Perhaps it’s always been your life long dream, or you just recently discovered your love for this country. Either way, you want to move to England. However, that’s easier said than done (especially for Americans, with the diminishing value of the dollar compared to the pound). This article is about how to move to England, for Americans.
1. Be sure you are aware of the difference between England, Britain and the UK. This is very important, if you are going to avoid offending people! England is just one of 4 constituent countries all governed by Her Majesty’s Government in Westminster, London. Great Britain is the name of the island on which England, Scotland and Wales are situated. It is not a country, it is a unitary state. The UK is short for “The United Kingdom” which is also short for “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. Confusingly, “Britain” is an official term which is synonymous with “The UK”. England is the only country in the UK which does not have a devolved parliament or assembly. If you are moving to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland as opposed to England you will need to check all details below to ensure legislation is the same in your region.
2. See if you’re eligible for a visa. A tourist visa that anyone gets when they visit allows for a six month stay without working. Be forewarned that you may be required to prove to the satisfaction of one or more civil servants that you have enough money to meet your expenses for the duration of your stay (if you don’t, the UK Border Agency has the right to put you on the next plane back to where you came from). You may also be required to show your return ticket. The longer your planned stay the more likely they’ll question you about these matters.
- You can access healthcare for free depending on your visa status. If your country belongs to the European Union or you are on a student or work visa, then you can use the National Health Service (NHS) for free. If you are on a Visiting Visa, though, you may not be eligible for that, though you won’t be turned away from an NHS hospital in an emergency.
- To work for a U.K. company you’ll need a work visa, but in order to obtain that, your employer must apply for you before you come to the U.K. If you plan to work for a British company, find your job before you leave. If your company has other divisions in England, you could ask to be relocated provided you have worked with them for at least 12 months. Or you could use the Internet to start sending your resumes out to potential employers.
- The UK residency permit and visa system now operates on a points-system. The Tier 1 route is now only open to Entrepreneurs, Investors and the Post Study Work category for recent graduates of UK universities. Tier 2 is main route for work visas which must be sponsored by a UK employer. Tier 2 (General) permit providing they can demonstrate your job cannot be filled by a local worker. If you are transferring with your existing employer you can get a Tier 2 (ICT – inter company transfer) visa, otherwise the Tier 2 (General) permit requires a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) from a UK employer who may be required to prove to the Border Agency that the job couldn’t be filled by a British subject.
- Consider studying in the UK. If you are offered a place from a UK university, you are then eligible for a study visa which allows you to work up to 20 hours a week. Studying in England has become more expensive, but it is still a very rewarding experience.
5. Start looking for a place to stay. You can rent your own flat or, if you want to cut down on your expenses, you can rent a room in a shared house. To find places to rent, try searching Google with phrases like “flats” and “to let,”. When contacting prospective landlords, do not forget to ask them which utility bills are included in the price and how the council tax is for the property.
6. London is the most expensive but probably the most exciting city in England (or the world for that matter). Note that, as you move more up north, or indeed anywhere sufficiently far from London, you will find the cost of living goes down. Newcastle/Durham is quite cheap compared to London. Leeds, Manchester,Sheffield and Liverpool are moderately priced, and they are all good cities. Also, living in the north is close to the Lake District where people love to dress up, rain or shine, and spend the afternoons hiking around the lakes.
7. Make sure you can deal with dark and wet weather – the farther north, the darker and wetter. If aesthetics is your thing, then visit the place you want to live when it is raining to get a fair assessment. It rains more in England than you may be used to, although it is not constantly foggy and wet as often portrayed. Although it has very long, bright and remarkably pleasant days in summer, winter days are short and it can be dark for depressingly long periods of time. In the winter you will get about 5 hours of sunlight, and this is often flat light underneath a thick and dismal cloud cover. If you know that you will miss the sun, get a room with a south facing window. Also, bring plenty of light, carry waterproof jackets and be prepared (as the native English are) to engage in indoor pastimes for rainy days and the long winter.
8. Pick a place close to some sort of public transportation. This will reduce your commuting and it will probably make you feel safer when you are going back home in the night. However, property close bus stops or tube stations is usually more expensive.
9. Look for a job. You can go to a job centre or a temporary employment agency like Kelly’s or Adecco, but only if you can work in the U.K. legally. There are also popular internet employment sites such as seek.co.uk, monster.co.uk or jobserve.co.uk. Your chances of getting sponsored for a UK work visa are significantly better if you have a permanent or contract job offer. If you are on a student visa or Tier 5 bar jobs are easy to get and often provide accomodation as well. If you consider living in the UK in the long term, consider doing some volunteer work, which will give you valuable british work experience and references.
- The minimum wage for workers aged 22 and over is currently set at £5.73 an hour.
- The development rate for 18-21 year olds is currently set at £4.77 an hour.
- The development rate for 16-17 year olds is £3.33 an hour.
11. Learn the spelling, grammar, and colloquialisms! If you are going to get a job in the UK, you have to spell correctly and use the right words- or you will come across on the wrong foot. Differences:
- American- Gasoline — UK – Petrol
- American- Tire — UK – Tyre
- American- Liter — UK – Litre (This applies to many words that Americans end with an ‘er;’ for example: theater vs. theatre).
- American- Color — UK- Colour (This applies to many words with an o following a consonant; for example: favorite vs. favourite).
- American- Program — UK- Programme (This applies to many words that end with M in US English)
- Also note that the British often do not place a full stop (never call it a period) after titles such as “Mr” “Ms” or “Mrs”. It is a practice which is being replaced. Many older people still place a full stop after titles.
- Remember to write your dates in the format Day Month Year (this is also common throughout most of the world), so January 2, 2008 (1/2/2008) would become 2 January 2008 (2/1/2008).
- If you want to work as an independent contractor or freelancer then with the closure of the Tier 1 (General) category you will need a sponsored Tier 2 Permit.
- Student visas are available, but you have to prove that you have enough funds to pay for your whole tuition and living expenses.
- For detailed citizenship requirements, visit the UK Home Office website. You will need to have lived in the UK for 5 years, and be able to speak English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic (since you’ve gotten this far in reading this article, you’re probably in pretty fair shape).
- Living in hostels will be your cheapest choice when looking for a place. It will cost about £10 to £20 per night (around 600-1200 US dollars a month as of 18/12/10).
- If you are under the age of 26 and you take the train, get a young person’s rail card. It costs about £20 and your train tickets will cost 1/3 for a year (following certain conditions). You may be able to get one of these if you are a student over the age of 26. Often, one discount on a fare can pay for the fee! You will need a passport photo to obtain this rail card.
- If you are 60 or older, get a Senior Railcard. It costs £20, and saves you 30% off most rail fares. You can buy it at any major rail station, or online at www.senior-railcard.co.uk. You’ll be required to show it when you buy tickets and travel.
- If you’re going to be traveling by the London Underground (“tube”), get an Oyster Card, which gives you a discount on tube fares. It costs £5, and is available at some tube stations, various locations where you see a blue and white Oyster Card sign (like convenience stores), and online at the Transport for London website: www.tfl.gov.uk.
- Many places will require that you have a passport photo. You can get these at a grocery store (Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASD, or Morrison’s) in a photo booth similar to one you would see at a carnival. They are about £6 or less.
- The sports with most TV and media coverage are Soccer (“Football”) and Rugby. Tennis, cricket, snooker, motor racing, horse racing and athletics all have solid TV coverage as well, but most other sports will require you to hunt down coverage on dedicated sports channels.
- Don’t confuse Great Britain with England. The Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh find it very offensive. Whatever you do, don’t call either the Scots, Northern Irish or Welsh “English.”
- The English regard their homes as being very private, and it is common to be invited to meet someone at the pub – pubs are an English mans home away from home! Houses may be smaller than what you are used to.
- Don’t insult their cars. The English, as well as most people in the UK, have a long history and passion for motoring, and consider their small, lightweight cars the best- occasionally it can be a matter of national pride.
- Adopt the local etiquette. Do not forget to say “please” after a request.
- British people are generally friendly, just don’t come on too strong with them. Give them time to open up, and you will find that they are just as, if not more loyal than those in your own country.
- The United Kingdom is smaller than the USA, but it’s not a village – you will only irritate locals by asking them if they know someone that lives half way across England – especially considering 60 million people live in the UK!
- The “second city of the UK” is debated frequently although there is no official title. If you are in Birmingham for example don’t refer to the second city as Manchester as they could become irritated.
- The Victorian stereotype that English people are pompous and live in large houses tended by servants is wrong. Most country houses are now owned either by the public (by the government agency English Heritage) or by The National Trust which opens the houses to the public. Remember to call any two-storey building a house, an apartment is called a flat in the UK and a single storey building is a Bungalow. The ground-level floor is called the “ground floor” – not the first floor. The next floor up is called the first floor, and so on. This is especially important when using elevators (lifts).
- Don’t fake an accent trying to fit in, as you will sound stupid to the locals and some people may be offended. It is okay to use UK slang, but only in the correct context; wait until you have picked up enough to use it confidently. Ask if you are not sure. The English know most American Slang terms, so speaking naturally will make you fit in more than faking.
- Although the UK is part of the European Union, to be safe do not distinguish the English as “European” though many English consider themselves European. Refer to the rest of Europe as “Mainland Europe”. You will need to be aware of what the EU is, and what it means for the UK and yourself as an an immigrant living in an EU member state.
- Some major differences, such as driving on the left, may take time to become accustomed to, and can be daunting at times, but as long as you pay attention and grow into these changes it should not be a lengthy problem. Using a mobile/cell phone whilst driving and smoking in public buildings are both against the law.
- Some hand gestures which are common in the US are offensive in the UK. For instance, when signalling to someone you want two of something by holding up your pointer and middle finger, be sure to do it with your palm facing the person. Doing the same sign with the back of your hand facing the person is only slightly less offensive than flipping the person off.