How can two Seattle residents best go about looking for jobs in London?
March 1, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

How can two Seattle residents best go about looking for jobs in London?

My wife and I have been talking about moving to London for a while. Ideally, we'd like to both find jobs in London, live there for 2-3 years, then move back to the U.S.

We would like to have jobs and be living in London 1 year from today. We love Seattle... we just want an adventure before we have a baby.

- What has been your experience with finding (or not finding) a job in London?
- What should we expect with regard to potential time lines, snags, red tape, and pitfalls?
- What tools to job searching/networking have you found useful?
- What government agencies/government connections did you use in your quest? (i.e. if your Senator/Congressman was a good friend, could he/she help speed things along, side-step hang-up, and/or
- We want to live in London... not a 1-hour Tube ride from Central London.
- What have I not asked that I need to know?

Our employment backgrounds:
She is 26, I am 28. My background is business (primarily sales & marketing) and I've been fairly successful, despite my age. Her background is architecture, though she's looking to switch her focus to humanitarian efforts. Potentially working with organizations as a project manager for different efforts.

Our current combined income: $105,000/year (pre-tax)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you'd like to work (legally) in the UK you'll need an appropriate visa, issued by The British Embassy in The United States. Typically obtaining a visa is done by ones employer. In order to get a UK visa your employer will have to prove you can do a job that no EU candidate can do.

Complicating matters, work permits aren't available for all professions. this web site has all the information you'll need regarding work permits.

A way around this would be to start your own business, and enter the UK on a entrepreneur visa; the criteria for this visa are (excerpted from the web site):
  • Applicants must have a minimum of £200,000 to start the proposed business.
  • Applicants can open any type of business, but must work full-time in the running of the business.
  • Applicants must, through the opening of the business, create full time employment for 2 EEA nationals.
  • Applicants must take a share of the business's liabilities.
  • Applicants must have sufficient funds to maintain themselves until the business becomes profitable.
  • Applicants must have a controlling interest in the business.
  • Applicants must have a convincing and viable business plan.
  • You must meet the English language ability requirements .
  • You must have sufficient funds, as specified by the UK Government at the time of application.
Clearly your Congressman isn't going to be able to help here; Britain is a separate nation and the folks at Immigration won't give a toss what an American elected official does or says.

In terms of living in London, we've lived a few places but have found Whitechapel, Zone 2, postal code E1 suits us best; we both work in "The City", and can walk to work in about twenty minutes. It's a very ethnically diverse neighbourhood, and we are minorities. Council tax is very cheap, and local establishments keep prices low to suit the overall low income.
posted by Mutant at 2:02 PM on March 1, 2009

Your best best is to come in as a Tier 1 Highly Skilled Worker. This allows you to come to the UK and seek work.

I dont have personal experience with this but your best bet for advice from others is the UK Resident forum or the UK Yankee forum.
posted by vacapinta at 2:31 PM on March 1, 2009

Assuming you are not dual UK citizens, I would start looking for work in Seattle at companies that have good transfer situations to London. (This is what several of my NYC/Toronto friends have done.) In this job climate, UK companies are not enthusiastic about paying/guaranteeing visa requirements for non-UK citizens. (If you could even find a job over there at the moment.)

I really don't know of any of my 30 odd Canadian/American friends in London who did not get transferred or arrive on an ancestry visa and then look for work.

Even living in Central London your tube time could well be an hour during peak times.
And re: income, you really need to consider $1=£1. It took me a long time to learn this. You'll need to consider your income accordingly.

All that being said, I think everyone should live in London for a couple of years if they are able to. I LOVED my time over there.
posted by meerkatty at 2:36 PM on March 1, 2009

The Tier 1 thing is a good idea, it's really quite new though so probably not too many people will be aware of it or able to give you personal advice.

But it sounds like (as long as you are both graduates) you should have enough just enough points (you need 75, you probably have 80.) I don't know what the pay difference is between what you and your wife earn, as you get less points the less you earn, so it could be a problem if one of you is pulling in $70k of the combined $105k as that means the other might not have enough points (and I can't see any way to make a joint application, although such a thing may well exist.) Also, your wife will get 10 points more than you if you apply right now, because you get 20 points for being under 28, but only 10 for being 28-30.

Apart from that all I can tell you is start sorting it out now, for it is Immigration, the land of bureaucracy, paranoia and paperwork.
posted by so_necessary at 3:10 PM on March 1, 2009

I spent a few years in Berkshire, west of London, and spent a lot of time in the city. I found living there to be fantastic, but do not underestimate the cost. I found prices at least equivalent to the price of the same product in the U.S. in dollars. That is, a latte that costs $4 here would cost 4 pounds there. Factor in the dollar-pound exchange rate to get an accurate picture.

So, a salary of, say, $80k here will ake a salry of at least 80k pounds there to match it. This becomes very important if you are transferred there by a U.S. employer who continues to pay you in dollars. If that's the case, your spending power will take a sharp downturn unless you get a substantial raise.

On the other hand, if you do live in or near London, you can avoid owning a car, which will save a considerable sum. If you need a car for out-of-town jaunts, rent one.
posted by justcorbly at 4:41 PM on March 1, 2009

This sounds like a great idea, but a warning: I spent 9 months on sabbatical in London in 2006 and found the bureaucracy to be very inefficient compared with the US. For example, we never succeeded in opening a UK bank account, because the banks couldn't find a category, such as student, into which I fit. Have fun but start now and keep on top of everything.
posted by lukemeister at 5:05 PM on March 1, 2009

Opening a UK bank acount: Get someone, ideally your boss, to write a letter of reference attesting to your character and your income and take it to the bank. Mine did that for me and I was able to open an ccount at the local Barclays with no problems. I deposited and cashed dollar checks there with regularity.

Better yet, contact the banks now and ask them how it works.
posted by justcorbly at 5:15 PM on March 1, 2009

I highly recommend the book Living and Working in London. I think this is the most recent edition.
posted by lukemeister at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2009

You guys are the intended market for the British Youth Mobility Scheme (which replaced BUNAC). Unfortunately, the US has not yet entered into the arrangement, anecdotally because of issues working out the reciprocity. Maybe contact your congressman or someone like that and ask if it's ever going to happen/register interest in it happening?
posted by jacalata at 8:44 PM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's my recommendation (You'd need to consult with an accountant to see if you're in the clear with this from a legal standpoint):

One of you should apply for a university in London. That way, you get the student visa, which does two excellent things:
  1. It allows you into the country for a very extended period of time that is usually easily extended.
  2. It allows you (and maybe your spouse as well?) to work up to (I think) 20 hours per week so long as you maintain your student status.
In the UK, you can earn a Masters in just one year, and can get a more complicated degree (I can't keep track of all the variations) over a 2 year period. Now, you have to be a full time student, so realistically you couldn't work full time. But, you could work part time. So part 2 of the equation is finding jobs that can be worked remotely. Get an account with Skype, link it up with your cell if you want, start getting familiar with video conferencing and remote working, and assuming you can find a job that pays $35 an hour (well within the realm of possibility), you could pull in a modest income. It wouldn't be anywhere near the amount you're used to now, but it is possible to live in London on a budget.

The advantage of being a student is you get to learn at some really great universities which offer very good libraries and are not really that expensive, you get an education which is a good future investment, and you move in fields that are conducive to finding employment.

Just a note: unless your wife is really good, really really really good, at what she does, odds are low that she will be able to move into the humanitarian field in London. Demand for these jobs is huge, and often organizations -- not even top tier organizations -- will think nothing of demanding that their free interns have at least 1-2 years of development experience under their belt. Just ask anyone from my International Studies program: London is not an easy place to get a job in an NGO.

As far as London being much more expensive: well, yes and no. You're going to find it astronomical for consumer goods and services and generally for things like eating out. But then there are finds like Le Mercury where, a couple of years ago at least, you could get a quality French food -- an appetizer and an entree -- for just 10 pounds. And if you eat at home prices get even cheaper: Chapel Street Market easily has, hands down, the cheapest produce in the city. Buy all of your fruit and vegetables outdoors. The only exception I ever made was carrots; I always buy organic carrots, and those are available at any major Grocery for a very reasonable price. In Sainsbury's or Tescos, staples like bread, pasta, tomato sauces, beans--basically, anything in the rice, pasta, beans, or canned food aisles--will be cheaper than the US. Familiar meats are more expensive, but good luck finding ground lamb for cheap in the US, whereas it's one of the more reasonably priced meats there. Cheese is actually also pretty reasonable and very good. Eggs are a bit expensive.

I suppose not having a car will save you a lot of money in the UK, but expect to fork over more for transportation in London than in the US. The subway is ridiculously expensive, although actually if you are a full time student you can get a discounted pass that offers considerable savings. No matter what your plans, get an oyster. Using cash to get around the Underground is financial suicide. If you're paranoid about privacy issues, you can simply buy an Oyster at a train station for the day, use it for your travels, and then return it at the end of the day and retrieve your £3 deposit. I suppose if you make a habit of it at the same train station the ticket person might find it annoying or amusing, but it's a very useful tip for someone who plans to be in London for just a few days.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:53 PM on March 2, 2009

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