Moving to the UK: the ultimate checklist

Are you moving to the UK? Prepare yourself for more than just castles and tea with our ultimate checklist for moving to the United Kingdom.

Moving to the UK

By Expatica

Updated 18-3-2024

The United Kingdom has long since been a popular destination for expats looking for new beginnings. Its capital, London, is a truly global city with a wide array of opportunities for expats looking for work, particularly in the financial services sector. The UK’s other major towns and cities all have sizeable expat communities, while outside these the country’s more rural areas have varied and at times spectacular scenery.

If you’re planning to relocate yourself and your family to the UK, there are certain things you should be aware of before you leave, from immigration paperwork to how 2016’s Brexit vote could affect you. To help you out, here’s our checklist for moving to the United Kingdom, including information on the following topics:

Crown Relocations

Crown Relocations is a leading global relocations specialist. They have been helping individuals and families relocate around the world for over 50 years. Their dedicated team provide transportation and a range of other services to assist people relocating internationally to and from the UK.

Do your research

Many expats moving to the UK will have a good understanding of what life is like in the country before they arrive, thanks largely to its portrayal in popular culture. However, the reality of everyday life in the United Kingdom is likely to be different from what you see on the screen. For example, the high number of opportunities in London is reflected in London’s high cost of living, but northern areas of the country are generally much more affordable. Similarly, while most large towns and cities have diverse populations and popular night-time economies, this is often not the case in more remote, rural locations.

Multi-colored townhouses in Notting Hill, London, UK
Notting Hill in London, UK (Photo: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

To give you an idea of what to expect, make sure you read the following guides:

Brexit and what it means for you

In June 2016, residents of the UK voted to leave the European Union. Once the UK leaves the EU, freedom of movement – both of EU citizens to the UK and of UK citizens to Europe – is likely to end, along with many of the mutual benefits of membership enjoyed by citizens.

However, negotiations are still taking place and at this stage, the actual date has not yet been confirmed. In the interim period, the UK is still a member state of the EU and things remain as they were before the Brexit vote. The likelihood is that there will be a transitional period after the leave date (of at least two years) and that EU citizens currently with UK residence will retain their rights – although this has yet to be officially confirmed.

Arrange your visa

Are you familiar with the UK’s immigration requirements for you and your family? As the UK is currently an EU member state, EU/EFTA nationals can enter the UK without a visa and have the right to live in the UK if they are employed, self-employed, or registered as a job-seeker. Certain other nationals can also enter and reside in the UK visa-free, or stay visa-free for six months. If you’re unsure, check online at the UK Government’s website to see whether you need a UK work permit. For more information on UK immigration, see our complete guide to UK residence permits.

Transport your belongings

How are you going to get you and your family’s belongings to the UK? It’s an important question, and the answer will vary depending on where you’re moving from. However, if you’re relocating with a family or simply want to take the stress out of your move, why not use a relocation specialist?

Train on platform with departing passengers at Waterloo Station, London, UK.
Waterloo Station in London, UK (Photo: Tonywestphoto/Getty Images)

Relocation specialists can help you with every step of your move to the UK, from physically moving your treasured household belongings, to helping you through the immigration process and even helping you find your child’s school. Whether you’re after the full door-to-door service, or simply some international shipping, check out these relocation services:

For more information, read our guide to relocation options for moving to the UK.

Manage your finances

When moving to the United Kingdom, it’s essential that you get your finances in order to ensure you can support yourself and your family. This relates to any short-term money needs as well as long-term financial management, including:

  • Bank accounts: Research your banking options before you arrive, including retail banks and mobile banking options in the UK. For more information, read our guide to opening a bank account in the UK.
  • Pensions, tax, and investments: Can your pension be transferred to the UK? How will your investments be affected? Find out before you move with our guide to the UK tax system and our guide to the UK pension system.
  • Insurance: Whatever your needs, make sure your family’s belongings have the protection they need by sorting out insurance premiums before you leave. For more information, read our guide to insurance in the UK.

To help cover your finances in the short-term, you may also need to transfer money internationally quickly and easily. To do this, check out these international money transfer options:

  • CurrencyFair offers money transfers to over 150 countries and have exchange rates up to eight times cheaper than the banks, helping you avoid excessive bank fees.
  • Wise is an international money transfer provider. The service is available in 59 countries and offers transfers between cross-border bank accounts up to eight times cheaper than traditional banks.
  • XE shows live rates for almost 100 different currencies and supports transfers to over 130 different countries.

Move your vehicle

Are you planning on taking your car with your to your new home in the UK? One of the most obvious differences about UK motoring is that locals drive on the left, not the right like the majority of other European countries.

View from the top of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square down Whitehall towards Big Ben
Trafalgar Square and Whitehall in Westminster, London, UK (Photo: Scott E Barbour/Getty Images)

But that’s not the only difference about driving in the UK, so make sure you do your research beforehand. Find out more with our guide to driving in the United Kingdom.

Take care of your pet

Do you have a family of furry friends? Before you move to the UK, it is essential you know the requirements on importing pets. The United Kingdom has certain restrictions on the importation of pets and animals that you may not be used to, including quarantine laws. Therefore, it is important that you prepare for the move well ahead of time. This will give you plenty of time to get all the required documents in order to avoid any delays or disappointment in the long run.

Sort out your health insurance

One of the most important things to do when moving to the United Kingdom is making sure that you and your family have the right health cover in place. The UK has a publicly-owned health service called the National Health Service (NHS), which is free at the point of service for all UK residents and EU/EFTA nationals with a European Health Insurance Card.

However, many expats in the UK choose to take out health insurance instead. This can help protect you and your family from day one and ensure a quicker service than is often available on the NHS. Research your health insurance options ahead of time with one of these health insurance providers:

For more information, read our guide to health insurance in the UK.

Find a place to live

The UK is a surprisingly varied country when it comes to finding somewhere to live. Do you want to move into a London townhouse? Or maybe a rural cottage somewhere in the Welsh mountains? Whatever you prefer, the UK has a range of housing options for all price brackets. For more information on where to live, read our guide on the best places to live in the UK.

Start looking for a job

Some expats moving to the United Kingdom will already have a job offer lined up. However, many decide to go to the UK without any promise of employment, which means they’ll have to go job-hunting. The UK has plenty of job possibilities for expats, although there are significant regional disparities in opportunities. For more information, read our guide to finding a job in the UK.

Look into childcare and schooling options

Are you relocating to the UK with kids? Give them the best start in their new life by researching educational options ahead of time. Generally speaking, the UK has good options for public and private education. So, wherever you move you’ll have a range of choices when it comes to schooling.

City scape of tightly arranged row houses, Whitby, Yorkshire, UK
Whitby, UK (Photo: Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images)

For more information, read our guide to the UK education system.

Brush up your language skills

Part of the UK’s attractiveness to expats is the fact that English is the country’s official language. However, if you’re planning to work in the United Kingdom, you might want to consider improving your English skills. Whether you’re looking for conversational or business English, pick the course that’s right for you. If you’re planning to move to Wales, you might even want to learn Welsh, as well!

Your first week in the UK

Everything planned for your move to the UK? Now, you need to make sure you hit the ground running when you arrive in your new home. To help you out, read our guide to settling into life in the UK.

Useful resources

For more information on living in the UK, check out the UK Government’s official website, which has a range of important information for expats and residents alike.