The LHA London Guide to moving to the UK
Whether you are just thinking about moving to London, or you’re counting down the days until you board that plane, there are some important things you need to think about before making the big move. So, before you get carried away with finding the best rooftop bars and Instagram worthy eateries, make sure you have a read through this handy guide covering all the essentials, along with some top tips, to help you start your new life in London.
Do you need a visa?
At the moment you do not need a visa to work or study in the UK if you are part of the UE. However, this could change in the future, so to be on the safe side we always recommend double checking.
If you do not hold a UK or EU passport then there is a good chance that you will need a visa. Simply answer a few quick questions to find out if you require one and to get some more information on the different types of visas available, via the following link: gov.uk/check-uk-visa. To find out more on how much a visa will cost you, follow this link: gov.uk/visa-fees.
How to get a National Insurance Number
In the UK, every employee between 16 and 65 years old who earns above a certain threshold must pay tax on their earnings. This tax is calculated through your National Insurance Number, which is why it is vital you have one if you want to work in the UK.
If you weren’t born in the UK, chances are you don’t have a National Insurance Number, but don’t worry getting one is straightforward. You can only apply for a National Insurance Number once you have arrived in the UK and only if you have the right to work or study in the UK. It is completely free (do not use any website that charges for this service) and we recommend applying via the telephone number provided on this link: gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number.
Tip: Have a pen and paper ready to jot down any reference numbers and you will need your passport and visa to hand.
Opening a bank account
The biggest four banks in the UK are Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS/NatWest and you can find them online and on many high streets around London. To open a UK bank account, you will need to make sure you have two documents, one to prove your identity and one to prove your address.
Proving your identity is simple, a passport, driving licence or valid identity card (EU) will suffice. A proof of address can be a number of different documents, for example a tenancy agreement, recent electricity or gas bill or a recent bank or credit card statement. If you are new to the UK some of these documents may be harder for you to obtain, speak to your specific bank as they will have a list of what documents they accept and should be able to help you. If you are a student, many banks will accept a letter from your University confirming your address. At LHA London, we can provide you with a ‘proof of address’ letter.
Your home bank may be able to set up an account for you if it has a correspondent banking relationship with a British bank, so this is another option to look into before you leave for the UK.
Recently, a number of app-based banks have opened, this is an easy way to open a UK bank account as you only need a proof of identity. Take a look online to see what is available.
Tip: Take a look at TransferWise if you need to move your money between UK and overseas bank accounts, they currently provide great rates.
How do you access health care in the UK?
The UK have a reciprocal health care agreement with certain countries entitling residents to hospital treatment. Many agreements are of limited use and do not cover all types of treatment so please do check the agreement between your home country and the UK.
If you are a non-European student coming over to the UK to study, you will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of your visa application fee (Tier 4 student visa). The cost of this is £150 per year if you are studying for 6 months or longer, and £75 if you are studying for 6 months or less. This will allow you free access to NHS care in the same way as a UK resident at a doctors surgery, healthcare centre or hospital.
You can find more information on accessing healthcare in the UK via the following link: ukcisa.org.uk/Information–Advice/Studying–living-in-the-UK/Health-and-healthcare.
Don’t forget, you also have the option to take out private medical insurance, although you will have to pay a monthly or annual fee for this.
Tip: If you already have medical insurance in your home country, check whether you can extend it to cover your stay in the UK.
What’s the deal with your mobile phone abroad?
Most mobile phone providers now allow you to use your mobile data allowance whilst abroad (you will need to double-check your particular contract and what it includes). If you are going to be spending a while in the UK it may be worth getting a UK sim card and phone plan.
Some popular providers are Vodafone, O2, Three and EE. Simply pop into your local store or browse their current deals online to get started.
Tip: Check which destinations are covered by your mobile phone provider before you get to the UK. If the UK is not included in your plan you may be able to add it on at an additional monthly cost.
What’s the best way to get around London?
Getting around London can be pretty hectic at times! Although there are plenty of ways to do this including the tubes (London Underground), buses, cycling, taxis and walking.
To find your way around London it is best to download some handy apps for your phone.
- Citymapper is perfect for finding your way around London, it will help you plan the best possible route. It provides you with up-to-the-minute information and multiple route options.
- Tube Map helps you to plan your journey on the London Underground by showing you the different tube lines you can get to travel between stations.
- Uber is great for booking taxis and is very quick and reasonably priced.
- Gett is an easy way to book a black cab in London.
The best way to pay for tubes, trains and buses is by an oyster card or contactless bank card. If you are using London transport most days for work or university it will cap your journeys at a daily or weekly rate. If you are using an oyster card download the TFL Oyster app to help you keep track of your oyster card. You can check your oyster card balance, top up your card and get notifications when your balance falls below £10. You can also buy weekly, monthly and yearly travelcards which can sometimes work out cheaper.
If cycling is more your thing you can pick up Santander cycles (often know as ‘Boris bikes’) to use across London from just £2. A healthier way to get around!
If you are staying at one of LHA London’s hostels we have a handy pocket-sized map of London with some of our favourite things to do plotted on it. Just ask at reception, and if you aren’t staying with us, simply pop in and our reception staff will be happy to help.
Tip: Always check the distance it will take you to walk to your destination, sometimes it can be just as quick as public transport.
What kind of accommodation do you need?
Do you need somewhere to start your journey? Most people who move to London either start off in a hostel or a house share. Read a bit more about why we think hostels are better than house shares here: lhalondon.com/blog-why-stay-in-a-london-hostel/.
With 13 hostels across central London, low deposits of just £200/£300 and only 7 days notice needed to leave, LHA London is the perfect place to start your London journey without the huge commitment.
From award-winning buildings, to traditional houses, we have a wide range of properties. We offer studios, singles, and shared rooms in catered and self-catered accommodation. We know it can be tough moving to a new country, but we have residents from all over the world, with similar circumstances. You’re bound to find a family at LHA.
Find out more about us here: lhalondon.com/about/.