9 things you must do before moving to the UK

How should you prepare for moving to the UK? What needs to happen before you board your flight?

A new-expat asked this recently and honestly – such a good question!

My name is Alanna and I’m Canadian but I’ve been living in the UK for the last 8 years. Here’s what I think you should consider, plan and organise before you move abroad.

1. Sell your car (+ other bits)

I took my car to a car wash and then took nice photos of it and listed it on Facebook Marketplace and Autotrader. It didn’t sell right away, and there were negotiations involved, so I wanted to start a bit early. I probably started the whole process about 1-2 months before moving to England.

I still needed my car to get to work, but didn’t want to leave it until the last second.

You may be able to get a family member to sell it on your behalf after you move, but you’ll need to sign certain papers and it can get a bit messy.

With selling my car, I also made sure to cancel my car insurance.

If possible, it might be ideal to renew your driving license before you leave. You can drive on a foreign license for 1 year, but then you’ll need to change it for a UK one. Certain countries like Canada and Australia have an agree that you can exchange your foreign license for a UK one without taking any tests – but only if it isn’t expired.

It would be helpful to have as much time left on your home driving license before moving so you have the most amount of time before missing the exchange cutoff.

9 things you must do before moving to the UK

2. Give notice at work

My work contract required me to give 2 weeks notice but I ended up giving them much more because I really liked working there. We set up a schedule of when my last day would be and I would be helping train a new person to take my place in the meantime.

This is when moving abroad got real. I loved my job, so giving notice and getting a final “end date” really put things into motion and made my upcoming move to England seem scarily real.

3. Figure out suitcases

Suitcases aren’t cheap! And they’re not all the same size.

Every airline has different requires on the size a checked bag can be, so make sure to measure what you have (or are going to buy) so you can get the largest size they’ll allow based on what airline you’ll be using. For me, I always fly AirTransat between London and Toronto.

If you don’t have the right ones, or they’re not the right size, make sure to buy some.

This is more important than it sounds, so don’t leave it until the last second.

When I moved to England, I paid for a plane ticket that included one checked bag but I also paid extra for checking a second bag. Then I had my carry-on (one of those little roller guys) and a purse.

When I came back to Canada for a visit 6 months later, I brought very little so I could fill up my checked bag on the way back to England.

I wouldn’t bring more than that, unless you’re moving your entire family with kids and stuff. If it’s just you, two checked bags worked out nicely. Still need help? Make sure to check out my post all about packing for moving abroad.

4. Practice packing

I never moved abroad before so I had no idea what the packing was going to be like.

So you need to practice!

Once you know what suitcases you’ll be bringing, practice filling them. You’ll find out pretty quickly that they don’t fit as much stuff as you were envisioning… Practice packing a few times and you’ll figure out what fits and what can be left behind.

I would prioritise the most expensive and the most required. You can always re-buy stuff in the UK, but ideally not your more expensive items.

Depending on the season you move, you’ll also want to make sure you have clothing to get started (ex. I moved in the winter so I prioritised winter clothes to make sure I was ready right away).

5. Get any prescriptions

As part of your UK visa, you’ll be allowed to use the NHS like a British person – that’s the National Health Service.

That means you’ll be able to get a doctor and get any prescriptions you need, but you should make sure you have enough to get started as it could be weeks or months before you register with a doctor.

A few weeks before my flight to England, I had an appointment with my Canadian doctor and explained that I was moving and she gave me the maximum amount of refills of my prescriptions so I had enough to get going.

I also made sure to pack my prescription slips (or take a photo of them) so you can show your UK doctor exactly what you were prescribed in your home country.

6. Cancel any subscriptions

If you have a home-country subscriptions or contracts like a cellphone contract that you won’t be using, make sure to cancel those. Most of these can be done remotely in the UK after you get here, but it’s helpful to do them ahead of time so you don’t forget and have less to worry about in the UK.

Maybe your local gym membership, any TV streaming memberships that you can’t use abroad, etc.

7. Rent and housing

I was living with my parents before coming to England so it made the transition easier.

If you’re living on your own, I’d honestly recommend moving in with your parents or a friend (if possible) before you go, even for a week or two to help with the timing.

It can be awkward emptying out your apartment to move here and getting the dates aligned properly – what if the landlord wants you out of the property on the 10th, but you’re not flying until the 20th, so you try to get them to extend the date but they’re being shitty about it, etc..

Because I was at my parents, I didn’t have to worry about aligning the dates properly. I could just go.

If that’s not a possibility, you’ll need to speak with your landlord to organise a move-out date, last rent payment and any final cleaning that’s required as part of your tenancy agreement.

8. Update your resume

While you’re still in your home country and you might have some spare time, I’d definitely consider updating your resume or as the Brits call it, your CV.

Check out this post if you’re struggling – I go over what best practices for UK resumes and include a template you can download and use yourself.

It’ll be pretty hectic when you first move, so getting your resume to it’s best possible state before you move is really helpful.

9. Apply for jobs?

Job hunting can go either way. Here’s what I did:

I started applying to UK jobs about one week before arriving. Any earlier would probably be a waste of time (because you’re not in the country for an interview) or you’d need to specify you’d be available for an online interview while still in your home country.


Part of me wishes I waited a week or two before applying so I could do some travelling around the UK before settling into everyday British life.

It’ll really depend on you and how much extra money you’ll have on whether you can wait to apply for jobs until after you’re in the UK.

So in terms of applying before leaving your home country – you could.. or you could wait.

If you’re worried about UK job interviews, check out my post with all my top tips.