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    Moving to London from Overseas

    By The reallymoving Team Updated 25th Mar, 2024

    Are you planning a move to England’s 'big smoke' from overseas? reallymoving.com discusses the essentials of organising a move to London and making the most of everything the capital has to offer.

    Moving to London from Overseas

    Why move to London?

    London is a highly popular destination for families and young professionals looking to relocate from overseas and begin a new life. It’s one of the most vibrant places to live and work; there’s always something going on and a wealth of career opportunities for those looking to begin a new chapter in their lives.
    London’s cultural diversity is its artistic treasure. It’s one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and this rich mix of traditions and beliefs creates an electrifying atmosphere to live in. There’s nothing you can’t find in London. With vibrant Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, Nigerian and many more communities present, its diversity really is second to none.

    Immigration rules

    People entering the United Kingdom are required by law to conform to immigration rules. Your first port of call regarding immigration should be your local British Embassy, British High Commission or British Consulate to understand the current conditions and requirements for those wishing to move to London.
    The official UK Government website displays a list of addresses and phone numbers of most British Embassies throughout the globe. Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United states require a work permit to work and live in the UK. If you are only planning on a short term stay of less than six months then a working visa is not a legal requirement.
    You will also be required to have a valid passport to enter the UK and re-enter your home country at any time.
    If you applied to come to the UK with permission to stay here for the 5-year family route and that permission was granted, you will need to be in the UK for five years before you can apply for settlement. You will initially be given leave to enter for two-and-a-half years, and then you can apply for a further two-and-a-half-year period.
    If you to come to the UK with permission to stay here for the 10-year family route, or for permission to stay here on the 10-year private life route and that permission was granted, you will need to be in the UK for 10 years before you can apply for settlement. You will initially be given leave to enter for two-and-a-half years, and can then apply for three more periods of two-and-a-half years.
    There are two ways of applying for settlement; by post or through a public enquiry office. If you apply by post using application form SET(M), you can also use the settlement checking service to submit your application; a service offered by local authorities.
    Tip: be sure to photocopy your passport with your photo, as well as your visas, travellers’ cheque serial numbers and any other important documentation in the event you lose any sensitive papers on route to your new home.

    Where in London?

    Choosing a borough of London in which to live can be the first hurdle to overcome. With so many different areas, each with their own benefits, it can be overwhelming for newcomers to decide from the outset. You could therefore consider renting a property for the foreseeable future to get a flavour of the best places to live. 
    Renting in London initially will also give you adequate time to find a highly-recommended estate agent and conveyancing solicitor to oversee your move into a more permanent abode.

    Ultimately, any location that doesn’t meet your lifestyle and your specific needs as a property buyer is a poor location. That’s why considering your current needs – and anticipating your future needs – is such an important part of choosing where to buy.

    It makes sense to do a bit of online research into the areas you’re considering. Things like crime rates and overall economic trends (for example, are local shops and businesses closing or has a new shopping development just opened?) can tell you a lot about a location. However, it’s also important to pay attention to the things that will affect you directly in your day-to-day life, such as access to public transport, parking availability, local shops and other amenities, and school catchment areas.

    If you’re moving from Europe, you may want to be close to the London Crossrail that’s set to open in 2018. This new rail line will have connections to Heathrow and the Eurostar so you will be able to travel to and from Europe a lot more easily. 

    Depending on house prices and affordability, you may need to make some concessions in the area in which you choose to buy a house. It’s important to think long and hard about which factors you can afford to be flexible about (such as the availability of a local gym or sports club) and which ones are deal-breakers (such as easy access to public transport links).

    House Surveys

    With the current high cost of houses in London, it is important that the property you purchase is worth what you are paying for it and you are aware if there are any structural problems that will need remedial work to repair them.

    Instructing a London Chartered Surveyor to undertake a Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report will give you the opportunity to find out the cost of the work needed and the findings in the survey report may allow you to negotiate the purchase price.

    There are a number of issues prevalent in properties in certain areas of London, such as subsidence, Japanese Knotweed, and problems arising from conversions. It is essential that you select a surveyor with a local knowledge of the area as, not only will they be aware of issues common to properties in the location, but they will also have an awareness of the current property market and values of the local buildings.

    When you get your quotes for a house survey through reallymoving.com, you are guaranteed a local Chartered Surveyor with an expert knowledge of the area.

    Questions to ask your international removal firm

    Tens of thousands of individuals opt to relocate to London from all over the world each year, but any move overseas requires meticulous planning and organisation.
    So when you’re looking for a reliable and experienced removal company to handle your international move, what sort of questions should you be asking potential firms?
    Here are some of the suggested topics you should bring up with your potential international removals firm:

    • What items should and shouldn’t I take with me?
    • How many moves to London have you handled previously?
    • Will you come to my home to view my belongings and provide an accurate estimate?
    • Does your quote include travel time, disassembly and reassembly of furniture?
    • Does your company offer insurance for international removals?
    • Are you a member of a trade association such as the British Association of Removers (BAR)?
    • How would you like to be paid? Note: most reputable removal companies will take credit cards or cheques
    • What happens to my goods when they arrive in the UK?

    For more information on what to ask an international shipping company when moving abroad, take a look at our article, 'Questions to Ask your International Removals Firm'.

    Packing your belongings

    We all have household items that are extremely valuable to us in one way or another; and when planning an exciting move overseas it’s important these are packed and suitably protected for the long journey ahead.

    Fragile items

    Expensive, breakable, items should naturally be treated with utmost respect and caution. You may wish to transport these valuables yourself to ensure they arrive safely, but if that’s not possible it’s important to protect items of sentimental value with special packing materials. You should talk to your international removal company as they may have industry-standard packaging available to use which provide extra cushioning whilst in storage.

    Sensitive documentation

    Don’t forget about the importance of having personal documentation close to hand prior to your move to London. You could well need birth certificates, bank and credit card and insurance details as proof of identity. If possible try to pack and store these files away in a secure folder that you can take with you.

    Electrical goods

    The best international removal companies should be able to help you place large electrical goods such as desktop computers, hi-fi systems and large televisions safely into storage. If possible, try and source their original packaging if you have kept them in your garage or loft, or find similar-sized boxes with plenty of space for packing and protection. 

    Antiques and heirlooms

    If you are fortunate to have acquired or inherited some precious antiques or family heirlooms you will no doubt want to transport them safely to your new home in one piece. You may wish to choose an international removal company with experience in packing and handling antique items or get a moving estimate.

    Packing your own belongings

    If you decide to pack your own valuables away into storage then you should make your removals team aware of the boxes that contain the most precious items. Consider a colour-coding system to match up boxes with rooms at your new London home.

    For more advice on packing your items, view our international packing tips here.

    Transporting your possessions overseas to the UK

    When moving to London from overseas, there are three main transport options available for transferring your possessions. Here are the pros and cons for each:

    Sea Freight

    This may not be the quickest of transport methods but it is one of the easiest to transport bulk items by the container load. Your possessions will be loaded into vast secure steel containers and relayed to the nearest container port. The cost of this type of shipment will depend on the volume of your full container load. 


    A more cost-effective shipping method is groupage. This is when secure steel containers are filled with groups of possessions from different individuals and companies that will be embarking upon the same route. The container doesn’t leave until it’s full, so you can’t dictate transport timescales as easily as having your own container.

    Our, Full Container Shipping v Groupage Shipping article can provide you with additional information on the differences between these two shipping options. 


    Overseas removals are handled in different ways by different firms. Some international removal companies will travel with your consignment in their own lorries to dictate timescales. Your belongings are packed and boxed just as they would be for a domestic move, but be sure to keep an inventory of your items so any possessions that are misplaced or broken can be documented.

    Air freight

    Arguably the most expensive form of overseas transport, air freight consignments are secured in special airline pallets and transported in the aircraft cargo hold. Although this costs more, it has the benefit of speed which can help if you have secured a London job and are looking to begin your new life as soon as possible.
    Last updated May 2017


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    JCL were really helpful organising and moving my stuff from Netherlands to UK. Mark was knowledgeable about all the customs documents. They were able to organise transport at late notice. The driver was friendly, his truck was tidy and nothing was broken during transit. I highly recommend JCL.

    Ell on 21/03/2024

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