Moving to London is something that thousands of Aussies do every year. And whilst this doesn’t make the experience any less daunting, what it does mean is that there’s a superb expat community waiting to greet you. But whilst it can be great to get information from family and friends about the big move, what’s essential is to ensure that the important stuff comes from verified and official sources.
So with that in mind, here are our 7 Top Tips for Aussies Moving to London:
Getting the correct visa to live in the UK
There are various different visas available depending on your reason for moving to the UK. UK Visas and Information (formerly known as the UK Border Agency) is the official government body that manages applications for people who want to visit, study, work or settle in the UK.
The following types of visas are available for an Aussie:
- Skilled Worker Visa: (also known as a Tier 2 General Visa). In short, this is a visa that allows you to live and work in the UK. It will either be in a job specified on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List, or in a job sponsored by an employer who has been unable to fill the position with a person already settled in the country.
- Highly Skilled Worker Visa: This visa is for those already in the UK under the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, who are a self-employed lawyer, or are a writer, composer or artist. This visa will be closed to new applicants from 06 April 2015.
- Ancestry Visa: This is an option for those who are a Commonwealth Citizen and have a grandparent that was born in the UK.
- Youth Mobility Scheme Visa: (also known as a Tier 5 Visa). This is for those aged 18 to 30 years and gives the right to live and work in the UK for up to 24 months. You need £1,890 in savings to be able to apply for this visa.
- Student Visa: (also known as a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa, and is for those wishing to visit and live in the UK to study. You must be 16 years or older, been offered a place on a course, have a good knowledge of the English Language and enough money to support yourself and pay for your course.
Deciding where to live in London
London is an easy city in which to get about thanks to a great public transport system. There are a few areas of London that have a high number of ex-pat Aussies. These include Willesden, Shepherds Bush, Acton, Queens Park and Earl’s Court. London, as with every capital city, is an expensive place to live. If price is a feature in your search for accommodation, then try to find an area where prices are lower than in other areas of town.
Two of the most comprehensive lists of available accommodation to buy or rent can be found on Zoopla and Right Move. Another place to check out is Gumtree – where individuals advertise by area, including property. You also have the advantage of not paying agent fees if you buy or rent a place direct from the owner. Another option for flat shares is to sign up to EasyRoomMate. This website provides a guarantee that every room has been manually validated, and there’s a customer service phone number where you can get help 24/7 if necessary.
Setting up a bank account
This is pretty much a necessity, especially if you’re working, as you’ll need an account into which your wages are paid. To make life easier, it can be advantageous to open an account with a UK bank that has an Australian presence, such as HSBC, or Barclays. You may even be to be able to do this before leaving home.
To open an account once in the UK you’ll need to provide a UK address and proof that you live there. This can be a little challenging as your living arrangements might well be transitory when you’ve first arrived in the UK. However, many hostel owners will be happy for you to use their address if you ask politely. To confirm proof of address you’ll need a utility bill or equivalent – such as another bank statement, that shows your UK address. If living in a hostel, this difficulty can be circumvented by changing the address on your bank account back at home to your UK address, print off an online statement – and voila, you have your proof.
Getting a National Insurance number
Once you’ve arrived in the UK you can apply for a National Insurance number. This is the same thing as a Tax File Number in Australia. It’s done by calling the Jobcentre Plus application line on 0345 600 0643, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. It’s a pretty simple (if bureaucratic) process that requires you to provide proof of your right to work or study in the UK, passport details and, once again – proof of address.
Getting medical help
This might not be the first thing on your mind, but in the UK you can’t get an appointment with a doctor unless you’re registered with a surgery. The National Health Service provides healthcare in the UK in a similar way as the system in Australia – it’s paid for through the National Insurance contributions that all working nationals and residents pay. To register you simply need choose a doctor in your area and provide them with your details.
For medical advice outside of normal office hours, NHS 111 – contacted by calling 111 – is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The phone number for emergency medical assistance (an ambulance) is 999.
Mobile phones and Internet
Rather than using your Australian sim card abroad, it’s far more economical to purchase a UK sim card on your arrival. There are many service providers, including EE, Vodafone O2 and 3, each offering choices of a monthly plans or pay-as-you-go. The Carphone Warehouse shows plans and pay-as-you-go deals from all providers, and is a good place to compare different deals on offer.
When it comes to Internet, free Wi-Fi is commonplace in the UK. Most pubs, cafes, hotels and restaurants offer it. This map is a good guide as to the many places you can take advantage of this. There is also free Wi-Fi at 150 underground and overground stations in the capital.
Using public transport
Getting around London is a breeze thanks to the comprehensive train and bus service. The underground train system is known as The Tube, and covers the whole London area. The most economical way to use public transport is using an Oyster Card. Purchase a card online (or at a Tube Station) load it with credit (you can do this using auto-top up or at any Tube stations) and simply tap your card on the yellow card reader each time you enter or leave a station (or ride a bus).
From September 2014 it’s possible to use a contactless payment card in the same way as you would an Oyster card. It works with credit, debit, charge or prepaid cards as long as they are contactless. Just be sure that you only tap the card you wish to use on the card reader to prevent using different cards for the same journey.
Using either an Oyster card or a contactless card means that your fare will be capped – the system automatically calculates the best value for your travel over 24 hour or 7-day period.
Of course, moving half way around the world is a huge step, but a very exciting one. London is a fabulous city in which to live, work or study. And learning the little differences between home and your chosen place to live is all part of the adventure!