Making the decision to move to London may be something that has crossed your mind numerous times or you may have had a shift in your personal circumstances that has got you considering it or are you just looking for a big change. No matter the reason, a move to one of Europe’s best capitals to live in, is something definitely worth considering.
London can be a great place to live and work and your decision to move and subsequently live and study or work in London could be the best life changing decision you’ve ever made! Just last year alone 627,000 people made the decision to move to the UK according to the Office of National Statistics. The following information offers a very helpful guide moving to London.
- Apply for a visa to live and work in the UK
Unless you are already a British citizen or you are a European Union or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen or from Switzerland, you will need to apply for a visa to live and work in the UK. If you are not sure if your country is a member of the EU or EEA check here.
It may be an obvious part of your decision-making process but I will state the obvious – consider your current circumstances!! Do really take time to make your decision – speak to family/friends, people you know who have done the move find out their views. A move to London is not a decision for the faint hearted, its a big decision and contemplating any big move so it’s crucial to ask yourself what your current circumstances and commitments are and how they could affect your plans to move to London and your future. Are you moving on your own? Are you moving with a partner? Possibly moving to London to study? Maybe you moving with your family? Either way just be conscious of what impact the decision will have and weight out the risks vs benefits – but did I mention London IS a great city to live in?!
2. Have Some Money Saved!
The next thing to consider when planning a move to London is finances and by this I mean having enough money to see you through living expenses for at least the first three months. You’ll be relieved to know that London is not one of the most expensive cities in the world and according to the last 2019 worldwide cost of living survey it currently ranks as 22 on the list. However it’s certainly not a cheap place to live and the cost of living in London annoyingly continues to rise. It is essential to have some savings to support the first few weeks possibly months of setting up base whilst you find a job. Relying on credit cards can be a dangerous game when moving countries so I would strongly recommend not using credit cards to finance a move. My advice is do not come to London without some pennies saved in the bank.
So how much money do you need to move to London? To be honest my answer would be how long is a string? It totally depends on a number of factors that are related to your personal needs/wants and general spending habits and of course your current access to money. If I had to quote you a figure based on my personal view I’d say double your savings budget to move – as best case scenario you get a job quickly start earning pounds in a month and you only spend half of your budget for the initial moving / setting up costs in London. Worst case scenario it takes you longer than 2 months to start earning pounds so my best advice is double what you think you might need to have in savings for moving and living in London for the first 3 months. Be wary of going by just one website that gives you a breakdown of the”average costs of living in London” make sure you do lots of research across a number of sites and talk to anyone you know who lives and works here to get a better idea on living costs.
3. Consider short term accommodation initially
So once you’ve worked out how which visa you applying for and what your budget for moving here looks like, you will want to think about where you could live on a temporary basis when you first move. If you have family and friends in the UK who you can stay with whilst you get setup at no cost – most definitely use this amazing money saving resource (and hopefully your food costs might be lowered too!). If you don’t have any family or friends to stay with or you prefer to stay on your own, not to worry. Below is a list of some of the best temporary accommodation in London whilst you get a job and get London life going :
- Airbnb London
- Booking.com (serviced apartments)
- Spare room
- Right move (rooms or flats on short term lets)
- Zoolpa (rooms or flats on short term lets)
- Hostel world
4. Don’t worry about Shipping – Just pack light
Packing light when you move to London is important particularly if you plan to stay in temporary accommodation whilst you get setup. You want to protect your budget and savings so don’t fall into the trap of bringing or shipping so much stuff that you end up needing to put it in storage – storage in London is NOT cheap! Most short term accommodation will have the amenities and white goods you needs such as a bed, washer/dryer, fridge and sofa ect. In London you will have a variety of properties that are let fully furnished or part furnished so depending on which type of property you let, you may not need to buy any furniture.
London is a shopper’s heaven, you can get nearly anything here for a good bargain if you know where to look. You can get furniture and household stuff for a relatively cheap price at these most popular household stores : Ikea, Argos, B and Q, Home base.
One of the most essential items I would advise you bring with you when you move to London is an umbrella, jacket and don’t forget to bring a sense of humor as you will need it. The British humour is unique and takes some getting used to and that so called “British stiff upper lip” does not live up to its name in the friendly multicultural city of London!
5. Start looking for a job in London before you move
Researching your job options to live, work or study in London is one of the most important parts of the process when planning a move to London. An important question to ask yourself is what skills and experience do you have that are recognised in the Uk and are transferable. Although you may have a specific industry and occupation you may want to apply for do consider diversifying your job options by considering other professions or jobs that your skills and experience are transferable to. The more options you give yourself the better your chances are at getting a job sooner and earning those £pounds . Even if the jobs are not exactly what you are striving for, it’s worth staying focused on aiming to get your foot into the working in London door and once you are working and earning you can continue your search for a better job. Having some work experience in London will also place you in a stronger position for progressing to a better job.
Once your visa application has been approved its best to start straight away submitting your CV to online recruiters and contacting employment agencies to start looking for a job in London before you move. Starting this process will means that you will become aware of what the job market is like in London and means you will get jobs straight to your inbox. This will save precious time as you have already started making connections with recruiters by the time you arrive.
The following are the most popular job sites in the Uk / London :
- Inspiring Interns
- Inspiring Interns
- Agency Central
- Guardian jobs
The job market in London is known for it’s competitive work culture. However one of the major pulls of moving to London is the known fact that this great city can offer great opportunity and reward – that is IF you are motivated to work hard and keep your job options open at least initially. I’ll be honest, although London can look sugar coated, survival in this big city demands thick skin especially when searching for a job. You have to preservere and not give up easily until you crack into the job market or you will be left feeling like London is a beast that has bitten you whole and spat you out. Without sounding dramatic, this is a reality that happens to an unfortunate number so don’t give up easily. That said, let me reassure you that the job market is booming with the UK employment rate remaining higher than its US counter at 75.6%. Even with BREXIT, the UK job market remains relatively stable.
6. Book your National Insurance Appointment (ID) as soon as you arrive
In the UK everyone who is over the age of 16years old and works is required to have a national insurance number. This “NI number” stays with you for life and is the means by which the government services and the tax office called Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC) track your Insurance contributions and tax, kind of like a tax ID. Although you do not need this number when you apply for a job or start work, your employer will request this number and you will therefore need it to continue working in the UK. You need an NI number to claim any form of benefits if you are eligible.
How to apply for a national insurance number :
The UK government website states that you may already have a National Insurance (NI) number which will be printed on the back of your biometric residence permit (BRP) if you have this form you will need to apply for your NI number by calling the National Insurance number application telephone line on : 0800 141 2075 or text phone: 0800 141 2438 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. For more information visit : https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number. Please note that it can take up to 6 weeks to receive your NI number so if you change address make sure you call the NI contact line to notify them. Furthermore, in order to apply for a NI number they require you to have a UK address for correspondence. The address you provide must be one you are residing at and trust as all your tax correspondence will be sent there including any tax refunds so make sure you let the HMRC office know if you move address – this is very important.
7. Register for Health care with the National Health Service
According to the UK Government
Doctors (referred to as GPs – General practitioners) and nurse consultations provided in primary care services are free of charge to all, whether registering as an NHS patient, or as a temporary patient, which is when the patient is in the area for more than 24 hours and less than 3 months.
For secondary care services, the UK’s healthcare system is a residence-based one, which means entitlement to free healthcare is based on living lawfully in the UK on a properly settled basis for the time being.
The measure of residence that the UK uses to determine entitlement to free NHS healthcare is known as ‘ordinary residence’. This requires non-EEA nationals subject to immigration control to also have the immigration status of indefinite leave to remain.
Register with the National Health Service by registering with a local GP in the area you are living. There are many GP practices in each area of London however some are post code / area specific meaning you need to live near the local area where the practice is. To register they often ask for proof of ID, proof of your address and your legal status to assess entitlement to free health care (EU residents are currently eligible to free health care). Check your eligibility here https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/visiting-or-moving-to-england/To get details on how to register and to find the best doctor surgery where you will be living click on here https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/gps/how-to-register-with-a-gp-practice/
Free entitlement to prescriptions, dental care and eye care are dependant on meeting a set eligibility criteria – generally expect to pay for prescriptions and non emergency dental care (the cost is still very cheap when compared to private health care) . For example if you are pregnant you are entitled to free dental care throughout your pregnancy and for 12 months post birth.
8. Open a bank account in the Uk
It has become much easier to open a bank account in the Uk. Thanks to online banking you can have your UK online banking account setup at afew clicks of mouse. Each bank will have varying terms and conditions however, as a general rule the two most important documents that are required to open a bank account with all the big popular banks are : a form of ID such as a passport or European ID, biometric residence permit, EU driving licence and a proof of UK address. Providing a proof of address may be tricky if you have just moved to the UK. The best way to get around this would be to either ask a flat mate to put a utility bill in your name (such as electricity, gas or telephone bill) or if you don’t have a flat mate, you use your tenancy agreement, university enrolment letter or a credit card statement.
9. Banks that don’t require proof of Address
The good news is that if you struggle to open a bank account with one of the popular UK banks like HSBC, Barclays, Nationwide, Santander, Lloyds due to not having a proof of address there are some online banks in the UK that let you can open bank account without proof of address. The most popular ones protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (if they lost your money they would compensate you up to the value of £85,000) is Starling and Monzo. There are afew others I have not mentioned as these two banks have FSC cover.
10. How to survive the first few months in London
Right. Enough about the essential stuff. Let’s talk abit about transitioning into London life and meeting people. I will cover more of this in the blog in due course. But for now here are afew tips on how to survive the first few months in London and some of those cold wet grey London days that may make you feel like moving was a bad idea. Firstly the best way to transition into London life is to stay connected to your people – by that I mean your inner circle back home be it family or friends you will need their support and their support will help you get through what will be some tough times and afew lovely moments. Secondly, accept that London may be differ t to your expectations but different is good and therefore deserves a fair chance. Thirdly, get out of the comfort zone of life, London life is all about experience so get looking to meet new people and experience what London has to offer and it has alot to offer tryst me. Getting out to see your new home and meeting people will ease the pangs of missing family, friends and get you feeling more confident about navigating around the city. The following list is a starting point for ideas on how to get into the flow of living in London :
- Check out or Google local clubs, a hobbies or communities in your local area or around London. Meeting people in a group setting can feel way less intimidating! If you are into sport there are a lot of indoor and outdoor sports clubs and activities – just a Google search away.
- If you are looking to rent a room in a flat share this is often a convenient way to meet people.
- It’s worth keeping your options – what not try out some social media platforms like Facebook groups named under your local area / suburb. There are loads of local hobbies advertised here. This is particularly helpful if you have children as it’s a good way to find out a lot of info such as good schools in the area or playgroups.
- Apps like Meetup or Bumble BFF that are set up to meet people who are specifically looking to grow friendships and a social circle so intentions are generally clear.
- London is an international city so at some stage you will cross paths with someone who has moved here and that in itself is a great conversation starter!
I hope you have found this useful. For information on the best value areas to live in London, how to live in London on a tight budget, moving to London with a family, how to save money on public transport, the best wine bars in London and much more! Subscribe here for email updates.