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The Ultimate Guide to Moving to London from California

Having been there and done it, what things do you need to do when you’re moving to London from Los Angeles or California? I got you covered. Let’s dive in and find out the steps you’re going to need to take to make your transatlantic dream-move a reality.

Okay, so you’ve made your decision and you’re moving from the sun-filled, beachy vibes of California to the bustling metropolis and old-world charm of London, England.

It’s a huge move to go from California to London, but it’s a super exciting one too!

Want to test out London before you move there for FREE? Trusted Housesitters is a site where you can stay at someone’s house while they are away in exchange for watching their house or sometimes their pet.

It’s a great way to travel the world for free!

Get Your Visa Figured Out

First things first, you’re not moving anywhere without a visa. Although as a US citizen, you can move and stay in the UK for up to six months, you cannot legally work there.

Unless you’re only planning on spending half a year in London and have enough financial security to not have to work, you’re going to need to get your paperwork in order.

There are a ton of different visas that you might be eligible for in the UK. From student visas complete with a 20-hour-per-week work allowance, to work-sponsored visas, to highly-skilled, in-demand roles, there’s bound to be one that’s right for you.

You might even be eligible for a generational or family visa if you have a parent, spouse, or another close relative already in the UK as a resident or citizen.

visas in a passport

Give yourself plenty of time to look through all the different kinds of visas, get your paperwork together, and actually get approved for a new visa.

Depending on the time of year, backlog, or type of visa that you’re applying for, visa approval can take months, so don’t leave things to the last minute!

Choose the Right Area for You

Once you’re all approved for your move to London, it’s time to zero in and look at whereabouts you want to live.

London is a huge place with a ton of different areas, boroughs, and districts (check out my post detailing them here!).

They all have their own distinct vibe, as well as different pros and cons to consider.

From the hipster vibes of Camden and Brixton to the upscale, refined boroughs of Kensington and Richmond, and everything in between, you have so much choice. 

Move Abroad Master Class

Start by thinking about what you like about the area you’re living in now, in California. What kind of amenities do you want close to your accommodation, and what kind of things are you not too bothered about?

You might want to be within walking distance of a park, but might not be too fussed about being super close to a lot of restaurants.

On the other hand, you might want to be close to a cozy pub, but don’t need to consider school districts or childcare.

It all depends on your specific criteria. This will help you focus your search, and together with your budget, you can narrow down the boroughs and options pretty quickly. 

Find Your Accommodation

Now that you’ve narrowed your options down to a couple of neighborhoods, start thinking about what kind of accommodation you ideally want, and what kind of accommodation you can actually afford.

Look, London is one of the most expensive places to live in the world, so apartments and houses are kind of ridiculous.

Most people who move to London end up in a flatshare or houseshare situation. This is normally the best way to balance location and budget.

You can normally get a nicer kitchen, area, and a bigger bedroom if you decide to share a house rather than trying to find a one-bedroom apartment or studio in your dream area.

If you have a bit more cash to spend, an average two-bedroom place in London can cost around £1800. That’s before utilities and any other monthly expenses like insurance and transport.

Buying isn’t any cheaper. The London house market hit a UK record high this year of £553,000. So, if you’re thinking of setting down roots, you’re going to want to get your savings together.

The majority of boroughs in London are dominated by apartments and houseshares, so if you want a house all to yourself, especially one with a backyard or garden, you’re going to have to really up your budget or move further out of the city center. 

Find a Job

So, depending on your visa situation, this might be further up on your to-do list. Finding a job in a new city can be tricky, especially if you don’t already live there.

First of all, if you need a sponsored work visa, you need to search on specialist overseas sites or ask on expat forums for recommendations.

work call on a laptop with a coffee mug

If you work for an international company, you might want to check out if you can transfer to a London office or work remotely. This can be a really good option if it’s open to you, especially if your company is willing to sponsor you.

Sponsored visas can cost a company around £1,000 for the first year and £500 each year after. If your boss is hesitant, and it’s financially viable for you, you can always offer to cover the cost through your salary. 

For students who need to earn some extra cash while they’re in London, 20 hours is quite a lot of time that you can fill.

There are a ton of part-time jobs all across London, from bartending (over 18s are allowed here!) to waitress to retail to admin gigs, you’re bound to find something to fit your interests and skill set. 

Start Marie Kondo-ing Your Life

Okay, California and the UK are pretty different, so you’re not going to need all the same stuff.

Summer exists for like three weeks in the UK, so opt to bring your sweaters, jeans, and coats over a suitcase full of shorts and sundresses. 

Also, there are still furniture stores in London and a ton of great flea markets, so if you’re not super attached to your larger items, sell them in LA and save the expensive shipping costs.

It’s all about what you need, what you love, and what can you replace when you get to the UK. 

Weigh up the cost of shipping versus how replaceable or sentimental the item is. In the words of Marie Kondo itself, does it bring you joy? If not, eBay it or sell it to a friend before you leave.  

Move Abroad Starter Kit

Commit to a Moving Date

You can make all the plans in the world, but sometimes you just have to commit. Book that flight and set a date for your move.

This might be dictated by the start date of your new job, or securing a lease on some accommodation, but actually buying the flight ticket gets you in the mindset of the move, and really starts the ball rolling!

Book Your Movers

If you’re moving a ton of stuff and furniture over the UK, you’re going to need to book the movers with plenty of time.

Obviously, you’re going to get there a lot quicker than a heavy cargo container, so you’ll want to ship your stuff a couple of weeks before your flight leaves.

a cat in a moving box

You also want to make sure that your stuff doesn’t arrive before you do! Check out the delivery times and the lead times for pickup in your area and work backward from that!

Brush Up on Your British English

So, at least with moving to the UK, there isn’t a huge language barrier, but there are some terms that you need to know about.

Stuff like the faucet is a tap, the elevator is a lift, and aluminum has an extra “i” in it and is pronounced completely differently.

Now, it’s not like people won’t understand you, but it might raise some eyebrows and lead to some light, playful mocking.

Brush up on your British English so there’s minimal confusion further down the line.

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Find Some Friends and Socialize

It can be super scary to move to a new country, especially if you don’t know anyone.

So, it can be reassuring to find a group of people or have a plan of how to meet people once you’re out there.

Sites like MeetUp are geared towards people who are new to a city and looking for like-minded people.

You can find craft groups, sports teams, foodie groups, and more. Whatever you’re into, there’s likely a MeetUp or Facebook group for it near your new London home.

Step on the Plane and Move to London! Goodbye LA, Hello London!

Once you’ve got through these steps and sorted out your admin tasks like printing extra copies of your paperwork and setting up an international bank account and SIM, you’re ready to roll.

Pack up your life, step on the plane, and get ready for a whole new adventure in London.

It may not have the LA sunshine and vibes, but it’s a melting pot all of its own with its own distinct atmosphere.

You’re gonna love it!