Congratulations! You’ve arrived in the UK, you’ve taken possession of your new home, unpacked some of your cases, survived the first week in your new job… but that’s not the end of the story. In fact, far from it: you’ve probably got a list as long as your arm – and growing – of things that need to be sorted before you can kick back and enjoy a well-earned pint of beer in your local pub!
However, armed with a copy of our no nonsense guide to settling into UK life, you’ll be able to make short work of all the essential administrative tasks that stand between you and that welcoming pint.
One of the first and most important things you will need to do is to set up a UK bank account for the convenience of your everyday financial transactions. There are nearly 30 ‘high street’ banks in the UK offering personal banking services, and you may find that your own bank at home owns or has links with one of them. Failing that, look on the main contenders’ websites and compare the terms and conditions to identify the account that will be right for your needs. Some of the larger banks offer specific accounts designed for foreign nationals and non-residents. Furthermore, depending upon your tax situation, it may even be advantageous to you to open an offshore account with a UK bank.
If you prefer in-branch banking to internet banking, it makes sense to choose a bank that has a branch situated close to your office or home; bank opening hours are generally 9.30 to 4.30 during the week, with variations at weekends.
To open an account you will need two forms of id, your visa documents and proof of your UK address – usually a utilities bill or lease agreement will suffice for this.
Major credit cards are generally accepted in all UK shops and restaurants, and many also accept charge cards such as American Express and Diners Club. However, if you are using your home credit or charge cards in the UK, you will need to take account of the exchange rate and other charges that may bump up the amount you think you are paying for something. You could apply for a UK credit card, but as you will have no UK credit history, you may find this problematic. The easiest way around this will be to approach the bank with which you have opened your current account as they will know that you have a regular income with which to pay your credit card bills.
National insurance and paying taxes
In most cases, when you move to the UK for a job, your employer will assist you in applying for a National Insurance Number and your salary will be automatically taxed at source. However, if this is not the case or if your spouse wants to be able to find employment while you are here, it’s as well to know about the UK National Insurance Number and taxation system.
A National Insurance Number (NIN) is a number allocated to every adult member of the population and without one, you will not be able to take employment in the UK, pay taxes or claim any form of benefit or tax credit. Furthermore, you will need to quote your NIN in any dealings that you have with HM Revenue and Customs (the UK tax collectors) or with the Department for Work and Pensions (for claiming benefits).
To get your NIN, you will need to apply to Jobcentre Plus on 0845 600 0643 / 0845 600 0643 (8.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday). They will handle your application and may require you to attend an ‘Evidence of Identity’ interview, or alternatively send you the forms to make a postal application. If you are called for interview, you may need to bring some of the following documents: your passport, your national identity card, your residence permit, your birth or adoption certificate, your marriage or civil partnership certificate and your driving license. If your application is successful, you will be issued a credit-card style plastic card with your NIN embossed on it.
Once you start working in the UK, you will be subject to UK taxation laws. If you are employed, your employer will deduct income tax and national insurance from your pay; if you are self-employed, you will need to fill in an annual tax return and then HM Revenue and Customs will send you a tax demand.
Income tax is paid on any income earned above the current personal allowance of £7,475, on a rising scale depending upon the level of your earnings. National Insurance is a separate tax that is put towards state benefits and pensions. For expats living in the UK, income that comes to you from abroad can be paid either on an ‘arising basis’ or a ‘remittance basis. How you choose to pay your tax will of course be affected by your tax status in your home country, and as this is a complex area if you have a variety of income streams, it would be prudent to take advice from a tax accountant to make sure you don’t end up either paying more tax than you need to or not paying tax that you should be paying.
When you arrive in the UK, you will need to complete an A86 form, which you can download from the HM Revenue and Customs website. Your local tax office will use this to determine your tax status and allowances. It is more than likely that your company HR department will handle all of your tax admin, but make sure you check with them whether there is anything additional that you should be doing.
If you’ve brought your husband or wife with you to the UK and they would like to get a job while you are here, they will need to apply for a work permit if they are a non-EU national. You cannot apply directly for a work permit yourself – your UK employer has to do this on your behalf. Individuals who have come into the UK on a student visa are allowed to take on part-time work during term time and in the holidays but there are certain restrictions on the type of work they may undertake.
Healthcare while you’re in the UK
The UK is justifiably proud of the National Health Service that offers free healthcare to every citizen – although there are modest charges for services such as prescriptions, eye tests, dental care and in certain other areas. The free health services extend to all EU nationals but are not available for nationals of non-EU states. However, if you are employed by a company that has its principal place of business in the UK then you, your spouse or civil partner, and children are exempt from NHS hospital charges for the duration of your employment. You will need to be able to show a valid work permit and proof of employment to claim this exemption.
As soon as you arrive in the UK you should register with a general practitioner (GP) close to where you live.
You can use this link to find GPs, hospitals, accident and emergency units, dentists, pharmacies and opticians in your area.
Driving in the UK
If you have a valid driving licence issued in your home country or an international driving permit, you can drive in Great Britain for up to 12 months. If you are likely to be staying longer, you will need to apply for a provisional driving licence and take a driving test before your 12-month period expires. If you fail to take your driving test, or actually fail the test, you may drive under the provisions of a provisional licence. If you wish to drive vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes, or with more than eight passenger seats, you will need to pass a UK driving test for the relevant category of vehicles.
If you purchase a car in the UK, you will need to pay road tax by taking proof of ownership to a post office and then displaying the tax disc on the left hand side of your windscreen. Cars that are more than three years old also have to have a valid MOT test to show that they are roadworthy and you will not be able to buy a tax disc without proof that your car has passed its annual MOT.
The UK drives on the left hand side of the road and if you are unfamiliar with driving in this country, it might be a good idea to book a driving lesson for some practice on our roundabouts and motorways. The largest and best know driving school is the British School of Motoring, but there will be plenty of others in your area.
Moving to a new place where you literally don’t know a soul can be tough. But if you’re out to work all day, every day, it can be even tougher on your family. However, what seems strange at first will soon become familiar and nothing beats a couple of weekend afternoons exploring your new area, wandering through the local park, stopping at a busy cafe and scoping out the local businesses, shops and restaurants.
Sometimes, though, you need to find something in a hurry: where’s the best place to buy a bicycle? Is there a nearby gym with a crèche facility? Where can I find my favourite brand of skincare? At times like this, Google can be a great help – what did we do before we had the internet? Of course, the old fashioned way of asking your neighbours is still an option and a great way to break the ice, especially if you look out for people with kids the same age as yours. Or try your local library (you’ll find out where it is on the internet); these are usually an excellent source of local information, particularly about clubs and community services. Buy a local paper to discover what’s going on in the area and keep an eye open for local listings magazines. With a bit of targeted research, you should be able to find what you’re looking for.
This website features a local business directory and events guide for most towns and cities in the UK.
Settling in support from Saunders 1865
Moving to a new country and setting up home is an exciting prospect, but it will also involve a lot of admin and form-filling. If you’re trying to unpack, start your new job, settle the kids into new schools and sort out your finances, it can all be a little overwhelming. There are things you simply won’t have time for and so much needs doing, you don’t know where to start.
This is where Saunders 1865 can step in and take control. Our bespoke Settling-In Service can take the strain by lifting some of the admin burden off your shoulders. For 60 days after your arrival, we’ll be on hand to assist as you register with a doctor, apply for a National Insurance number for yourself and your spouse, and work out which bank to approach. We can do the legwork when you need to find a gym, an orthodontist for the kids, an English tutor, your local place of worship and we can help you to work out where the local supermarket is, how to use public transport, who to call for cable or satellite TV or how to get a telephone or internet connection. You’ll get a comprehensive advisory pack detailing the amenities and facilities within your local area and one of our agents will always be available by phone to help answer your questions.
If you want to make the smoothest transition possible for either your own family or the families of the assignees who work for you, get in touch and talk to us about your requirements. Who knew settling-in could be so easy?