Moving to the UK – confessions of a serial expatriate

While my Swiss adventures continue, and recently I have experienced a “positive” ticket officer (to be updated soon), this time I have decided to share with you an article written by Florian Rochat on his expat adventures in the UK. This article provides a valuable insight for everyone who is  planning to move to the UK, and especially to London.


Dear Fellow Expats

London gurkinNowadays, finding a flatmate, trendy restaurants, good clubbing and a like-minded community has become the easy bite of the relocation process. The social tools and websites certainly are responsible for this major shift.

By contrast, bureaucratic burdens remain vivid, irrespective of the country. Despite similar past experiences in Switzerland, Italy and in the US, it took me almost one entire year before I felt comfortable with the administrative environment of my new home: London. Dealing with all relocation practicalities, certainly is part of the expatriate experience yet burdensome, without saying time (and money!) consuming.

I was not one of these fortunate sponsored expatriates and hence had to go through this mess alone, learning by doing, just like many students, entrepreneurs or other adventurers. This note should not be considered a legal advice or a substitute for professional assistance. To the contrary, this is a mere testimonial, a digest of my life story, though I admittedly came across many of these pitfalls through my professional practice. The points below are not one-size-fits-all suggestions but mere food for thought.

1)    Immigration: the UK is member of the European Union, and so EU citizens benefit from the fundamental freedom of movement of persons. So there is no need to apply for a visa or an authorisation beforehand. Investor visas, though quite popular and certainly an important category, are not as easy to get as relocation firms tend to advertise them. In any event, they became quite expensive: you can simply forget this option if you are not ready to invest at least GBP 1million.

2)    Residence versus domicile: residence and domicile are two different concepts.
Residence is a concept based on physical presence in the country. Residence is thus factual and objective. The authorities apply a statutory residence test, which takes into account both the amount of time spent in the UK and any other connections with the UK.

On the other hand, the domicile is a more subjective concept. In that respect, long-term intentions are decisive. A wide range of evidential factors may be relevant.

It is always essential to analyse an individual’s domicile carefully, as it has an effect on their exposure to the three main UK direct taxes (income tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax).

photo3)    Accommodation and council tax: a resident in the UK is subject to a council tax, levied by the local authorities (borough). Each accommodation is allocated to a band, which corresponds to a tax range. As a rule of thumb, the bigger and more luxurious your accommodation is, the higher your council tax will be.

Individual living alone may want to notify the borough of their status to get a reduction of the council tax since its default rate is usually based on a two people occupancy.

To be continued…


Great advice, Florian!

Indeed, from my own experience I can confirm that moving to the UK requires a bit of preparation, as often you have to act fast – submit all necessary paper work within the certain period of time  – in my case I had to do everything within 1 month (and not later) after I moved in and started a job.

What about you? How was your experience in moving to the UK? Share with us in the comments! And remember to check next week, as we will explore new Florian advices on life in the UK, including such topics as: taxes, doing business and family legal issues. A presto!  

About the author: 
Florian is practising as a lawyer in London within a major law firm. He has been advising individuals and companies on business law for more than a decade (previously in Switzerland and in New York City). He also knows where to eat a decent Swiss cheese fondue in every country he lived in!

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