While the United Kingdom may not be your traditional digital nomad destination, the UK still beckons with its rich history, friendly locals, and of course, great tea! If you’ve ever thought about making your home in the UK, visiting famous London sights, and checking out the neighborhood pubs, you may wonder whether or not the UK, like many other countries in the world, has a digital nomad visa.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about becoming a digital nomad in the UK. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Does the UK Have a Digital Nomad Visa?
No, the UK does not have a specific digital nomad visa. However, this doesn’t mean digital nomads cannot temporarily move here. A digital nomad life is still possible in the UK with the help of alternative visas, such as the Standard Visitor Visa, Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, and the High Potential Individual Visa. Most digital nomads will opt for one of these three visas to legally work and stay in the country.
Who Can Apply for the UK Digital Nomad Visa?
Between the Standard Visitor Visa, the Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, and the High Potential Individual Visa, pretty much anybody can apply to become a digital nomad in the UK. As long as you have a valid passport, you should be eligible.
When it comes to the Standard Visitor Visa, most digital nomads may not even need to apply for a visa in the first place. Check here to see if you need a visa or not. If you don’t, while you still need to meet the Standard Visitor Visa requirements, you can simply show up!
The Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, on the other hand, is only eligible for passport-holders, generally aged 18 to 30, of the following countries:
- New Zealand (aged 18 to 35)
- San Marino
- Hong Kong (via ballot)
- Japan (via ballot)
- South Korea (via ballot)
- Taiwan (via ballot)
Finally, in order to apply for the High Potential Individual Visa, you must have a qualification from an eligible university.
Alternatives to the Digital Nomad Visa in the UK
Since the UK does not have a specific digital nomad visa, there are three alternative visas digital nomads can get: the Standard Visitor Visa, the Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, and the High Potential Individual Visa.
Standard Visitor Visa
Digital nomads can go to the UK as a Standard Visitor for up to 6 months. 6 months is generally more than enough time for most digital nomads, so this would be the most popular choice for digital nomads wanting to check out the United Kingdom. As a plus, you may not even need to apply for a visa in the first place! However, even if you don’t need a visa, you’ll still need to meet the Standard Visitor requirements to visit the UK.
As a Standard Visitor, the primary purpose of your visit must be for:
- to see family or friends
- to volunteer for up to 30 days
- to transit to another country
- for certain business activities
- school exchange
- for certain recreational courses up to 30 days
- to study or take an exam
- as an academic, senior doctor, or dentist
- for medical reasons
Requirements for the UK Standard Visitor Visa
- You must leave the UK at the end of your visit
- You must be able to financially support yourself during your visit
- You must be able to pay for your return or onward journey
- You cannot live in the UK for extended periods or make the UK your home base
How to Apply for the UK Standard Visitor Visa: Step-by-Step Guide
Step One: Make Sure You Need a Visa
First things first, make sure you need to apply for this visa in the first place. You can check this here. Even if you are from a country that does not require a visa to enter the UK, we recommend applying for the Standard Visitor Visa if you have been refused entry in the past or have a criminal record.
Step Two: Apply Online
3 months before you travel, apply online.
Step Three: Pay the Fees
At this point, you’ll need to pay the visa application fee of £115.
Step Four: Provide Documents
To support your application, book an appointment at a visa application center. At this appointment, you will need to bring your passport, get biometric information taken, and provide any other required documents.
Step Five: Get Accepted
You should get your answer within 3 weeks of proving your identity and providing documents.
Youth Mobility Scheme Visa
If you want to be able to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years and are from an eligible country, you may apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme Visa.
Requirements for the UK Youth Mobility Scheme Visa
- You must be from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Monaco, San Marino, Iceland, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan
- You must be aged 18 to 30 (or 18 to 35 if you’re from New Zealand)
- You must have £2,530
How to Apply for the UK Youth Mobility Scheme Visa: Step-by-Step Guide
Step One: Check Your Eligibility
Unlike the Standard Visitor Visa, not everyone can apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme Visa. Before you proceed, check that you are eligible to apply.
As an extra step, if you’re from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan, you must first be selected on the ballot before applying for the visa.
Step Two: Gather Necessary Documents
In order to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme Visa, you’ll need the following documents:
- A valid passport
- A bank statement with at least £2,530 in savings
- Your TB test results (if applicable)
Step Three: Apply Online
Apply for the visa online. You can save your application and return to it at any time. You will need to pay the application fee at this time, which is £298, as well as the healthcare surge, which is generally £470 a year. You can check how much of the healthcare surcharge you must pay here.
Step Four: Prove Your Identity and Provide Documents
To support your application, you must prove your identity and provide supporting documents (if applicable). To do this, you will either:
- Get your fingerprints and photo taken at a visa application center.
- Use the UK Immigration ID Check app to scan your passport.
Step Five: Get Accepted
Once you have completed the above steps, you’ll get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.
High Potential Individual Visa
The final alternative for digital nomads wanting to check out the UK is the High Potential Individual (HPI) Visa. The HPI visa allows you to stay in the UK for 2 years (3 years if you have a PhD or equivalent). But in order to qualify, you must have a qualification from an eligible university in the last 5 years, which automatically rules out a huge percentage of digital nomads.
Note that you can only apply for the HPI Visa once!
Requirements for the UK High Potential Individual Visa
- You must have a qualification from an eligible university
- Your qualification must be the equivalent of a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, PhD, or doctorate
- You must prove your knowledge of English (at least a B1 level on the CEFR scale)
- You must have at least £1,270 in savings
How to Apply for the UK High Potential Individual Visa: Step-by-Step Guide
Step One: Apply to Ecctis
Apply to Ecctis to check that your qualification is valid. The fee for Ecctis to check your qualification is £210 or £252 if you’re applying from the UK.
Step Two: Gather Documents
To apply for the HPI Visa, you will need a valid passport and proof of knowledge of English. In some cases, you may also need to prove your biometric residence permit (BRP) or proof of immigration status, proof of relationship with partner/children if they’re applying with you, or TB test results.
Step Three: Apply Online
Apply for the HPI Visa online. You will need to pay the application fee of £822 and the healthcare surcharge of around £624 for each year you’ll be in the UK.
Step Four: Get Accepted
After completing all the above steps, you will get a decision within 3 weeks if you’re applying from outside the UK or 8 weeks if you’re inside the UK.
Extending the UK Digital Nomad Visa
Depending on the type of visa you apply for, you may or may not be able to extend your UK visa as a digital nomad.
- Standard Visitor Visa – You can extend your stay for up to a total of 6 months, if you had received permission for less than 6 months initially. You can apply to stay for longer than 6 months in very specific situations. The fee to extend your stay is £1,000.
- Youth Mobility Scheme Visa – If you’re from New Zealand, you can extend your visa for another year. If you’re from Australia or Canada, you can extend your visa for another year from 31 January 2024.
- HPI Visa – You cannot extend your HPI Visa, but you can switch to a different visa if you want to stay longer in the UK.
Cost of the UK Digital Nomad Visa
The cost also depends on the type of visa you apply for as a digital nomad.
- Standard Visitor Visa – £115 application fee
- Youth Mobility Scheme Visa – £298 application fee; ~£470 healthcare surge per year
- HPI Visa – £210 or £252 Ecctis fee; £822 application fee; ~£624 healthcare surge per year
How Long Does It Take to Get a Digital Nomad Visa in the UK?
In most cases, after you apply online, prove your identity, and provide any needed documents, you’ll get a decision within 3 weeks. However, in the case of the HPI visa, if you apply for this within the UK, you will hear back within 8 weeks.
Can You Work in the UK as a Digital Nomad on a Standard Visitor Visa?
When you are on a Standard Visitor Visa, you can technically work in the UK as a digital nomad. While most other countries ban remote work outright, the UK is more lenient, with rules reminiscent of those of the New Zealand Visitor Visa. Basically, as long as your primary purpose of travel to the UK is for tourism, you can work as a digital nomad on the side. The only thing you cannot do is work for a UK company while in the country.
Tax Requirements for Digital Nomads in the UK
Most digital nomads tend to travel around and don’t stay in one place for more than 6 months. If this is the case for you, you do not have to worry about paying any taxes in the UK. However, if you stay in the UK for more than 183 days during the tax year, you will be a tax resident. As a tax resident of the UK, you will be subject to paying taxes as follows:
|Up to £12,570
|£12,571 to £50,270
|£50,271 to £125,140
Is the UK a Good Place for Digital Nomads?
The UK is a dream destination for many the country, and is the perfect destination for many digital nomads. For citizens of English-speaking countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it is also a huge benefit to live in a country so close to Europe that speaks English! Here are a few standout pros and cons of living in the UK as a digital nomad.
|Free healthcare. As a digital nomad, you may have access to free healthcare, depending on the type of visa you get.
|Long NHS waiting lists. Unfortunately, there is a lack of funding for the universal healthcare system, so there is a long waiting list just to see a doctor.
|Diversity. The UK has a long history of immigration, making it a very diverse place, especially in big cities like London, Manchester, and Edinburgh.
|Bad weather. The UK is known for its dreary rain. Although the rain is generally pretty light, the whole atmosphere becomes rather gray.
|Proximity to the rest of Europe. Located in Europe, the UK is a great base to explore the rest of the continent. You’ll find plenty of flights to other countries during your stay.
|High cost of living. Especially if you live in London, the cost of living is definitely not for the fainthearted! Housing prices, food, and utilities are all pretty pricey.
|Arts, music, and sports. You’ll have access to some of the world’s leading arts, culture, and sports events in the UK’s major cities. There’s always plenty to do.
|Rowdy football. Particularly if you’re not the biggest fan of football, the rowdy football fans can be a bit of a culture shock when you first move to the UK.
Best Places to Live in the UK for Digital Nomads
There’s really no shortage of where you can live in the UK as a digital nomad. Between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Island, there’s a huge range of places to choose from. While it’s hard to narrow down the best places to live, here are some of the most popular destinations for digital nomads in the UK.
Of course, any list of the best places to live in the UK is incomplete without mention of London. A diverse and bustling metropolis, London is a huge, sprawling city with a population of almost 9 million! It’s a popular destination for pretty much anything you want to do – shopping, eating, partying, and even walking. The city also boasts a huge range of free museums and galleries, so you’ll have no shortage of things to do on any day! Furthermore, there are plenty of coffee shops scattered all across the city, and you definitely have your pick of coworking spaces in this city. The biggest drawback of living in London? The insanely high cost of living!
The capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh, is famous for its gorgeous architecture, culture, and even natural beauty in the surrounding hills. Imagine working at a cafe in Edinburgh with a view of the iconic Edinburgh Castle sitting on top of an extinct volcano or attending the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest performance arts festival in the world! The city also boasts a thriving arts scene, delicious food, and a fun nightlife. And as a digital nomad, you’ll find plenty of cafes and coworking spaces to work in.
For digital nomads looking for an alternative to London in England, Bristol is a great choice. This city has a fun music scene, festivals, and markets and boasts some interesting history and beautiful natural beauty to boot. You’ll never be bored in Bristol, as there is plenty to do to keep you occupied, including a bustling nightlife, delicious restaurants, and plenty of museums, galleries, and historical sites. If you want to go out and explore, there are many outdoor activities, including boating, hiking, and cycling. For those foodies out there, Bristol boasts an awesome street food scene, where you can find food stalls, pop-up bars, and even markets.
Another popular digital nomad destination in England is Manchester. Manchester boasts a rich cultural heritage, and you can visit the city’s museums and galleries to your heart’s content. The city also boasts a variety of cultural and recreational activities, including a thriving sports scene, plenty of museums and galleries, and a lively nightlife. Football fans will especially love living in Manchester, as it is home to two of the world’s best football clubs: Manchester United and Manchester City. And don’t worry; besides football, you can also check out craft beer shops, street art, street food, and other hipster hangouts.
An oft-overlooked digital nomad destination in the UK is Cardiff. Cardiff is the perfect combination of an urban lifestyle and natural beauty. There are plenty of cafes and coworking spaces you can work in, making it a perfect destination for digital nomads. And since Cardiff has a thriving startup scene, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to network with fellow expats and digital nomads. When you’re not working, you can explore the city’s historical sites, museums, art galleries, shopping, restaurants, and more. Cardiff also has plenty of city parks and green spaces.
Cost of Living in the UK for Digital Nomads
The cost of living in the UK highly depends on where you decide to live. To show you just how much the cost of living can vary, we will cover the cost of living in London and Cardiff.
Accommodation is no doubt one of the biggest expenditures for any digital nomad. In London, a one-bedroom flat will set you back around £1,500 to £3,000 a month, depending on where in London you rent. Meanwhile, a one-bedroom flat in Cardiff generally ranges from £800 to £1,200 a month.
Food is another major consideration when it comes to the cost of living. In London, a single digital nomad may spend around £200 to £300 a month on groceries, while a digital nomad in Cardiff may spend more around £200 a month.
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant in London will cost £10 to £20, whereas the same generally ranges from £10 to £15 in Cardiff. On the other hand, if you want to spend some money on a nicer mid-range restaurant for dinner, expect to shell out £25 or more in London and £20 or more in Cardiff.
Healthcare in the UK for Digital Nomads
Depending on the type of visa you get, you may have access to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. If you are just visiting on a Standard Visitor Visa or without a visa (if applicable), however, you will not have access to the NHS. In this case, you will need to purchase your own travel and medical insurance to cover you during your stay. Here’s our list of the best insurance options for digital nomads if you’re unsure which provider to go with.
On the other hand, if you arrive in the UK with a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa or a High Potential Individual Visa as part of your application, you will have paid the healthcare surcharge. By paying the healthcare surcharge, you can access the UK’s universal healthcare system, the NHS. The NHS covers or subsidizes many areas of care, including dental, optical, mental health, physical therapy, and prescription medication.
However, it’s important to note that while the NHS covers many areas, there is a long waiting list. In fact, in some cases, you may even wait up to years (yes, years!) for certain appointments!
Best Coworking Spaces in the UK
There’s really no shortage of coworking spaces in the UK, but here are some of the best ones in the cities mentioned above.
- Paddington Works (London) – £25/day, £350/month for hot desking, £450/month for a dedicated desk, or £575 a month for a studio. 24/7 access, fast wifi, access to members’ events, and dog friendly.
- Tribe Porty (Edinburgh) – £32 for 2 days a month, £69 for 5 days a month, £99 for 8 days a month, £140 for 12 days a month, and £155 for unlimited hot desking a month. Fibre optic broadband, kitchen, meeting spaces, and social opportunities.
- Raw Space (Bristol) – £64/month for 30 hours a month, £109/month for 60 hours a month, £219/month for unlimited access, or £250/month for a permanent desk. 24/7 access, hi-speed connection, coffee, car park, roof garden, dog friendly, and shower.
- Colony (Manchester) – £20/day, £200/month for hot desking, £250/month for a dedicated desk, or £300/month for a private office. 24/7 access, spaces, and meeting rooms, snacks and hot drinks, dog friendly, and events.
- Rabble Studio (Cardiff) – £75/month for 6 days a month, £120/month for full access, £240/month for a dedicated desk. High-speed wifi, meeting room, meet-ups, tea and coffee, dog friendly, and bike storage.
How to Find a Place to Live in the UK
Once you have your visa and you arrive safely in the United Kingdom, it’s time to find a place to call home for the next few months or however long you decide to stay! But before you start your search, it’s important to have an idea of what to look for. Here are some things to consider before you put down a deposit on a flat:
- Strong internet connection: As a digital nomad, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a strong wifi connection in your home. Not all flats will come with internet, but if it does, always check the wifi speed beforehand to ensure that the internet can handle your workload.
- Location: Some questions to ask yourself when it comes to location include: Which neighborhood do I want to live in? Is the flat walking distance to public transportation (if needed)? Is the flat near amenities, such as a supermarket, cafe, and some restaurants?
- Flatmates: The UK is definitely not the cheapest digital nomad destination. And one way to help cut costs is to live with a flatmate or flatmates. Decide if you’d rather live alone but pay a hefty penny or live with others and save some cash.
- Furnished: Not all flats in the UK come furnished, but if you are only staying a short while, it might be better to find a furnished flat rather than one you’ll need to furnish yourself. This is less of a concern if you plan to stay for more than a year.
Where to Find a Place to Live in the UK
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start the search for a place to live in the UK. There are several different ways you can find accommodation.
Word of Mouth
A tried and true method of finding accommodation anywhere is through word of mouth. If you already know somebody who lives in the area you want to move to, reach out to them. They may have a spare room in their flat or may know someone who is subletting their flat for a few months. You never know what kind of accommodation options you’ll come across just by asking around.
Another great resource is a rental website. The ones listed below are some of the main resources for those looking for accommodation in the UK.
Join Facebook Groups
Check out Facebook Marketplace for available rentals in your chosen area. You can also join Facebook groups specifically made to help renters find a place to stay. You can easily find these groups by searching (city you want to live in) rent or flat. Popping in these keywords should give you a whole list of options for Facebook groups to join in your chosen area.
Travel Accommodation Sites
A final option for finding accommodation in the UK is using a travel accommodation site. We don’t generally recommend travel accommodation sites (read more on our ethics page), but these can be super helpful when you are first starting out your search for your more permanent base in the UK.
Say Hello to the Digital Nomad Life in the UK!
While the UK may not have a specific digital nomad visa, digital nomads wanting to move to this part of the world need not fret! There are plenty of opportunities to move to the UK with the help of digital nomad visa alternatives, like the Standard Visitor Visa and Youth Mobility Scheme Visa. And once you get these visas, the entirety of the UK is open for you to explore while you work remotely.
If you’re still not sure whether or not the UK is the right destination for you, check out other digital nomad visas around the world, including the Thailand digital nomad visa and the Dubai remote work visa.