Moving to UK – How to Immigrate to the UK

view of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Moving to another country is a big decision but can be a huge opportunity to improve your life. The United Kingdom is a popular choice for skilled workers with over 1.2 million skilled people moving here in 2023, this is more than Canada and Australia. Most people immigrate to the UK for the British culture, its career opportunities, to improve their English or a safer place to live. The UK is a popular tourism destination from London to the Scottish Highlands, Premier League football or the vibrant music scene. The UK is the land of opportunity.

The hardest part of such a life changing decision is where to start. At first, it can look like an endless amount of steps to take. This article will help you through the process of immigrating to the UK and make moving to the UK a little bit easier.

UK Visa Options for 2024

Depending on your goals and personal circumstances, will change the type of visa you go for. You can visit the UK from most countries through a simple Standard Visitor visa. This can be a good option to scout for jobs and attend interviews with employers without breaking the rules of the visa.

If your long-term goal is to work and live in the UK, you will need a UK working visa. Likewise, if you plan to further your education in Britain, you will need a UK student visa. A third and increasingly popular route for young people is to apply for a working holiday visa, this can be either be the Youth Mobility Scheme or India Young Professionals Scheme.

Most Popular Visas for the UK 2024 below:

  • Health and Care Worker – perfect for healthcare professionals such as nurses, doctors and care workers
  • Skilled Worker – visa for you if listed on the occupations list
  • Student – for bachelors degrees or higher
  • UK Ancestry – ideal for people with a British grandparent
  • Graduate – for recent graduates already in the UK

How much does it cost to move to the UK?

How long is a piece of string! The cost required will vary depending on the type of visa, your dependants, how much documentation is required and more. Overall for a single applicant who has a job already arranged, we recommend to save at least £5000 if you are intending to stay outside London, within London expect to save at least £7000 to have a decent start.

Moving to the UK cost checklist below:

  • Visa application
  • Healthcare Surcharge
  • Flights to the UK
  • Insurance
  • Passport renewal or application
  • Short-term accommodation
  • Long-term accommodation
  • International Shipping
  • Pet transport
  • Tests such as English Language or Tuberculosis

UK Visa Application Fees 2024

Visa TypeVisa Fee
Skilled Worker£719 – 3 years or less
£1420 – 3 years or more
Health and Care Worker£284 – 3 years or less
£551 – 3 years or more
High Potential Individual£822
Senior or Specialist Worker£719– 3 years or less
£1420 – 3 years or more
Scale-Up£822
Innovator Founder£1191
Graduate£822
Student£490
Child Student490

Healthcare Surcharge

The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) entitles you to use the NHS if you become unwell or have an accident while in the UK.

You have to pay the IHS even if you do not use the NHS or even if you have your own private health insurance, the cost is £1,035 per year.

If you are applying for a 2-year visa you will have to pay £1,035 each year, therefore you will have to pay a total of £2,070.

Healthcare professionals who have applied through the Health and Care Worker visa are exempt from the Healthcare surcharge, including any dependants.

Finding a job and what salary can I earn?

The UK economy is the six largest in the world and unemployment has been under 10% for over 30 years. The economy varies depending on the country such as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Financial services is mostly concentrated around London and Edinburgh, whilst supply chain and manufacturing is more common throughout the Midlands and North. Northern Ireland is unique as it shared a border with the Republic of Ireland and is still in the Customs Union, allowing free movement of goods with the European Union.

According to the latest figures in April 2023, the average salary for a full time worker is £35,500. Your personal income will depend on your experience, industry and region you have moved to. According to research by recruitment company Adzuna, the average salary ranges from £56,497 in central London to £36,690 in Manchester.

Over 335,447 work related visas were granted in the year ending September 2023, there is a skills shortage in the UK in many professions.

You can use websites such as HaysIndeed and NHS Recruitment to find jobs being advertised, you can also add “Sponsorship” into the search function to find employers currently sponsoring. Contact companies that interest you by sending them them your CV and asking them if they have any sponsorship opportunities available. Many employers have a “Career” section that allows you to submit your CV without a specific job advertisement, this allows them to check their database for suitable candidates when a suitable role becomes available.

Another way of finding an employer is searching for global companies that have offices in your home country and the UK. This would mean working for this company in your own country for a period of time then asking for a transfer opportunity in a UK city. This can be done through the Senior or Specialist Worker visa.

Can i bring my family?

Deciding which work visa or student visa is best for you will determine if you are allowed family members to join the main applicant in the UK, who are known as “dependants”. You don’t have to be a permanent resident or have an Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK to bring your family members. Dependants over 18 can work full time in any profession throughout with no restrictions. The length of time allowed to stay is the same as the main applicants work visa.

  • Adult Dependant – £1846
  • Child – £1846

Can I bring my pet?

You can bring your pet on almost any work or student visa to the UK, the most important step is to make sure you follow the correct process to avoid any issues along the way. There will be different eligibility criteria depending on the species.

Common requirements to bring your pet to the UK:

  • Pet Passport or Health Certificate
  • Microchip
  • Vaccination against rabies
  • Tapeworm treatment
  • In some cases a Blood Test

If all the requirements are not met there is the risk of your pet not being allowed into the UK. This will lead to your pet either being sent back to the country it flew in from or being held in quarantine for a period of up to 4 months. You will also be responsible for any fees or charges associated with this.

We suggest using a Pet shipping agent to handle this process as it can become quite complex. These experts will arrange all necessary steps from your home country to arriving in the UK. There knowledge of the UK customs laws will help you save time and money, and will help sort any paperwork required to avoid any hiccups at customs. In the UK there are no duty or taxes applicable for personal items that you have owned for 12 months or more. It is however important that you do not ship items which may be subject to duty or taxes or items which are prohibited.

Shipping your possessions to the UK

We suggest using a freight forwarder to handle this process as it can become quite complex. These experts will arrange to collect and package your items from your home and then store, ship and deliver your goods to your new home. There knowledge of the UK customs laws will help you save time and money, and will help sort any paperwork required to avoid any hiccups at customs.

If your goods are inspected and fall into any of these categories you may incur further costs for duty, taxes, storage and other fees charged by customs, indeed these items may also be confiscated and fines applied.

Which city to live in the UK?

There are many UK cities that offer a good quality of life but choosing the right one for you will depend on many factors such as your occupation or budget.

We have written an article about the best UK cities to live in 2024

Most popular major cities with foreign born populations:

  • London
  • Edinburgh
  • Manchester
  • Leicester
  • Glasgow
  • Birmingham

Should you rent or buy?

Deciding on whether you should rent or buy in the UK is entirely dependant on your personal circumstances. We suggest to rent at first as this will give you time to feel if the area is right for you. The average rent in the UK outside London is around £1000 per month, London is £2200 and with apartments with less square feet (As of January 2024).

You will find cities in the Midlands, Northern England and Scotland are more affordable than London and Southern England. People on work visas will also find it harder to find a mortgage until they achieve citizenship, with higher interest rates and stricter affordability criteria.

Finding a school for your children

The education system in the UK is known for its high standards which is internationally recognised. The schooling system is devolved to each country within the UK, you can find rankings of each school on the performance tables here. There will be different rankings for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The school year will also vary depending on country and council, but the most common is September through to July.

Once you find a school that is suitable, you need to apply through the local council, use the government website to start the process here.

Money in the UK

Pound sterling (£) is the currency of the UK across all 4 nations, although different style notes are used.

In the UK most current accounts and credit cards are free and is there no need to pay banking fees to open an account.

Before you decide on a preferred bank, take into consideration which branches are convenient to your home and place of work. Check the opening hours and who offers the best credit cards in the UK for your budget.

Most popular current accounts:

  • HSBC
  • RBS
  • TSB
  • Barclays
  • Santander
  • Nationwide

Paying Tax in the UK

Alongside opening up a bank account, setting up the correct tax code and national insurance number is crucial when starting a new job in the UK. You will have to pay income tax when you start earning, for most new arrivals to the UK this means money you earn from employment.

How much income tax you pay each tax year depends on how much of your income is above your Personal Allowance and which Tax Band you enter, the tax year begins on the 6th of April each year.

The standard Personal Allowance is £12,570, which is the amount of income you do not have to pay tax on. After this you will enter one of the below Tax Bands.

BandTaxable incomeTax rate
Personal AllowanceUp to £12,5700%
Basic rate£12,571 to £50,27020%
Higher rate£50,271 to £125,14040%
Additional rateover £125,14045%

Flights and Short-term Accommodation

Most major airlines fly to the UK direct, especially London. Ideally, you should try and avoid arriving during a public holiday week as this will increase the cost and the hotel prices. Be sure to check luggage allowances when booking the flights, especially if you are bringing most of your belongings instead of shipping them.

Using Skyscanner and Booking.com are popular in the UK and we suggest using these to book your flight and accommodation.

Before you move to the UK checklist

  • Visa documentation
  • Boarding pass for flights
  • Insurance documents
  • Valid passport
  • IELTS certificate
  • Bank statement
  • CV (resume)
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Driving license
  • Pet documentation
  • UK adapter plug
  • Pound sterling notes £

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