Moving tips

Tips for foreign nationals looking to rent or buy a home in the UK




Looking to move to the UK, but not sure how? Here’s some of the things you need to think about as a foreign national planning to relocate.

There are all sorts of reasons why people may need to move to the UK, such as a change in family circumstances or a new job. 

But whether you are relocating for business purposes or personal reasons, moving to a new country can be one of the biggest life transitions you can ever make. 

Given ongoing Brexit negotiations, there are still a lot of unknowns as to what the future holds. 

But while the process for anyone moving to the UK may be stressful,it can also be a rewarding experience. 

Here we look at some of the things you need to consider to make the transition as smooth as possible. 

How to find a property

You may be familiar with the major property portals in your own country, but not sure where to start when it comes to finding a property to live in in the UK. 

For example, if you currently live in Germany, you may be aware or Immobilien Scout 24. The UK equivalent of German Immobilien Scout 24 property portal is Zoopla. 

You can use Zoopla to help find properties to rent or buy in your chosen town or city.

The site also offers information on all sorts of things, such as sold house prices, area trends and statistics, and current value estimates, and how much it will cost you to run your chosen property.

How to research an area

As a foreign national, you may not know much about the area you are moving to – so research is key to help you find out things about local amenities, such as shops, pubs and schools – as well as the transport infrastructure and crime rates.

Read more about sites you can use to get the inside scoop on an area at How to check out the area you want to move to

Get your paperwork in order


If you are looking to rent from a private landlord in the UK, you will need to provide identification and should expect a full reference to be carried out. 

Your landlord will want to check that you are eligible to rent in the UK. It’s called Right to Rent and means providing original copies of documents that prove your ID and your right to reside in the UK. 

Chris Norris, director of Policy and Practice at the National Landlords Association, says: “Landlords who let property in England have a legal obligation to check this, including further checks if the tenant only has a limited time to remain – either after 12 months or when their leave expires.” 

The referencing process is usually completed online or through an agency for British nationals. 

Norris adds: “Tenants from outside the UK should make sure they can produce details of their employment, expected earnings and character references, if available.” 

Are there different rules for EEA (European Economic Area) nationals and non-EEA nationals?

The short answer is ‘no’ as everyone has to go through Right to Rent checks. 

However, these are more stringent on non-EEA nationals than they are on EEA nationals. 

Right to Rent is a new set of rules which puts the onus on landlords to check their tenant has the legal right to rent in the UK, with the aim of clamping down on illegal migrants. 

David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, says: “Under the Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016, all prospective tenants are required to demonstrate that they have the right to live in the UK. 

“Providing a current or expired passport is sufficient for EEA nationals,. But non-EEA nationals – including Commonwealth nationals – are required to provide a valid passport together with a valid visa.” 

You will need to present these documents to the agent or landlord in person before signing in the contract. 

This can be difficult before arriving in the UK for the first time, so in practice, you can scan the documents to the agent before signing the contract. 

Then, when you come to collect the keys, you’ll undertake the legal Right to Rent check.

More details around the documents you need, as well as a printable checklist, are available in this user guide. 

Are there any other checks?

As long as you have one day left on your visa when the tenancy starts, you can lawfully rent a property for 12 months.

Non-EEA nationals must then undertake a ‘follow-up check’ – either 12 months after the tenancy starts, or on the expiry of their visa, whichever is later. 

Failure to undertake ‘follow-up checks’ on non-EEA nationals can result in a £3,000 fixed penalty notice for agents. 

In addition, if the ‘follow-up check’ reveals that the non-EEA national no longer has the right to live in the UK, landlords and agents are required to notify the Home Office. Once again, failure to do so could result in a £3,000 fixed penalty notice.


If you are a foreign national looking to move to the UK, you may want to buy a property. 

This could be a new family home, or simple a temporary residence. To do so, you will need to provide the right paperwork. 

Are there different rules for EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals?

EEA nationals are treated the same as UK nationals when buying a flat or house in the UK and will need to supply proof of ID and address.

Non-EEA nationals are treated a little differently, depending on a number of factors. In addition to providing proof of ID and address, they will also need evidence of a visa. 

Mark Harris, chief executive of broker, SPF Private Clients, says: “If you are borrowing to fund your purchase, the lender chosen could be influenced by visa type and time remaining on it, and time spent in the country – as well as the usual loan, loan-to-value, and loan-to-income factors.’

What else do I need to know?

If you meet the necessary criteria and are looking to take out a standard UK residential mortgage, you can compare thousands of deals with Zoopla’s partner

If you are struggling to get a mortgage as a foreign national, it may be worth seeking professional help from an independent broker who can scour the market for you to find the right deal. 

Making the move

Once you have everything sorted on your new home in the UK, you will need to give some serious consideration to the packing and shipping arrangements. 

Shop around for quotes and find out whether firms offer a packing service – or just a moving service. For more tips, read Removals: 10 tips from the experts

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