So you’ve packed up all your things and just arrived in London – congrats! Below you’ll find all the nitty-gritty stuff you need to know about settling in London that no one else likes to write about. I can’t say it isn’t boring, but it has the potential to save you from a lot of future headaches!
Settling Down in London
There are a few essential things you need in order to move to London and settle down. From my American perspective, I found a few aspects a bit difficult to grasp so I’m hoping this article will help those who have found moving to London to be more daunting than initially intended.
Getting a UK Bank Account
For the most part, banks will require you to have a mailing address before you can open a bank account. Some people have successfully used hostels and short term apartments as their address, but check ahead to see if both the bank and the residence is willing to go through with this. Additionally, some form of leave to remain will need to be shown as proof of your ability to stay in the UK, as well as a proof of employment. This presents an issue for a lot of us since we’ve come to the UK looking for a job. In order to circumvent this issue, I employed the services of 1st Contact, which sets up a bank account for you and can be arranged before you even arrive in the UK. While there are certainly other ways to get around this issue, this was easy and cost effective and I’d recommend it to those trying to move the UK without a job. Establishing a bank account is very important in the UK and the ability to open the account the day you arrive holds a lot of value.
If you are a student on a student visa and possess a letter of acceptance, there are several banks (HSBC comes to mind) which offer accounts for your particular needs. Typically all that is required is a proof of ID and a letter from your university.
If you have a bank account with over 75,000 GPB, then it is possible to open an international account with Citibank or HSBC without having to go through the hassle of proof of residence, etc.
Getting an NI Number
A national insurance number (NI Number) is similar to a US Social Security number in that it’s used as a tax ID. It’s required by UK employers and I wouldn’t start a job without one. Whilst there are other ways to obtain it, I personally used 1st Contact to obtain my ID. I simply filled out a form online and received my NI number in the mail shortly thereafter.
Getting an NHS Number and GP
All legal residents of the UK are covered by the National Health Service (NHS). In order to obtain a GP and book doctor’s appointments, it is critical to first find your local GP office. To do this, simply navigate to the NHS website here, type in your postcode, and contact the office closest to your home. They will provide you the instructions for signing up (a written or online form + passport + proof of residence + proof of your legal right to live in the UK). Once you have successfully signed up, you will receive your NHS card and NHS number in the post. (Read my thoughts on the NHS)
Finding a Place to Live in London
If you’re looking to rent a flat but do not currently have a job and cannot pay the entire rental amount for the term in cash, then it is best to stick with either private landlords, short term apartments or flat shares. Letting agents typically will not accept renters without a verifiable source of income. The only exception is if you have a guarantor, which is someone who will sign a statement saying that they will pay for your rent if necessary. MOST letting agencies will require the guarantor to be British, making it even more difficult for foreigners to gain entry into the market.
If you have either cash, income or a guarantor, feel free to seek flats or homes offered by letting agencies. While each agency is different, here is the breakdown of typical fees for renting a flat:
Admin Fee: One-time charge of anywhere between 150 GBP and 350 GBP
Reference Check Fee: Approx. 50 GBP/person, some agencies charge extra for foreigners
Security Deposit: Normally 6-weeks rent
1st Month’s Rent: Due with the fees listed above
You and your partner both have jobs in London and have just agreed to let a flat for 300 GBP/week. Here is what would be due upon the move-in date:
Admin Fee: 150 GBP
Reference Check Fee: 50 x 2 people = 100 GBP
Security Deposit: 1800 GBP
1st Month’s Rent: 1300 GBP
Total Due at Move in: 3350 GBP
Some letting agencies will charge a deposit of 1-2 week’s rent when you make an offer on a flat. If the offer goes through, this deposit amount will be subtracted from your total move in costs.
Most letting agencies will charge an additional inventory fee (a few hundred GBP) at the end of the lease term.