Surprisingly, I actually found it tricky to find a consolidated, current and totally impartial guide about moving to London from overseas. There’s so much to think about and to get organised, it’s only natural to feel a bit overwhelmed in your pursuit to make sure you’ve got all bases covered.
So, since I often get asked, I thought it was about time to share what I’ve learned. Of course, I can only speak from an Australian experience but I hope that the below can still help in some way, even if it’s just to get you asking the right questions.
Here are my 7 top tops for moving to London:
First things first, sort out your Visa
Australians moving to London benefit from being part of the Commonwealth. This means that we get to enjoy a wonderful thing called a Youth Mobility Visa (the evolution of the old ‘working holiday visa’ that you may have heard about). This particular visa allows 18-30 year olds to live and work in the UK for up to 24 months which is why you’re bound to run into a few of us over here. You need to apply for the visa within Australia and it can take a few weeks/months for processing depending on how many applications are floating around at the same time as yours. Mine arrived in 10 days!
If you’re not eligible for this particular visa though, don’t worry – there’s a whole host of other options you can consider. The UK Visas and Immigration site is really helpful and will help guide you in the right direction.
Find a job
When you decide to work through this particular item is really up to you. Most people I know have opted to take a few months off before settling down in London to travel around Europe. I was lucky enough to be able to transfer within my company which was all pre-arranged prior to leaving Melbourne. Whichever route you choose, one thing remains the same: it will seem slow at first and then it will all happen very, very quickly so be prepared!
If you’re wanting to find a job before you leave, have a chat with your HR department: if you work for a global company, they’ll more than likely have existing processes and options for employees wanting to relocate with the business.
If this isn’t an option, start researching as soon as possible. Understanding the market, the landscape and key leaders of whichever industry will make it as easy as possible to start making connections either from your home or when you first arrive in London.
In my experience, whether or not you enlist the help of recruiters varies depending on your industry. Most people I know have managed through enlisting the help of friends of friends of friends.
Find somewhere to live
This is perhaps the task which freaked me out the most about moving to London solo – without local friends, family or colleagues to help vet potential housemates before moving in, how was I possibly going to settle in!? Luckily, I needn’t have feared and met my now housemate and friend via a flatmate finding service within three days of arriving in the city. Whether you’re moving solo or with friends, Spareroom should be your first stop.
In terms of where to live geographically speaking, London’s areas are super diverse and picking a hub which best suits you and your lifestyle will be key to feeling at home quickly. A true advocate of gut-feel, I found it impossible to really get a feel for neighbourhoods before I was actually in the city and was able to walk the streets myself. That said, if you like to over prepare, try this list of the best areas to live in London from Time Out as a starting point.
As a general rule, think about your commute into central London: pick somewhere with good transport links and you’ll be good to go.
Get your finances in order
Basically, you’re going to need a bank account. Some international banks (like HSBC) will allow you to open a local account in your home country and as well as an international account with the same bank before you leave. However, once you’re settled in London and have a semi-permanent address, you shouldn’t have any dramas walking into any of the big banks with your passport to get this sorted when you arrive.
Pack up your life
I’m not exactly a minimalist and found it incredibly stressful trying to fit my life into 30kgs of luggage when I moved over. Other people I know have comfortably sold all their belongings and moved over with a clear case and clear head. If you’re the former, don’t stress about packing everything for your flight over: companies such as Your Freight Agent and Seven Seas offer great services for easily and reasonably cheaply shift your stuff from one side of the world to another. Remember to fill out the appropriate customs forms for shipping personal effects of risk a big VAT bill!
When packing, just be mindful that it’s scary how much stuff you can accumulate over a short period of time. The fear of having to somehow pack everything back into two cases is enough to keep me motivated to keep my shopping in check!
Speak to an accountant before you go to make sure you’re clear about any tax obligations (such as student loans or HECs debts). Updating things such as your bank and tax account details before you go will make your life easier in the long run.
Buy a ticket
And you’re on your way!
I hope these tips help provide a bit of a guide to get you prepared or inspired to take the plunge. If you’ve got any other tips or questions, let us know in the comments!