So, you’re thinking about moving to the UK? That’s a super cool decision! However, it can be tricky to move to a new country if you don’t have a job lined up or sponsorship for your visa.
That being said, there are plenty of ways to move to the UK without a job—after all, that’s exactly what I did! As with any international move, there is a lot of red tape and a ton of paperwork to deal with. Honestly, it can be a bit of a minefield!
With that in mind, let me share my wisdom and experience with you, and show you how to move to the UK without a job, just like I did. Let’s dive in and find out more!
Choose Your Visa
First things first, you’re going to need to find a visa that allows you to live in the UK without having a job. This is the biggest hurdle that you’re going to have, as you have to meet very specific criteria, and realistically, there’s not a lot you can do if you’re not eligible for one of the following visas.
Check this first before you go ahead and try to find accommodation or begin looking at flights. Honestly, you don’t want to waste your time if you can’t stay in the UK legally.
UK Ancestor Visa
If you’re lucky enough to have a British grandparent, then you might be eligible for a UK Ancestor Visa. One thing that sets this visa apart is that it can easily extend to the rest of your family if you’re moving with a spouse or child.
The UK Ancestor Visa lasts for up to five years, at which point you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Essentially, that’s the UK’s version of a permanent residency permit.
You don’t need a job to get this visa; you just need your birth certificate, your parents and/or grandparents’ birth certificates, and in some cases, their marriage certificates as well.
This is in addition to all the standard visa paperwork, such as your passport, proof of savings, or enough money to support yourself, and have paid the health surcharge that all expats have to pay to access the NHS.
One of the easiest ways to move to the UK without a job is to study in the country. You can get an undergraduate, master’s, or Ph.D. and be eligible for a student visa that allows you to live in the UK and work up to 20 hours per week to support yourself while you’re here.
There are plenty of universities that do year-abroad programs in the UK or have international study programs. You can also find lists of UK universities that offer loans and financial aid for US students, as well as places where financial support from the US can be accessed overseas.
This is the track I used to move to London. I studied for my Master’s in the UK, and there is a graduate program where you can stay up to two years after you finish studying to help you try and find a job.
If you can find a job where the company will sponsor your visa, you can swap your visa type over to a work visa and stay for two years. Otherwise, you need to leave the UK and move elsewhere!
Youth Mobility Visa
This one is very specific for 18–30-year-olds from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Monaco, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or South Korea. Although this visa only lasts for two years, it does allow you to work in the UK without having to be sponsored by a specific company.
While you’re there, you can look for a job that comes with work visa sponsorship to extend your stay in the UK, or you can just live there for two years and move to another country once your visa runs out. It’s a great way to live abroad for a decent amount of time without having to commit to a permanent move.
Right to Abode
This is a pretty weird way of getting to live in the UK, but if you have British parents, you might be able to apply for the right to abode. In fact, the right to abode is technically a permanent residency path, as it’s your birthright to live, work, and study here as the child of a British citizen.
Interestingly enough, your parents don’t need to be British citizens currently; it only matters if they were British citizens when you were born or adopted. On your side, you do need to be a Commonwealth citizen to apply, along with proof of finances and all the paperwork that links you to a British parent.
So, you need to be a Commonwealth citizen and have a British parent for this one. This is pretty niche, but if it applies to you, well, then you’re in luck!
If your other half is a British citizen or a citizen of an EEA nation with Indefinite Leave to Remain (basically permanent residency, sometimes called Settled Status), then you should be able to live and work in the UK.
There are a few conditions though. You need to either be married or in a civil partnership, have lived together in a relationship for at least two years, or plan to get married or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of living here.
In addition to all these, there are the standard visa criteria of paying the healthcare surcharge, proving you can financially support yourself, and the extra step of being able to prove that you can speak English to a good level. Although it’s not quantified, most people rate the B1 level as knowing a language at a “good level”.
I‘ve lived abroad for many years and love helping others find work abroad and figure out their “Move Abroad Plan.” Check out my class below to get you started ASAP!
How to Move to the UK Without a Job
So, now that you know all about the different kinds of visas that can help you find your way through the UK red tape, let’s break down how to move to the UK without a job.
Save Enough Money
Let’s be honest, moving overseas is not cheap. At all. Most people would recommend having at least £5,000 saved up before even thinking about traveling. That doesn’t include your visa fees or your flights either, both of which can be super expensive.
Breaking it down, you need to have accommodation booked for a while so that you can find a job. That’s normally a hostel or houseshare.
If you’re moving into somewhere that requires a deposit, then you’ll need the first month’s rent and the same again as a deposit. For reference, houseshares in London average around £800 a month, and a two-bed apartment averages around £1,300 per month.
Visa application fees massively vary based on which one you get. While some visas display their fees pretty well, like the Youth Mobility visa which is £1,850, others are much harder to find the prices for.
Ancestry visas have fees for each year you stay in the country which can run to around £2,000. Again, not cheap and you need to make sure these are all paid way in advance so that your visa comes through in time for your departure.
Depending on where you currently live, flights can vary from £30 all the way up to £1,500 one-way pretty easily. That’s without baggage or any removal charges. If you’re moving you’re entire life and want to pay for haulage then it can easily cost up to £10,000 depending on how much stuff you have.
You need to make sure you save up because you don’t want to be struggling while you’re in the UK and you’re going to need to have enough of a financial buffer to prove that you can support yourself during the visa application process.
Apply for Your Chosen Visa
Do not leave it too long to apply for your visa! These things definitely take time and you need to allow for all the red tape to kick in.
Visas can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on your situation. You can find rough timelines for each visa type on the UK government website to help guide your move abroad process.
Remember, you need a whole host of paperwork and documentation before you apply, so make sure you can get your hands on these before you start the process. It takes time to get everyone’s birth certificates, proof of funds, etc. so factor this into your timeline.
Also, do your research to make sure you have enough money in your bank account and can hit all of the desired criteria!
Learn the Language
Even though this isn’t a prerequisite for the majority of UK visas, learning English is massively going to help you in the UK. Learning multiple languages isn’t a huge teaching priority in the UK, so you will struggle a lot if you can’t speak at least the basics.
Put some time and effort into learning the language and you’ll be able to find a job, accommodation, and settle in a lot easier.
Book Your Flights
The UK isn’t in the middle of nowhere, so you will be able to buy all your essentials and furniture once you’re out there!
Try and Find Accommodation
Once everything official has been approved you can go right ahead and book your flights! Congratulations – that’s so exciting! Make sure you book enough luggage to survive at least the first month or so.
Now that you have your move-abroad dates, you need to find somewhere to live. Even if it’s just a hostel for the first couple of weeks while you try and find somewhere more permanent, you need to get this locked down.
There are a few common British accommodation websites if you’re looking to rent a room or apartment straight away and get it sorted before you arrive. They are:
You also need your first night’s address, because a lot of the time, your visa or entry card into the UK will need your address to be complete. This shows that you have a vague plan as well as somewhere to stay, helping determine if you’re remaining in the UK or just transiting through.
How to Find a Job Once You’re in the UK
Once you’ve arrived in the UK and settled into your new accommodation, it’s probably time to find a job. A lot of the time, you’ll need to have a job to get a long-term rental contract, so you might need to do this step first.
As with the majority of the world, the easiest way to get a job in the UK is to look and apply online. Brush up your CV or resume (make sure you change any Americanized spellings to the British English versions), and hit the main job sites!
As the networking social media platform that everyone loves to hate, LinkedIn is still one of the most prominent job-finding websites out there. You can find remote jobs, and temp jobs, and even contact hiring agents to see if they accept your visa style or are willing to sponsor your work visa application in the future if you need to swap it over.
LinkedIn is great for finding roles and setting up personalized alerts so that you can have all the job ads directly in your inbox. It’s also useful thanks to its Easy Apply feature as well as being able to share your profile directly with recruiters.
It definitely limits the number of cover letters you have to write too, which is always a good thing!
Another great job website is Indeed.com. It’s your standard online job board where you can search, apply, set up alerts, and save CVs and resumes to your account for easy access and application.
Indeed.com is really good if you’re looking for hourly rate jobs, such as restaurant work, retail, cafes, and more. That’s mostly because it’s cheaper to post jobs here than it is on LinkedIn, so smaller, local businesses still use Indeed a lot!
The Old-Fashioned Way
If you live in a larger city with a lot of hourly rate roles or a more seasonal seaside town, you might find a lot of places with vacancy posters in the window. It’s always worth having a few CVs or resumes printed off in your bag and wandering around the local area.
There’s no doubt that it’s an old-fashioned way of doing it, and it definitely takes more time, but it still works!
Let’s be honest, the pandemic taught us all a lot, but it also showed us that there are so many jobs that can be done online, remotely. As long as you’re eligible to work in the UK and you pay your taxes, you can get a remote, online job from anywhere in the world.
From tech roles to writing to online tutoring to accounting, there are so many online positions nowadays that you can always opt for a remote role. This way if you ever need to move during your visa period, or decide not to stay in the UK, you might be able to take your job with you!
It’s definitely one less thing to worry about.
Okay, let’s finish off this guide with a few frequently asked questions about moving to the UK without a job.
What Happens if I’m Not Eligible for a UK Visa Without a Job?
If you’re not eligible for a UK visa without a job then you cannot move to the UK, it’s as simple as that. You need to either find a lovely British person to marry or get in a relationship with for the next two years at least, or find a job that is willing to sponsor your visa.
Those really are your only options at the moment!
How Expensive is Moving to the UK?
Honestly, moving to the UK is not the cheapest. Although there’s a cost of living crisis in most places right now, the UK has been hit particularly hard and the price of just about everything is going up – except wages, of course.
As I outlined above, you’re going to need anywhere from £5,000-10,000 to move to the UK and not struggle almost immediately. Of course, there are cheaper parts of the UK and this figure is mostly based on the expensive capital city, London, but it’s a good benchmark to follow.
Keep in mind you’re moving for a long period of time, if not permanently, so there are a lot of set-up costs that you don’t have to pay if you’re traveling or just passing through – that’s why it’s so much more expensive. The UK is also one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, with the exception of Scandinavia, although it’s not super far off those prices right now, which is pretty terrifying!
How Long Can I Stay in the UK Without a Job?
With an ancestry visa, one of the longest UK visas that don’t require a job offer, you can stay in the UK for up to five years. Of course, you need to have a way of supporting yourself, so you either need a ton of savings, or live with family members who don’t want you to pay for rent, food, or anything else.
Legally, you can stay in the UK without a job for up to five years, depending on your visa, and then you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, but realistically, you’re going to have to earn money at some point. Living in the UK is expensive!
How Long does it Take for a Visa to be Processed?
This really does depend on the individual visa, how much documentation is involved, and where you’re applying from. If you’re applying in the UK, the process can often be much quicker as you’re not going back and forth over email, but you likely only have up to six months to get your visa processed and you won’t be able to work during this period.
Realistically, visas tend to take around a couple of weeks to be processed and get back to you with a yes or no. Commonwealth ones normally go through quicker as there’s a “special relationship” and student ones are reliant on being accepted to a university or college, so you might need to wait for those approvals too.
What do I Need to Rent an Apartment in the UK?
Again, this varies depending on if you’re renting through an estate agent, direct from the landlord, or if you’re going into an existing houseshare. That being said, there are a few standard things that you’re going to need:
- Passport or ID
- A UK bank account where you can set up a standing order for your rent
- First month’s rent plus the same again as a deposit
- Proof that you can live in the UK (your visa)
- Proof of funds, normally your monthly wage or bank account
- Application form
Can I Live in the UK Visa-Free?
Technically you can live in the UK without a visa for up to six months if you’re from specific countries, such as the US. This is like the UK’s version of a Schengen visa for Europe, as they’re no longer in the EU thanks to Brexit.
However, you cannot legally work during these six months, so you need a lot of money saved up to be able to live and thrive in the UK. It’s good for a tourist pass, but not so good for a mid-to-long term move abroad solution.
Can Americans Move to the UK Without a Job?
Yes, Americans can move to the UK without a job if they’re eligible for a student visa, ancestry visa, or spousal visa.
A lot of the other jobless visas are mainly eligible for Commonwealth nations, so the US isn’t included, but there are definitely ways for US citizens to move to the UK without a job.