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Administrative stuff to take care of when moving to the UK

July 18, 2009

As I’ve found out recently, the UK is not exactly the easiest country in the world for foreigners to move to, and it also isn’t exactly the most digitized. Navigating the maze of different rules and institutions depends on doing things in the right order. Here is that order:

  1. Get a pre-paid mobile phone – just walk into a shop and buy one. Lots of institutions want a UK phone number; you can’t get a mobile subscription until you have proof of residency. Get a pre-paid USB 3G dongle. You should get your dongle from Vodafone because with them your pre-paid bandwidth does not expire after a month.
  2. Get a residential address where you can receive mail. Lots of institutions require one. It cannot be a business address and it cannot be a post box. So ask a friend or collegue! Alternatively if you are going to go for a flatshare arrangement you might be able to get that by paying cash up front and that becomes your address.
  3. Get a bank account with Barclays. They seem to be the only bank that can easily deal with foreigners moving to the country. You cannot apply online. Find the local branch using the barclays website, and ring them or walk in for an appointment. A lot of the people at the branch will think they cannot help you, but you should usually be able to find at least one account manager that knows that (s)he can help you. For your appointment you will need your UK phone number, your UK address and two forms of ID (for example passport and drivers’ license). If you have an ID that has an address on it (does not have to be your UK address) that helps. Make it clear that you are already employed in the UK, that you get paid well, that your salary will go into this new account, and you are also happy to put some significant amount of cash in your new account immediately. Be prepared for the appointment to take at least two hours. Make sure to get online banking. You get your bank account number and sort code number immediately and your bank card and online banking details in 5-7 working days.
  4. Register for online banking on the barclays website.
  5. Give your bank details (bank, account number, sort code, local branch) to your employer.
  6. Get a flat or flatshare. findaproperty.com is the best site to use for finding a flat, moveflat.co.uk is the best site for finding a flatshare. Offering to pay rent in advance tends to take care of most housing agent concerns (like you not having a referral from another UK housing agent). You also have to be able to set up a standing order, for which you need bank account number, sort code number, and address details of your local bank branch.
  7. If you got your own flat, get a BT landline. You cannot do this online, instead call 0800 800 150. I called Friday at 7:30 pm and was helped quickly. You can order broadband at the same time if you want. Don’t bother trying to get a phone line anywhere else – its significantly more painful than going with BT.
  8. Walk into your local Barclays branch to change your address details. Bring your bank card, account details and identification.
  9. Give your new address details to your employer.
  10. Register for council tax with your local council. How to do so depends on the council; check their website. I e-mailed my council who then sent me forms to fill out and send back.
  11. Register for utilities (electricity, water, gas). Your landlord or agent should be able to help figure this out, though utilities are handled through a commercial setup so you have to pick a provider. Again you should set up standing orders/direct debit for paying your bill.
  12. If you own a TV, register for a TV License. You can do this online. Set up direct debit.
  13. Once your BT phoneline is set up, you can opt to get Sky satellite TV. If you live in a house or small block of flats you can do this online, otherwise you have to check with your landlord about whether there is a minidish for your block, and if there is, call sky at 08442 410 137.
  14. Once you get a utility bill, you can finally get a mobile phone subscription plan. When you walk into the shop, bring a utility bill, proof of ID (i.e. passport), bank and address details, and your landline phone number. (faking a utility bill is obviously not very hard, and I’ve heard reports from people that have done this to get a subscription.)
  15. Give your new phone details to your employer. If you care about your bank being able to call you, pay yet another visit to the local branch.
  16. Once you’ve received salary in your new bank account at least twice, you can apply for a credit card. With Barclays you can do this online as long as you’re already registered for online banking.
  17. Get a National insurance number. I have yet to try this out. According to this website I have to call 0845 600 0643 (8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday) and then go through an interview.
  18. Give your employer your national insurance number.

I was happy to have several collegues around that had been through the same process so I got many useful tips from them, but even then I found that all in all it takes quite a bit of calendar time for all these things to get sorted out. Because of that, I recommend to start with the first steps as soon as you know you’re moving to the UK.

Have you recently moved to the UK? Did you do things the same way or did perhaps find a more efficient route? Any hints or tips to share?

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10 Comments
  1. July 18, 2009 21:51

    Wow, this somewhat sounds like our move to NL. :) Have fun.

  2. July 19, 2009 10:00

    Hey Leo, great post. My girlfriend moved to the UK with me from Belgium last year, so she went through much of the same fun. Compared to moving TO Belgium, the UK is just an embarrassment in terms of our friendliness to foreign nationals. So, firstly: welcome to the UK, we really are happy to have you here, I’m sorry out country sucks ;-)

    On the list above:

    (1) look out for free wifi in the area you’re moving to. Try talking to a neighbour and asking if you can borrow theirs until your broadband arrives. Use Pret A Manger’s free wifi. All the mobile data tariffs suck.

    (3) NatWest can provide bank accounts, but be prepared to be saddled with a children’s account until the first couple of months’ wages have gone in. Actually, according to EU law, every bank should be able to give you an account … but many of them just don’t like to and throw as many barriers as possible in the way. Compare with Belgium, where I showed my passport, signed a bit of paper, and walked out after 10 minutes with a new euro account …

    (7) BT broadband are bad, and unfairly biased toward 18 month contracts, when many people typically move after 12 months (not to mention that you’re usually 1 month in to your house contract before they install and start billing). Be Broadband are great.

    (10) Depending on the area you live, it can be worth doing this as your first step once you have a property. Councils usually send out the paperwork very quickly, which you can then use as proof of ID/residence to bootstrap the other stuff (banks, etc).

    (11) uswitch.com can give you pointers on the cheapest source of utilities. It’s often worth switching even after you’ve chosen one, significant savings also if you bundle electricity/gas together and pay by direct debit.

    (17) Good luck with the NI card. 13 months into our move to the UK and the girlfriend still hasn’t got hers … but bear in mind that you DON’T need an NI card to take advantage of our free health service. It’s worth taking proof of uk residency with you when you register with the nearest GP (you have registered, haven’t you?), but as with banks, as an EU citizen, EU rules mean you’re entitled to healthcare. See http://www.nhs.uk/servicedirectories/Pages/serviceSearch.aspx to find your nearest GP.

    Enjoy your time in the UK!

  3. July 19, 2009 11:22

    Hi Leo,
    I wrote a rather large comment around this on Gianugo’s blog when we was moving over to the UK: http://boldlyopen.com/2008/02/14/time-for-a-change/

    I think you’ve already learnt the key things I mentioned there though and that you have it all under control. One thing on the TV front is that there are a lot of “FreeView” digital-only channels which Sky essentially advertise as part/most of their base product but you can just get a standard digital set top box and get them all that way as well. TV is still mostly rubbish but if you’re not getting the extra channels from Sky it will save a fair bit of money.

    Which part of the UK have you set up in?

  4. July 19, 2009 11:32

    Never mind, just reread your last post – joining the hordes of Apache committers at the BBC I see. :)

  5. Anton Tagunov permalink
    July 19, 2009 16:30

    Hi! Yes, pretty similar route. I’ve opted for HSBC passport account – 6 pounds a month or someth like 60 upfront – and you don’t need a UK address. The drawback – they won’t give a credit card until a year later.

    Once you have a proof of UK address – utility bill or smth other banks will become more friendly.

    If you intend to drive – at least occasionally say in a rented car – pls make sure you understand all the subtleties surrounding your driving license. Generally you can drive for a year on a foreign license. Then you’ve got to exchange your license of something – I’m not sure – depends on what country has issued your driving license. There’s a list of countries for which the exchange can be made. I’m not sure if you loose the original license you’ve had. For American license pls make sure if you can drive automatic transmission cars only or manual gear ones as well – manual gear ones are the most common variety in the UK

    And welcome to the UK!

    I’ve moved in last year, if you end up around London we could as well meet some time in person :)

  6. Anton Tagunov permalink
    July 19, 2009 16:37

    Also – bikes a big thing here. My colleague has bought a used racer bike from ebay for 400 quids. Well he’s got to do some repairs on it now already – but generally he’s been quite happy with it. I’d say the price of the bike compares very favourably with transport ticket prices.

    Unfortunately he also had to get a face mask to protect himself from the fumes and a very heavy chain to protect his bike from being stolen.

    I’ve gotten mine for 200 quids (also used) but it’s a mountain bike which regret. I should have gone for a racer instead.

    Autotrader.co.uk is probably the place to shop for a cheap car – you want the mileage to be bellow 80 I guess and you want the proof of the no-claims period from your prev. insurance company – otherwise UK insurers will rob you. I didn’t get a proof from my prev company and ended up paying 700 quids for 10month insurance on quite a plain car. BTW it’s a good idea to consider what insurance category the car belongs to before buying on autotrader

  7. Leo Simons permalink*
    July 19, 2009 20:07

    Thanks for all the insights gents :-). As far as bikes go, if I get one, it’ll have to be a Dutch one!

  8. July 19, 2009 20:15

    I’d definitely second using Be Internet – they’ve been fantastic. Both home and work office are now using them.

  9. Anton Tagunov permalink
    July 19, 2009 20:20

    Re broadband,

    first thing IMO is to check online if you can get virgin cable on your address
    failing that – I’m switching to bethere.co.uk – a couple of my friends are raving about them

  10. Stephane Bailliez permalink
    July 19, 2009 21:11

    Sounds like a total nightmare, interesting notes… One could imagine you’re living in Zimbabwe with that description. ;)

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