X-pat Files: How to Move to London

Moving to London is incredibly stressful and overwhelming. Lucky for me, I have moved to four cities in my short lifetime and am learning pretty fast how to set myself up. I am here to help, with the ultimate guide in setting yourself up in London!


As one of the largest expat communities in the world, has been the easiest system to navigate in terms of completely registering, moving over and settling down.

I say this with a pinch of salt, as I understand for those who have never made the move across the world before, it is almost incomprehensible how much paperwork and effort it takes to do. The key is knowing what you need to prepare, before doing the legwork. So, without further ado, I give you my X-pat File on moving to London!

First thing is first: Know what you want to gain from this experience. London is a HUGE city, in fact it has over 8.5 million people bursting from within. If you have ANY plans of working, you need to follow this to a tee to ensure you don’t miss out on any opportunities because London does not wait for anyone. Also- Keep EVERYTHING. Every piece of paper, letter and form you receive- keep them filed away for later reference.


Step One: Visa or EU passport

I am not going to get into the details of applying for a UK visa here, it is a long, complicated process and if you are reading this and planning on moving within the next month, you should already have it sorted!

Not all EU passports have full working rights in the UK. Make sure you check your rights before you move. Some people will tell you that you need what is called a ‘UK Residence Card’ but until you plan on buying property or getting married in the UK, you will never need it so don’t stress.

More information: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration


Step Two: Get a Job BEFORE you move (if possible, or at least start the hunting process)

No matter what you want to do in life, there is a job in London waiting for you. You just have to know where to find it and have the passion, drive and dedication to go get it! The most obvious factor I found when hunting in the UK for jobs, was that the employers wanted to meet me face to face. Be prepared for this and ask for an initial skype interview, then make sure you follow them up within 2-3 days if they have not gotten back to you, simply to remind them how keen you are. There are a million London residents who would be happy to take that job without the worry of being new to town, so make yourself noticed!

Useful sites: www.indeed.co.uk, LinkedIn Jobs (my favourite), Facebook groups for expats (Aussies in London, Jobs in London, Bar Work London etc).

Tip: Never underestimate the power of emailing companies direct, especially bar and restaurants.


Step Three: Get a UK Phone Number

Walk into any phone store and grab a pre-paid sim. I chose 3 Mobile who offer 20 pounds a month unlimited data and 300 minutes calls/texts. Perfect. You won’t need an address or anything for this, not even ID in most cases. If you want to buy a plan (which honestly, is pointless in London as everywhere has WIFI – unless you want a new phone too)


Step Four: Proof of Residency

The most valuable piece of paper you need to go any further, in any process here forth. One thing I couldn’t STAND about this whole system is the fact I needed proof of address to register, but I hadn’t found accommodation yet. This is where it is key to find someone you know, a friend or relative, to give you a document that states you are staying with them indefinitely and they are happy for you to register yourself to their address (even if you are in a hostel- worth lying!). This must be in the form of a formal letter, dated and signed by the lease owner and accompanied by a bill (water, gas, council tax) with their name on it.

If this is not possible, you need to find accommodation immediately (long-term) and have a gas or power bill in your name within the week. Without that bill or rental contract proving your residency, you cannot move forward in bank accounts, national insurance or NHS (all of which, you need to work).

This is where some decent savings will be a life saver, as bonds alone are upwards of 900 POUNDS + first month rent + 100-200 pounds of fees. More on renting later…


Step Five: Get a Bank Account

Every bank is different. I found HSBC was the best for looking over the fact I had no job, wish-washy residency proof and were really understanding (and quick!).

Go into any bank branch, book an appointment (they will tell you that you can sign up online- DO NOT DO IT! ALWAYS DO A FACE TO FACE REGISTRATION TO MAKE THIS PROCESS FASTER!) and ask to sign yourself up. You will need:

  • Proof of residency letter, bill or lease
  • Visa AND passports- both if you have dual
  • Job details (if possible) – address, number, salary expectations
  • Tax information for past residence- this is important- most countries have a tax-number or code that is needed for all jobs- you need to give them this number and previous pay slips may also be required for proof.
  • Dependent details (if you have kids)
  • Date you moved over (flew in)
  • Phone number and email address
  • Previous address


Step Six: Your National Insurance Number

Your NI number is your tax system number and you will legally require this within your first 4 weeks of working in the UK. To start the process, you must ring this number (+44 345 600 0643) once on UK soil and book a National Insurance interview (waiting time is about 3 days). They will ask you for the following on the phone interview:

  • Date you arrived
  • Why you need a NI number (state that you will be working and living in the UK)
  • Nationality and Visa information
  • Job details (if possible) – address, number, salary expectations
  • Dependent details (if you have kids)
  • Phone number and email address
  • Address – you must give the address you have proof of residency for

They will book you in, give you a reference number and send you a letter to the stated address. Read the details here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number

The interview will be held at the closest office to your address. Bring with you all of the above (especially passports/visa, residence letters and that reference number!!) and anything else the letter may document (some need birth certificate).

The letter that is sent to you must be taken with you- if you do not receive it in time (like me) make sure you have your reference number!!

You will then be issued your National Insurance (NI number) via mail – you need to keep this is a safe place and give to your employer immediately.


Step Seven: Finding a Home/Renting

Another tough job in London with an ever competitive, overpriced industry! There is no special advice here except that you shouldn’t settle for something that isn’t perfect for you. Especially in terms of transport costs and time, you want to ensure you are working close to home (by close, I mean within 45 minutes on the tube in peak- standard!) and with great people.

Big tip: Fully furnished, share houses are your best option. Risk is reduced, rent is cheaper and you will have people that can show you the city! Best site for share-houses: www.Spareroom.co.uk. For a first timer in London, I would aim for rent (plus bills) of around 600 pounds per month. You will have something okay in terms of quality, in zone 2-3 (which is ideal for most work places too). Keep your eye on things like nearest shopping center for food, bus and tube stations close to you and of course, always meet the people before sending any money.

You should also be aware that in terms of renting here in London, you will usually have a pretty intense referencing process by the realtors. Mine included proving 6 months rental history (and yes, they did call my previous landlords), paying over $2,000 AUD upfront in bond and fees plus first month’s rent (mine is just under 600 pounds per month for one bedroom in a share house) and waiting 3 weeks for it all to clear. Be wary that things do not move fast in London, so make sure that if you are on someone’s couch, they know it can be a 2-3 week stay!


Step Eight: Your NHS

Finally, you will need to register for your National Health Services number to receive your free medical. All doctor consultations (in the public sector) are free of charge, and many services such as alcohol and drug rehabilitation, sexual health and surgery are also free to residents. It is one of the best systems in the world, so you need to make the most of it.

You need to register at your closest local GP, which is as simple as walking in, filling out the paperwork and doing a quick exam by the nurse (1 hour wait usually), then waiting for the number to come via mail. Most doctors take 24 hours to set you up on their system before a proper appointment, so it is better to not wait until you are really sick and need a doctor to do this. If you have a spare few hours just get it done on a Saturday! Read more and find your doctor: http://www.nhs.uk/service-search


Any Questions?

Comment below for any other questions or advice!

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