Relocating to the UK

17 January 2022

Relocating to a new country can be stressful and disorientating. We have created this guide to introduce some of the relevant considerations for individuals when relocating to the UK.

Taxes

There is a wide spectrum of taxation rules with respect to expatriates and how these relate to remittances, bonuses, incentive plans and tax equalisation/protection policies. A carefully structured assignment with arrival and departure meetings not only provides peace of mind but also considerable tax savings.

National Insurance

To work in the UK, you will require a National Insurance (NI) number. You can start work without a NI number; however, you must apply as soon as your day-to-day duties commence. Individuals need to apply for a National Insurance number personally, it can’t be handled by an employer.

National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are due in addition to income tax and are usually deducted from your earnings on a monthly basis. In certain cases, an exemption from paying NICs can be obtained.

To apply for a National Insurance number, call Jobcentre Plus on +44(0)845 600 0643 (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday).

Confirming your identity: As part of the NI number application process, a number of identity documents will be required, so it’s advisable to have the following originals (not photocopies) available where possible:

  • valid passport
  • national identity card
  • residence permit card including biometric immigration residency documents
  • full birth/adoption certificate
  • full marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • driving license

Provided your application is accepted, the process from requesting an NI number to the number being issued is typically up to 6 weeks.

Banking

Most UK banks require specific documentation in order to open an account and the bank’s lack of access to your credit history can delay the process.

Ask your bank in your home country to give you a statement with your temporary address in the UK on headed paper so you can prove a credit history to UK banks.

Foreign nationals should register with the local town council immediately upon arrival. Banks, building societies and other credit lending institutions use the electoral register to verify addresses.

As a rule, when you go to open an account be prepared to provide copies of your last six months’ bank statements and a letter from your employer with proof of your income. Banks will also want proof of identity and of residence (usually a recent utility bill) and they will ask for references.

Opening times: Opening hours are generally 9am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks open on a Saturday morning but all are usually closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. All major banks have cash machines (ATMs) that operate 24 hours a day. The main ‘high street’ banks in the UK include Lloyds, Barclays, Citibank, NatWest and HSBC.

Utilities

You may need transformers/adaptors to use electrical appliances in the UK.

Gas & Electricity

There are many suppliers of gas and electricity and they offer a wide range of prices and services. There are lots of websites which provide price comparisons for your area.

Water

You are unable to choose a water supplier in the UK. Generally, bills are sent to you annually or biannually in advance and are calculated on your anticipated usage. Tap water in the UK is fit for consumption. For more information on water quality, contact the Drinking Water Inspectorate www.dwi.gov.uk.

Television

To operate a television (TV) in the UK, you must purchase a TV License. Licenses are valid for one year. Current license fees are £159.

Fines for not having a license can be as high as £1,000. One license covers all the TV sets at the registered address. For more information and to apply for a license go to www.tvlicensing.co.uk.

The broadcast format in the UK is the PAL-I system. This system is different from most EU countries, as well as the US and Canada. A DVD player or VCR purchased outside the UK will not play British films unless it is a multi-system DVD player or VCR. DVDs are coded differently for different regions of the world (US is zone 1, UK/Europe is zone 2).

Internet

Many UK Internet Service Providers offer a variety of packages. Getting your home internet connection activated can take weeks, so it’s advisable to start considering this early.

Council Tax

Your local government levies council tax against your residence for public services. Even if you are renting (from a private landlord), you are responsible for paying this.

The amount paid will be based on the value of the dwelling. To find out in which council your property is valued and to calculate your tax go to www.voa.gov.uk and click on Council Tax.

Household Insurance

If you are renting a property, the building structure will usually be insured by the landlord; however, contents insurance is dependent upon your individual contract.

Relocating with Children

If you have children, you may want to bring car seats/booster seats, as you are required by law to use appropriate child restraints for children until they reach the age of twelve or are at least 1.35 metres in height, whichever comes first. The seats need to comply with the UK safety regulations for child car seats.

Post Offices & Postcodes

A postcode (zip code) is an important location tool and it is often required by local services. A postcode is made up of a combination of letters and numbers. Each part of the postcode provides systematic information about where you live or where an item of mail is heading. From left to right the postcode narrows down its destination.

Grocery Shopping

You will find a number of small grocers in all neighbourhoods; however, the main supermarkets are Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. Lidl and Aldi are also quite widespread.

Most have online services and offer home deliveries for a small charge.

The National Health Service (NHS)

As a resident in the UK, you’re eligible to receive medical treatment under the National Health Service at little or no cost.

Registering with a Doctor: Register with an NHS General Practitioner (GP) as soon as possible even if you do not plan to use it very often.

NHS GPs will usually accept new patients provided they reside within the surgery’s catchment area. A list of GPs in your area may be obtained from the public library, chemist, health centre, town hall, Department of Health and the Citizens Advice Bureau. The NHS sites below can help you locate your nearest GP.

To help you understand the health system in the UK visit www.nhs.uk.

To register, visit a local surgery to fill out a form and supply them with the documents they request, such as proof of address.

NHS Number: Once approved by the GP, you will receive a letter in the post from the Family Health Service Authority (FHSA) issuing you with a Medical Card stating your NHS number and the name of your GP. For expatriates, it is important to keep this card in a safe place because if you are reassigned to the UK in future, your NHS number will not change.

Treatment provided by a GP: A GP will treat everyday ailments and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

Prescriptions are dispensed at either the surgery’s pharmacy or the local chemist. Charges on prescriptions are made per item but are free for people under 18 and over 65 years of age, pregnant women and people suffering from various conditions such as diabetes.

Accidents & Emergencies: For cases of a life-threatening nature, dial 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest hospital with an Accident and Emergency (A&E) department.

Other Emergencies: if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation, dial 111.

NHS Walk-in Centres

NHS Walk-in Centres offer access to a range of NHS services, including health information, advice and treatment for a range of minor illnesses (coughs, colds, infections) and minor injuries (strains, sprains, cuts). Most centres are open from early morning to late evening, seven days a week. Experienced NHS nurses run the centres and you do not need to make an appointment.

You can expect to be treated just as professionally and usually more quickly at a Minor Injuries Unit/Walk-In Centre than in A&E. The waiting times are also usually much shorter than those in A&E and teams are led by highly qualified nurse practitioners.

Medicentres

Medicentres provide a doctor service to people living in, working in and visiting London, either by just walking in or by appointment. Medicentres are private and not part of the NHS. More information about this service, its costs and locations in Central London can be found online.

Hospitals

There are two types of hospitals – NHS and private hospitals.

Some NHS hospitals offer private treatment; however private hospitals have no A&E department and do not provide NHS treatment.

A list of NHS hospitals can be found at www.nhs.uk.

Private hospitals can be found at: www.bupa.co.uk or www.privatehealth.co.uk.

Chemist/Pharmacy

Opening hours are normally 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday, with limited hours on Sunday for emergency prescriptions. If you need medicine outside of these hours, your local pharmacy will display a list of the nearest locations.

Need help?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to some of the issues which arise when individuals are relocating to the UK. There are varying factors to consider depending on where you are from and why you are relocating to the UK.

Whatever your circumstances, specialist advice should be sought before you make the transition to ensure everything goes to plan. For more information and guidance on relocating to the UK, please contact Adam Dunnett.

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