facebookHow Much Do You Need to Work and Live in the UK?
Cost of living in UK

How Much Do You Need to Work and Live in the UK?

profileHui Juan Neo

Imagine sipping tea and eating biscuits while you stare across the street and Big Ben…wow, feels like you’re on a vacation, right?

Source: London Perfect

In case you don’t know, the United Kingdom (UK) has just announced a new visa scheme for graduates from the top 50 non-UK universities.

The High Potential Individual (HPI) visa is now open for application and this scheme offers visas to people who completed a degree from top universities outside the UK within the last five years.

In the latest Times Higher Education world ranking, the National University of Singapore (NUS) was placed 21st, while National Technological University was placed 46th.

Both universities are included in the British Home Office’s Top Global Universities list.

If you’re one of those who are qualified, this is a good opportunity if you’re thinking of switching jobs soon or have been wanting to work and live overseas (not the UK in particular).

TL;DR: Application Fees and Cost of Living, What Taxes or Fees Do You Need To Pay & Important Considerations You Must Have

Application ItemsEstimated Cost (£)Estimated Cost (SGD)
HPI Application Fee (one-off)£715SGD1,236.13
Personal SavingsAt least £1,270SGD1,270
Qualification Validity & English Proficiency Checks By Ecctis£210 (or £252 if you’re applying from the UK)SGD363.06 (or SGD435.67)
Total Cost For Preparation£2,195SGD3794.82
Recurring Costs
Healthcare Surcharge Per Year

Note: You can get a refund if you get a job in the public sector healthcare
Housing Rental
- 1 bedroom in City Centre
- 1 bedroom outside City Centre
City Centre: £1,768.37 per month
Outside city centre: £1,278.60 per month

Subtotal for a year:
City Centre: £21,220.44
Outside city centre £15,343.2
City Centre: SGD3,057.24 per month
Outside city centre: SGD2,210.50 per month

Subtotal for a year:
City Centre: SGD36,686.91
Outside city centre: SGD26,526.05
- gas, electricity, water, cooling, garbage
- Mobile
- Internet
£276.88 per month

Subtotal for a year:
SGD478.68 per month

Subtotal for a year:
- Groceries
- Inexpensive Restaurants (once a week with beer)
- Daily coffee
Groceries: £67.57 per month
Inexpensive Restaurants: £104 per month
Daily Coffee: £96.90 per month

Subtotal for a year:
Groceries: SGD116.82 per month
Inexpensive Restaurants: SGD179.80 per month
Daily Coffee: SGD167.53 per month

Subtotal for a year:
Transport (Monthy Rail Pass)£160 per month

Subtotal for a year:
SGD276.62 per month

Subtotal for a year:
Total Monthly Cost£1,983.95 to £2,473.72SGD3,429.95 to SGD4,276.68
Total Recurring Cost for 1 Year£23,807.4 to £29,684.64SGD41,159.37 to SGD51,320.22
Total Recurring Cost for 2 Years£48,238.8 to £60,617.28SGD83,397.53 to SGD104,798.04

Click here to jump: 

Note: Costs were sourced from Gov.uk, Business Tech, Wise and Numbeo and currency conversions may differ daily without prior notice. 

Application Fees and Cost of Living

HPI Visa Application

For a starter, you don’t need to have a job offer to qualify for the HPI visa.

Source: Tenor

After arriving in the UK, visa holders with a bachelor’s or master’s degree will have two years to look for a job, while those with a PhD will be given three years to look for jobs.

An HPI visa lasts for two years. If you have a PhD or other doctoral qualification, it will last for three years.

The application fee is £715 (SGD1,236.31).

Visa holders can look for jobs in any industry.

To be eligible, applicants have to meet these criteria:

  • Graduated from University in the last five years (From 1 November 2016 onwards)
  • The qualification must be the same level as UK Bachelor’s degree, Postgraduate, PhD or doctorate, checked by Ecctis
  • Prove your knowledge of English, checked by Ecctis
  • Prove that you have enough personal savings of at least £1,270 for at least 28 days to support yourself

You would also need to pay for a Healthcare Surcharge of £624 (SGD1,078.80) to use the hospital utilities in the UK.

This will be refunded if you are a public healthcare sector employee.

Just these preparations alone, you need to have £2,195 (SGD3,794.82).

Source: Tenor

Yup, just applications alone, you need to pay that much.

Also, once your HPI visa has expired, you will not be able to extend the HPI but will be able to switch to a different visa, a Skilled Worker visa.

This visa requires allows you to go or stay in the UK to do an eligible job with an approved employer, and allows you to stay up to five years. 

Cost of Living in the UK as a Single in London

We’re using London as the main example as it has the largest number of migrants among all regions of the UK.

In 2020, London was ranked among the 10 most expensive cities to live in Europe.

Virtually everything (except alcohol and cars) is more expensive than in Singapore.

Source: Tenor

Property in Singapore tends to be on the costly side, but so is London.

The rent that you will pay in the UK varies depending on where you live and the type of accommodation you have.

If you’re single, the average monthly cost of living and renting a one-bedroom will cost you a whopping £1,983.95 to £2,473.72.

This is SGD3,429.95 to SGD4,276.68!

Actually, this cost is actually comparable to a single renting a one-bedroom flat in Singapore’s city centre.

According to Wise, SGD2,820 for rental and SGD1,336 for living expenses, hence SGD4,156 per month.

Cost of Living in the UK as a Family of Four in London

Source: Tenor

If you’re married, you can be accompanied by a dependent partner over the age of 18 and dependent children under the age of 18.

According to Numbeo, the cost of living (without rental) for a family of four is £3,212.63.

The average 3-bedroom rental is £3,294.74 (City Centre) and £2,162.28 (Outside City Centre).

Therefore, your monthly family & living expenses are estimated to be £5,374.91 to £6,507.37 (SGD9,286.30 to SGD11,242.86 )!

You can also use Numbeo’s Cost of Living calculator to toggle to your preference.

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Taxes You Need To Pay

Value-Added Taxes (VAT)

Similar to Singapore’s Good and Services Tax (GST), the Value-Added Taxes (VAT) in the UK apply to almost all goods and services.

If you import or order items online from outside the UK and the total does not exceed £135, you pay VAT of about 20% at the point of sale.

Source: Expatica

Personal Income Tax In The UK

In general, expat residents must pay British tax at the same rates as British citizens.

Taxes are charged on most things including remuneration and perks, school tuition and cost-of-living allowances.

How much income tax you pay in each tax year depends on whether your income is above your Personal Allowance, and which tax band your income falls within.

Individuals are allowed a personal allowance of £12,570 for the tax year 2022/23, making income below this level tax-free.

For your information, UK income taxes and National Insurance contributions (social security) are deducted automatically from the paychecks of most people who earn money from an employer.

Also, UK’s income tax is imposed at progressive rates, with higher rates applied to higher-income bands.

After deductions and allowances, the tax is charged on total income from all earned and investment sources.

Source: Expatica

From £12,571 to £50,270, the tax rate is 20% but jumps up to 40% for taxable income between £50,271 to £150,000.

According to Statista’s 2021 report, the average annual earnings for full-time employees in London is £39,716, i.e., SGD68,668.85.

You’ll need to be quite a baller with a well-paying career to keep up with the high living costs (including income tax).

Don’t forget to calculate your effective take-home pay to see if taking up a job there is worth it as tax rates for higher incomes can be sky-high too.

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Important Considerations You Must Have

1. Core Inflation Rate

Now, we’ve talked about the average salary in the UK being £39,716, i.e. SGD68,668.85 (SGD5,722.40 per month).

Trading Economics

But, do you know that Core Inflation Rate in the UK increased 6.2% year-on-year in April of 2022?

This is much higher than Singapore’s 3.3% as of April 2022.

A good job must be able to put food on the table too, especially with inflation and rising costs of living.

With inflation an ongoing trend, the cost of living would only become more expensive over time. 

If you intend to job-hop, remember to negotiate for a salary increment of 10% to 15%.

2. Overseas Exposures And Experience

What’re the things that come to your mind when you’re considering working overseas?

Exposures, Experiences!


Being overseas allows you to network with not just the British, but also people from around the world. 

If you’re heading back to Singapore after staying in the UK, your experiences could be a good value-add to your resume.

Most Singaporeans are (effectively) bilingual and this would actually give you an edge if your job is client-facing over there.  

Also, the bonus is that if you want to travel in Europe, your trip journey would’ve been reduced significantly because of the geographical location. 

3. Family And Friends

One of the main downsides of working overseas is definitely not being able to meet your loved ones as frequently. 

Friends of mine who are working overseas said that they often have to deal with the idea that they’re leaving their loved ones behind.

This feeling worsens when unexpected things happen, such as the sudden death of a family member. 

Source: Giphy

It is not possible to always prepare for every situation.

Working overseas is a huge matter that you should really speak to your loved ones about. 

4. Cultural Differences, Work And Overseas Environment

Although working overseas might have been a dream for some, there are also people who regretted their decisions. 

One of our dearest community members sounded out that he/she did not like working in the UK specifically.

As the reasons are unclear, we could only assume that ‘I just don’t like the way things are in London’ refers to a clash in cultures and lifestyles. 

Perhaps, the writer had an unpleasant counter.

Anyhow, it’s worth noting that there will be differences in lifestyles, environments, and the people you see. All these require a lot of getting used to.

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So, Would You Apply To Work In The UK?

Apart from the HPI, there are also other work visas in the UK that you can consider. 

What are your thoughts on working in the UK and what are some other countries you have been to, or have considered before?

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About Hui Juan Neo
A savvy shopper and foodie at heart, I'm always on a lookout for discounts and deals to snag the best bargains.
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