Checklist for Arriving in the UK

“You alrigh’?”
(translation: how are you?)
Welcome to the UK!

Soak in the sensation of those butterflies in your tummy as you fly over the Thames – you’ll never forget the feeling of landing in Heathrow for the first time, and wondering what awaits you when your feet hit the ground!

Anticipation, nerves, excitement, and a little fear are the best words I can use to describe what runs through your body as you unbuckle your seat belt and start this new chapter in your life.

The hard yards are done now, and it’s time to enjoy what you’ve been working so hard for.  Just a few last jobs to get done in between high tea at the Ritz and pints at the pub…


Get an Oyster Card 

You have the option to use “contactless” (tap your card to pay) on most public transport in London, but if you pay international fees on your debit/credit card transactions it will end up costing a bomb. I’d wait until you get your UK banking sorted to use this option more cost effectively. 

An Oyster Card is your key to all public transport in London (like your NSW Opal Card, or your Miki in Melbourne). 

You can buy it from the automatic machine on the train platform at Heathrow airport – buy your card, load it with 20 quid, and you’ll find it super easy to navigate your way around on the underground train system (affectionately known as the “tube”), jump on one of the famous red double decker buses, or catch a ferry. 


Get a Phone Plan 

The big telco companies in the UK are EE, O2, 3 (Three), Virgin and Vodaphone. 

You can get yourself a pretty decent “pay as you go” plan that gives you plenty of calls, texts and data every month without having to commit to a contract. You will want to make sure you sign up for something with included roaming across Europe so you can take your calls, texts and data abroad without paying extra. 

To give you a ball park figure I have a pay as you go sim with EE that includes international roaming to most (not quite all) destinations I plan to visit. It gives me £500 worth of calls, unlimited texts and 10GB of data for £15 a month. 


Pick Up your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) 

Take your passport and the letter you received along with it to the post-office and pick up your BRP card (you will need to do this before the deadline written on your temporary visa in your passport). 

Keep this somewhere safe – you’ll need to show it whenever you enter/exit the UK Border. 


Apply for a National Insurance Number (NIN) 

This process can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to process (for me it took forever!), so get started as soon as you can by calling the NIN application line when you arrive in the UK on 0800 141 2075. 

All you’ll need is a postal address, your passport and your BRP card. 

You can check out my blog post on Getting a National Insurance Number for all the details if you get confused. 


Apply for a Bank Account 

This can be by far the most annoying job for international employees arriving in the UK. 

The big banks over here (NatWest, HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays) require your passport, BRP, and 2 proof of address documents to open an account. 

However, the only documents they will accept are some sort of rental agreement or utility bill with your name and address on it (water, electricity or gas, it can’t be a mobile phone bill), meaning you kind of need a permanent address. A bit tricky if you haven’t got a job yet to pay the rent… 

To combat this highly inconvenient scenario, a few new online and app-based banks are opening specifically with us in mind. And they’re awesome.  

They don’t require proof of address to open an account (just your passport and BRP), and you can open it almost instantly on your phone or computer. Most accounts are fee-free, come with a debit card, and perform just like a normal bank without the physical branches. 

You can read my in depth post about it here. 


Phew, well that’s it! If you’ve followed all of the steps I’ve posted about up until now then you’ve done pretty much everything you’ll need to function in the UK. 

From here I leave the adventure up to you. 

Have fun!


> Opening a UK bank account

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