How to get your working life set up for your UK OE
So you’ve made the decision to go for it – an exciting professional OE to the UK sounds perfect! But now there is the confusing and time-consuming admin and financial considerations to set up and to get right. Where do you even begin to start with a plan?!
Setting up a BANK ACCOUNT
If you’ve set up a bank account at home, the UK process will be a familiar one in many ways. The main difference is that, despite the type of visa you hold or how great your credit rating is at home, you’re simply a new customer to the banks, with zero UK financial history.
The UK banking system is highly regulated to protect banking customers, but the good news is that setting up a UK bank account can be simpler than it once was if you speak to the right people. The ultimate goal is to arrive in the UK with an appointment already arranged at the bank of your choice. This appointment is the last stage in the set-up process. Plan it properly and you can meet your new bank manager within days – or even hours – of landing in the UK and leave with your new account details all ready to use.
You will have to provide identification documents, many of which can be sent online.
The basic list includes:
- A tenancy agreement or mortgage statement
- Your biometrics residency permit (or UK or EU passport)
- Your passport (if outside the UK or EU)
- A recent (less than 3 months old) electricity or gas bill
- A recent bank or credit card statement that’s not printed from the internet
- A current council tax bill.
- Your TFN (Aus) or IRD (NZ)
Some banks will want different documents. Make sure you’re clear about what’s required in your particular case.
Deciding which bank and which type of account suits you best
The main UK banks may already be familiar names to you – HSBC, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Natwest, Nationwide and Halifax to name a few.
There is absolutely no need to pay fees for your UK banking. All the major UK banks offer free accounts that are more than adequate for standard transactions and payments. They all include a debit card and online banking. Some also include overdraft facilities. Some banks are gearing accounts specifically towards those arriving from other countries, while others are trying to attract new customers with interest and cashback opportunities.
What is an expat account?
An expat account is an account opened up with a high street bank before you arrive in the UK. You will need to supply information around your current country of residence. The main issue with an expat account is you will need in excess of £15,000 deposit (in many cases more) to deposit into this account
While it’s fine to keep your home account open for when you return, it can be very restrictive and costly to use it while you’re in the UK. We wouldn’t recommend this as an option. Expat accounts are offered by many of the leading UK banks specifically to cater to people living for an extended time, but not permanently, in the UK. However, the free accounts already mentioned offer perfectly adequate banking provisions for expats, so you only need to open a specialist account if your specific circumstances require it.
Is all this forward planning completely necessary?
In short – yes, if you want to enjoy a smooth and hassle-free transition into your UK life. You can find yourself in a frustrating catch-22 situation if you don’t plan ahead. For example, you need a bank account to sign up for long-term tenancy, but you can’t get a bank account without proof of a UK address. Waiting to start this process once you’re already in the UK could lead to you spending a lot of money on temporary accommodation and Forex for anything up to a month, while you wait for an appointment at the bank to come free. It could also prevent you from getting your salary paid to you once you start working.
Applying for your NATIONAL INSURANCE Number
Your National Insurance card is the UK equivalent to your Australian TFN or IRD number for New Zealanders. You need your NI number for tax purposes and to receive free health treatment from the NHS. It’s relatively simple to get one. Call HMRC on 0845 6000642 once you have your BRP card.
You will most likely be required to go for an appointment to get your NI number, so the sooner you call and book the sooner you will get an appointment. The appointments are held at a Jobcentre Plus. You will be required to provide documents to prove your identity (your passport and your BRP card are a must).
International transfers and credit
If you ever need to make or receive international money transfers, it’s worth shopping around beyond the service offered by your bank. There are a number of companies operating in the UK now that offer a great international transfer service for very reasonable rates. Transferwise is an excellent provider, they can offer localised accounts, debit cards and many other currencies.
A word of warning…
Do think carefully before accepting any tempting offers of credit cards or overdrafts. If you leave the UK with debt, HMRC has links with the Australian and New Zealand tax office and will chase that money down.
Free support and assistance
MyOE was created over 20 years ago to support and assist ambitious Aussie and Kiwi professionals to get themselves successfully and smoothly settled into the UK. Their completely free service can help get you set up with your Bank Account and National Insurance number, together with job finding support and the opportunity of a full social calendar when you arrive. Join one of their Free Webinars live from Australian born experts in London who can share with you their personal experience of taking an OE to the UK, and answer any questions you may have. Or download their complimentary MyOE handbook for more insight into all the different elements you need to consider for successful OE planning.