You confront challenges that may be overwhelming. You face worries about a new neighborhood, new schools, new bank, new doctors, new way to work, new job, and new ways to get lost on new roads. All of this can be quite aggravating and stressful. Not to mention expensive.
Here are a few helpful tips:
1. Know where you are going: UK is a big country including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In choosing your settlement destination, consider the following factors, such as strength of the local job market, cost of living, and access to affordable housing, weather patterns and the like, instead of basing your decision on arbitrary factors. Research well in advance of your move. Good preparation will save you time and money and a lot of stress in the end! Begin by learning some quick facts about UK; Weather, Voltage, Public holidays, UK money, Tipping, Measurements and the like.
2. Money: It may seem obvious, but even if you are planning to get work straight away, you will need to have some money behind you. You should have enough money so that you don't have to worry about paying the rent or the bills for the first few months and all the cost associated with moving. You will be paying for most things up front without a credit history here. Get estimates from shipping companies. Decide on the shipping method to suit your needs, timeframes and budget. - Get estimates for pet shipping services. An air-worthy animal crate will need to be ordered and is custom built to your pet's specific measurements. Each airline has a different policy on the transportation of live animals. Contact your airline.
3. Capture the hearts and minds: How will everyone adjust to the new country and its culture? What special considerations should be made for the children? What about the family pet? Perhaps your spouse or "significant other" is being relocated and you're ready to explore employment opportunities for yourself in the same country?
4. Housing: It is quite expensive to rent good quality housing in the UK, but rental prices do vary significantly between locations. It is very expensive to rent housing in central London. Properties vary in style greatly but are mainly constructed from brick and are types vary form terraced house, semi detached, link detached, detached and flats (apartments). To buy a home is becoming easier and easier for foreigners and there are lenders prepared to lend up to 95% of the mortgage. It is important to get a good mortgage broker who will compare what's available on the entire market. It is highly advisable to rent in area first before buying to get to know your neighbourhood. Places you can use to check accomodiation are www.rightmove.co.uk, www.propertyfinder.co.uk and for more upmarket homes www.primelocation.com. To check out the neighbourhood you can use www.upmystreet.com. If you prefer to use a relocation agent you can try www.venna.co.uk.
5. Animals and Pets: The UK operates a Pet Passport Scheme Service, under which dogs and cats from specific countries are allowed to enter without quarantine, provided the meet specified anti-rabies, blood sampling and anti-worm/anti-tick hygiene requirements. The pet must be micro-chipped, vaccinated against rabies and blood tested. The can only be brought into the UK after 6 months have passed from the date that your vet took the blood sample which led to a satisfactory test result. More information is available from http://www.defra.gov.uk.
6. Travel: The two main International airports in UK are Gatwick and Heathrow with a lot of other smaller regional airports. Traveling into Europe is relatively cheap with no frill airlinea like Easyjet and Ryanair. Rail travel is available between all cities, towns and most villages and a lot of people use rail. In London there is also the underground rail (tube) which most commuters use to avoid the traffic congestion. Roads are kept to a good standard, and motorways exist. All vehicles must be registered, insured and taxed. Public transport is widely available and service varies from town to village. In London most people travel on public transport. It cost £8 a day in congestion charges to drive into central London and traffic jams are huge particularly during peak times and parking is expensive. In villages transport tends to be available during the peak period and then operate at one bus an hour. For more information on London transport visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk or for National Rail visit http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/.
7. Employment: How quickly you will be able to find work in the UK depends on the job market in your field; a good way to start your search is by going to job searches online and other online job services. Employment agencies, state run Jobcentres www.jobcentre.gov.uk, national and local newspapers are other good sources. Other online sources include www.reed.co.uk, www.monster.co.uk.
8. Taxation: Income tax is normally collected at source by the employer on behalf of the Inland Revenue - the tax collecting department and it varies for 10% to 40% depending on income. The regulations on whether or not you pay taxes if you are not permanently staying in the UK are very complicated. In the UK, you can obtain relief from double taxation if your overseas income is subject to tax both in the UK and in another country. The question is: to whom must you pay which income taxes? You may need to hire a tax consultant to at least get you started. The Inland Revenue website www.hmrc.gov.uk will provide more useful information.
9. Immigration: You may need entry clearance in advance to enter the UK. This is run by www.ukvisas.gov.uk and the website gives information of entry requirements. The main types of visas are Highly skilled immigrant visa, Work visa, Working Holidaymakers, Student, Visitors, Marriage and Fiance Visas.
10. Education: Free education is provided by the state for Primary, intermediate and high schools for children from the ages of 5 - 16 years and is mandatory. Higher education is available at polytechnics and universities, and subsidised course fees maybe applicable. There are two types of schools in the UK - state and independent. The main difference between them has to do with funding. State schools are funded by the government, while independent schools are funded by parent's fees. More than 90% of the children attend state schools. Good state schools tend to be oversubscribed in their catchments areas and most of the state schools will not even out your kids on the waiting list before they arrive in this country. UK state schools follow a curriculum where statutory testing is carried out at the ages of 7, 11 and 14. GCSE are taken at 16 after which students can stay to take on to take A levels or attend college.
11. Health: The National Health Service funded by the government provides free medical care to UK residents, they may only pay for prescriptions, eye test, and dental treatment, and however other groups like children, pregnant woman and households on low income are exempt from paying these. General Practitioners and Consultants are free for all residents but there are normally long waiting lists to see specialist consultants. Overseas visitors from non-EU countries are eligible for free emergency treatment at NHS hospital but have to pay for in patient treatment and other medical services. The UK has reciprocal health care arrangements with countries other countries like Australia and some Eastern Europeans countries where they are exempt from healthcare payments. More information can be found on http://www.nhs.uk/.
12. Bank Accounts: British banks have introduced new regulations about opening new bank accounts. Security procedures have been implemented, which can lead to delays for immigrants who try to open an account on arrival. It is very difficult to open a UK bank account whilst you are overseas. Because it may take you some time to open an account once you arrive in the UK, it is a good idea to open a bank account in your home country that has a UK branch, or keep your existing account open at home until you are able to open a bank account in the UK. This way, you will still have access to funds. You will probably have to show proof of your UK residence, in the form of a utility bill, in order to open the account. The Major banks are Natwest, HSBC, Lloysds TSB, Barclays other banks include Abbey, Nationwide, Halifax, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citi Bank and several other online banks like First direct. More information about banks can be found at http://www.bba.org.uk.
13. Shopping: Shopping hours are usually from 9am - 5.30 pm Monday to Saturday. Sunday trading is from 10am - 4pm. Supermarkets generally extend these hours.
14. Credit History: You may wish to purchase goods or services on credit in UK and as a newcomer you will have no credit history here. Your credit cards from home will provide you with a stop-gap until you receive a new credit card. It is imperative to build a good credit rating; your credit rating is a measure of your credit-worthiness or in other words, your record of borrowing and repayment. Without a credit rating, few institutions will lend you money! It takes a couple of years to build up credit history. It maybe difficult to even get a contract mobile phone or buy a car on hire purchase. Other people have also found it even difficult to rent a home as most letting agencies credit score applicants.
15. Arrival: Everything will be different and you may be feeling homesick and stressed for the first few months. Most newcomers experience these feelings as they settle into their new life. Realise that these feelings are quite normal and allow yourself to relax and enjoy the differences around you. Feeling at home in a new country takes time. Be patient! Ask questions! Learn about the English life; speak to people in your neighbourhood, at work or at your children's new schools. This will help you to get involved in your community quicker and you'll settle faster if you have the support of people around you. Find other group for expatriate to talk to or you can even go on online forums to chat to fellow countryman. Most of people on these forums are more than willing to help you adapt to your new life! For Americans you can try http://www.uk-yankee.com/ or http://www.americanexpats.co.uk/. Other expats website include http://www.expatexchange.com/ and http://www.expatfocus.com/.
Moving to a new country takes courage. It also offers new and exciting opportunities for you and your family. I hope these tips will give you a snapshot of what to expect and will help you to adapt to your new life. Good luck with your move to UK!