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How to Become a London Expat

How to Become a London Expat

How to Become a London Expat

It’s been almost exactly 3 years since we settled in London and as our leather anniversary of moving to the capital of the UK approaches it makes me realize how much I love living in this city during the holiday season.

When we first arrived back in 2017 I had only ever visited London during the summer so to see it transformed into a wintery cityscape was quite a surprise. Gone were the sunbathers in Hyde Park, the Thames boat cruises looked significantly chillier and the humid heat of the city was nowhere to be found. Instead, everywhere I looked there were fairy lights, jolly Santas, snowmen, and reindeer aplenty. Headlights shining through the mist gave the city even more of a Victorian feel than it already has. I’ve got to admit I kept expecting Tiny Tim to come hobbling round a corner that first winter!

Different Ways to Move

If you are considering a move to London then there are a couple of things that you need to be aware of. A global pandemic is probably not the time to be considering a transatlantic move but it will certainly give you some prep time, and boy, will you need it.

First things first. If you are looking to make a permanent move or it is work-related you are going to need to get a visa. If you are not lucky enough to have a partner or spouse who is already a UK citizen your possible visa routes include:

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa
  • Tier 1 Investor visa
  • Tier 2 Work Permit
  • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer

Government websites relating to visas are notoriously tricky to navigate and do not always provide a particularly clear picture of what is required. Instead of pulling your hair out on them, I recommend visiting sites from companies that specialize in guiding you through the visa process, like this one here.

Paperwork & Fees

My dear husband does have UK citizenship so our process was slightly easier but we still decided to hire an immigration firm to help us through the process. Thankfully more of it can be done online now which will save you a lot in printing and postage costs. Our initial application was over $300 just in mailing fees because it had to arrive on a very specific date and was very heavy due to all the paperwork they needed.

If your choice of life partner isn’t your way in then you will most likely have to find yourself a UK employer. I suggest looking for international job agencies whose skills will often include help with the visa process. Another option is to investigate whether the company you already work for has any overseas offices that they can transfer you to. Again they will be able to navigate the visa process with you and in certain cases can even speed it up immensely.

Getting a Job in the UK

If your visa is dependent on your job it can be hard, if not impossible, to change jobs while in the UK and remain on the same visa. However, if you have entered as a spouse then you will have the right to work almost immediately. Job searching in the UK requires a CV (rather than a resume) and mainly takes place online. Good sites to get acquainted with include

  • com (for Scottish based work)

It is important to note that there are job centers in the UK where you can go to look up jobs and get advice. You will not be able to collect job seekers cash benefits but you can still make use of their services

Getting Set-up in a New Country

Setting up a home in a different country can be logistically challenging if you are keen to keep a lot of the items you already own. Air shipping is available but will be very expensive. Shipping by sea is a much cheaper option but takes significantly longer. In my opinion, it is prudent to truly take a long hard look at any big and heavy items you are considering moving with. Do you really need them? If the answer is yes find out the price to buy them new in the UK- it may just be more cost-effective than shipping them

A way to avoid the hassle of moving or finding new furniture is to look for furnished apartments. They are much easier to come by in the UK. We have just moved into an apartment on Canary Wharf that is part of the new Vertus complex. We choose to go with an unfurnished option because we have already amassed furniture while here, but they also offer furnished options that are perfect for moves that happen quicker than expected.

Bring Your Pets With You

Bringing pets along for the ride takes a little bit of help, but in the grand scheme of moving was actually one of the easier parts of our move. Luckily you no longer need to quarantine most animals coming into the UK as long as they have an up-to-date rabies shot. You will need to use a certified company to move them, however. The UK does not allow animals to fly into the country in the cabin so they will have to travel in the hold. Our cats flew Seattle to Germany, and then Germany to Edinburgh (where we were at the time). If you are going to be based in London straight away then there are more direct flights from US airports to London. We used to get our kitties here.

Getting Settled

Once you’ve finally arrived getting settled in a new country can be a bit daunting. I won’t lie, the first few months after I arrived I felt really quite lonely. As international as London is, people just love to try and mimic your accent which can get tiring after a while. I highly recommend meeting up with other Americans while you are here for a bit of solidarity and as an ideal way to get the lay of the land. The American Women’s Club of London was particularly welcoming to me. On a networking front, the American Professional Women in London meet up is a great way to have fun with other professionals, while the Junior League of London is perfect for ladies involved in the non-profit sector (and an ideal way to get your older daughters out of the house).

As I have said, our current home in Canary Wharf is part of a larger complex. This gives us access to all sorts of social spaces and activities that were a perfect way to meet our new neighbors. My favorite pre-lockdown event was Wine Wednesdays, since lockdown though the 24/7 concierge has been incredibly helpful in keeping us up to date with goings-on and local restrictions.

The Holidays

This Holiday season is, no doubt, going to look a bit different than the years past. However, I’m still on the lookout for Tiny Tim when we go on our daily walks and look forward to all the festive treats that are popping up in stores and on menus. If you are considering a move to London, all of the above might make it seem daunting, but it is so, so, worth it. I hope to see you on this side of the pound soon.

Have you or would you ever consider moving to London? Let us know in the comments on the bottom of this page! 

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