Moving to The UK – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats, & Digital Nomads

Moving to The UK – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats, & Digital Nomads

January 12, 2024 14 min read

Life as a digital nomad can be exciting and rewarding. After all, it allows you to work from anywhere — or nearly anywhere — in the world.

However, some countries have strict or confusing requirements for digital nomads. If you’re considering moving abroad to the United Kingdom, it’s important to be prepared before you go.

With that in mind, here’s the ultimate moving abroad checklist for digital nomads looking to move to the UK.

Things to do before moving to the UK

Before buying plane tickets and looking at apartments, there are a few things to consider. For example, you must prepare yourself financially for the big move and consider the legalities of living and working abroad as a digital nomad. You should also learn about things like healthcare accessibility, ways to connect with others, and the best cities to live in.

Legally preparing to move to the UK

The UK offers multiple types of visas for expats, or people living outside of their home country. Depending on where you’re originally from, you might be required to apply for one of these visas before you move.

One of the main types of UK visas is the Standard Visitor visa, which allows you to stay in the country for up to six months. You can use this visa for tourism, study, or business. However, you cannot work as a self-employed person in the country.

Another common type of UK visa is the Skilled Worker visa. It allows you to work in the UK, provided a licensed employer sponsors you while you’re in the country. You may not be able to work as a digital nomad under this visa, however.

Other types of UK visas include family, investor, innovator, and partner visas, each one with its requirements and restrictions. You can visit the UK government website to learn more about the different visas and whether you need one.

Although it can be tricky for digital nomads and other remote workers to move to the UK, it is possible. Here are some things you can do to legally make the transition:

  • Gather the right documentation. You’ll need certain identifying documents, like your passport, birth certificate, or driver’s license, to move to the United Kingdom. Certain visas will require additional documents.
  • Find the correct type of visa. Look over the different types of UK visas and their requirements to see which works best for you. Once you find one, apply for it and pay any applicable visa fees.
  • Prove your English ability. If you’re 18 or older and intend to pursue UK citizenship, you may be required to know English.
  • Get healthcare. If you stay in the UK for over six months, you must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. You may also need to take a TB test.
  • Obtain a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). The BRP verifies your identity, right to public services, and right to study in the UK. It does not confirm your right to rent or work in the UK. However, you will typically need this permit if you plan to live in the UK for more than six months.

Budgeting for your move to the UK

You may need proof of sufficient funds to support yourself while in the UK. You can verify your income or earnings using recent bank statements or other financial documents.

Along with this, it’s important to budget for your move abroad as a digital nomad. Here are some of the biggest things to factor in:

  • Cost of the flight
  • Accommodation (e.g., hotel or rent)
  • Groceries
  • Entertainment and other activities
  • Transportation costs (e.g., bus or taxi fare)
  • Visa fees
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Travel insurance premiums
  • Currency exchange rate fees

Think about how long you’re staying in the UK and save enough money to cover at least a few months’ expenses. As a single person living in the UK, your estimated monthly expenses will be around $965.20 (without rent).

If possible, try to save enough to cover your entire stay. That way, you’ll have the available funds if something happens with your remote work or you need to return home suddenly.

How to set up your finances in the UK

If you’re from certain countries, such as the USA or Canada, you may be able to use your home country’s credit or debit card while in the UK. But if you plan to live and work in the UK, you might want to open a local bank account instead.

Opening a bank account in the UK can be tricky for foreigners since most traditional banks require proof of residency or employment information. If you’re looking for an international banking option, consider Monzo, Lloyds Bank, or HSBC. It may be easier to get an account through one of these options.

Alternatively, you can use a digital wallet or an international remittance service like Ria. With a Ria account, you can manage your finances in one convenient place. You can send or receive money while abroad, pay bills, cash checks, and more.

How to find a job in the UK

Even if you move to the UK as a digital nomad, it’s still good to know your options for UK-based jobs. You can look for jobs online via the UK government website or job boards like Indeed or Monster. Or you can go through a recruitment agency or networking site.

Remember that you’ll typically need a work visa to get a job in the UK. Common visa options include:

  • Skilled work visa
  • Health and care worker visa
  • Global talent visa
  • Graduate visa
  • UK ancestry visa

How to connect with other expats and remote workers in the UK

Approximately 67 million people live in the UK. Of that number, around 9.4 million individuals are from other countries. This means you have plenty of options for finding other expats or remote workers to connect with while abroad.

You can find and connect with other expats in several ways. One option is to join a Facebook group of expats in your area. Another method is to participate in social networking groups in person or online.

How does healthcare work in the UK?

The UK has a socialized healthcare system called the National Health Service (NHS). This government-funded system offers affordable healthcare to UK residents and those employed by a UK-based employer. Foreigners may have to pay an immigration health surcharge, however.

You might also qualify for NHS services if considered ‘ordinarily resident.’ This essentially means you’ve been lawfully residing in the UK for a certain period.

Most digital nomads and remote workers do not qualify for NHS services in the UK. If you plan to stay in the UK for less than six months, you should obtain personal medical insurance beforehand. Otherwise, you could be charged 150% of the national NHS rate.

If your visa lets you live in the UK for more than six months, you may need to pay an immigration health surcharge when you get your visa. Once you do this, you’ll be able to use the NHS system just like a UK resident until your visa expires. You may have to pay out of pocket for certain expenses like prescription medication.

What are the best cities for expats and digital nomads in the UK?

Part of the moving abroad checklist involves choosing where to stay once you reach your destination. But the best location depends on personal preference, finances, things to do, and available opportunities.

If, for example, you want to live in a highly populated area with plenty of networking or socializing opportunities, you may want to choose London, Birmingham, or Manchester. But if you’re trying to keep costs low, consider a place like Glasgow City, Scotland or Northumberland, England, where rental prices tend to be cheaper.

Questions about living in the UK

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about living in the UK as a digital nomad or expat.

What’s the cost of living in the UK like?

Before moving abroad to the UK, you should get an overview of the cost of living there. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how far your money will go once you’re there — and how much you should have saved up before making the big move.

Excluding rent, the average cost of living for a family of four in the UK is $3,288.30 (or £2,596.50). Individual expenses will run you about $965.20 (£762.10) without rent.

Along with this, the UK’s cost of living is around 15.9% lower than in the United States. Even rental costs tend to be much lower than what you’d find in the USA.

The cost of living does depend on where you live, however. Take London, for example. A family of four will spend an average of $4,811.10 (£3,798.90) a month without rent. An individual will spend around $1,396.60 (£1,102.80).

When determining the cost of living, be sure to account for things like groceries, dining out, entertainment or leisure, public transportation, utilities, rent, childcare, healthcare, and local goods. Depending on your needs and lifestyle choices, you could end up spending more or less than you currently do.

What will I need to move to the UK?

Before moving to the UK, here are the main things you’ll need:

  • UK visa or residence permit: Review the legal requirements for moving abroad and make sure you get the right visa or permit.
  • Moving plan: If you plan to ship any personal belongings overseas, you might need to shop around for international moving companies. Alternatively, you can send your things via air or ship.
  • Proof of finances: You might need to provide evidence of sufficient funds while abroad. For example, you could show recent bank statements verifying your savings account balance.
  • Financial plan: Make sure you have enough money to support your move. You should also have a financial cushion in case of emergencies.
  • Bank account: Having a UK bank account can make it easier to manage your finances while abroad. But if you do not qualify for one or find the fees too high, consider using a digital money service like Ria for your international money transfer needs and more.
  • Accommodation: You’ll need to find a place to stay in the UK. This could be a rental or a home purchase. Whatever you choose, you might want to find a few possible options before leaving your home country. To make things easier, consider hiring a UK-based relocation agency to help you find housing once you arrive.
  • Budget: Calculate the moving fees, currency exchange rates, shipping costs, short- and long-term accommodation fees, transportation costs, healthcare costs, and so on before booking your plane ticket.

If you do not already have one, create a moving abroad checklist you can reference. Give yourself ample time to mark off each item on that list so you don’t miss anything important.

What are taxes like in the UK?

UK taxes include individual income taxes, capital gains tax, property taxes, and Value Added Tax (VAT). The exact tax rate varies.

If you’re moving to the UK as a digital nomad, you may want to consult a tax professional or attorney about the UK taxes. They can give you a clearer idea of what to expect once there and which tax laws apply to you.

Keep in mind that you may also be subject to taxation from your home country. For example, if you’re from the USA and work abroad in the UK, you will likely need to pay taxes in both locations.

What’s the currency in The UK?

The official currency in the UK is the pound sterling, or GBP. This currency is also used in other countries, such as South Georgia, Gibraltar, and Tristan da Cunha.

As of December 2023, one pound sterling roughly equals $1.24 (USD). However, exchange rates can fluctuate over time. You can check the current exchange rate online.

How long can I stay in the UK without becoming a citizen?

Becoming a citizen is not required, so you can stay as long as you like — as long as your visa is valid. In most cases, you can become a citizen of the UK after living in the country for five years. However, you must apply to become a citizen since the process is not automatic.

What will I need to become a UK citizen?

You must live in the UK for at least five years before you can apply for citizenship. You’ll also need to have at least 12 months’ worth of one of the following:

  • Settled status or indefinite leave under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • Indefinite leave
  • Indefinite leave to permanently move abroad to the UK

The exception to this 12-month rule is if you are married to a British citizen.

You’ll also need to meet other requirements before applying for citizenship:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Minimum language proficiency in English, Scottish Gaelic, or Welsh
  • Pass the “life in the UK test”
  • Good moral character (and not breaking any UK laws)
  • Proof of UK residency for the past five years and intention to remain in the country

The UK’s government website has more information about obtaining UK citizenship or residency.

Does the UK offer digital nomad visas?

In short, no. The UK does not typically offer digital nomad visas. However, expats from certain countries — like the USA — can remain in the UK for up to six months on a tourist or standard visitor visa.

How much does it cost to move to the UK?

This depends on your circumstances and plans. You’ll need to account for airfare, short-term accommodation, rental fees, and health insurance. If you’re hiring an international moving company or bringing pets or a big family with you, expect to spend more money on moving abroad.

Certain visas also come with their own fees, which can add to your total costs. For instance, a six-month visitor visa costs £95.

Is the UK a good choice for European expats & immigrants ?

The UK has a lot to offer for other European residents. Since Brexit, however, non-UK citizens no longer have the legal right to work and live in the UK. Depending on which European country you’re from, you might have to get a visa before entering the UK. You may also face additional restrictions or limitations on working in the country.

Is the UK a good choice for North American expats & immigrants?

The UK may be a good choice for North American expats, especially since most already speak English. The UK also has a lot to offer regarding history, culture, food, and overall quality of life.

As a North American expat, you may also be able to visit the UK for up to six months without having to deal with complicated visa processes. You’ll still need to follow certain regulations, however. And if you want to live as a digital nomad, the process can be complex.

Is the UK a good choice for Asian expats & immigrants?

Asian expats may need to apply for and get a visa before entering the UK. Fortunately, several types of visas are available to these individuals, including the standard visitor visa and student visa. A language proficiency exam may also be required for longer stays.

Is the UK safe?

The UK is generally a safe place to live, but crime does exist, especially in bigger cities. Do your due diligence before visiting or moving abroad. Check into different UK cities and neighborhoods to see their crime statistics.

Can I move to the UK without knowing English?

If you’re just visiting the UK, you might not need to know English. But to become a citizen one day, you’ll typically need to prove your English fluency at the B1, B2, C1, or C2 level. Depending on where you plan to move, you may need to prove proficiency in Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.

Can a US citizen live full time in the UK?

As a US citizen, you can stay in the UK for the duration of your visa. If you’re already in the country and your visa is about to expire, you might be able to extend your stay by renewing your visa. Contact the UK Visas and immigration office about your options and the typical requirements of doing this.

After five years of living in the UK, you can also apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). If you want to become a UK citizen after this, you may need to stay in the country for the next 12 months.

Is it worth moving to the UK from the US?

This depends on your financial situation, lifestyle choices, and goals. It also depends on which visa — or visas — you qualify for and whether they allow you to meet those goals.

Consider things like the cost of living abroad in the UK, cultural differences, weather and climate changes, healthcare, job opportunities, and the overall quality of life. When in doubt, make a list of pros and cons to help you determine whether it’s worth making the move.

Is it worth moving to the UK from the EU?

Similarly, it might be worth moving to the UK from the EU or other parts of Europe if it fits into your short- and long-term goals and lifestyle choices. Consider your options carefully and try not to rush the decision.

Useful resources for expats in the UK

Here are some great resources for expats and other digital nomads living or working in the UK:

Looking for more information about moving abroad? Ria offers multiple expat guides, digital nomad guides, and other resources to help you plan your move. We also offer international money transfers to 165+ countries, including the UK. Learn more about how it works, or get started today.

The information on or through this site is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be relied on as a substitute for specific advice about laws, regulations, taxes, finances, immigration or travel. For specific advice, contact a licensed attorney, financial advisor or other professional.

We disclaim all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on this site. We do not warrant the accuracy or usefulness of this information. This site may contain links to other sites and information provided by third parties for your convenience. We do not endorse nor make any guarantees with respect to these sites, their accessibility, the information they contain or the way they treat any information you provide to them.

About the author

Lisa Hong

Lisa Hong is Ria’s Web Content Specialist. Born in the U.S. with relatives in South Korea, she enjoys helping others connect with their loved ones through education on remittances and tech.

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