Are you an Expat trying to work in the United Kingdom?
My living and moving abroad journey was an unexpected one. It wasn’t planned and it didn’t come at the right time or so I thought. After a brief year in the Bahamas, I decided to relocate to London. After dealing with the trials, tribulations and tears that come with applying for a UK spouse visa I moved here in December 2017 after 6 months away from my husband 🙁
It didn’t happen that way. I luckily decided to keep my employment from San Francisco (which I want to keep forever as long as I have the time!) and I’m really glad that I did. Getting employed in the UK as a foreigner especially an American is really really really hard. I’ve spoken to many expats who weren’t getting interviews, weren’t getting hired, and were over being in a new country and unemployed.
Relying on one income trying to support two people is rough and requires a lot of sacrifices. Relocating is tough as it is with being happy initially, then settling into your new reality, trying to make friends, get your life sorted out. I’ve been here over a year and I still don’t feel that OK with it. It also took me a long time to find a job in London that a) I was interested in doing 2) that wasn’t severely underpaid 3)that would interview me 4) that hired me. This is all with years of experience in customer service and the fitness industry.
Related: My 13 Helpful Tips for Moving Abroad
These are the things You Should Know About Working in the UK as An Expat:
1. Employers will Worry about Your Visa
When you apply for a position make sure you reiterate that you are legally allowed to live here and explain if there any limitations to your work visa. My visa has no working limitations unlike the student visa which has a limit on hours of work per week Related: My Post on the UK Spouse Visa
Employers will worry about how long it lasts, how often you have to renew it and it worries them that they do expire. I have to renew mine every 2.5 years two more times.
2. They Will Ask about Your Visa Multiple Times
Even though you’ve already told them you have a Visa to work here. Just be prepared for it.
3. They will Want to know What Your Five Year Plan is
I’m not sure if this was more directed at me because I’m a married woman in my late 20’s but this a sneaky way of asking a) do you plan on having kids (which is none of their business) b)seeing how long you plan on staying in the country
4. You Need to have National Insurance Number Sorted
If you don’t have a national insurance it’s difficult to get anything in the UK let alone a job. This should be one of the first things you take care of when you move here.
5. If You are Not a Citizen You Cannot Apply for Unemployment
So make sure you have options, money saved etc,
6. Salaries in London are the Best in the UK and pretty much Europe
There’s a reason why many people flock to work into London and come from all over the UK.
7. Salaries in the UK are considerably lower than in a lot of the USA
8. Be prepared to hire an Accountant
Americans have to pay taxes in whichever country they live in and tax brackets work differently in the UK due to the NHS and a different system overall.
9. You Will need a UK Bank Account
Your employer won’t be able to pay you without one. I recommend banking with Starling as you can use the card wherever in the world and not get hit with any transaction or foreign currency fees. It’s no wonder they’re the number one bank in the UK at the moment. It will also save you from having to transfer currencies back and forth.
10. No One Really Cares What College (Uni for them) You Went To
No one has asked me where I went to college here or really cares for that matter. I feel like in the US people are obsessed about who went where and what fraternity or sorority you went to. Its refreshing to have no one care.
11. You May Have to Take a Job you’re Over-Qualified For
Sad but true. I’ve read about expats working at pubs, volunteering or working at the mall as a holiday temp. I worked a few unpaid internships to get experience.
12. You Need UK Work Experience to Get a Job in the UK (can be a circle)
If things take too long moving forward with your job search it may be easiest go enroll at your local council to be considered for volunteering opportunities.
13. You May not be Considered for Roles if you’re not European
This can be for a few different reasons. I’m not European so I may not be able to identify with a companies clientele the way a British person is. They Speak differently, have different mannerisms, specific lingo. The way Brits spell things, pronounce words, read off a phone number, greet people in an email, speak to a customer service rep is very different than America.
14. Getting a Job as an American in the UK is Even Worse
No one gets why we move here. The amount of time I’ve been asked why I left sunny California to move here grrrr.. So we may stick out on an application as not being a long-term candidate. Given every Brit wants to move to America why would we ever want to live here permanently?
15. Commuting via Tube to Work is Expensive
This depends on zones and travel time. When Sonny and I lived in Zone 6 it cost him £11/ a day to get to and from work. This is roughly $15 a day and over an hour of commute time, packed trains, delayed trains, and possible tube strikes.
Taking an overground train from outside of London is more expensive can be £20 a day.
16. Qualifications May Not Transfer Over (so research before!)
Fitness Qualifications work differently here, and they are based on levels. I had to convert my training background and register with a certifying organization to be able to start Personal Training people here.
17. Have a Copy of Your Qualifications
I scanned a copy of my qualifications and created a folder in Dropbox to make it easier. Get all of this before moving. I’ve had to email certifying boards in the US to get proof that I took a course to submit to the UK certifying board. It is a pain.
18. A lot of Really good Jobs are in the Major Cities of the UK
Manchester, London, Birmingham. But there are also some really cool companies that are NOT based out of these major cities. Gym Shark is based in Solihull. Dyson is based out of Malmesbury. Caterpillar is based in Shropshire.
19. If You can, Get Your Job to Make your Position Remote
This will allow you to save money on commuting costs, make your job search easier within the UK (less pressure) but also you will get paid more than you will here.
20. Save loads of Money Prior to Moving as Getting a Job Could Take Time
Expect it to take 6 months. That’s the average I was advised on.
21. Have a Back-Up Plan of jobs You Could want/to do
Moving away could force you to reconsider your field altogether.
22. A Resume is Called a CV
This stands for Curriculum Vitae which is typically around 2 pages.
23. The Hiring Process Could be Long
You may be asked to interview for jobs that the start date is three months out
24. Going on Interviews Can Be Expensive Especially in London
Make sure you are using contactless and take note that prime-time hours on the tube. Travel off-peak as much as possible (between 9:30am and 4pm) and if possible use the bus as you can get hopper fare within the hour of travel.
25. Scan a Copy of Your Right To Work (Biometric Residence Permit)
Some companies will ask for a copy of your BRP and Passport before interviewing you. If and when you get hired they’ll also ask for another copy.
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