There is so much involved in immigrating to a new country… duh, you knew that, I knew that, but really, it can be overwhelming nonetheless. I can say that I feel confident that all of my research prior to the move prepared me for the many things we’d need to do to start our lives here. I can’t possibly cover everything in this blog and I’m sure I’m going to forget things but here’s a little run down of some things we’ve had to take care of and how we managed.
What you’ll learn pretty quickly with a little research beforehand, or if you’re unlucky enough to not have researched beforehand and you just showed up in the UK, is you need a bank account for just about everything. You need a bank account to set up utilities, to get a phone plan, to get a flat, to get cable/wifi (we’re just doing wifi), and so on. Here’s the thing though, you need proof of address in order to get a bank account. How do you get a lease without a bank account and a bank account without a lease agreement?! We knew we needed a lease agreement first and foremost and research before we left the states had shown that letting agencies will accept 6 months of rent up front if you don’t have a bank account, credit or a guarantor. We came prepared to pay that 6 months of rent and that worked for us. Then we went to the bank with our passports, biometric resident cards and our lease agreement and that was good enough to get us an account. That worked for us, I have read many instances of that not being enough for some others. Ok, so two huge obstacles DONE!
Phones weren’t a big deal. After a month of living here we got a sim for our phone and honestly that would be just fine for most (no monthly plan commitment, you just top it up once a month and toss it when you don’t need it anymore). We do need to start building our credit in this country so we wanted to get on a plan that would allow us to start doing that. Only this week did we both get set up with our own individual plans, so that’s good, no more sharing one UK number. For our phones we needed proof of address, our resident cards and a UK bank account.
Utilities… I honestly don’t know what the hell is going on with our utilities but I think we’re set up for electric at least, gas still isn’t set up. Companies in the UK are horribly inefficient and rather inept, so setting up everything has been a pain in the ass but I’m going to save that for another blog. To set up utilities we just needed a bank account. Water/sewer/garbage are all covered by council tax which is something that our letting agency set up so we just have to pay monthly for that, which is a small fortune due to where we live, so I will be making sure to use a crap ton of water to get my value out of it (kidding!). And for wifi we just needed our UK bank info and I believe our resident cards… OMG and that was another experience for another time. Oh, and our TV license… we actually received a letter threatening to investigate us if we didn’t buy the license. LOL! I got a good chuckle out of that. We actually didn’t need a TV license until we got wifi so I have recently purchased the license (with our UK bank account) since we will live stream on occasion and will also be watching BBC programming.
NINos (National Insurance Numbers)! You need a NIN here which is essentially like the social security numbers in the US. For that, all we had to do was call the number provided on the government’s website and they set us up for interviews at a local job centre. I was able to schedule my husband’s interview as well as mine (we didn’t have to call separately). Not everyone has to go in for the interview it seems but we did. The job centre was just a ten minute walk away from a subway station, so pretty convenient, and the people there were seriously awesome. Our interviews went really well and we should have our numbers in a month or so. For the interview we just needed passports, resident cards and proof of address. My husband and I had interviews at the same time but with separate people. For anyone who has to attend one of these interviews please know it’s a super low-key process and the people working there are lovely, you aren’t being interrogated so don’t be nervous.
These are just the most basic things that were on our “to do” list. We still have to sign up with general practitioners and I guess we then get our NHS numbers. I’m not as worried about that compared to other things, so we kind of put that on the back burner but we’ll try to get going on that this month. There are many smaller things to take care of but I feel like for the most part we got the important things done that will allow us to exist in this country.
This is just our experience. If you are preparing to move to the UK this is where a FB expat group would be useful because you can search the group to see how people in a similar situation as you faired. Many people are fortunate enough to have a soft landing, where they already have a job lined up and their employer is making arrangements for them, or a lot of people are coming over to join their spouses, so they already have an address to go to, someone to show them the ropes, etc.. In saying that, I am not underestimating how f*#king hard it still is for people who have a “soft landing,” but rather I’m saying their experience in getting set up with the very basics may look different than ours. Despite all of the difficulty I am grateful to be in a country where I speak the same language. I already had respect for those immigrating to a country that spoke a language other than their own, but I’ll tell you what, now my heart goes to those people like never before and I have the deepest respect for them. Trying to get these things done in a country that has another language… I can’t imagine. Ok, I’m venturing off into a whole different topic now.
Take care, my friends.