The Complete Guide to Moving to London (for EU citizens)
London is a global city, bursting with life. From the West End to Wimbledon, to the Royals and rich history, there is something for absolutely everyone in London. But, as it is a big and bustling city, it can be hard to get settled in. So to make your move a little easier, we have written this helpful guide to get all the tedious admin tasks ticked off, and let you start making the most of your new home!
In this guide, we will provide you will all the information you should know about:
1. The initial steps
6. Mobile phone
Part 1: The initial steps
1. The prerequisites
🏢 Get a signed employment contract
A signed employment contract is the entry point to the United Kingdom for most people. This step is primarily up to you. We just want to emphasise that a signed employment contract is (usually) the first step to getting all the necessities of relocating/integrating to London, done with ease.
🏡 Get a valid long-term rental contract
As a first priority, you need to secure a long-term rental contract in London. This enables you to register your permanent address and will help with the next steps of administration, such as setting up a bank account.
How to find an apartment with a long-term rental contract in London?
Check out these popular websites for finding apartments and rooms in London:
In case you're a young professional you might find LifeX coliving apartments a great fit. You can find more about LifeX on our homepage.
2. Apply for a National Insurance Number
A National Insurance (NI) number is your own personal account number and is made up of a series of letters and numbers. You need an NI to legally work in the UK. Always make sure your National Insurance contributions and tax are recorded against your name only. You should start the application process as soon as you arrive and have a postal address.
How to apply and register your National Insurance Number?
To start the application, you will need to call the National Insurance and ask to book an interview. The phone lines are often busy, so we recommend you try calling first thing in the morning or close to the end of the day.
National Insurance number application phone line:
0800 141 2075
Open: Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
What happens next?
After you’ve applied via phone you will receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asking you to come for an interview at Jobcentre Plus. In the interview, they will ask you why you need a National Insurance number and some basic questions. You will also be asked to bring a number of official documents to confirm your identity.
3. Go for National Insurance Number interview (at Jobcentre Plus)
After you’ve applied via phone you will receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) asking you to come for an interview at Jobcentre Plus.
What you need to bring:
- Your passport or ID
- Driving license
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- Birth or adoption certificate
- Residence permit (non-EU) citizens
The interview at Jobcentre Plus
In the interview, they will ask you why you need a National Insurance number and some basic questions. It's really simple - you just show up on the scheduled day and time and everything else will be ok. There's nothing to be worried about.
What happens next
At the end of the interview, you’ll be told how long it’ll take to get your National Insurance number. It is typically between two and six weeks after the interview.
4. Set up a bank account
You now have a job in London and it’s important that you can get paid for all that hard work ;) Setting up your British bank account will help you get settled and do regular things such as paying for a gym membership, go shopping, set up automatic withdrawals for rent and pay bills.
How to open a British bank account?
- "Normal banks"
There are a number of large banks to choose from, they include Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC or RBS/NatWest. We suggest booking an appointment with a financial advisor at a few different banks and seeing which bank best suits you. Make sure you take your passport/ID and proof of your address to your appointment in case they need you to fill in any paperwork.
It is often a struggle for expats in London to open a bank account as it can be hard to lock down a rental property, and therefore proof of British address, but a lot of banks are loosening their rules for expats. For example HSBC has a ‘New to the UK’ account and Barclays has a ‘Basic Account’ especially for expats.
- Modern online banks
There are a number of new digital banks opening around the world and helping remove some of the struggles expats face. Digital banks are typically aimed for the young professional, with cleverly designed apps, help features available online through chat and email, and a smoother application process. We recommend you start by having a look at Monzo or Revolut . With smoother application processes, these banks help speed up your administration progress, and allow you to get settled even faster!
You will need to pay taxes in the UK, if you are physically present there for 183 days or more within a tax year. It is important to note that the UK tax year runs from 05 April to 04 April, unlike many other countries that run 01 January to 31 December. You do not need a separate tax number, your tax is recorded against your National Insurance Number.
UK has a pretty typical progressive income tax rate system. This means that your tax will depend on your yearly income (from 0% to 45%). You can read more about the different tax brackets here.
Well, that’s it for the necessary legal steps, you can now start to make the most of your new life in London. In the following sections, we'll try to highlight some exciting tidbits about everyday life in the British capital. It’s time to start exploring!
Part 2: Culture
London is home to over nine million people and with 32 boroughs, 33 including the city of London, there is something for absolutely everyone, no matter how niche your interests may be.
Pub culture is an essential part of British life. Pubs are not only a place to have a beer but a great place to go to socialise, relax and even enjoy a pub meal of fish and chips or steak of the day. You will no doubt find yourself regularly enjoying a pint either on a Friday afternoon with your work colleague or at your local pub on a Sunday where you can enjoy a traditional Sunday Roast menu.
- Rich in History
London is the perfect city for all history buffs. There are over 170 museums around the city, including the British Museum that is home to the Rosetta Stone from the year 196 BC. But museums aren’t the only historic gems to be found, London has lots of historical sites such as the 13th century Westminster Abbey Building or the Tower of London’s White Tower, which was built even earlier in the 11th century.
- Move to the beat of your own drum
From swinging jazz concerts to all night DJs, London is home to some of the most iconic live music venues in the world, including the world’s oldest surviving music hall, Wilton's Music Hall. With over 1700 music performances a year there's always a great music event for you to enjoy
- Events & activities
From musicals and opera to award winning plays, London has a vibrant theatre scene with over 230 theatres, including Shakespeare’s historic Globe theatre. Book in advance or live on the spontaneous side of life and see what cheap tickets you can get on the night, you’ll never be short of options.
London is the home of some of the world’s most prestigious sporting events. Top hats, Strawberries and cream and Yellow Blazers are just some of the attire you are likely to see at a day watching the races at Royal Ascot, catching the world’s best tennis players at Wimbledon or watching the English cricket team at Lords. However, it is globally recognised that the English Premier League is the talk of every pub in London. So what are you waiting for… its time pick your EPL team and be part of the chat.
Part 3: Climate
London weather is somewhat unpredictable, and the term four seasons in one can ring true. So, with that in mind, it's a good idea to always have a raincoat or umbrella handy.
London has relatively mild temperatures all year round, but you can expect a lot of rain. It is a rainy city, but it's important to note it is typically a light drizzle rather than heavy rain so it won't stop you from exploring the city.
In winter temperatures range from 0°C to 8°C, it is very unusual for the weather to drop below 0°C. The summers on the other hand, can be beautiful and sunny, ranging from 13°C to 23°C. July and August are the sunniest months with an average temperature of 17°C. It's essential to make the most of the warmer weather and picnic in the park or take a drip at your local swimming pool such as Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park and the beautiful Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds with separate pools designated for men, women and for a mixed crowd.
Part 4: Healthcare
The United Kingdom is home to the National Health Service (NHS) and provides most healthcare services free of charge to people living in the UK. It is one of the largest healthcare systems in the world dealing with over 1 million people every 36 hours. As an EU resident you have access to the NHS.
As an EU resident you have access to the NHS. It’s important to note that while the NHS is often praised for its quality service, it is also well-known for its long and often frustrating waiting times for non-life threatening treatments. To bypass this potential frustration, you can purchase private healthcare, but this can be an expensive option, especially when you’ve just moved to a new country.
Here are a few things to know:
- What is covered by the NHS?
It is important to note that items like dental care, eye care, prescriptions, wigs, and spinal and abdominal supports are not covered by the NHS.
- Finding a GP Practice
As soon as you’ve found a place to live, you should become a part of the UK healthcare system. To do this, you must register with a local General Practitioner (GP) Practice by filling out this registration form. You can choose any GP but make life easier for yourself and pick one close to your home. Once you have completed the aboveform you must take it your chosen GP practice for approval. We highly recommend you take your passport and proof of your home address with you. Once your registration is approved you'll receive a registration letter in the post with your NHS Number- your unique 10-digit code. This typically takes a few weeks.
- Dental care
There are two types of dentists to choose from in the UK; private dentists and those who work for the NHS. NHS Dentists typically only provide necessary treatments and are often considered to be of lesser quality. Local Londoners usually rely on private dentists especially if you are looking for any kind of cosmetic dental treatment you’ll need to go to a private dentist.
- EU-wide healthcare coverage
As an EU citizen, you are entitled to medical treatment if you unexpectedly fall ill during a temporary stay in another EU country. This is a healthcare card that covers you for short visits in other EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland. You will need to apply for a UK issued European Health Insurance card once you move to the UK. You can apply online for free here.
Part 5: Transportation
London has one of the largest transport networks in the world. It is made up of a network of underground, suburban trains, light rail, trams, river buses (boats) and of course the famous red double-decker buses. You can enjoy the fresh air and cycle using one of the 11,500 Boris bikes (affectionately named after the former Mayor of London, and current Prime Minister, who initially introduced them).
Public transport in London
Almost all Londoners will use an Oyster Card to pay for their public transport. However, many users are switching to using their contactless payment cards such as Visa, Mastercard or America Express to pay for their public transport as they go. You can also use various mobile payments such as Apple Pay, Fitbit pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay. For more information on the different methods of public transport, visit https://tfl.gov.uk/.
Biking in London
While public transport makes getting from one place to another a breeze, you can choose healthier options, such as cycling. Over the past decade the number of cyclists has doubled. You can hire the famous Boris Bikes, mentioned earlier, on an irregular basis or sign up for a membership if you plan on making it part of your weekly routine. You can also purchase your own bike either brand new from a bike store or look to Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree Classifieds for second-hand bikes. A word of warning- be wary of stolen bikes for sale.
Part 6: Mobile phones
There are lots of mobile phone providers to choose from. Prices will vary widely from one provider to the next with most offering you prepaid and contract options.
- Prepaid phone carriers
The perfect ‘pay-as-you-go’ option. These plans typically don’t require any paperwork. You can purchase them and top-up your account online or in stores such as Electronic Stores, Kiosks, Gas Stations and most Supermarkets. The five main providers are Giffgaff, 3, Vodafone, O2 and Tesco.
- Contract phone carriers
If you would prefer to choose a plan that comes with a phone then you should expect to pay between £20-£40 per month. Before you can even register for a phone contract in the UK, you will need to have: proof of identity, proof of employment, a British bank account and an address in London. Once you have these you can consider getting a contract from one of the following providers Vodafone, EE, O2 and 3.
- Must-have "local" apps
Citymapper is a must, not only will it help you map your route across the city, but it can navigate the tangled web of the London public transport system. If you decide to use an Oyster card for your public transport, download the TFL Oyster App to make topping up easier and access your journey history. Never have a bad coffee again with the Best Coffee app. It's a great way to explore the London coffee scene. And of course, Monzo app for all your modern banking solutions.