Moving to the UK? 10 Points to consider

Published : 01/06/2019 07:42:29
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Moving to the UK? 10 Points to consider

This article is meant as a guide and it is not meant as a substitution for legal and tax advice. When planning to move to the UK please consult the relevant tax and legal professionals.

Brighter Tomorrow is founded by two American expats living in London. The reason for this article and this category is to help Americans considering moving to the UK or those just arrived in the UK some guidance about life in the UK. 

Whilst there are many similarities stark difference do remain. Without, being cognoscente of the differences that exist it can lead to devastating consequences. So, please use this guide to help you become more aware what living in the UK involves.

1) USA Drivers License

Currently, anyone who lives in the UK that has a USA driver's license is allowed to use it for their first year in the country. After the year, you will be expected to obtain a full UK drivers license. If you are caught driving on a USA license after the year, it can have legal consequences for you that can impact any further visa application, especially any application that asks for proof of good character.

The UK driver's license testing has two parts. First, is taking a theory test and this must be completed prior to you taking your driver's test but it does not have to be completed prior to obtaining your provisional license. Second part is a driving test with a DVLA tester. Currently the pass rate nationwide, for first time test, is less than 50%.

This now raises the question about what to do with your USA driver's license? The answer relies heavily on the state, which your license was issued and if in doubt contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Finally this raises the question, how much driving time do you need before taking your test? Ideally, you will probably need somewhere between 10 - 40 hours. This will depend on several factors, such as:

  • Where you are testing
  • How long you have been driving
  • Your driving experience
  • Your instructor

2) Tax implications

Generally speaking, USA citizens are expected to continue to pay USA taxes while they are living outside of the country and failure to pay taxes can result in the loss of your American passport. US taxes are based on world-wide income and not any money left in property or bank accounts. Furthermore, in most cases, you will also be expected to pay taxes in the UK either through PAYE (Pay As You Earn) or Self-Assessment. Depending on your income, this can result in thousands of dollars being paid in taxes.

In addition USA citizens are required to make additional filings regarding the accounts. Please consult a tax professional to identify what reporting you need to do. Please note, in London there are several USA attorneys and CPAs who can answer many of your questions.

3) School

Unlike the United States, UK schools are based on applications and can take a while to complete. It is therefore recommend you start the application process as early as possible to ensure a placement that is near your residence. Also, please esnure you have all of your children school information available when completing the application.

4) Housing

Housing in London, especially central London, can be extremely expensive. Many who work in London choose to live in an outlying town like Luton, Watford, Wembley, Surrey, and then commute into London. Commuting time from outlying areas varies but a good estimate is 30 - 60 minutes each way.

In contrast, outside of London, housing is more affordable but in larger cities the cost can be more.

When comparing housing in the UK to the USA, UK homes tend to be a bit smaller with less land and neighbours closer together.

Finding the right home in the right location at the right cost will take time.

5) Returning to the USA

If you are entering the UK on a work visa or school visa then it is likely you will be returning back to the USA. Since work visas no longer lead to citizenship and generally last for no more than 5 years. It is important to maintain relationship and plan for your return. Likewise, Tier 4 school visas do not lead to citizenship and you must return to your country after you finish your studies.

Finally, it is best to get current immigration advice from a UK solicitor regarding your visa conditions.

6) Cost of Living

Because of the conversion rate, which typically runs, $1.25 - 1.50 for every £1 and I have seen the conversion rate go as high as $2.10 for every £1. This means living in the UK can become quite expensive. Furthermore unleaded gas, or as it is called in the UK petrol, varies greatly. Currently, outside of London around £1.20 per liter (3.75 liters = 1 gallon) or £4.50 per gallon or $5.85 per gallon of unleaded gas.

7) Cultural Differences

The biggest cultural difference I have found is the work culture. Work in the UK includes a month of vacation time and do find passive-agressive behaviour is very prevalent. Also, many words in the UK take on very different meanings.

8) UK Immigration Law

While in the UK it is important to keep abreast of any changes to UK immigration law, especially immediately after Brexit.

Unlike the USA where immigration rules have vacillated. UK immigration law started becoming more restrictive in about 2004 with a points based system starting in 2006. Up until a few years ago work visas did lead to citizenship but that is no longer the case.

It is important to read the letter from the Home Office regarding your visa and visa conditions. Also, it is important to be mindful of your visa rules such as no taking out income based benefits, sometimes called public funds, like Council Tax, Rent Assistance or Income Based Job Seekers. If you do take out income based benefits then you are more than likely putting your visa at risk.

9) UK Health Care

It is important you are aware of your status regarding NHS care. If you do not hold UK, EU, or EEA citizenship you may required to pay a health surcharge for your care. Failure to comply may mean lost off your UK visa.

10) Shopping

It amazes me the number of USA citizens living in the UK that ask about where to buy... or USA equivalent UK product. UK does have places like Amazon, Pappa Johns, Pizza Hut, and McDonalds. Furthermore, many name brand American products are in the UK but they have been renamed to meet market conditions. Examples include USA product Tide is Ariel, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is found in many supermarkets in the UK, hair dryers or curling irons can be bought at any store that sells small appliances, and recently Boots is a part of the Walgreens Boots alliance.

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