What to consider before moving to the UK – a moving home checklist
The whole idea of moving home can seem quite overwhelming, with so much to do, from packing to finding somewhere new to live. And that’s never more true than when you’re not only moving home, but moving to another country.
Read on below for our full checklist of things to consider when moving to the UK:
Countryside or city centre?
The UK has everything, from rolling hills and quiet countryside, to bustling cities and skyscrapers, and not forgetting the miles of coastal towns with incredible sea views. All of them have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your personal preferences.
Before you make arrangements to move, it’s best to do your research, and make a list of your ‘must haves’. Do you prefer the country air with a reasonable commute to London, or a penthouse apartment in the heart of the city? Or perhaps you’d like a property right on the sea front, or a detached house in the suburbs.
Type of Property
Once you’ve made the decision on where to live, it’s time to consider the fun part of house-hunting – what type of property you’d like, and the features that you can’t live without. Make a list of any features you’d like from conservatories to ensuite bathrooms, the number of bedrooms you need, a traditional or modern property, if you’d like something in pristine condition that’s ready to move into immediately, or whether you’d prefer a project to mould to your own specifications.
You will also need to be aware that properties in the UK can often be smaller than those found in the US, Asia or parts of Europe, so you will need to measure up carefully and consider what room you need for your furniture and for storage.
What local amenities do you need?
You might need to consider local transport, and the commute from home into work, as well as local shops, healthcare and leisure activities available.
If you have children, one of the most important decisions you will make is finding somewhere with good schools within reach.
In the UK, we have both state and private school to choose from.
Private schools (also called Public or Independent Schools) do have some advantages in that class sizes are usually smaller, with a focus on individuality and extra-curricular activities, but they have considerable annual fees which must be paid, in addition to buying books, uniforms, and the other usual school needs. Annual fees vary from around £10,000 – £30,000 pa per child.
State schools are divided between grammar schools and comprehensives. Grammar schools are only available in some parts of the country. An entrance exam has to be taken if you’d like your child to go to a grammar school, and the exam must be passed or a place will not be offered.
One important thing to note when applying to a UK state school is that you must have a UK address before you can apply. There are also limits on the number of places available for younger age groups, and state schools will give priority to children living within their catchment area.
More information about applying for state schools can be found at https://www.gov.uk/schools-admissions/choosing-schools
Do you want to rent or buy?
Renting does give you the option to have a temporary home while you explore the UK and find your ideal location, but you will need to have all of your documents to hand. Landlords and agents will need to confirm your identity, employment status, credit history and immigration status when you apply for a rental property.
By law, landlords must check that everyone aged over 18 and living in their property as their only or main home have the Right to Rent in the UK. Any occupants aged 18 and over, whether listed on the tenancy agreement or not, are required to present original passports and visas in person to the landlord or agent.
You’ll also need to consider how long you’d like to rent for? The minimum length of tenancy in the UK is usually 6 months with a 1 month notice period if you want to leave, but if you want more security, longer tenancies, for perhaps 2 or 3 years can also be negotiated.
If you are looking to buy a property, do you have finance available or will you require a mortgage? If you need finance you may need to demonstrate UK credit history or work with a mortgage broker who specialises in mortgages for expats.
The UK also has anti money-laundering regulations, which you will need to be aware of. All property finders, estate agents, and solicitors must check your photo ID (passport or UK driving license), proof of address (for example, a utility bill or council tax bill), and the source of your funds for buying the house.
Do you have pets?
Although the UK is a nation of animal lovers, it is increasingly difficult to find rental properties where pets (particularly cats and dogs) are accepted. You may need to be prepared to pay a higher pet deposit in case of any damage or for extra cleaning when you leave.
When bringing pets into the country, you will need to be aware of the quarantine regulations (Find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/overview). You will also have to check that the company you are travelling with will also carry your pets for you.
Council tax is payable on all residential properties to cover public services such as schools, libraries, road maintenance and refuse collection. It is set locally and it can vary widely depending on where you live and the type of property you have, so it is worth checking what amount you will pay before you rent or buy.
Stamp Duty Land Tax must now be paid on all residential properties over £125,000. You can find out what it will be by using the HMRC’s SDLT calculator: https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/calculate-stamp-duty-land-tax/#/intro.
To open a standard UK bank account, you will need a UK residential address. Every bank will need proof of your identity and references to open an account and establish a credit rating. We recommend asking your home country bank for a letter of reference before departure. Alternatively, your employers may help with an introduction. Bringing copies of your home country bank statements can make this process easier.
Internet and telephone services
In most areas, the internet connection at your property will be via your telephone landline, which may have been disconnected when the previous occupiers vacated. There are many different suppliers across the UK, offering a wide variety of services and prices, including fibre broadband.
You can use a comparison site, such as https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/compare/broadband_and_home_phone/, to find the best deal.
Internet speeds do vary by location so if that is important to your move you can check the speed in your local area at: https://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/
Bringing your car?
If you chose to bring your current vehicle to the UK and register it, your vehicle must be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and adhere to specific standards. You can find all the details of how to import a car, and what you need to do on the UK government website: https://www.gov.uk/importing-vehicles-into-the-uk/overview.
If you have a full, valid driving licence issued in your home country, you will be able to drive in the UK for 12 months before needing to exchange your licence, or take a UK driving test. Continuing to drive on your licence after the 12-month period is illegal and subject to prosecution.
You will need to prepare to take your driving test prior to the 12-month deadline, and you may also need to take driving lessons. Further information can be found at https://gov.uk/driving-nongb-licence.
However, if your driving licence was issued in a country within the European Union (EU) you will be able to drive in the UK on your original licence right up until it expires, without having to retake your driving test or exchange your original licence. Your licence will automatically expire when you are 70 years old, or three years after you become a UK resident (whichever is longer). You must pass a UK driving test if you want to carry on driving after this point.
International Licence (Non-Exchangeable)
If your licence was issued outside of an EU/EEC or designated country, you are still allowed to drive in the UK for 12 months. After that, if you want to be able to drive in the UK, you will then have to apply for a provisional licence and pass the full UK driving test before you are issued with your full licence. You are not required to take any driving lessons in the UK before taking your test, but you may find it useful to review your driving skills and knowledge of UK roads. Our Highway Code is comprehensive and will tell you everything you need to know to drive safely and within the law on UK roads: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code.
County Homesearch has many years’ experience in supporting people returning or moving to the UK. Visit www.county-homesearch.com or contact us on 0333 939 8300 to discuss how we can make your move as stress-free as possible.