How To Move To The United Kingdom - The Definitive Guide
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Apply For A Visa[back to top]
The UK has very specific rules concerning a persons reasons for becoming an expat. Typically, several visas exist for getting into a foreign country, such as work or school visas. It is important to enter the UK with the proper visa. A valid passport is also required. Certain foreign nationals are not subject to the standard visa regulations, such as citizens of EU or EEA states. Students or professional organisation members such as journalists or clergy do not need a work permit, but all other workers must apply for one prior to entry.
For those entering the UK on a business assignment, the employer should fill out the necessary work permit paperwork in which Tier 1 or Tier 2 will apply. After a person has been working in the UK for a certain amount of time, a work permit may no longer be necessary. Anyone who has lived in the country for over three years has the opportunity to remain without a work permit even if they change jobs. The British Home Office and British Embassy/Consulate can offer further details about specific timeframes, paperwork, and visas required to move into the UK.
The Ancestry Visa is available to Commonwealth citizens who can prove that their grandparents were born in the UK. It is a visa that is not often used and is in jeopardy of disappearing soon. Commonwealth citizens do include a listing from all European Union countries and UK territories. While the Ancestry Visa may disappear in coming years, there is bound to be something along the same lines to ensure that expats can gain citizenship in the UK for family reasons.
Workers are able to move their families with them; however, it can take longer for family members’ visas to be approved. A person may have to work in the UK for months before their family is able to join them.
If visiting for a non-permanent reason such as travel, a Visa is not required unless a specific number of days pass. Like most European countries, it is possible to stay and travel throughout the UK for six months. Anything over six months will require a travel visa that specifies the reason for staying longer than the allotted time. A visitor is unable to extend or change their stay beyond six months in most cases. Some circumstances may allow for the visitor to change to immigration status without going home and applying for the correct visa. Travel visas also change based on country of origin. For European and US citizens the limit is six months without a visa. Anyone travelling from other countries, such as the Middle East, will need a visa no matter how long they intend to stay. Obtaining a visa can be wise, given that the reason for travel may change or records may be lost whilst in the UK. A person with a criminal record wishing to travel has to apply and get a visa regardless of their country of origin.
Since studying abroad usually requires more than a six month period in the UK, a study visa will be necessary. The visa will only be given for the specific period of time required for the course. However, a new study visa can be obtained as long as the original visa has not expired. This process takes time, so starting early to renew or apply for a visa is important.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
An expat is defined as a person temporarily or permanently living in a country that is not their own. Official permission must be granted if someone wishes to permanently settle in the UK. Immigration status will begin as soon as a person applies for permanent residency. At this point the person will no longer need a visa, but will have to obtain a UK passport. Dual citizenship is sometimes an option, however most will have to renounce their original citizenship and apply for British Citizenship. The application process for settlement is through the SET or Biometric Residence Permit. The rules on how to apply, who can apply, and the application process can change. It is important to check with the British Embassy, UK Consulate, or Border Agency for current rules and procedures.
UK Border Agency
Find A Job[back to top]
The job market in the UK is improving. Details suggest that unemployment numbers are falling throughout the country. The latest reports state that 2.47 million people were looking for work between September and November 2013. The overall rate has fallen to 7.6%. This percentage includes any person who is out of work and actively seeking employment. Compared to the rate of unemployment in 2008, the number has increased significantly; at that point, it was slightly over 5%. Statistics show that the highest rate of unemployment was in 2011, when 2.7 million people were looking for work in the UK.
Unemployment in England
In England the employment rate is highest in the South East. The lowest employment rates are in the North East, while the lowest unemployment rates are in the South West. The rate of unemployment in the North East has reached 10.1%; in the South East it is significantly lower at 6.2%.
Unemployment in Wales
The latest figures from Wales show an unemployment rate of 7.8%; however, this has dropped in recent months. Over the past few months, 4,000 job seekers have been employed, meaning that the total number of unemployed people in Wales currently stands at 117,000.
Unemployment in Scotland
The UK unemployment percentage may be down, but in Scotland the number of people without jobs has increased by 10,000, according to September 2013 statistics.
Unemployment in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is reporting better numbers in recent times, with a nine-month consecutive drop in unemployment.
Application for Employment
Expats looking to enter the UK for work must already have a job. Once in the UK on a work permit, an expat can start a job search. Applying for a job can be done online, through a recruitment agency, or in person. Typically, unless the place of employment has announced a job in a media source, it is not considered appropriate to send out a CV. Companies may hire in-house without first publishing a job advert, so unless an expat has heard about an available job it is better not to apply. Unsolicited job applications may be thrown out, particularly if one is an expat, since the company might assume a work visa would only be temporary. There are multinational corporations that will employ English-speaking expats; however, these companies are usually looking for multilingual staff.
It is difficult for expats who do not speak English to find a job, however certain skilled positions may call for someone who speaks a little English and is fluent in another language, particularly due to multinational business needs. There are certain resident requirements for expats to become citizens, including the requirement to speak English. If an expat is not looking to become a full citizen of the UK and remain in the country on a work visa, then there is a possibility of finding a job with less than fluent English, although wages are usually considerably lower.
Temporary Work for Expats
For a full listing of temporary work available to expats, see the UK Border Agency list under Tier 5. Tier 5 outlines most of the jobs available for expats. Two of the main industries include creative work and sports, in which short-term contracts of up to 12 months are available. Additional industries include charity work, religious work, and government-authorised exchanges.
Penalties for Illegal Working
Companies can be fined up to £10,000 for employing illegal workers, and their licence to employ migrants can be taken away. For expats working without a permit or citizenship there is potential jail time, certain deportation, and potential denial of re-entry into the UK for work or any other reason.
Clear and concise information pertaining to the level of salaries to be expected in the UK can be found in the Salary section.
As long as a person has a work permit, visa, or citizenship they can use this agency.
Government Employment Service
This website provides a listing of job search sites and services.
Useful Contact Details
British Chamber of Commerce
+44(0) 207 654 5800
Rent Property[back to top]
People who are relocating to Great Britain or Northern Ireland usually need to find accommodation as soon as possible. Renting in the UK is the most common option for expats, especially short-term residents. There are some important things that every expat should know, such as the legal framework for tenants, from letting agents to giving notice.
For those who are not familiar with the rental market in the UK and would like some guidance, the best choice is to go through a letting agent. It is important to check that the agent is officially recognized. There are two different types of tenancies in the UK: those with a defined end date, and those that people just renew month on month.
Before moving in, it is important to check the inventory of everything in the house and the condition of the items inside. This keeps tenants covered when asking for their deposit back. Inrecent years, the market for renting in the UK is growing. The British house-buyer’s motto was "my home is my castle", but more and more Brits are renting their homes today. The prices for buying a house in the UK started to normalize over the last couple of years, but they continue to rise sharply in the most attractive areas, especially London. Young people often face less job security and strict conditions for mortgage loans from banks in the UK. For expatriates who want to rent in the UK, this also means more competition in the property market.
Local authorities across the UK provide public or social housing advertised in council offices or on their websites. While people can apply for council housing even if they don’t live in the area, waiting lists are often extremely long. Preference is given to candidates in need, like low-income tenants, families living in cramped quarters, or the disabled. As new residents from overseas, expats will probably need to find their new home on the private market.
On the private market, landlords have the option to advertise a property for renting in the UK directly, or by employing a "letting agent", a real estate agency. Anyone can become a letting agent, so additional caution is highly advised. Its smart to check if the agency belongs to a professional association, such as the National Association of Estate Agents or the Association of Residential Letting Agents. It is always expected to pay a commission, as well as additional fees for credit reference checks, for concluding the tenancy agreement, or for a property inventory check.
The Tenancy Agreement
When you find a home, it’s time to sign the tenancy agreement. These agreements should be studied carefully, even the small print. As agreements for renting in the UK can be made orally, but these are not legally binding, it is very important to get a written contract. Otherwise, potential future disputes with a landlord might be impossible to solve.
In general, the tenancy agreement should contain the following information:
- names and contact details of all parties involved
- the address
- rental fees
- how / when the fees should be paid
- when / how often the rent can be reviewed
- security deposit (four to eight weeks’ rent)
- deposit protection scheme
- conditions for getting the deposit back
- start date (and maybe end date)
- break clause (if applicable)
- extra fees (service charges, utilities)
- who is responsible for repairs
- whether you are allowed to sub-let
Responsibilities and Repairs
Everyones main responsibility is to pay the rent on time, as well as all charges mentioned in the signed contract. If damage is caused by the tenant, it should be repaired by them. Future tenants should make a detailed inventory of the property they are planning on renting in the UK. This means listing all fixtures, fittings, furniture, and the state that rooms and items are in.
Tenants should know which repairs and safety checks their landlord is responsible for. Landlords usually have to maintain the building’s structure, exterior, and common areas. Moreover, they have to look after sanitary installations, pipes and drains, heating and hot water, electrical wiring and gas. It is also important to be provided with the latest Gas Safety check when moving in. Landlords should also ensure their property complies with fire safety regulations.
If tenants want to make any modifications to the property, they should first check if it’s allowed in the agreement. Otherwise, they may be responsible for causing additional damage. Notifying the landlord whenever anything needs repairing is always a smart choice. Even if the tenancy agreement doesn’t forbid keeping pets, tenants should always ask the landlord first, preferably in writing, to avoid further complications. That way, the pet cannot become a reason for eviction.
Finding property in the United Kingdom
Even if finding a place to rent in the UK is a straightforward process, it can be made more difficult by the speed at which the market moves. Expats should be prepared to act quickly when they see a free place they like, as the competition for good value rentals can be cut-throat. In some cases, it is necessary to commit to the property during the initial viewing to stay in the competition. A holding deposit equivalent to one weeks rent is usually enough to secure the property while the rental agreement is sorted out.
When looking for a place to rent, expats should try to look into one of the following options:
- Local newspapers and magazines with private listings. Tenants are able to call the owner or landlord directly to arrange a viewing.
- Internet property have rental adverts. These are especially good for house-sharing options.
- Real estate agents are a good source of information and they can help when it comes to looking for a place to rent, but they always charge for their services. It is also important to be aware that UK real estate agencies do not generally share their listings with one another, so expats should check all the agencies in the area to find the best deal. The National Approved Letting Schemes website has a list of approved agencies and landlords.
Buy Property[back to top]
Expats who are looking to buy property in the UK will soon find that property is generally considered to be costly, more so than in other European countries. Despite these traditionally high prices, the demand has not dropped over the recent years. In London, unlike other cities where property prices have declined during the recent banking crisis, property prices have jumped between four and six percent over the past year. The main reason for these extremely high prices is that property in London is in short supply.
Despite the latest problems with a double-dip recession and mortgages being more difficult to secure, the current economic state has good buying opportunities for those who want to buy a property outside of the English capital, without a need for large mortgage. As the Eurozone jumps from crisis to crisis, the number of wealthy European buyers in London has increased.
Foreigners can buy property in the UK and most nationalities are eligible for investment loans, but there aren’t many banks offering them. Those who live abroad have to give proof of income and can expect to be asked to pay up to a 40% deposit. Mortgage rates currently go up to five percent and the type of mortgage available depends upon its intended use. Foreigners can often secure loans in their own country as they may already have established assets they can charge against and have mature relationships with their existing banks. It is smart to check out the tax implications when considering such a loan.
Steps to purchasing property in the UK
The main thing expats have to do is to set a budget and, if a mortgage is needed, make the necessary arrangements. Expats also need to secure the services of a conveyance solicitor.
Once a buyer has found a property and made an offer to the vendor’s agent that has been accepted, the agent submits the offer to both solicitors via the Memorandum of Sale. It means that buyers could do this themselves if the seller allows it. Mortgage providers can require both parties to be professionally represented.
The seller’s solicitor has to contact the buyers solicitor and provide them with a copy of the seller’s title. Then, the buyers solicitor raises enquiries on the title and all other matters that he or she considers relevant. The solicitor also requests a list of fixtures and fittings so that the buyer can be told what is to be included in the sale. The solicitor also puts in hand all the usual local searches. Mortgage offers are often slower, meaning that most mortgages come through within about five weeks of an application being submitted.
All the work that is mentioned above is part of the pre-exchange of contracts. It means that neither the seller nor the buyer is committed in any way and either party can still withdraw from the transaction. Once this part of work is done and the potential necessary mortgage offer is received by the buyer, the solicitors can discuss the completion dates required by their clients.
Once agreed, it is time for the exchange of solicitors contracts. In this stage, expats are often asked to pay 10 percent of the purchase price at exchange of contracts, securing the deal so that neither party can withdraw. Anyone who decides to withdraw after the exchange of contracts will lose their deposit and can be sued by the seller for any subsequent loses they may suffer. On completion, the solicitor pays the balance of the purchase price, so expats need to provide this amount to their solicitor before completion. The solicitor also has to settle the remaining sum for the property and then register the title at the Land Registry, sending the buyer evidence of registration. After all is settled, the property belongs to the new owner and they can take possession of the keys.
UK property terms
The legal process for buying a property.
An individual owns the land and property completely, and is therefore responsible for all maintenance and repairs.
Since much of the property in London is leasehold, this applies to almost all apartments in London and to some houses. In general terms, the reason property is leasehold is that there is an area of commonality where more people live under the same roof and therefore have to contribute towards the costs of repairing the structure of the building and any communal areas.
This is particularly needed when someone is purchasing an apartment. Lease terms vary but most new leases seem to be granted for about 125 years. It is very important that expats find out from the agent about the remaining term of the lease they are buying and discuss the same with their solicitor. In that case, solicitors will be able to advise on whether or not the term is long enough.
Recent legislation change has increased the rights of leaseholders, enabling them in some situations to collectively buy the freehold of their block of apartments or individually purchase an extension to the original lease. A solicitor needs to advise on this if relevant when buying the property.
How to find property for sale in the UK
Most properties are can be seen online, and the information always includes details of the real estate agencies, which also have independent websites. Estate agencies have local neighbourhood magazines that display properties and other general information in the area. Newspapers across the country also have property sections, some on certain days of the week.
Some properties are auctioned and notices of these are placed in magazines and newspapers. Agents can inform buyers of this market movement.
Independent property finders in London are efficient and can save time, especially for people who are not so familiar with the UK purchasing process. One of the main advantages of using such services is that property finders are retained by their clients and so they pose no threat to the agents who give them access to properties not on the open market.
Register For Healthcare[back to top]
QUICK LINK: United Kingdom health insurance
The UK healthcare system was set up with the idea that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. Regarding some charges, such as prescriptions, optical services and dental services, the NHS in England will charge a nominal amount for UK residents.
The NHS in England covers everything, including antenatal screening, routine screenings (such as the NHS Health Check), treatments for long-term conditions, transplants, emergency treatment and end-of-life care. Responsibility for healthcare in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is divided into the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly respectively.
Who is covered?
Health coverage is universal. All people who are "ordinarily resident" in the UK are entitled to health care that is largely free at the point of use through the National Health Service. When it comes to the treatment in an emergency department and for certain infectious diseases, it is free to people not ordinarily resident, such as visitors. Most private hospital care is financed through supplementary private voluntary health insurance.
The entitlement to free NHS treatment for those who dont have it depends mostly on the length and purpose of their residence in the UK, regardless of nationality. They could be charged for some specific NHS services - for example, dental treatment - though they could be entitled to help with these charges. Any free NHS treatment that they receive, or any help with NHS costs, does not affect their immigration status. Those who are entitled to it can have free treatment immediately, because there is no qualifying period.
Those who dont meet the residence conditions and have to pay for it will be given clear information about charges in a way they can understand. This also includes giving information in a foreign language or via an interpreter, if necessary.
There are various counseling services that can provide help in foreign languages, such as Samaritans and Ikwro, which are disposable 24 hours per day. All services can be easily found online.
EEA and non-EEA citizens
People Living In An EEA Country Or Switzerland
People who live or work in another European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland get free NHS care using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by the country in which they live. In this case, the NHS reclaims healthcare costs from the original country of residence. UK state pensioners who live in the EEA have the same rights to NHS care as people who live in England. This applies to all pensioners who receive a UK state retirement pension and have registered for healthcare in Europe with an S1 form.
Other EEA or Swiss people who are not working and are under the UK retirement age should either use their EHIC if they’re entitled to one, or make sure they have health insurance if they need NHS care when visiting England. Otherwise they will have to pay for their care. This also applies to former UK residents.
People Living Outside The EEA
People who live outside the EEA, including former UK residents, have to make sure they are covered by personal health insurance. Anyone who does not have insurance will be charged at 150% of the NHS national tariff for any care received. The NHS price for a normal maternity birth is £2,188. For a major hip operation with an intermediate stay in hospital the charge is is £7,826. So for non-residents without proper insurance, to cover these would cost £3,282 and £11,739. Non-residents must also make sure their health insurance covers them while they are in the UK as well as in their expat location.
Using the National Health Service (NHS) as an expat in the UK
Even if emergency hospital treatment is free for anyone visiting the UK, expats must first register for an NHS Number to be able to make an appointment with a general practitioner or dentist. General practitioners are the first point of contact for most people and can refer patients to other specialist services. To register for an NHS number, expats must make an appointment, attend an interview and fill out the necessary paperwork. The NHS number will arrive in the post within a couple of weeks. Those who manage to register with their local NHS dentist get a 25 percent discount on treatments.
What are the different types of health insurance?
In the UK, there two types of health insurance: fully underwritten insurance and moratorium insurance. With underwritten health insurance, people have to give the full medical history to their provider. With a moratorium plan, people have to give limited information to their provider. A fully underwritten policy gives wider coverage, but is more expensive, while a moratorium policy is cheaper and comes with blanket exclusions on some pre-existing conditions. Some also have specialist policies, which are most important when the patient has to wait longer than six weeks for NHS treatment. Some policies are made specifically for people over 55, or have a special focus on one disease, such as cancer.
Contacting the health services
111 is the NHS non-emergency number, and is free. When calling 111 patients speak to a highly trained adviser, supported by healthcare professionals. They always ask a series of questions to assess the patients symptoms and immediately direct them to the best medical care. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.
NHS 111 offers a video relay service that allows people to make a video call to a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter. After that, the BSL interpreter calls an NHS 111 adviser on behalf of the patient and they are then able to have a real-time conversation with the NHS 111 adviser, via the interpreter. In these cases, a webcam, a modern computer and a good broadband connection are required.
When to use 111
People should use the NHS 111 service if they urgently need medical help or advice, but not for life-threatening conditions.
Call 111 if:
- you need medical help fast but its not a 999 emergency
- you think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
- you dont know who to call or you dont have a GP to call
- you need health information or reassurance about what to do next
For less urgent health needs, it is recommended to contact a GP or local pharmacist. In some cases, health professionals give patients a specific phone number to call so they can access help quicker.
For immediate, life-threatening emergencies, call 999.
Healthcare progress in the UK
A major study on general health and common threats in UK found that Britain has fallen behind many Western countries on progress in managing preventable diseases.
The five most common diseases in the UK are heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease and liver disease.
In 2016, new laws were designed to change the lives of smokers and vapers across Europe. According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) there are around 10 million smokers in the UK and a further 2.6 million use e-cigarettes. The new rules have been made in the hope of reducing the number of nicotine addicts by 2.4 million. The change affects cigarettes, hand-rolling tobacco and e-cigarettes manufactured for sale in the UK.
Standardised plain packaging
In order to discourage smokers from being attracted by pretty designs and packaging, all cigarette boxes and rolling pouches must be standardised.
Graphic health warnings
At least 65% of the packaging on show must be covered with public health warnings, graphic photos and text to demonstrate the damage that smoking does to health.
Ban on 10-packs of cigarettes
All packs must contain a minimum of 20 cigarettes to make room for the health warnings.
Smaller, weaker containers
While there’s currently no limitation on the size of refill containers, it will now be capped at 10ml and 2ml for disposable e-cigarettes, cartridges and tanks.
Open A Bank Account[back to top]
There is a wide variety of banking firms in the UK, and each bank offers different things to their clients, but when it comes to best and biggest banks in the country, these five come out on the top of every list.
- HSBC Holdings
- Barclays PLC
- Royal Bank of Scotland Group
- Lloyds Banking Group
- Standard Chartered PLC
Expat Bank Accounts
All those moving to the UK from overseas must be aware that opening a UK bank account is necessary. Due to many banking issues for migrants, over recent years, many banks had to change their procedures to make the process easier. The most common difficulties when opening a bank account as an expat are mot having credit history in UK, or not having a valid proof of address, which is often an issue for those who have just landed.
However, many large banks designed some bank accounts to overcome these specific problems. Regarding these issues, the best UK banks accounts for expats are offered by Barclays, HSBC, Halifax, First Direct, Santander, Lloyds Bank and Nationwide.
Barclays "New to the UK" account
Barclays has an offer specifically designed for those who are new to the UK. It has a full range of banking services, including a contactless debit card, the ability to withdraw up to £300 a day, as well as online, telephone and mobile banking. Standing orders and direct debits can also be set up. The required documentation to open this account is: one form of ID, such as a passport, and proof of address, which can be a bank statement from the expats country of origin. This kind of account can be opened in any country where Barclays has a branch, if people want to open it before they leave home and arrive in the UK.
HSBC Basic Account
HSBC, as a bank with a global presence, also allows their clients to open an account before they leave their home country. The HSBC Basic Account includes a Visa Debit card, from which up to £300 a day can be withdrawn from ATMs; internet banking; mobile banking; and telephone banking. Direct debits and standing orders for bill payments can be also set up. Required documentation includes proof of ID and address in the UK. Those who have no permanent residence yet can open this account in two ways. One is to use a contract of employment or a house rental agreement. The other is to open the account with an address in the home country and then later change it to a UK address.
Halifax Current Account
Halifax customers can open a bank account that provides everything for general banking needs. For those who pay in more than £750 per month, the bank will give them £5 a month too. This offer includes all day to day banking needs, such as debit card, online and telephone banking, direct debits and standing orders. The advantage of using this bank is that it has a presence on every high street in the country, so the branches can be easily visited.
First Direct 1st Account
First Direct has slightly different offers from all the banks mentioned above, because it doesn’t actually have any branches, but it offers is 24/7/365 internet and telephone banking. This means that costumers can make a call and discuss their banking even at 1am during the holidays. The 1st Account offers a £250 free overdraft, as well as all the usual products. Customers can also deposit money at any of the many HSBC banks in the country, because HSBC is the parent company of First Direct.
Santander Bank Account
The Spanish owned Santander bank offers the 1|2|3 Current Account that provides 3% interest on balance as well as paying cashback on household bills. This account has the usual range of products. There is a charge for this account of £2 per month. Customers need to pay a minimum of £500 per month into the account and have at least 2 active direct debits to get the monthly cashback. The other offer is the Everyday Current Account that charges no fee. This one is a simpler account, which doesn’t pay interest on the balance or give cashback on bills.
Lloyds Bank Account
Lloyds offers the Club Lloyds Account that pays a 4% interest on balances between £4,000 and £5,000, for those who can pay in at least £1,500 every month. There are lower balances that also attract interest, but at a lesser value, such as 2% for £2,000 to £3,999 and 1% for £1 to £1,999. For those who can’t pay in £1,500 per month, theres a Lloyds Classic Account that is free for all. It includes all the usual products and is available to anyone over the age of 18.
Nationwide Bank Account
One of the best Nationwide current accounts is the Flex Direct, which provides clients with 5% interest on credit balances up to £2,500. This offer also includes the usual products, such as debit card, internet banking, and the use of the many Nationwide branches that can be found all over the UK.
Account Choices For Expats
In general, expats have a choice of a current account or savings account. A current account is the equivalent of a checking account with overdraft, while the savings account is specific to expats, mainly with lower interest rates than the standard bank account. The typical expat current account comes with a debit card. Most shops around the country accept credit cards as well. Northern Ireland is the only country in the UK that still relies more on cash rather than cards, but cards are still accepted at larger shops and corporations.
Questions And Documentation
In order to open a bank account in the UK as an expat, all applicants need to supply their documentation including passport, visa or work permit, salary, and UK address confirmation. The banker usually asks why the person is in the country and why they are looking to open a bank account instead of using an international account. Expats must be aware that theres a difference between a residency permit held by an expat versus someone who holds a temporary visa or work permit. Non-residents usually find it more difficult to open a bank account. The other difficulties for expats are the rules of deposit before opening the UK bank account. Generally, the full process takes two to three weeks before the account is open and ready to use.
When it comes to working hours, most UK banks are open from 09:00 to 16:30 Monday-Friday. There are a few branches that are only open from 09:30 to 12:00 and some branches are now open even on Saturdays. Major UK banks are stronger than the smaller business societies available to UK citizens, in terms of stability. If clients want to apply for a loan or overdraft, additional information is usually required, such as the reason for the loan or overdraft and a credit check. Banks also take up to two weeks longer to set up the overdraft or loan for an expat than for a citizen of the UK.
Learn The Language[back to top]
English is the Germanic language which is an official language in about 60 sovereign states. It is the most commonly spoken language in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. It is also widely spoken in some areas of the Caribbean, Africa, and South Asia. It is considered to be the third most common language in the world, following Mandarin and Spanish, and it is the most widely learned second language.
English is the official language of the European Union, United Nations and various international organisations. In 2016, it was estimated that around 400 million people spoke English as a first language, while 1.1 billion spoke it as their secondary language.
It is the official language of the United Kingdom, spoken by about 60 million residents over the age of 3, which is about 98% of the population. It is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK speak Welsh, which is an official language in Wales. There are also around 1.5 million people in the country who speak Scots, but there is a debate about whether this is a different language or a variety of English. There is also a significant number of people speaking Irish in Northern Ireland, with large communities also in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and London.
When it comes to dialect varieties in England, English can be divided into four major regional dialects: South West English, South East English, Midlands English, and Northern English. There are several local subdialects in each of these regions. For example, in the Northern region, there is a difference between the Yorkshire dialects, the Geordie dialect which is used in the area around Newcastle, and the Lancashire dialects, with local urban dialects such as Scouse in Liverpool and Mancunian in Manchester.
Regarding the accents of the English, there are some significant differences across the country, such as the ones in the West Country, where two groups of accents exist. There is also a huge variation within the London urban area, with various accents such as Cockney, Estuary English, and Received Pronunciation.
Other languages spoken in the UK
In 2011 a census was conducted to see how well non-native speakers could speak English, and to find out what their first language was. According to the results, the list of the main 20 languages spoken in the country was:
- English (or Welsh if in Wales) 49,808,000 or 92.3%
- Polish 546,000 or 1%
- Punjabi 273,000 or 0.5%
- Urdu 269,000 or 0.5%
- Bengali (with Sylheti and Chatgaya) 221,000 or 0.4%
- Gujarati 213,000 or 0.4%
- Arabic 159,000 or 0.3%
- French 147,000 or 0.3%
- All other Chinese (excludes Mandarin and Cantonese) 141,000 or 0.3%
- Portuguese 133,000 or 0.2%
- Spanish 120,000 or 0.2%
- Tamil 101,000 or 0.2%
- Turkish 99,000 or 0.2%
- Italian 92,000 or 0.2%
Language in the workplace
In recent years, the migrant workforce from Eastern European countries in particular has grown and there is a highly diverse range of cultures within the United Kingdoms labour force. In some lower paid sectors such as agriculture and hospitality, there is a particular reliance on those workers whose first language is not English. It is important to know that the Equality Act 2010 protects employees against discrimination on the basis of colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. But when it comes to language in the workplace, many often ask if employers require their employees to have excellent or basic English skills. In general, there is no law that obliges the expats in UK to speak excellent English at work.
If the employer thinks that a fluent English speaker is necessary for satisfactory performance of the job, they should be able to objectively justify the requirement. This depends entirely on the role of the employee. Some roles may demand a higher level of English compared to roles such as working on a production line, where only basic English skills may be necessary to perform the role satisfactorily. It is also important to know that there is no law that forbids workers to communicate in a foreign language at workplace, if they share the same mother tongue.
Expat language learning in the UK
When expats want to learn and understand the local language in the United Kingdom, there are a variety of options available. There are government websites, language schools, private lessons and self-help. Theres a rise of resources such as self-help CDs and software such as Rosetta Stone and Linkword Languages. English language courses are widely available via the internet as distance learning projects and can enable individuals to gain the standard necessary for living and working in the UK. A good starting point is the ‘learn English’ website from the British Council. Cambridge English, part of Cambridge University, offers a comprehensive range of language courses designed for beginners, intermediates and those who wish to gain an English language qualification recognised by many businesses in the UK.
Another option is to attend an English language school in the UK. Lessons are usually not only structured in a classroom setting but also encompass practical elements such as a variety of social events that include opportunities to talk to native speakers. There are a vast number of schools throughout the country, with London offering the widest choice of teaching establishments.
Language varieties on public media
A small number of TV stations in Wales launched the initiative to put English subtitles into shows made on Welsh. Other than that, most TV shows are not subtitled.
Language differences between areas and generations
The differences between language in urban and rural areas are evident because of the fast developing technology in major cities. There are also differences between the language use of younger and older generations. This is partly due to social media, which increased the spread of new expressions between young people.
English language test certificates as a means of employment
TOEFL is the most common international English language test in the UK. All expats who want to work in areas such as translating, interpreting or tutoring other future UK residents should show their future employer their TOEFL certificate.
Choose A School[back to top]
The education systems and schooling options in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are slightly different. In general, the school year in the United Kingdom starts in September and ends in July, with the main breaks in December, March and July.
The schooling system is divided into four levels:
Early years: Ages 3 to 4
Primary education: Ages 4 to 11
Secondary education: Ages 11 to 18
Tertiary education: Ages 18+
In the UK, education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 17. Primary school usually starts during the school year in which children turn five. Students can choose between finishing school at the age of 16, after completing their GCSEs, or continuing secondary studies for two more years, when they can study for A-levels or BTEC awards. In recent years, many schools have started offering students the International Baccalaureate (IB) internationally recognised qualification. In Scotland, students have Standard Grade exams at the age of 15 or 16 and Higher / Advanced Higher Grade exams at the age of 17 or 18. In Wales, the situation is similar to England, but students also have the option of studying for the Welsh Baccalaureate.
Many different options exist when it comes to schooling in the UK. Each type of school is unique and offers different benefits to students. This wide variety of options ensures that expat families can choose whats best for their budget.
State schools are covered by the government at no cost to British citizens or foreigners who legally live in the UK. These schools are funded by taxes.
There are many different types of state-funded school in the UK, including comprehensive schools, grammar schools, voluntary controlled schools and free schools. The education standard at these schools vary, because some offer good teaching and facilities, while other have troubles with bad academic results. The better state-funded schools are usually in more affluent areas.
Expats who want to find out more about the quality of teaching and facilities at a particular school should consult Ofsted, the Office of Standards in Education. Admission criteria also vary from one school to another. Most of the state schools base admissions on a particular catchment area, so expats with children should research this when deciding where to live in the UK. In general, these schools treat international students equally to British students, but in some of them its difficult to find spaces for those who dont plan to remain in Britain long. Grammar schools will require students to pass an entrance exam called the 11+.
Private schools are the part of the educational tradition in the UK, and they generally follow the British National Curriculum, but they also offer a wider range of subjects. During recent years, many schools offer students the option of studying for the International Baccalaureate. These schools aim to teach students foreign languages from a younger age, offering them a wider range of extra-curricular facilities as well. The standard at private schools is traditionally high, and their students perform better academically than those from public schools across the country.
Expats should be aware that fees at private schools are high, and can be between £3000 and £6000 per term. The fees at boarding schools can even be around £12,000 GBP per term. Theres also the additional budget needed for uniforms, stationery, private tuition, music lessons and field trips abroad. Most private schools offer a limited number of scholarships for particularly gifted students.
The admission criteria for this type of schools also vary from one institution to another. Students usually have to attend an interview and pass an entrance exam for admission to some private schools. Most children in the private system will take an 11+ exam in order to get a place at a secondary school.
International schools are the most common choice for expat families in the UK, as these schools follow a variety of different curricula from around the world. One of the best options in this type of school is to continue studying the same syllabus as the child was studying at home. These schools are also good for those who dont plan to stay in the UK on permanent basis.
There are many international schools in the UK, covering many national curricula including American, French, Japanese, Canadian and Australian. As the city with the biggest expat population, London has the widest choice of international schools.
Fees in these schools can go up to 10,000 GBP per term. Expats who want to attend this type of school should try to negotiate an allowance into their employment contracts to cover the cost.
School Years In the UK
Infant School or Primary School
Reception, age 4 to 5
Year 1, age 5 to 6
Year 2, age 6 to 7 (KS1 National Curriculum Tests - England only)
Junior School or Primary School
Year 3, age 7 to 8
Year 4, age 8 to 9
Year 5, age 9 to 10
Year 6, age 10 to 11 (Eleven plus exams in some areas of England, Key Stage 2 National Curriculum Tests)
Middle School, High School or Secondary School
Year 7, old First Form, age 11 to 12
Year 8, old Second Form, age 12 to 13
Year 9, old Third Form, age 13 to 14 (Key Stage 3 National Curriculum Tests, known as SATs (Standard Assessment Tests))
Upper School or Secondary School
Year 10, old Fourth Form, age 14 to 15
Year 11, old Fifth Form, age 15 to 16 (old O Level examinations, modern GCSE examinations)
Year 12 or Lower Sixth, age 16 to 17 (AS-level examinations)
Year 13 or Upper Sixth, age 17 to 18 (A2-level examinations. Both AS-levels and A2-levels count towards A-levels.)
In some regions of England, children go to a Lower (Primary) School before going to a Middle School between the ages of 9 and 13, and then a High School or Upper School.
Degrees and Graduation
In the UK, there is a three-level hierarchy of degrees: Bachelor, Master, and Doctor. A graduate student is an individual who has completed a bachelors degree, such as BA, BSc or similar, and is going to continue with further education, with the goal of achieving a masters degree, such as an MSc, or a doctorate, such as a PhD.
Expat Health Insurance Partners
Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.