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Expatriating to London Q & A

Expatriating to London

Since my article on London’s Overlooked Neighborhoods ran, I’ve received a deluge of emails from readers seeking advice on living and working in London. Regrettably, the process of expatriating and settling here is full of confusing and sometimes even ridiculous requirements that will acquaint you with Britain’s backward—if still lovable—idiosyncrasies before you ever leave home. Expat hopefuls may feel that the Brits are as keen on keeping foreigners out of their dreary isle as they are on keeping out rabies. Nevertheless, Britain hosts a thriving community of American expatriates.

How can I become eligible to work in the U.K.?

To legally hold a job in the U.K. you need a working visa from the British Embassy in the U.S. Unfortunately, obtaining a work visa is a process that can only be undertaken by an employer who wants to hire you and can demonstrate why a particular American candidate fits that job better than any EU candidate.

To make matters worse, work permits can only be secured for certain professions (not for clerical jobs, for example). For specific information on requirements, see this site for work permit procedures and availability.

Can’t I just move to the U.K. and then look for a job?

Technically, it is illegal for Americans to enter the U.K. and begin job-hunting and interviewing when they’re on a tourist visa. In reality, many people do so.

How can I legally find a job in the U.K. if I cannot job search in the U.K.?

There is no easy answer to this most popular of questions. It is possible to search for jobs in the U.K. over the Internet. The best job bank I’ve seen so far for London jobs is The Guardian, a major newspaper here in London, with a large web presence. You can find the job listings online on variety of sites. Just search on "United Kingdom jobs" and you will find a plethora of job board sites.

Another option is to contact multinational U.S.-based companies and inquire about jobs in their London offices. My husband, for example, found a job in London after meeting with the New York office of an investment bank and interviewing via teleconference with its London office. (Investment banks and news organizations have traditionally been a major source of jobs for Americans in London.)

Once I’ve found a job, how can I find housing in London?

Regardless of whether you are interested in renting or buying in the U.K., your first step in house hunting should be to contact an estate agent. With links to many estate agents and neighborhood descriptions is a great place to start, as is

The cost of housing in London has exploded over the past few years. Rental prices for flats are priced on a weekly rate, and the British calculate 4.3 weeks in a month

Where in London Should I live?

London is an endless series of interconnected neighborhoods and villages, each with its own distinct character. So choosing your location is very important.

If it’s imperative that you live in the most central and fashionable districts of London, the neighborhoods of Chelsea, Knights-bridge, Mayfair, Notting Hill, Soho, and South Kensington are the places to start. If you’re looking for more affordable (and less centrally located) housing but don’t want to sacrifice atmosphere, check out Battersea, Bayswater, Clapham, Fulham, Islington, and Maida Vale.

Two invaluable resources for the London house-hunter are Where to Live in London and London Property Guide, which describe neighborhoods, price ranges, and the London housing market in general. Find them at major U.K. bookstores. Living in London: A Practical Guide, published each year by London’s Junior League, covers everything from housing and taxes to cultural activities and is stuffed with priceless information compiled by past London expats.

In order to succeed in expatriating to the U.K., you’ll need lots of patience and even more determination. But for almost every American I know here in London it’s been worth it.

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