How to Retire in the UK as an American

If you want to retire to the UK as an American, you may think the transition will be easy – it’s all in English, right? The UK offers some benefits to retirees, but many aspects of life there may require some adjustment, from the metric system to cars – they drive on the left side of the road, sitting in the steering wheels on the right side of the car, to The Climate is exceptionally humid and cold to the bone. Here’s what you need to know before permanently crossing the pond.

Key takeaways

  • Americans retiring in the UK must qualify for a visa.
  • The UK is expensive, although the further away from London, the more reasonable the prices.
  • American expats cannot join the UK National Health Service.

Necessary paperwork

Americans can visit the UK as tourists and stay for up to six months, visa-free. To stay longer, you will need to qualify for a visa. Family ties, established business connections to the UK, or dual citizenship with a Commonwealth country like Canada can help.

However, owning a property does not guarantee a longer visa period. People who are already in the UK as “independent means retirees” can request an extension of their stay up to a maximum period of five years or an indefinite leave, according to the UK Home Office. (That categorization is defined as those who have a minimum annual disposable income of £ 25,000 and meet various other requirements.)

As the UK prepares to exit the European Union, much remains to be resolved. We asked Lucy culpepper, European Correspondent for the expat-oriented Live and Invest Overseas site, what might the implications be for Americans anticipating a retirement move to the UK? government or people. I don’t see it negatively impacting American retirees who want to come here. In fact, it can be good for retirees with an income. ”

Location options

The location you choose will depend on the type of life you want to lead, which gives you several options to consider:

  • Urban or rural
  • A busy city like London, Birmingham or Edinburgh
  • A smaller city like Exeter, Cheltenham, York or Bath
  • A small town like St. Ives, Wotton-under-Edge, Ambleside, Tenby, Beaumaris, Much Wenlock or Chipping Norton

International lifeThe report on retiring in England cites Suffolk County, on the east coast, as an attractive option. Just a short drive from London, Suffolk is “a treasure trove of churches with squat towers and tall hedged paths … thatched-roof huts painted in the colors of summer … medieval towns of winding streets and half-timbered Tudor houses “.

Devon, another county extensively equipped with hedges and thatched cottages, such as “miles of hiking country walks” and also “splendid seascapes.”

Cost of living

According to Culpepper, the UK is expensive. “In my experience, it is more than Spain, more or less the same as France and much more than Latin America,” he says. Of course, the actual costs vary widely depending on where you choose to live. It’s no wonder London is the most expensive destination in the UK. In the ranking of 282 Expatistan cities in the world, it is the fourth most expensive; in Europe it ranks third and in the UK it ranks first. Its public transport is the most expensive in the world and housing costs are the highest in Western Europe.

Numbeo, which also collects cost-of-living data from cities around the world, reports an average rent of $ 2,291 for a one-bedroom apartment in central London and $ 1,753 outside of the city center as of July 2021. The median price to buy an apartment in central London is around $ 1,438 per square foot, 2% more than a comparable apartment in New York City.

Once I get out of London, things will get more reasonable. House rental costs in Edinburgh are 93.93% lower than in London, local transport is 55% less, and groceries are about 7.49% cheaper. Head to Plymouth and the rent is 66.31% less than London, restaurants are roughly 13.24% cheaper and overall you’d need around $ 6,602.60 (£ 4,800) in London to keep the same standard of living you can have on $ 4,111.98 (£ 2,989.35) in Plymouth.

Health care

As an American retiree living in the UK, you won’t be able to take advantage of the full National Health Service, except in emergencies. You will be required to purchase private health insurance. You can find information on insurance and many other matters, including paying taxes, buying property and organizing your move, on various expat websites such as and

The bottom line

The UK is an attractive place for Americans to retire, according to Culpepper. American expats are welcome in the UK. “In provincial cities, Americans are still seen as unusual and ‘cool’ among the younger generation,” he says (though he advises staying away from political discussions).

The UK “is a safe country. It’s a fantastic place for anyone who loves history, the countryside, eating out … Anyone who loves the outdoors and hiking will delight in the freedom of walking almost anywhere with no restrictions … And it’s small enough to be able to travel quickly from one region to another and experience a complete change in culture. ”

Beyond that, connections to Europe are good and cheap. A note of caution: Americans from “warmer / blue sky states” may “have a problem with the weather.”

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Mark Holland

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