Americans moving to London! Buckle up – it’s going to be a doozy lol. From 2014 to 2020, I called London my home and endured loads of visa and job drama so you’re in the right place to find out more about moving to London from the US.
Despite the common language and history, moving to London was my hardest move to date. The visa processes are strange, the skilled labor requirement is super difficult to satisfy, AND THEN the home office still has the right to say ‘nope.’
Let’s just say the British took it personally when the colonies gave the Queen and King the big “EFF YOU” and dumped all the tea into the Boston Harbor.
Americans Moving to London
In this article, you will learn what you need to know to move to London:
- Work Visas for Americans
- Finding Accommodation
- Sending Money Across the World
- Cost of Living
- Making Friends
- Weather & Climate
‘Move Abroad’ Master Class
If you’re intimidated by the ‘move and live abroad’ process, then you should join my ‘Live Abroad’ Master Class!
It’s a 5 week, end-to-end online program that will hand-hold you through the entire move abroad process. The Master Class covers everything from Visas to Immigration, bringing family members over, finding a job abroad, and more!
General Overview of Moving to London from the US
Some countries are more or less difficult for Americans to move to. I would consider the United Kingdom to be ‘medium difficulty’ because of the common language.
However, the visa stuff really mucks it all up for Americans. I never said moving to London was going to be easy.
It all depends on the relationship between the United States and the UK at the time of your application. The main types of visas include the following:
- Tourist Visa (short-stay)
- Work Visa
- Student Visa
- Family/Partner Visa
- Specialized Visa
Did you know that you can live abroad on a short-stay visa for a limited amount of time? Living in London for 6 months is pretty easy as there’s a 6-month allowance on a tourist visa BUT you’re ineligible to work on a tourist visa.
Sometimes it’s best to come first on a Student or Tourist visa and then take it from there. That’s what I did!
I’ve lived in the UK under almost every visa imaginable. Tourist visa, Student visa, Work visa, etc.
I chose to move to the UK on a student visa to get my Master’s. It was a lot of work, but the UK’s education system is one of the best in the world.
After I graduated, I used a 6-month tourist visa, then eventually I applied for a Tier 4 Student visa, and then a Tier 2 (Skilled Worker) visa. (I’ll get more into that in a bit!)
There are also family visas that allow you to move to London with your spouse or children, but the process is much more difficult and can take up to a year or longer.
You will need proof of income, a marriage certificate, and birth certificates for any children. The process is long, but if you’re married to a British citizen it’s definitely worth it!
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Can Americans Move to London?
Yes, Americans can move to London! Yay!
Should You Move to London as an American?
It’s definitely worth taking a minute to think “Should I move to London?” before actually going through with it.
As you’ll see throughout this post, moving to London is both expensive and difficult.
If you’ve never been to London, you may have a romanticized view of the city and reality might not match up with what you pictured.
Make sure that you’ve visited London for an extended period of time before committing to a move there.
I always advocate for people to move abroad at least once in their life, but London may not be the right city for you in the end.
There are cheaper and easier alternatives, but keep reading to get a better picture of whether London is right for you.
Is it Hard to Move to London? Is it Easy to Move to London?
Yes, it is hard to move to London. There’s really no way around that if you want to stay in London long-term.
Is it easy to move to London? Only if you want to come for a few months, that’s no problem. But moving here permanently is an entirely different monster.
This post will go over exactly how you can move to London from the US, and having all this information will for sure make the process easier.
But the frustration of immigrating to a new country can never be entirely erased (you’ll understand that more when we get to the visa section!)
So how hard is it to move to London exactly? I’d say it’s a pretty high difficulty. It’s not the hardest place to move to, but far from the easiest.
How Much Does it Cost to Move to London from the US?
The cost of moving from London to the US will definitely vary depending on where you currently live and what you plan to bring.
In general, it is not worth the hassle and money to bring your furniture and possessions all the way to London from the USA.
It’s better to sell whatever you have in the US or put it in a storage unit and buy all new things once you get to London.
If you sell a lot of your things, then you can use that money to buy new things!
Here are the things to factor into the cost of moving to London from the USA:
- Cost of Flight to London & Extra Suitcases
- Cost of Bringing Pets
- Cost of Hiring Help to Get a Visa
- Cost of Paying Visa Fees & Visa Taxes
- Cost of Renting an Apartment, Apartment Deposit, and Possibly an Agency Fee
- Cost of Utilities, Wifi, & Phones
How Much Money Do You Need to Move to London?
To be safe, you should have 10 to 15,000 US Dollars in savings just to pay for your move to London from America. Then you need a bit of a cushion of savings so you aren’t moving to London on your last dollar.
You may need to pay a few months’ rent in advance, a deposit, hiring help to find an apartment or to get your visa, plus the cost of bringing your possessions from the US.
Relocating to London from the US is expensive upfront, plus London isn’t the cheapest city to live in. I’ll go over the cost of living in London a bit later on in the post.
Work Visas in the UK
To “say thank you” for America’s WELCOMING immigration policies, the rest of the world has taken upon themselves to give us a taste of our own medicine.
To work in England, you’re going to need a Tier 2 (General) Visa or a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa.
Your best bet is to find an international company in America, put in a few good years, and then have them transfer you to the UK. Moving to London on a Tourist Visa and then finding a job is definitely a lot harder.
In order to get a Tier 2 Visa, a company will need to sponsor you (financially and on paper), and then, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be welcomed into the United Kingdom. Here are some general guidelines:
- You must have a certificate of sponsorship BEFORE you can apply to come to the UK to work
- It will cost anywhere from 564-1,051 GBP to apply
- You also have to pay the healthcare surcharge
You also have to “prove” that you’re more capable than prospective hires in the UK, which would justify your hiring.
After using up my 6-month allowance on a Tourist Visa, I was finally able to stay on a Student Tier 4 General Visa.
I literally sent over 200 job applications, I went to networking events 3x a week, AND STILL, I couldn’t find a job that was willing to sponsor me. I was only 22 at the time so I think it was the lack of experience, but still – it was tough.
If you’re like me and are trying to find a job abroad without a lot of experience, check out this post. It’s definitely still possible, so don’t give up!
Moving abroad can be a daunting task, but with the right resources and information, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience and will definitely be worth it in the end.
Read my article about the general end-to-end visa process to familiarize yourself with it.
Although each country has a slightly different process for visas, once you’ve applied to a few you start to get the idea and there are definitely things that stay the same no matter what visa you’re applying for.
Watch my ‘How to Move & Live Abroad’ video below.
How to Find Accomodation in London
The second biggest hurdle when moving to London is finding affordable accommodation – or what people consider ‘affordable.’
It took me 3 months to find a decent apartment in London because flats disappear within a moment’s notice and everything is insanely expensive.
You should expect to pay anywhere from 500-1000 GBP per month (without utilities) for a flatshare with 2 -3 other people. Now, with prices for apartments going up all over the world, that might be a low estimate.
The generally accepted method for finding housing is to go through housing agents, but these people frequently bait and switch nice-looking apartments online.
I ended up having to visit around 10-12 apartments before finally finding one that worked for us.
People will refer you to RightMove and Zoopla, but most (if not all) of the apartments online were already sold/let when I called.
But of course, they always “had something else I might be interested in”…. it’s an unfortunate system that anyone moving to London will have to endure.
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world and while the city is constantly expanding, the amount of available accommodation isn’t. This means that if you want to live in a decent area, you’ll need to be prepared to spend a lot of money.
In fact, according to Numbeo (a site that compares the cost of living around the world), the rent in London is 51% higher than the rent in Paris.
All this to say, London isn’t cheap so prepare for that when looking for an apartment.
Whilst you wait, check out some local Airbnbs. They are sometimes WAY cheaper than living in a hotel until you find a flat.
How to Send Money Abroad While Living in London as an American
For an in-depth review of the best options to send money abroad, read my article – Easy Ways to Receive, Transfer, and Send Money Abroad.
In general, I typically recommend using Transferwise (they’ve now renamed the company “Wise”) for anyone moving to London (or anywhere else for that matter!).
I use it myself all the time to send my GBP and Euros back to the United States!
It’s a great tool for sending and receiving money internationally with low fees — much cheaper than using your local bank.
You can also get your own local bank account details in Europe, the UK, the US, Australia, and New Zealand with the TransferWise Borderless account.
Something that most people don’t know is that different countries use different banking details, so it’s not always easy to send money from a UK bank account (which has a sorting and account number) to the United States (which has a routing and account number).
With TransferWise, the information that they collect for these transfers changes based on the country-specific requirements. I can upload £1,000 with my UK debit card and then send it to my US Bank Account quite easily!
Furthermore, the exchange rate for TransferWise is the fairest I’ve seen in a long time. TransferWise never hides fees in the exchange rate.
They use the real exchange rate independently provided by Reuters and apply it directly to your exchange. Below is a screenshot comparison with Western Union, ICICI Bank, WorldRemit, and more; see the difference for yourself.
Cost of Living in London
I’ve already gone over rent prices, but the cost of living in London is definitely something you need to seriously consider as an American moving to London.
The cost of living varies depending on your personal lifestyle, no matter which city you decide to live in. However, there are certain things in London that you just can’t avoid.
For example, London’s monthly public transportation card is the #1 most expensive in the world.
Comparing the cost of living between Los Angeles, California, and London, London comes out just slightly more expensive.
You can use Numbeo to add your city, and then click “change the amount in this calculation” and input the amount of money you spend per month in that city.
That will give you a better picture of what to expect as an American moving to London.
Transportation will run you anywhere from 200-400 GBP per month. Here’s a general breakdown of transportation fees.
Your best bet for cheap transport is the bus, but that’ll still cost you 1.50 GBP per ride. The Tube will cost you anywhere between 2-5 GBP depending on what zone you’re traveling to… one way.
The overground Railway train (god help you) will cost you anywhere from 3-12.50 GBP one way.
I would recommend living closer to the city so you can cut down on transportation costs.
Just be sensible and live beneath your means and you’ll be just fine. Once you get some experience under your belt with the local industry, you’ll be open to higher-paid salaries.
Also, the cost of living (other than rent) seems to be lower in the United Kingdom than in America. My phone bill was $20 and I would only spend £40-50 a week on groceries despite cooking 90% of my meals.
Things are just different.
Salaries in London
Here’s the hardest fact to swallow for nearly all Americans moving to London: the low salaries.
This is even worse of a blow when you consider that the cost of living in London is almost identical to Los Angeles, where salaries are a lot higher.
The average salaries in London are £20-35,000 so budgeting is critical. If you wait to find a job in London, then you’re more than likely going to be on a local salary.
Nevertheless, I was still able to live off of £33,000 for my first job in London just fine. It wasn’t easy, but I had a good budgeting system and I was still able to travel 6-7x a year!
Also, there’s a new tax system to be aware of. here’s the general tax bracket breakdown:
- The first 10,000 GBP is tax-free
- The next 10-32k GBP is taxed at 20%
- 32-150k GBP is taxed at 40% (some exceptions apply)
- 150k+ is taxed at 45%
Tax Implications for Americans in London
If you’re an American moving to London, don’t forget about how this impacts your tax situation as well. Read this in-depth article on tax implications or watch the video below.
I would recommend hiring an Expat-tax specialist – like Taxes for Expats – because foreign tax law is complicated and the penalties are heavy.
Americans abroad are treated like residents (no matter where we run to) so you always have to file taxes every year.
Making Friends and Developing Communities
Making friends after just moving to London is probably the hardest part.
While London is probably THE most international city in the world (even more than New York in my opinion), English people are pretty hard to befriend beyond a surface level.
Some may say that it’s because of their “British humor” – not to be confused with general meanness- but in reality, it’s because they don’t need to make new friends.
They have family friends, university friends, and childhood friends to choose from. These friend groups have also been around for YEARS so welcoming an outsider, who might not be in town for that long, is not really a priority.
That’s not to say you WON’T make British friends – I have loads!
I’m just saying that it took time and effort to get beneath their tough ‘keep calm and carry on’ exterior to really establish authentic, meaningful relationships. Start at the pub and work outwards.
As an immediate fix, your best bet is to find companionship within communities you identify with (i.e. hobby, culture, religion, CrossFit box, etc) and build your community there.
A great way to do this is by using the Meetup app, where you can find groups that meet up each week or month. You can search for meetups in the app by what you like to do.
For example, if you work from home, you can join coworking or remote working communities and then go to their meet-ups to find other people who work from home.
All foreigners bond over their commonalities, delicious food, and a general disdain for UKIP’s hostile position against immigration.
Also, British people are also not too keen on sharing feelings or intimate moments with fellow Brits and foreigners alike, so try not to take it personally.
When you first get to London from the US, make it a goal to go to every meet-up and event that you are invited to or sign up for at least a few months.
Don’t let yourself isolate too much when you first move to London or you might find yourself heading back to the US sooner than you planned.
The importance of a social network or group of friends cannot be overstated when it comes to moving abroad. Especially if you want to make London your home.
Even with social events and interactions, moving abroad can be incredibly hard, make sure to take care of yourself and consider signing up for online therapy to make your transition easier.
The Weather in London
Moving to London as a former southern California girl was tough lol. London is gray pretty much all year round.
It’s wet, cold, and unforgiving… and I’m not just talking about the morning Tube commuters.
While you can take the girl out of California, you can’t take the California out of the girl. I am noticeably impacted by the constant grayness of my new home and am always counting down the days until I’m lying poolside in Los Angeles.
With that being said, there are a few TRULY gorgeous days in London and those are something NOT to be missed.
You’re going to need to set aside an “Escape Fund” to leave London every few weeks/months to maintain your sanity and the understanding that coffee doesn’t normally cost 10 USD.
Luckily, London is the perfect base to travel from! It’s usually the cheapest airport to fly in and out of and there are hundreds of destinations in Europe that are now at your fingertips.
While I have explored a good bit of the UK, there are still so many places I want to see. The beauty of London is that it’s a central hub for traveling and you can get to almost anywhere in the UK within 3 hours.
Especially with the budget airlines in Europe (namely Easyjet and Ryanair), you can get almost anywhere for less than $50. So save up your “Escape Fund” and get out there!
Homesickness in London
Yes, I get homesick in London. ALL the time. The weather didn’t help much with that either.
But, as with most things in life, if you focus on the good, it outweighs the bad.
And London has so much good to offer- from the incredible diversity of its people to the never-ending list of things to do. So don’t let homesickness keep you from living your dream life in London!
Make sure to keep in contact with friends and family back home so that they still feel part of your life. Some of them may not understand why you chose to move abroad.
My family still asks me when I’m coming back home and talks about how I’m just “getting this out of my system before settling down.” But I still miss them a ton and want to stay connected with them as much as possible.
Just know that with the time change, it can be difficult to stay in contact (as they’re going to bed, you’re waking up!)
Plus, life will continue to move on without you while you’re in London. You can’t just hop on a plane for every birthday or get-together.
That’s a big sacrifice that you make when choosing to move to London and you may find that it’s not worth it for you personally.
For some, this is a deal-breaker, and for others, it’s just something you learn to live with. In my case, I moved to London and lived there for 6 years, then moved to Germany.
Europe is my home now and I don’t see myself going back to the US.
The Safety in London
I used to live in the South of London, which is historically known as the more dodgy part of town, but I loved it!
It’s constantly popping with clubs, bars, awesome restaurants, and people are on the streets from 6 am to 5 am, even on weekdays. With that being said, I have had a few confrontations with overly aggressive men.
Since there are so many people out and about, I’ve been able to make enough noise to escape or I was being escorted by my 6’5″ (2 meters) boyfriend so it has never turned out poorly for me.
However, I am absolutely not as safe as I once was when I was living in Asia and it’s frustrating that I have to be so aware of my surroundings 24/7 simply because I’m a woman.
If you’re looking for a safer country to live in as a woman, check out this list.
There are definitely safer neighborhoods in London, although they usually come with a higher price tag.
On the Crime and Safety Index for 2021, London is rated as the 310th safest city in the world, just barely beating out Paris (312th) but also just barely safer than Cancun (307th).
You definitely need to keep an eye out for pickpockets in London, especially if you are in a tourist area where the crime rates are a lot higher.
Moving to London from the US: Hard But So Worth It
Hands down, moving to London from the US has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life but it’s also been one of the most rewarding.
It kick-started the career that I love, my marriage with my German husband, and a new life that eventually brought me to Germany to work for a well-known travel company.
If you dream of a life abroad, don’t let anyone deter you from making it happen. There will be a million obstacles between you and your new life in London, but if you are determined to make it happen, it will happen!
I personally believe that everyone should move across the world at least once in their life. Even if you end up back in the USA after, you will have experienced life in a completely new way and that will change the way you live the rest of your life.
I know it’s super hard to start something like this by yourself, which is why I created a class to personally help people who want to ditch their 9-to-5 life in America for something better abroad.
Hear from Other Americans Abroad
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