I've pretty much got the tea thing down...
January 6, 2011 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Help me and my boyfriend move to London! Or tell us it's totally not possible. Super special snowflake details inside.

I'm graduating next year and am trying to get my plans in order. I'm a planner, it's what I do. My boyfriend and I really like the idea of moving to England, probably London, after I graduate. We're both US citizens. I'll have a BA in Linguistics (+certificate in South Asian Studies), but he'll only have a diploma by that time. There are a million reasons why we want to live there, but I'm having trouble figuring out just HOW to get it done.

Here's my plan: go to graduate school at UCL or somewhere similar. I want to study language acquisition and/or psycholinguistics. UCL seems to have a pretty good program in that area. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I may go on to get my PhD, maybe, we'll see. Career wise, I want to teach ESOL or a modern foreign language (Hindi/Urdu, possibly Spanish).

His plan: Become police officer or airline pilot...Still wavering. Not sure how this would pan out in the UK.

We are pretty sure we're going to get married soon after I graduate from UW, if that counts for anything.

Now: tell me what we need to know/do to make this happen, if it's at all possible. This is really one of those occasions where I really need the hive mind.
posted by shesdeadimalive to Travel & Transportation around London, England (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Airline pilot will take around £80,000 if he does it full time with a reputable school, or £40,000 part time with a less than well known school (which will impact employability). Is that at all realistic to you? It's not answering the question per se, but I have found that a lot of people need a serious reality check on becoming an airline pilot.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:14 PM on January 6, 2011

Look at this thread. Both of your being US citizens makes this a challenge. Hope you can find a way!
posted by lukemeister at 4:25 PM on January 6, 2011

Career wise, I want to teach ESOL or a modern foreign language (Hindi/Urdu, possibly Spanish).

Interesting languages, but is there really a market for this in London?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:50 PM on January 6, 2011

If you want to do everything legally then barring an EU passport (e.g. Irish or Italian grandparent?) studying at post-graduate level is likely to have the easiest paperwork. Following this, you may be able to get a work visa but the immigration situation is fluid and changing at the moment.

If you study in the UK at a university, you can get a visa, and a visa for your spouse - I think this will allow him to work. You probably need to provide evidence that you can finance your studies. American UCL students can probably take out US student loans if that helps any.

Becoming a police officer in the UK is only possible if you have an EEA or Commonwealth passport or you are a permanent resident in the UK (i.e. with indefinite leave to remain).

Whilst a degree is transferable, especially into further study / academia, sub-degree level study works differently in the UK and US. Employers are unlikely to know how to treat a diploma appropriately. However, this shouldn't stop your boyfriend being able to find a job.

I'm not sure how you go about finding work under the table. I assume it's possible although it may well be more challenging to be able to afford to live in London doing so.

On preview: There's a market for teaching Spanish or Urdu in British secondary schools. I think most Urdu/Hindi teachers are heritage speakers teaching heritage speakers and there's less demand. Spanish has become popular lately. For either you'd need to take a 1 year PGCE course.
posted by plonkee at 4:59 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Being married will help get him over. You'll most likely need to get a job with a British company willing to make the case for your immigration, or an American one with British offices willing to transfer you.

I'm a dual (EU/US) citizen and worked for a British company for few months, so I've filled out much of the paperwork you'd have to and seen coworkers (highly trained, with degrees from British universities) who were US/Canadian go through the first stages of the process. Honestly, I'd be surprised if you could you could do it a year out of college.

Just to be sure though - have you visited? Do you realize how incredibly expensive it is to live there? Maybe starting elsewhere in the UK and then making the move to London would be easier?
posted by phrontist at 5:01 PM on January 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your chances of getting a company to sponsor you are very low, the government is massively cutting down on the number of available visas under that category.

Check the Home Office website for more information
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:28 PM on January 6, 2011

You (and possibly your boyfriend) have another option if you want to live and work in London though it's only for 6 months. You can Intern in Britain with BUNAC. You'd definitely be eligible as you'd be "a graduate intending to begin the internship no more than 12 months beyond the end of study" and he would be eligible if he could be described as "Currently a full-time degree level student". (I know you say by next year he'd only have a diploma, but if that phrase could describe him, he'd be eligible.)
posted by boudicca at 11:30 PM on January 6, 2011

I'll be honest. At present this is going to be very difficult. Immigration is a big issue here at the moment. Indeed the new conservative government made it a central policy plank during the election. It isn't as vitriolic as immigration is in the US - but the government has wasted no time in implementing the policy it won an election on.

In my own case I completed my PhD in my home country (Australia), and moved over to the UK to take up an academic position at a UK university. I did this in 2008. I would not be able to do this today.

Firstly. As Infinite Jest points out, there are simply too few visas the government is making available. Moreover, there is only a certain number now being given out per month. If your application arrives after this monthly quota has been filled, you will have to wait an extra month for it to be considered.

Secondly. There is a lot more emphasis on previous income earned over qualifications. The UK operates a points based system in determining who gets in. I would fail today because I didn't earn a significant enough wage after completing my PhD before applying.

Thirldly: You don't mention any skills your boyfriend has (apart from the diploma). And it should also be noted that the UK police force has nationality requirements.

So there you have it. It is going to be very tough. I have a PhD, and am a Commonwealth citizen. And I would have a heck of a time getting in now.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 11:36 PM on January 6, 2011

Both Infinite Jest and TheOtherGuy are correct; immigration has been politicised here in the UK and the Conservatives have made reductions one of their key deliverables. Since EU immigration is out of their control (the free movement of people being one of the cornerstones of EU policy) the only factor they can definitively control is immigration by non EU nationals i.e., Americans in this case.

A student visa will definitely get you in to complete a degree. Currently completion of a degree grants you an automatic two year work permit, with various mechanisms available afterwards to extend, even to the point of Indefinite Leave to Remain and Naturalisation (aka British Citizenship).

I would suggest cross posting this query to the UK Yankee forums. Immigration is changing rapidly in the UK and lots of practicing professionals post in those forums. There are changes afoot and those folks will be best suited to help you make intermediate range plans.
posted by Mutant at 12:38 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a LOT of native Urdu/Hindi speakers in London, and in the UK in general. To teach in a secondary school you will need a PGCE - you won't get a job without this - or you can look into qualifying as a classroom assistant which pays less (about £12k on average I believe). The other option, perhaps, is TESOL, but I'm not sure how over-subscribed that is here. I presume you've checked out the cost of post-grad study over here - be aware that we don't have the same system of student loans you have, and Career Development Loans (which many use to finance post-grad) may not be available to you as a US citizen. I'm not an expert, mind, but you need to be prepared to fund this yourself. I know someone who moved over from the US but she married a UK citizen, so that was slightly different.

London is a very expensive city to live in, compared with the US or even Manchester/Edinburgh/Newcastle etc. However, I live here and I don't starve - I chose not to study here as I was worried I couldn't afford to (I fancied LSE initially) and friends of mine have had to drop out and transfer to other universities, but I managed to move down here and live on an initial salary of £18k. (I have a BA in Linguistics from Manchester, decided to move from there on a whim, and took a job working on TV subtitling for the deaf.) As others have said, being an airline pilot is a very expensive endeavour, so he may want to put that on hold for a while!

You need to start checking out prices of things - food, accommodation - and working out what kind of lifestyle you want and can afford. Check out Gumtree for property rental prices (warning! NEVER EVER give any landlord money until you have seen the property) - it's the UK equivalent of Craigslist. As a guide, a couple of friends of mine rent a 2-bed place in Zone 3 (Central London is Zone 1 - this is about a 30min train ride away) for about £1500 a month. This could be cheaper if you were happy to share a room in a houseshare with one or more other people. (Average deposit, by the way, on a London flat is £56k, so a lot of young people rent. There's a lot of rental property out there. You may need to give references and pass a credit check if you go through an agency.)

I believe it's cheaper here than in NYC if that helps at all? Have you been to London for any length of time that might give you an idea of where you might want to live? Is there a particular reason to choose London - there are great universities outside the capital if you feel that the budget isn't working for you. All universities will cost roughly the same to study at (correct me if I'm wrong as the fees are changing) whether it's Cambridge or our equivalent of a community college, so your issues really, besides immigration issues, are paying for living costs.
posted by mippy at 3:34 AM on January 7, 2011

I believe it's cheaper here than in NYC if that helps at all?

Based on my own personal experience:

It's comparable: depends on the kinds of things you like to do. We don't go out a lot, I make almost every meal at home, do a lot of cooking from scratch... you can eat pretty cheap that way, and save your money for other stuff.

If you are getting paid in pounds then you should be fine; a sandwich that costs $5 in NYC would cost 5 pounds here. If you're planning for your savings to fund your living expenses at first, then it will be more expensive, since the dollar has a lower value than the pound.

We just moved here in October; it took months for the paperwork and work visa to come through. I've been blogging about our move here, some of the cultural adjustments, and cooking here.

I will say this: if you are determined to do it, you'll figure out a way to make it work. Might not be easy, but it is definitely possible. London is a pretty great city, although it feels very different in some ways from New York.

Drop me a line via MeMail if you'd like to know more about the moving process; like i said, we just did this, so it's all quite fresh in my mind.
posted by dubold at 4:13 AM on January 7, 2011

dubold - I believe eating out is far more common there. It's absolutely not unusual for people to eat almost every meal at home here. British people eat a lot of ready meals, though!

Movies are more expensive too, though there are ways of getting round that by finding the cheap houses.
posted by mippy at 4:22 AM on January 7, 2011

We don't necessarily have our hearts set on London. Another, less expensive city would be okay. Aside from the obvious reasons we'd like London is that my boyfriend is rides BMX and there's a pretty big scene in London. And no, neither of us has even visited the UK. This is definitely a flight of fancy situation but from everything we know, I think we'd both be brilliantly happy there.

It seems like getting a student visa and married (bring him over) is our best option for getting there soon. I know it's going to be complicated (if not impossible) and I thank you all sincerely for your help.

He is currently a bike mechanic and enrolled in classes at our local community college. As far as our research showed last night, for him to enroll in the UK equivalent of the police academy, he'd need indefinite leave to remain in the UK, which from what I can tell you can only get after being there for five years. Kind of a downer, since we don't know what he'd do in the meantime.

Not sure if any of you would know, but if he got his pilot's license in the US, could he avoid that incredibly high number he's looking at for doing it in the UK? I'm assuming the £80,000 is for flight school and the like, which he can get in the US for much cheaper.

We're used to living frugally and I make food from scratch for most meals, so living on the cheap wouldn't be too difficult. I definitely can't pay for grad school on my own, so I would need to find a school that would have scholarships for overseas students or somewhere I could take out US loans.

Any recommendations for where to look outside London?
posted by shesdeadimalive at 10:19 AM on January 7, 2011

Also, thoughts on bringing over pets?
posted by shesdeadimalive at 10:47 AM on January 7, 2011


There's a Pet Travel Scheme, which sounds like a Monty Python skit but is not.
posted by lukemeister at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, visiting, preferably for a few months, would be the natural first step, I'd think. Don't underestimate how different the culture of England (to say nothing of other parts of the UK) is. To paraphrase a comment I once saw here, adapting to a culture that's radically different from your own is in a way easier than doing so for one that at first blush is very similar - you're lulled in to a false sense of security, and the shock can be greater for it. It won't be like moving to a different U.S. state that happens to have funny accents and a queen.

I'm not very well traveled within the UK - I only lived there for three months - so this is a bit like taking jazz recommendations from someone on the strength of their weather channel viewing habits, but check out Bristol.

I could hop on a plane tomorrow and stay in the UK for the rest of my life, virtually no questions asked. I've decided to get at least an undergrad degree here first because it would be so difficult for me to get established (that is to say, have a job I'd find interesting, or go to school) otherwise.

You don't have that citizenship advantage (completely unearned, I know, I apologize for the injustice of it all), so the case for sitting tight and improving your employment prospects is even clearer. Saving money to cushion to blow of transition can only help.

Pets shouldn't be hard to bring over, in the scheme of things, but if you can wait you should get them once you are settled abroad.
posted by phrontist at 12:43 PM on January 7, 2011

Not sure if any of you would know, but if he got his pilot's license in the US, could he avoid that incredibly high number he's looking at for doing it in the UK? I'm assuming the £80,000 is for flight school and the like, which he can get in the US for much cheaper.
Yep, cheaper in the US, but not much. UK Airlines are also hesitant to hire pilots who haven't trained/flown in UK/EU airspace. A lot of folks in the UK see the price tag on training in the US and jump at it, only to find on their return to the UK that the US "Stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap" approach to flight training doesn't wash with UK Airlines.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:45 PM on January 7, 2011

I should qualify my comment however... if he trains as a pilot in the US and works for a year or two as a regional airline pilot, he should be more employable in the UK, subject to the usual visa/residency issues.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:46 PM on January 7, 2011

« Older How long did it take to implement DADT?   |   Morning headaches? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.