Moving to London?
Accommodation and Visas for London
The Property Market
While the British prefer to buy rather than rent their accommodation, the high numbers of students, expats, and migrants in London ensure that there is always plenty of rental property available. Whether you are looking to buy or to rent probably depends on the length of your stay, but in both cases your local estate agents will be able to help you.
London´s property market is very fast moving, so unless you are planning to buy or are looking for the perfect family home, there is no need to sort out your accommodation a long time in advance before your moving date.
It is certainly advisable, however, to take your time and make sure you have familiarized yourself with both the property and the neighborhood before signing a contract. Most rental contracts initially run for a period of 12 months and can be prolonged, but there are also contracts for 6 months and even 3 month contracts available.
The easiest way of finding property is walking into an estate agent’s office in the area where you would like to live and telling them what you are looking for. This is, however, not always the cheapest way, as estate agents in the UK don´t need a license and may charge various administration fees and commissions. Those for whom money is less of an issue than time might want to try Foxtons, a well-established estate agent catering to the higher end of the market with local branches all across London.
For people willing to put a little more effort into their property search, other valuable sources include Loot, a classified ads paper which appears both in print and online, or websites such as Gumtree and Moveflat.
The latter in particular is recommended for single expats willing to live in shared accommodation. Due to the high rental prices, sharing a flat or a house is by no means uncommon among young professional Londoners. It enables them to live in much nicer accommodation than they would be able to afford on their own.
Types of Accommodation
Types of accommodation available in London include detached, semi-detached or terraced townhouses as well as townhouse conversions combining several flats. Studio apartments in modern buildings and some luxury flats in either gated communities or high-rise buildings with their own receptionist are also common.
Whole or converted old townhouses are the most common form of residential property, but not all of them offer all the modern comforts you might be used to from your own country.
Foreign nationals are advised to sort out their visa and work permit before moving to London. Please be aware that you need to be in possession of a valid passport in order to enter the UK.
There are no further restrictions for nationals of most EU/EEA member states (including Switzerland) planning to live and work in London. However, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria generally require the permission of the UK Border Agency before being allowed to work in the UK (with the exception of being self-employed). If you are from either country, you may have to apply for an accession worker card. Contact the UK Border Agency to confirm.
Almost all other nationalities will require a visa and/or work permit depending on the length and purpose of their stay. However, a distinction is usually made between visa and non-visa nationals. A detailed list can be found in the Immigration Rules on the UK Border Agency´s website.
Non-visa nationals can enter the UK and remain there as business or special visitors for up to 6 months without any further permits required. Non-visa countries outside the EEA include Australia, Canada, the USA, and New Zealand.
Visa nationals should apply for a visa in their own country before coming to the UK. The same applies to any family members or dependents who will accompany you on your expat assignment.
The visa services section of the UK Border Agency offers a guide to visa processing times and help with finding your nearest visa application center. Alternatively, you can use the online application service on their website.
Both visa and non-visa nationals (except for EEA citizens) need to pass a points-based assessment if they wish to stay and work in the UK for more than 6 months. Proficiency in English is one of the assessment criteria. Others include proof of your ability to support yourself and any dependents for a certain period of time, as well as proof of academic qualifications, age, and previous earnings. Highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, investors and recent graduates from a UK university do not need a job offer to apply for a work permit.
Expats on work assignments which last a fixed period of time usually already have an employer acting as their sponsor and assisting them with their visa application.
Still have questions? Check out our Visa and Administration section for more in-depth information on obtaining a visa, work permit, and residence permit for the UK.
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