Moving to the United Kingdom
Throughout history, the United Kingdom has been an attractive destination for immigrants and expats. In the past, the country’s diverse economy, liberal immigration policies and links with the commonwealth played a significant role in creating the dynamic ethnic tapestry seen in the UK today. However, over time the UK’s immigration requirements have become tighter, and now it's generally only expats with specialist skills that are in demand.
In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU. While there has been much speculation, it will be unclear what the implications of this move will be for expats living in or moving to the UK until negotiations are completed.
Despite the impact of the global economic downturn, the UK has made some steady economic growth. Sectors of the UK economy which are growing in strength include IT, engineering, finance, healthcare, energy, oil and gas, as well as construction. Expats with experience and sought-after skills in these sectors will find that there is plenty of scope for career progression in Britain.
Most expats moving to the UK from Western European countries or North America experience very little culture shock. However, new arrivals do have to make some adjustments to accommodate the high cost of living, poor weather and urban congestion in cities such as London, where a large proportion of expats move.
Healthcare in the United Kingdom is by and large free and the National Health Service (NHS) is often said to be one of the country’s greatest assets. The standard of hospitals and medical facilities in the UK is good and expats will find that doctors and medical staff are well-trained and knowledgeable. Expats eligible to take advantage of the NHS should note, however, that while the service is free, appointments can be difficult to make and waiting times are often lengthy.
Expats moving to the UK with children will find that there are plenty of schooling options available, but the standards of education and schooling facilities vary considerably. Foreigners legally living in the UK are eligible to send their children to state schools which are funded by the government, but standards at these schools are sometimes low. Those who opt to have children educated at a private or international school should budget accordingly or have an allowance negotiated into their employment package as fees are often very high.
Public transport in the UK is generally of a very high standard and the quality of road infrastructure is excellent. Expats living in any of the major cities such as London, Manchester or Edinburgh won't need to own a car as public transport is very comprehensive and getting around is relatively stress-free.
Expats moving to the UK will also have access to a wealth of historical and cultural attractions available in a relatively compact space. City nightlife venues are excellent and expats in the UK will be treated to an abundance of good quality restaurants specialising in a variety of exotic cuisines. Furthermore, the country is host to a number of international sporting events and music festivals, which should not be missed. Finally, when expats feel they need a break from the fast-paced city life or the bad weather, the UK is well positioned for easy and affordable travel to Europe and beyond.