You’ve made the decision to move to Britain. Congratulations, you’ve made an excellent choice!
The party’s over and now you realise there is a ton of paperwork to complete. We’ve tried to simplify the process for you by providing some handy tips on life in Blighty including where to find accommodation, how our schooling system works for your little ones, how to choose the right visa and the essential, but taxing, tax system. We have first hand experience in it ourselves – our MD Benton hails from NZ and has been through the process from start to finish, making him somewhat of an expert in the field.
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About the UK
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is an island nation made up of 4 countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Queen Elizabeth II is our current monarch and our flag is the Union Flag (or Union Jack).
Why are we GREAT? Because we are the largest island within the British Isles and we house England, Scotland and Wales within our shores.
- As of May 2021 the UK population stands at 68,207,116 people.
- The United Kingdom population is equivalent to 0.87% of the total world population.
- The UK ranks number 21 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
- The population density in the United Kingdom is 275 per Km2 (713 people per mi2).
- The total land area is 241,930 Km2 (93,410 sq. miles). 81.2 % of the population is urban (54,072,374 people in 2018).
- The median age in the United Kingdom is 40.3 years.
In the UK our main language is English, however Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are also spoken.
We use the Pound Sterling (£) (GBP) as our currency.
We weigh and measure things in a confusing way. Some of us have switched to metric and some haven’t. Just to over- complicate it, some of us measure heights in feet and inches, weights in kg and stones, distances in miles and measurements in cm – a proper mash-up. The metric system is most popular nowadays though with the exception of distance and speed, which are still measures in miles and miles per hour.
The subject of many a conversation (and an excellent icebreaker) – the UK climate. Predominantly a temperate climate, and often overcast, the British weather can and does vary greatly from day to day. Summers are usually warm (between 15 and 25oC) and winters cold (between 0 to 4oC).
We are primarily a car-driving society with over 225,000 miles of roads in Britain. Travel by car is by far the most popular method of transport in the UK accounting for 85% of all travel. We have an extensive rail and bus network, internal airports and in some cities we have underground (tube) services and tramways. Cycling is now a common way to get to work in cities, especially London and Oxford, and riding a moped or small motorbike is also popular.
In the UK we have a number of “Bank Holidays” – literally, days where the banks are closed and have become public holidays:
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Early May bank holiday
- Late May Spring bank holiday
- Summer bank holiday – end August
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
- New Year’s Day
Cost of living.
London is well-known as being one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world. Expect to shell out around £30 a day for regular spending (tube travel, food, drink, etc) and at least £40 on top for a night out. Budget hotels start at around £100 and a standard evening meal out with a drink will set you back in the region of £30.
Once you have secured a job offer, the next step is to ensure you get the correct visa for your right to work in the UK. After all, you don’t want to turn up and turn around again.
The UK Visas and Immigration service (UKVI) uses an Entry Clearance (EC) system whereby all citizens from countries outside the EU must apply for a visa in order to live and work in the UK.
An EC application must be carried out from your home country, or where you are a permanent resident. The process includes a biometric interview (fingerprints, photographs).
There’s no point beating round the bush – applying for a UK visa is a daunting and somewhat complicated process… you should ensure that you apply for the visa that is the most appropriate to your circumstances. This is important as otherwise you could find that at EC stage your visa is rejected and you have wasted a lot of time and money!
If you are an EU citizen you do not need a visa to work in the UK. For Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians the Working Holiday visa is a once in a lifetime opportunity and offers you the possibility to come to the UK, earn while you’re here and stay for up to 2 years!
There are a variety of working visas available with advantages and disadvantages to all
Tier 5 – Youth Mobility (WORKING HOLIDAY VISA)
Aged between 18 and 30 years inclusive. Have £1,890 in savings. No dependant children. Must be a British overseas citizen, a British national (overseas), a British overseas territory citizen or from
Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, republic of Korea or Taiwan.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE:
The earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you travel
Ancestry Visa (UK ANCESTRY)
Commonwealth citizen. Must have birth certificate of the parent or grandparent born in the UK.
5 years – is renewable
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE:
The earliest you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you travel
Tier 2 – General Visa (SPONSORSHIP VISA)
Sponsorship from employer. Must be from outside EEA and Switzerland.
3 years and 1 month
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE:
The earliest you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you travel
Membership packages including visa application assistance
From swanky bachelor flats to 5-bed family homes, country cottages to rooms in shared houses, you need to find the perfect home for your stay in the UK.
It needs to be well-located, reasonably priced, safe and secure, and surprise surprise, there’s no shortage of people looking for a place to call home in our country… so here are a few tips to help you bag your ideal pad.
Accommodation will probably be your biggest expense while in the UK – you need to site and calculate how much you can afford to spend each week/month on rent and other expenses and make sure your job covers it.
Most of you will arrive in our capital, London. Really, London is a collection of small villages, each with their own vibe, making it a very friendly and fun place to live. It isn’t laid out in a grid like many international cities and has grown up over time into a vibrant, diverse, cosmopolitan and complicated to navigate city. In general, the further you live from the centre, the cheaper it is to rent.
Popular areas for young professionals to live in London include Shoreditch (East), Angel & Islington (North), Clapham (South) and Hammersmith (West) – they all have easy access to the centre with multicultural atmospheres and plenty of sporting and social activities.
For immediate short-term accommodation, if you don’t have a friend’s sofa to surf, you might like to try a backpacker’s hostel. Hostelworld has a great choice and comes highly recommended. You should be able to find a bed in a large unisex dormitory for around £11 per night.
Many of our locums choose to stay in house shares – it’s a great opportunity to meet new people, make friends and of course socialise! Renting a room in a shared house can be the most cost-effective way of living in the UK, especially in big cities like London and Birmingham. It’s pretty easy to find like-minded roomies using some of the latest room-sharing sites (mentioned below) – you might not find your new BFF, but you can do a little to ensure you live with someone a similar age and with shared interests. Some interesting stats:
- There are 12 people chasing every room to rent in London
- The average room to rent in London costs £743 per month (Sep 2015)
- The most expensive areas to live in London are Knightsbridge and South Kensington (South Ken), with average rooms costing upwards of £1100 per month.
- The cheapest areas to live in London include Abbey Wood, Walthamstow and Crystal Palace, with average rooms costing around £500 per month.
We recommend the following sites for house-shares:
We recommend the following sites for rental properties:
The UK school system.
For those of you bringing a family over you’ll want to make sure you can get your kids settled ASAP. The British schooling system can be a little tricky to understand. Here are the basics:
- Primary: Children aged 5 to 11 years
- Secondary: Children aged 11 to 16 years
- Further: Children aged 16 to 18 years studying for A-levels or equivalent
- Higher: Young adults aged 18 years and over attending university or college
It is a legal requirement for all children to attend full time education (both primary and secondary school) up to the age of 18. Further education is optional but essential for children wishing to attend university or college after school.
In the UK, schools are either fee-paying or state-funded. State-funded schools are free of charge to attend. They can have waiting lists and you need to live in the right “catchment” area for the school. Read more here. There are a whole host of fee-paying school types – read a useful guide from The Good Schools Guide here.
The education system in the UK is split into key stages. Key stages 1 and 2 are usually completed at primary school, while key stages 3 and 4 are undertaken at secondary school. At the end of each stage students are assessed. The most important of these is at the end of key stage 4 when students complete GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education).
Primary School Place >
Apply for a state-funded primary school place
Secondary School Place >
Apply for a state-funded secondary school place
Types of school in the UK >
Government website providing information on types of state-funded schools in the UK
Guidance for children with special educational needs and disabilities >
Government advice on state-funded schooling
The Good Schools Guide >
Information on independent (fee-paying) schooling in the UK
If your child has specific interests or special needs you may need to look further afield for a specialist school. If state-funded, you can apply to these via your local council.
All UK residents can access free (or low cost), good quality healthcare through the government under the national health service (NHS). Amazing… But what about for international visitors?
You will need to pay for treatments, consultations and medication throughout your stay. Saying all that, the following is FREE FOR ALL:
- Emergency treatment at any Accident & Emergency department
- Emergency treatment in any NHS walk-in centre
- Family planning services (sexual health)
- Compulsory psychiatric treatment
- Treatment for certain infectious diseases
The immigration health surcharge (IHS) applies to all visas with durations of over 6 months. Currently* (May 2018) you will need to pay £150 per year if you are a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa holder, or £200 per year for all other visa holders. This surcharge means you can access treatment and consultations through the NHS. It also means you do not need private medical insurance. However, if you are entering the UK for less than 6 months you will need private medical insurance.
*The Government does have plans to double the IHS soon – pending Parliamentary approval.
We recommend that you register with a GP as soon as you’re sorted with a place to live. This is your route to accessing healthcare in the UK. Once you’re registered you’ll receive an NHS card – keep this safe as it’s forms proof that you’re registered to receive treatment.
The NHS contributes towards dental care although you will have to pay 75% of the cost of your treatment. Register with your local NHS dentist for access to consultations and treatment. You could also register with a private dentist but you will find them much more expensive.
How to register with a doctor >
HCPC / NMC aplications.
All healthcare practitioners in the UK must be registered in order to work.
For AHPs this usually means registration with the HCPC (Health and Care Professionals Council http://www.hcpc-uk.co.uk/) and for Nurses this means the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Councilhttps://www.nmc.org.uk/).
All applications are dealt with individually and registration can take up to 16 weeks, so it pays to be prepared and organise your application early! Expect to fill in numerous forms and pay advance registration fees. Get in touch with one of the expert Hunter consultants for guidance and handholding through the process.
In order to get paid, you’ll need to set up a UK bank account. However, as a foreign national you ‘ll find it extremely difficult to apply for a bank account on your own.
You can get the ball rolling before you leave home by purchasing a bank account set-up package from a specialist company.
Alternatively, you can try to open a bank account yourself before you leave home, but it will have restrictions such as no card, no internet banking or phone banking unless you can provide proof of residence in the UK (e.g. tenancy agreement, utility bills, etc).
Something to consider is the cost of transferring money between countries. Transferwise offer a borderless account – meaning you can receive money from around the world with no fees!
Once you’re in the UK and settled you can open a bank account easily – just remember to have your passport, visa, proof of employment, proof of address and reference from your home bank handy.
Popular UK banks for foreign nationals include HSBC, Metro Bank and Lloyds.
Everyone loves to hate it and its for that very reason that we advise you to employ the services of a qualified accountant to manage it for you!
The UK tax year runs from 6th April to 5th April the following year and there are 2 different types of tax that everyone has to pay: Pay as you Earn (PAYE) and National Insurance (NI).
PAYE is pretty simple – the more you earn, the more you pay. Your first £11,850 each year is tax-free. After that, you will be charged 20% from £11,850 to £46,350. If you earn over £46,350 you will be taxed at 40% and if you’re lucky enough to earn over £150,000 this rises to 45%.
National Insurance (NI) is the UK system whereby individuals make contributions to fund state benefits (such as the NHS and pensions). As an employee, you will have to pay NI contributions (NIC) if you earn more than £162 a week. You will pay 12% of your earnings above this limit and up to £892 a week. Over this, the rate drops to 2% of your earnings a week. Find out more about NI below.
If you are employed, your employer will deduct these taxes at source, with no involvement from you. However, if you have a Limited company you will need to complete a tax return.
The most common option for locums is to be paid through an Umbrella company. These companies act as third-party employers for individuals working under temporary contracts and as such, provide more benefits that being self-employed. Umbrella companies take on all administration, usually invoicing the company you’re working for, and pay you via PAYE. Umbrella companies have become extremely popular since the introduction of the IR35 legislation.
Setting up a Limited company remains a popular choice for locums in the UK, especially those whose contracts fall outside of IR35 and those who will be classed as high-earners. You will need a business bank account, which agencies will pay into, and you can use the funds to pay your salary, expenses and dividends. The biggest advantage of setting up a limited company is to do with liability. A limited company is a separate legal entity to its shareholder owners, therefore meaning that the individual shareholder cannot be held personally liable for any company debts. As a Director of a limited company you can draw a salary (which will still be subject to PAYE and NI) and you can expect profits for small companies to be taxed at 19%. However, accountancy costs will be higher than if you are self-employed as there is more paperwork at the end of the financial year to complete (including companies house documentation, corporation tax returns, payslips, etc).
Everyone working in the UK needs a National Insurance (NI) number (the equivalent of a social security number). Your NI number is unique to you and allows the UK government to track your taxes and contributions.
You can apply for a NI number via the government website gov.uk.
Do you really need one? In short, YES – it’s the law. You will find many employers won’t offer you a job without one. Having an NI number also means you can claim back any overpaid tax at the end of the financial year – you won’t want to miss out on that!
Citizens Advice Bureau – advice on PAYE >
Buy tickets get prices for national rail travel.
The Government’s tax department.
UK visas and immigration services.
Guide to events and activities in London.
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Tel: 0203 475 4858
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