Grad school is a big decision no matter where you decide to study, but moving overseas makes things even more of a challenge. When my wife and I decided we were going we had roughly 5 months to get things in order. Passports, storage, sell stuff, bank accounts, paperwork for our dog Lily, and most importantly MAKE SURE WE HAD ENOUGH MONEY IN OUR SAVINGS. The reason I say this is the most important thing is that you most likely won’t have the time, nor the energy, to work. Also there is something we never found in all our research, and that is when you move to a new country you are essentially a newborn. What I mean by this is that you didn’t exist in this country prior to your arrival and therefore you have no credit. None. This makes opening a bank account and finding a flat (apartment) difficult to say the least. To make things even more stressful most landlords will ask for up to 6 months of rent up front in order to deter international renters from leaving the country midway through the lease. Still thinking about going to grad school in the UK? Alright, then lets keep going because it is very possible to do as long as you have everything in order prior to your arrival.
Your school will be the one sponsoring your Tier 4 Student Visa and they will help you get that process started but make sure you get that paperwork in with plenty of time to spare. They recommend 6-8 weeks, otherwise you have to shell out about a grand for an expedited processing fee. You are allowed to bring a dependent with you on the Tier 4 Visa and they are technically allowed to work, with a few exceptions. We found this out on arrival when the customs agent asked my wife what she would be doing while we were there. She had planned on trying to work under the table so she just said she’d be traveling and I think he understood our hesitance so he informed us she was indeed allowed to work. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a non-service industry job. They usually want to make sure that there’s not another international employee with a visa expiring at the same time or else they’ll have to sponsor a visa. In order for a company to sponsor a visa they’ll essentially have to prove that there is no one in the entire UK that could do that job. So this brings me back to finances.
You don’t have to stay in your own place and shell out 6 months rent in advance. There are dorms available but be sure to sign up for them in advance as well since they fill up fast. Once you have your finances in order, I recommend setting up a bank account with a British bank that has branches here in the US in order to make it easier once you arrive. We went with HSBC and even though we opened one in the US beforehand it was still a pain. In the UK you can’t just walk into a branch and wait for an available agent. You have to make an appointment and the banks close at 4 or 4:30. Naturally the Saturday appointments for most places are booked out weeks in advance. You can open an account in the UK through HSBC while still in the US if you give yourself enough time, at least 5 weeks I believe. Unfortunately we didn’t learn about this with enough time before we were leaving to test it out.
Pets. We brought our dachshund with us and there is a lot of paperwork involved. The UK used to be a rabies free island and pets coming in would have to be quarantined for 90 days minimum. Luckily for us, a rat made it through the Chunnel from France and we just had to submit the necessary paperwork with Heathrow Airport prior to our arrival. An agent met us at the plane upon arrival and checked all the paperwork and we were good to go. Now, if your dog is not an emotional support animal and if you are not FLYING ON A US BASED AIRLINE your pet will have to travel in the cargo hold.
One last thing I will say is, don’t forget that when you leave you are moving and you’re going to be taking everything you’ll need for the next 1 to 4 years with you. So if you decide to ship stuff it’ll definitely cost you but it will save you the hassle of carrying multiple bags through at least two airports.
As always if you have any questions about anything I covered, or anything I didn’t cover, please feel free to comment below!