Can I Move To The UK on $50,000 Per Year?
February 6, 2010 4:28 PM   Subscribe

What are the prospects for a retired American with a gross annual income of $50,000 to relocate in the UK? (Not London or other large city.) Living without a car would be in the mix. I've lived in the UK and wonder if I could make it on that income. Is it sufficient? Could I convince the immigration folks to let me in? Not planning anything imminent. But it woud be nice to rule it in or out as an option.
posted by justcorbly to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could easily live on this outside of London and the home counties. This would include the cost of a rental property. I know nothing about immigration laws but cost-of-living-wise, you'd be fine. There might be a bit of culture-shock though. People of retirement age in Britain tend not to live in communities, US style, until they are really very old.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:25 PM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: >>people of retirement age in Britain tend not to live in communities, US style...

Ugh! Not at all in my plans.
posted by justcorbly at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2010

Mod note: comments removed - don't start the health care crap here thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:11 PM on February 6, 2010

I really think you should take into consideration exchange rate fluctuations. US$50,000 might be enough to live on right now but who's to say that's going to be the case in a year's time? The UK economy is in a dreadful state right now, but I wouldn't bet long-term on the dollar holding its value either. A lot of British ex-pats who moved to places like France and Spain in the good years ended up getting seriously bitten having bought houses there that they could not maintain and barely having enough money for food.

On a side note, as a Brit myself who thankfully got out a while ago, why anyone would want to move to the UK, especially outside of London, is beyond me! But each to their own.
posted by Zé Pequeno at 10:37 PM on February 6, 2010

Sure you could, lots of people live on a lot less. Immigration would probably be an issue, alas.

People of retirement age in Britain tend not to live in communities, US style, until they are really very old.

No, but there are certain parts of the country known for attracting over 50s - the Bournemouth area, for example.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 12:24 AM on February 7, 2010

Sure you could, lots of people live on a lot less.
Yes; by my rough calculation you'd have over both the median and somewhat-skewed-by-the ultra-rich mean income. As to the desirability of the move and location, I'm the anti-Ze Pequeno - an ex-pat who looks forward to returning home one day and will be looking at places in some of those lovely northern towns close to the hills and open moorland, but would consider pretty much anywhere bar London.
No idea about the immigration requirements, I'm afraid, but you could look at the information put out by the Immigration Advisory Service or contact them; they're independent and not-for-profit specialists in these issues and have a not-for-profit fee-paying service that might best suit someone in a decent financial and non-emergency situation such as yourself. I imagine that would also help support their work with those unable to pay.
posted by Abiezer at 12:57 AM on February 7, 2010

From what I can tell, you need to have been able to live in the UK for 5 years before you can apply for a Settlement visa based on being retired and having independent means.

To get here first, you would likely need a work visa, which is points-based. There are a few categories that you may qualify for, such as having a UK parent or grandparent, or a highly skilled worker or investor.

I don't believe there is a means for anyone who doesn't already have the right to settle to just retire in the UK without having come here to work at least 5 years first. Bit that's based just on what I've read on the immigration website.

More info on UK visas here.
posted by qwip at 1:25 AM on February 7, 2010

It is possible for someone of independent means to retire to the UK.

To enter the UK under this immigration category, the following requirements must be met:
1. the applicant must be at least 60 years old; and
2. have under his or her control (and disposable in the UK) an income of not less than £25,000 a year,
3. be able to demonstrate a close connection with the UK,
4. be able and willing to maintain and accommodate themselves (and any dependants) indefinitely without taking employment, and
5. intend to make the UK their main home.

There are three points in particular which are of greatest significants: the financial requirement; the close connection requirement; and the ability and willingness to maintain oneself indefinitely without working.

The income requirement is met, from what you say, but if your income is US-based, it will be at the mercies of the vagaries of fluctuations in the interest rates. There is no requirement for income to be generated or based in the UK - as long as it is disposable here - i.e. you can access it and transfer it easily to the UK. Your income at the moment translates to about £30,000 a year. I'd suggest you take some advice on whether or not that income would be taxable in the UK - I suspect it probably would be but you'd need to speak to a UK tax adviser about this.

You would not be able to work either in the UK or abroad. But you would not be considered to be working if you are :
• managing capital assets with a view to safeguarding them
• making investments
• receiving rental income

In practice the presence of close relatives and/or previous periods of residence usually show a close connection with the UK.

The close relative should ideally be already living here and permanently entitled to be settled in the UK. The closeness of the relationship is relevant; i.e. an immediate relative is of more value than a more distant relative.

Other relevant considerations can include a strong sense of belonging and identity with the UK; you choosing to be in the UK as a visitor for as much time as allowed whenever possible; ownership of property in the UK; community involvement during previous periods of residence; and close friendships with UK citizens or other persons settled in this country (I would guess that internet friendships don't count!) Whether there is a close connection is a question of fact to be judged on the totality of evidence in any particular case.

£30,000 is enough to live on if your tastes are modest. Don’t forget that the cost of living in the UK is insane compared with the States. Everything costs more than in the US - eating out, transport, clothing, basic supplies and leisure items. What you pay in $$ we pay in ££, so ask yourself if you could live comfortably on $30,000 a year gross in the US and maintain a comfortable lifestyle.

You don't mention housing - would you also be paying for accommodation out of your income? If so, assuming you've decided to live in a small town with no huge demand for rental properties, you'd probably be paying about £500 per month to rent a one-bedroomed flat. Add another £75 on top of that for council tax, and another £75 for electricity, water and gas.

It's do-able, but if exchange rates plummeted as they did in 2008 (when it went as low as $1.96 to £1) you'd struggle.
posted by essexjan at 2:40 AM on February 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

significants significance
posted by essexjan at 2:41 AM on February 7, 2010

I don't believe there is a means for anyone who doesn't already have the right to settle to just retire in the UK without having come here to work at least 5 years first.

essexjan: It is possible for someone of independent means to retire to the UK.

I stand corrected.
posted by qwip at 3:52 AM on February 7, 2010

Response by poster: Essexjan, thanks for the detailed info. I've checked into the immigration thing before and doubt that I'd qualify: no relatives in country, and several visits and a two-year living stint in the 1990's. The cost of living and vulnerability to exchange rate fluctuations are familiar discouragements. And, no, I would not want to chance living on £30,000. Doing without a car would free up several thousand dollars per year, but finding a location where that is really possible outside London or another city might be an issue. (Easier than here in the U.S., but still an issue.)

Maybe I ought to think in terms of recurring long-term visits.
posted by justcorbly at 6:36 AM on February 7, 2010

You can live in the UK quite comfortably on £20,000 a year. That's about where fulltime university lecturers make and the lifestyle it supports is similar to $30-40,000 in the US. You wouldn't be rolling in it, but you could live in a nice flat, at least outside of London. You will pay more of your income to rent, but not more for groceries at home.

As for where -- there are some stunningly beautiful places like Ely which are completely walkable if you live in town, and have great cycling access for just outside. The UK is a Great country to be carless in -- good rural buses (especially in Lincolnshire), towns and cities that are designed for pedestrians. If I had £20,000 a year to retire on, I would happily take myself somewhere like Ely -- or more likely one of the less fashionable villages outside, and cycle everywhere. You have the rail and bus connections, and everything you need for life -- bookstores, grocery store and a cathedral.

St Albans is another great town -- the Cathedral is older than Ely but not as pretty. However, you can get to London in 1/2 hour for only £8 or so off-peak.
posted by jb at 10:44 PM on February 7, 2010

on preview -- my lifestyle is perhaps more modest than has been suggested by essexjan. I was living on £9000/year, but as a student (no council tax) and sharing a two-bed flat.

I would respectively quibble with the lifestyle equivalency. Having recently lived in the UK and the US, I would say that a scholarship of £9000 is more like living in the US on a scholarship of $18-20,000 than $15,000.

Some prices can be much more expensive, the same in £s as they are in $USD. These would include food in restaurants or cafes, CDs or DVDs, and high-end or women's fashions. But other prices are the same -- men's clothes from Marks and Spencer, basic groceries like bread, milk, eggs, pasta or meat for home consumption (fruit and veg could be significantly more -- or maybe our Sainsburys was just aweful). Some things are cheaper: lamb, bacon or sausages, chocolate bars, flights to Europe, pay-as-you-go phones.

With the not at all insignificant exception of rent (we were in an expensive market), my monthly bills were not dissimilar between Britain and the US. I ate less take out (coffee can be very bad pricewise), but also had more sausages at home.
posted by jb at 11:01 PM on February 7, 2010

sorry -- that bit about full-time university lecturers should be that they start at £20-25,000/year.
posted by jb at 11:05 PM on February 7, 2010

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