My Journey to the UK

I have always written about technology, but this time I thought I’d go in a different direction. It’s been over a year since I started working for Insentra UK, mostly remote from India. My wife and I always aspired to explore living elsewhere, and this became possible when she got a license to practice as a doctor in the UK. I had a word with my manager and ‘voilà’, Insentra were happy to support this transition in our life. Energised and geared up, we moved our life from India to UK.

Change is not easy, and neither did we expect this one to be. We learned a lot about settling in UK, some of it the hard way. Did you know that various UK services, only accept a UK credit /debit card? Were you aware that cash withdrawal using an overseas card could cost you an additional 5 – 15% in fees? These are just a few examples of how you may not be able to use funds, even if you have them.

Most UK banks will not let you open an account without UK proof of address, but we were able to find an alternative with app-based banks like ‘Monzo, Revolut’ etc, which do not require such proof. However, you still need a UK address, and services like ‘Mail Boxes Etc’ were at the rescue with a virtual address. We had to clear various referencing, credit checks etc in order to avail accommodation, and Insentra provided a great reference for me. You must also be aware that if you fail to clear these checks, you could lose your holding deposit (something you pay upfront to temporarily secure accommodation). You may still have an option to avail accommodation after a failed reference/credit check, if you pay a few months’ rent upfront and in advance. While this may not be the case for everyone, it’s something we certainly planned for. Below is a small checklist of things to factor in when relocating to UK:

Description

Why?

Before leaving your home country

PS: All the below can be easily accomplished in your home country, much before you arrive in UK

Research on cost of living, home rental process, documentation etc. in the UK

  • I found many aspects of life different in UK compared to the countries I had lived in earlier, e.g. requirements for rental, day to day expenses etc.
  • I did my research and had secured documents regarding my credit worthiness (investments, savings etc.), police clearance certificates etc. much before I could arrive in UK, and this was helpful in clearing the initial credit checks required for rental.
  • Researching these things in advance is highly recommended, as it will ensure you do not face any surprises.

Secure enough forex in cash for expenses and a travel card

  • It took me a while before I could open a local bank account and obtain a debit card. However, I planned for this and was able to sustain the initial period with a travel card and cash.
  • I would ask anyone to assume you can sustain by yourself for 30 to 60 days, and plan for this before arriving.

Get a virtual address

  • The initial period in UK was difficult as I could not provide my bank or anyone with an address to send any mail. Moreover, my Airbnb apartment (temporary accommodation) owner was not happy to let me use their address which was completely understandable from a security standpoint.
  • We found a solution in this service called Mail Boxes Etc, which not only provides a virtual address but even kept our mail for us.

Open a bank account

  • Most UK banks refused me an account without UK documentation (which would take a while). However, Monzo and Revolut are examples of app-based banks, which need a UK address but do not ask for proof of address.
  • You may use a virtual address or somebody willing to accept your mail. They will send you a UK debit card and you may collect this once you are in the UK.

   Note:

  • Monzo does not recommend using their service for an incoming wired/SWIFT transfer, but this has been great for domestic use.
  • Revolut seemed to be a good option for getting money wired/SWIFT transferred from my home country.

Inspect accommodation

  • The pictures on rental websites looked great, but the real view was so different. I’m glad I did not pay a holding deposit for any apartment based on the pictures. Moreover, I would never be able to sign up the tenancy contract on arrival as my UK documentation took some time. We chose to go for an Airbnb for the initial month and secured rental accommodation eventually.
  • I strongly recommend starting with some short-term accommodation (which is best booked in advance), and eventually look for long-term.

After arriving in UK

Secure your UK documentation as soon as possible

  • Most foreigners arriving in the UK require a ‘Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)’ and ‘National Insurance Number (NIN)’ to work here. There are so many processes involved in getting these, many of which I learned after arriving here.
  • Depending on your passport the documentation requirements might vary, so it is imperative you work on this as soon as possible. You will need documentation for many things in future and assume it could take up to 2 weeks until you have this in place.

Organise a storage facility if you need space to store your belongings

  • We flew into UK with the idea of being here for some good time, which meant a load of personal belongings and bags. It was not possible to store all this in the Airbnb.
  • We used a service called Safestore, but there are many such services where you can rent some storage space to temporarily secure your belongings.

Explore long term accommodation

  • The real estate rental process is a monster in UK. You will be surprised with the requirements involved. Hence, it is imperative to initiate this process at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Keep in mind that you cannot secure accommodation, until you have your UK documentation in place.

 

These are just a few of the major challenges we faced and learnt from. Planning is key but there are always those unknowns which you must be prepared to face. Aim for the best, but always have a plan for the worst :). Glad to be a part of an amazing country and to continue working for an amazing organisation!!

PS: This blog is purely based on my experience, and simply reflects my opinion. This is likely to differ for every individual, so make sure to do your own research. All the best!!

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