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Moving to the UK? Here's a checklist for your first 3 months

London's Westminster Bridge and Big Ben; image used for HSBC International Services website article Moving to the UK

The United Kingdom (UK) is one of the world's great economies and a very popular destination for expats, thanks to its high quality of life. Comprising the four countries of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the UK has a rich history and culture represented by these distinctive regional identities. At HSBC, our roots in the UK go deep, with our HSBC headquarters having been based in London since 1992.1

Are you just doing some light research into a move or are you already several steps into your relocation? Either way, this guide will give you some of the essential info you need for a successful start to life in the UK.

Take me straight to:

Getting set up

Connectivity

As soon as you arrive on British shores, you'll want to get connected so you can reach out to friends, family and potential employers. Luckily, the UK has a range of mobile and internet providers and packages to make things easy for you.

All communications in the UK are governed by an organisation called Ofcom. Currently, 95% of UK households have access to superfast broadband. And by 2025, the government is aiming for an 85% penetration of gigabit-capable broadband. 2

Find out more: www.ofcom.org.uk/home

Broadband - Much like its mobile phone providers, the UK has a range of internet service providers (ISPs), all offering different deals and levels of speed to suit your needs. Often, there are deals that include a landline connection and TV packages, so shop around to find something that works for you. When opening an account, most ISPs may ask you to provide proof of address, as well as a debit or credit card. They may also request additional personal information so it's best you check with them directly when you apply.

Mobile - There are plenty of mobile service providers in the UK. Do you want the flexibility of a pay-as-you-go SIM card that you top up? If your mobile phone is unlocked and works in the UK, perhaps a SIM-only deal is a better option. Signing up for a contract is a great way to get a new handset, but your monthly payments will be higher. You may find it easier to get approved for a phone contract if you already have a UK bank account when you apply.

From December 2021, UK mobile networks are banned from selling phones that are locked into one particular service. This gives consumers the option to change networks easily, meaning they can shop around once their contract has ended.

Top tip - When shopping around for a mobile phone contract, it's best to bring along your:

  • debit or credit card
  • proof of address
  • passport

Accommodation

When you arrive in the UK, you might find yourself in a hotel or serviced apartment for the first month or so. However, because this is only a temporary solution, it's a great idea to carry out some research on renting a property before you arrive. Here are a few pointers to get off to the right start.

In the first 90 days

You might be looking for a flat in the heart of the city, or a larger family home in the countryside. A handy tip is to speak to friends, colleagues and family members as soon as you arrive, and to visit local estate agents to see what's on offer in your area.

There are a number of online resources, too. These will give you a good idea of how much you can expect to pay for rent. It's also worth looking at local Facebook groups. Take time to explore your potential new neighbourhood on foot to get a feel for the place.

What you'll need to start renting

Once you've found your perfect space, you'll need to sign a rental agreement with the landlord. These usually last for 12 months, and may require a minimum deposit of 1 month's rent. You can agree on a shorter tenancy but your landlord must allow you to rent the property for at least 6 months. As such, it's a good idea to ensure you have sufficient funds available to cover the cost of setting up your new home.

To start renting, you may need to provide proof of income and employment. Your landlord may also ask for references and conduct a credit check. It's worth remembering that you will most likely be responsible for your utility bills, such as gas and electricity, although water rates may be included in the rent. If in doubt, talk to your landlord.

Also, don't forget that you will need to pay council tax to your local authority each month. The amount varies depending on where you live and your personal circumstances. Living on your own or a full-time student? Your bill will be discounted or you may even be exempt.

You can check the council tax band of a postal address in England or Wales with this online checker.

Top tip - If you have queries about your rental contract, you should seek legal advice. One of the best free resources in the UK is Citizens Advice.

Banking and finance

Getting your finances in order is critical before you arrive in the UK. You will need to ensure you have enough funds to cover the cost of setting up your new home and getting connected. At HSBC, we're here to ensure that all your banking needs are taken care of so you get off to a smooth start.

Opening a bank account

Whether you're looking to live or study abroad, you will need a bank account so you can pay bills, receive your salary and have access to cash.

You can choose to open a local account, called a current account, after you've arrived. Alternatively, you may be eligible to open a UK bank account ahead of your move.

With HSBC you can open an overseas account in over 30 countries and regions (including the United Kingdom). You can either do it online or through your local HSBC International Banking Centre before you move, or once you've arrived at your destination.

Learn more about opening an overseas bank account

 

Tax

If you work in the UK, you will need to pay income tax. This is handled by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is a department of the British government. If you are employed by a company, your income tax will be deducted from your salary each month. However, if you are self-employed you will need to complete a self-assessment each year to fulfil your obligations.

National Insurance

All workers in the UK contribute to National Insurance each month, which is matched by their employers. National insurance grants you access to certain benefits, such as Jobseeker's Allowance, maternity leave and pension credit. Your eligibility and benefits will depend on your immigration status and how long you've lived in the UK. You will need to apply for a National Insurance number before you start working in the UK, so it's best to apply for yours as soon as you arrive.

Immigration and identification

If you intend to stay in the UK longer than 6 months, you will need to apply for a biometric residence permit (BRP). This will include your name, date and place of birth, your fingerprints and photo, your immigration status, and whether you have access to public funds. Once you have your BRP, you can use it to prove your identity and your right to work or study in the country.

Visas

No matter if you intend to work or study in the UK, you need to ensure all your documentation is in order before you head to the airport.

There are several types of visas available for people moving to the UK. If you plan on working over the long term, for example, you will need a General work visa (Tier 2). Other work visa categories include the Health and Care Visa (Tier 2), the Intra-company Transfer Visa (Tier 2), the Startup Visa and the Innovator Visa.

If you'll be studying in the UK, selecting a visa category is pretty straightforward. The most common is the Child Student visa, which replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa in October 2020, or the Short-term study visa. If you are over 18, in general you'll need to provide an unconditional offer letter, your current passport and proof that you can support yourself in the country.

Effective July 2021, international students graduating from a recognised UK university can now stay in the UK, unsponsored, and look for work for up to 2 years (or 3 years for PhD or doctorate graduates) through the Graduate route visa.

Whichever visa you choose, we recommend you start your research early and prepare all documents and fees in advance. Details of all types of work visas, as well as costs and required documents, can be found on the visas and immigration page of the UK government's website.

Learn more: These 5 countries offer the best post-study work visas

Feeling at home

When you move to any country, there's always so much to learn. You won't be expected to understand everything in your first 90 days. However, we've chosen some of the essentials that you need to know before you move to the UK so you don't get taken by surprise.

National Health Service

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) offers free healthcare to all permanent residents. However, when you first arrive, it's unlikely that you will have access to free healthcare – at least not until you have contributed National Insurance and income tax. In the meantime, it may be worth taking out health insurance in your home country before you depart for the UK.

The UK has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Here's how it compares to other countries.

Top tip - Anyone living in England can find a GP, register and consult with their local general practitioner (GP) for free.

Education

All children, typically between the ages of 5 and 16, in the UK are entitled to a free place at a state school. Schools follow the national curriculum, although there are regional differences between state schools in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and those in Scotland. You can also opt to educate your children at fee-paying schools.

When it comes to higher education, the UK is home to some of the oldest, most iconic universities in the world, with more than 150 3 institutions to choose from. Most undergraduate degrees are taught over 3 years in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and 4 years in Scotland.

Preparing for a study abroad? See our student checklist for the UK.

Top tip - Check out UCAS or the Complete University Guide to find your perfect place to study.

Wrapping up your first 3 months

We hope you find this guide useful in getting you off to a great start during your first three months.

Taking the plunge and moving to the UK doesn't have to be a scary experience. With the right level of planning and support, you can make a success of the experience. At HSBC, we're here to help you get everything right in your first 3 months, and beyond. Good luck, and we can't wait to join you for the next chapter of your life here.

Learn more about our international services.

Disclaimer

HSBC Holdings plc has prepared this article based on publicly available information at the time of preparation from sources it believes to be reliable but it has not independently verified such information.

 

HSBC Holdings plc and the HSBC Group (together, "HSBC") are not responsible for any loss, damage, liabilities or other consequences of any kind that you may incur or suffer as a result of, arising from or relating to your use of or reliance on this article. The contents of this article are subject to change without notice. HSBC gives no guarantee, representation or warranty as to the accuracy, timeliness or completeness of this article.

 

This article is not investment advice or a recommendation nor is it intended to sell investments or services or solicit purchases or subscriptions. This article should not be used as the basis for any decision on taxation, estate, trusts or legacy planning. You should not use or rely on this article in making any investment decision. HSBC is not responsible for such use or reliance by you.

 

Any market information shown refers to the past and should not be seen as an indication of future market performance.

 

You should always consider seeking professional advice when thinking about undertaking any form of prime residential or commercial property purchase, sale or rental.

 

You should consult your professional advisor in your jurisdiction if you have any questions regarding the contents of this article.

 

 

1 HSBC Who We Are

2 Gigabit-broadband in the UK: Government targets and policy. UK Parliament House of Commons Library

3 Higher education courses, www.gov.uk/higher-education-courses-find-and-apply