you cannot use your cell phone with the new cell phone plan in the UK.

Another bonus for using a UK cell phone plan is that it is cheaper than in the US.  The plan I have with Vodafone is only £38 ~ $51 for unlimited data, talk, and text with free roaming in 50+ countries.  In the US, a plan like that would be over $150+!! I’m saving like half on my bill.  

Should you keep your US number and plan?

Other people I know sometimes just use their cell phone company (like T-Mobile) from the US and change their plan for England.  I disagree with this because it’s more expensive and you could rack up on some charges.  Then you have a US number, meaning anyone calling you from the UK cannot call you unless they don’t mind getting hit with international fees.  It just makes it harder to call or message people with a US country code while living in the UK. 

Healthcare Services in England

Health care in the UK is free for Americans…Well, sort of free.   

The NHS functions as a residence-based system vs. insurance-based like in the US.  

You do not have to pay for most healthcare services in the UK if you are an ordinarily resident in the UK.  Being an ordinarily resident means, you are living in the UK on a legal and settled basis for more than 6 months.  Meaning as an American, this can apply to you with an approved visa to live, work, or study in England for the time being. 

Even though you may be eligible to receive free medical care with the NHS, it is still advised to seek out personal health insurance. 

Still, some services you will have to pay for such as Dental, Eye exams, and medications along with other patients in England.  Check out all the requirements on eligibility for free healthcare services with the NHS

Walking on the London Tower Bridge
On the London Tower Bridge

Is it hard for an American to live in England?

If you’ve never been overseas or out of the country, you may have a culture shock.  A culture shock will have you stunned by how things operate, the people, the stores, and the scenery.

When I was first moving to England, I had a bit of a culture shock.  For me, it was trying to understand the Brits while they were speaking.  Yes, England is an English-speaking country, but there are some barriers from their British words vs American words and phrases.  So learning to understand them was a bit of a challenge, but I’ve gotten used to it…for the most part.

Plus, their accent is thick, so you must pay close attention to what they say.  Learning some of the British words and their culture will benefit you before moving to England from America.

Oh the weather….

Furthermore, the weather may be different than what you are used to seeing.  It can be very gloomy with low sunshine, especially during winter.  It rains most of the time here, but you’ll rarely see heavy downpours.  It’s more drizzling rain than anything.  

Then the aspect of being away from family and friends may make you a little homesick, and that’s ok to feel that way.  It’s normal. 

On the London Eye
Riding the London Eye
Here are a few tips on helping you with making an easier transition with moving to England from US and settling
  1. Rely on your co-workers.  They are the people you will see regularly.  If working with mostly British citizens, talk to them to learn about who they are and their culture. 
  2. Try to get out and make new friends.  I know it’s more challenging trying to get out and about with the pandemic going on; however, you should still try to make new friends.  Talking and hanging out with other people will bring up your spirits, help you feel like you belong here, and will help you shake off some of that homesickness.
  3. Rely on your family if you are moving to England with kids and your spouse, then excellent.  You can rely on them by talking, doing things together, and supporting each other.
  4. Last but not least.  TRAVEL.  Traveling is my favorite part of living in England.  You can travel throughout the UK, Europe, and Africa.  The UK is picturesque, particularly seeing the gorgeous beaches in Cornwall.  And, going to London, eating amazing desserts, or walking around touring famous sites is impressive.  There are so many places to see in the UK.  You can travel to other places besides the UK.  Traveling to Spain, Egypt, the Canary Islands, or Morocco is possible while living in England.  It’s just one road trip, flight, or train ride away to anywhere you want to go. 
Picture of Moving to the UK

Further Reading on England

Top 75 British Words vs. American Words

7 Best Places to see Christmas Lights in London 

2 Days in London: The Ultimate London Itinerary

12 Best UK City Breaks for an Amazing Weekend

Beautiful Self-Guided City Walk in London

1 Day in London: The Best London One Day Itinerary

What I’ve Learned After 2 Years Living in England

The Best Gifts to Buy in England

Romantic Weekend Getaway in Bath

Ultimate 3-Day Road Trip to Cornwall

How to Spend One Perfect Day in Brighton

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