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Your short guide to moving to and living in the United Kingdom

Are you thinking about moving to the United Kingdom? You're not alone.

The UK is a top pick for people looking to live, work, or study abroad. London, the capital, is a global hub for jobs in a range of industries. Other big cities have many work options as well.

For students, the UK is home to some of the world's best schools and universities, making it an attractive option for study.  

There are more reasons to move there. The country has a rich history, beautiful countryside, and modern infrastructure. The UK’s thriving and diverse immigrant population also means that, no matter where you’re from, you’ll find communities of people with similar backgrounds to yours.

Despite the benefits of living in the UK, the country does present some challenges. A high cost of living in some areas, for instance, can make the UK an expensive country to live in. 

Business and work culture in the UK 

The British economy is one of the strongest globally. The country excels in various sectors such as finance, technology, and healthcare. Their strong economy has created a diverse job market with opportunities in almost every field.  

When it comes to the work environment, British people tend to be reserved and polite. Dress codes in the workplace generally lean towards smart casual, but this can vary depending on the industry and company culture. Punctuality and open communication are highly valued and are often facilitated through regular team meetings and one-on-one sessions with managers.  

But work-life balance is also a priority. The average workweek is about 40 hours long, and most permanent employees enjoy at least 28 days of paid holiday each year.

As business in the UK is almost exclusively conducted in English, having a high English proficiency is key to success. In fact, many UK employers require high IELTS scores to be considered for a job or promotion.

Studying in the UK 

The UK is one of the top destinations in the world for pursuing higher education. The prestige associated with UK education is not just about historical legacy — it's about current excellence. Institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London regularly feature among the top universities globally.  

The UK’s high standards of education apply to a range of universities and colleges that offer courses in nearly every field. These standards ensure that a UK education will open doors for you, wherever you go in the world. While it’s true that UK universities tend to have high tuition fees, many scholarships and funding opportunities are available to help limit your expenses.  

The role of the IELTS test for studying in the UK cannot be overstated. Many universities in the UK require a certain IELTS score for admission, especially for courses that demand a strong grasp of the English language. Succeeding on an IELTS Academic test can help you secure admission and make you eligible for various scholarships, adding value to your educational journey in the UK.

Living Costs and Lifestyle in the UK 

The cost of living in the UK can vary significantly depending on where you choose to settle. Larger cities like London tend to be on the expensive side, especially when it comes to housing and transportation. Cities like Manchester, Birmingham, and Edinburgh, while still relatively pricey, offer a more affordable alternative. Fortunately, the potential to earn higher salaries helps offset the UK’s high cost of living. No matter where you go, you'll find that the UK is rich in lifestyle options.

The country is famous for its traditional food like fish and chips or a Sunday roast, but you'll also find a wide variety of international cuisine due to its diverse population. Sports are an essential part of British culture, with football (soccer) reigning supreme. However, rugby, cricket, and tennis have significant followings.

Entertainment options are abundant as well. From music festivals and art exhibitions to a thriving theatre scene and nightlife — there’s always something to do.  

Visa Process for the UK 

Moving to the UK often starts with navigating the visa and immigration process. This can seem complicated. But once you have the relevant information, applying for a visa can be as simple as following the right steps.  

The UK offers a range of visa options depending on your purpose for moving — work, study, or even just a long-term visit. For those seeking employment, there are different types of UK work visas.

UK student visas

You can apply for a student visa if you have been offered a place in a UK university or other licensed higher education institution. Short-term student visas are available to students who want to study English language courses that are between six and 11 months long. Child student visas are also available for those wanting to attend a UK school. 

Common UK work visas

  • Skilled Worker Visa - this visa enables you to work an eligible job for a UK employer. You should have already confirmed your job offer before you apply for the visa. 
  • Graduate Visa - enables you to work flexibly, switch jobs, and develop your career for two years after completing a higher education course in the UK. 
  • Health and Care Worker Visa - allows medical professionals to work in the UK with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care. 
  • Global Business Mobility Visa - designed for employees of multinational companies who are being transferred by their overseas employer to a UK branch of the organisation. 

UK visa requirements

Requirements for each visa will differ but generally, you need to have a certain level of English proficiency.

That's where the IELTS test comes in. The test is widely recognised by the UK government and helps prove your English language ability to the UK visa authority. For many, IELTS success is the first step towards securing their UK visa.  

Healthcare options for foreigners in the UK

The United Kingdom has some of the best healthcare in the world. The UK’s public health service, The National Health Service (NHS), offers free care to anyone living in the UK.  

If you live in the UK on a work or study visa that lasts longer than six months, then you will have to pay a fee to access the NHS. This fee is called the immigration health surcharge. But once you pay the fee, most of your healthcare needs are covered. The NHS provides for everything from routine check-ups and emergency services to major surgeries and specialised treatments.  

While the quality of care at the NHS is excellent, there can sometimes be waiting times for non-urgent procedures. That's why some opt for private healthcare, either as a supplement to NHS care or as their primary choice. Private healthcare typically offers quicker access to specialists and a broader range of treatment options. But private care can be expensive. If you plan on relying on private care, then healthcare insurance is advisable. Many employers offer private healthcare insurance as part of their benefits package.

Whether you're relying on the NHS or considering private healthcare, the quality of care you’ll receive is a reason why many people choose to make the UK their home. 

How to find UK communities and networking opportunities

Each city and town has its own local events, festivals, and social gatherings that bring people together. These events offer a chance to meet locals, learn about British culture, and make lasting friendships. Joining local clubs or groups related to your hobbies or interests is a great way to meet like-minded individuals and join a community.  

As has been already mentioned, the UK has many well-established immigrant communities, meaning that you can likely find a community of people from your country. A global food culture also means that you’re able to find tastes from home.  

The UK is home to a variety of networking events, professional meet-ups, and conferences. These provide opportunities to connect with people in your field, learn about industry trends, and potentially discover job openings or collaboration prospects. Universities and colleges also host events and workshops to help students network with professionals, alumni, and peers. 

English language proficiency is a gateway to fully embracing the social and professional opportunities in the UK. A proficient level of English can help you understand cultural nuances and participate in conversations.

Achieving a good IELTS score can help here as well. The process of preparing for IELTS will boost your confidence and improve the clarity of your English speech. The better your English, the more you’ll be able to effectively engage with others and form meaningful relationships. 

The Importance of IELTS for Life in the UK 

The UK offers many opportunities for work and study. But to access these opportunities, you first need to prove your English proficiency to visa authorities, employers, universities, or any other institution you’re applying to. As the most popular English proficiency test in the world, IELTS is a trusted partner that can help you prove your English and achieve your goals. 

Here’s why so millions of people every year choose to take IELTS over alternative English proficiency tests:

  • IELTS is globally recognised - IELTS is recognised globally by over 12,000 organisations and virtually every UK institution that requires proof of English ability.  
  • IELTS caters to US and UK English - unlike other English proficiency tests, IELTS accepts both UK and US English, making it far more inclusive and accessible for people of different backgrounds. 
  • IELTS is fair, accurate, and comprehensive - IELTS assesses the four core English skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. IELTS tests focus on accuracy and fairness and examiners are qualified and experienced English language specialists. 
  • IELTS is everywhere - IELTS has over 4,000 test locations in 140 countries across the globe.

Take your next step with the British Council 

As a co-founder of IELTS, the British Council is your trusted partner for taking and achieving your desired test score. From booking to preparing for your test, we offer a smooth process that helps you achieve the score you need.  

We have 90 years of experience providing worldwide English education and assessment, making us a safe choice. We also provide more free preparation than any other test provider. Plus, when you book with us you unlock IELTS Ready — which offers interactive activities, expert videos, and over 40 practice tests. Make sure you book early to make the most of these resources. 

All official British Council IELTS test centres are modern, comfortable, and conveniently located. Book your test now and access IELTS Ready today. 

Learn more about studying or working in the UK 

There’s a lot to know when it comes to moving to the UK. To help, we’ve created guides with actionable steps to help you either study or work in the UK.  

Download our free guide to studying or working in the UK

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