Moving to London: Turns out, you’ve got to know someone

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  The age-old riddle, which has equally plausible justification for either answer.  Just like, which needs to come first when you arrive in the UK to live?  Bank account, National Insurance Number, flat or job?

The ‘Impossible’ cycle

I had often heard rumours about this impossible cycle of how to get set up in London.  Obviously, a job is important for income, but you can’t get a job until you’ve got somewhere for them to pay you (a bank account of course).  But how do you get a bank account?  Easy enough, if you have an address for them to mail your bank card to.


How do you get an address?  By renting a flat – but wait, wouldn’t you need a job to be able to rent a flat?  And what if you’re a citizen returning from overseas but you don’t have a National Insurance Number – surely you need that for your job too.  How do you get that if you don’t have an address?

Welcome to the impossible cycle!  Which comes first and where do you start?

Untitled Diagram

The answer is – which ever is willing to be more forgiving with their requirements

It’s an unfortunate reality.  There are rules, and there are rules that you need help to overcome.  In this situation, you most certainly need some sort of assistance to even break into the cycle.  I explain some potential options.

I do stress that you will need to approach this at your own risk – I’m not saying that this is the right way or even a way that’s going to work for you – just some food for thought.  Equally, this assumes you have all rights to work in the UK already – don’t attempt any of this if you don’t have the right to reside and work in the UK.

I’m in no way an expert, merely commenting on opinion and observation.  Immigration is stressful and complicated, so get some advice, yeah?

The underlying cause of the issue

The overwhelmingly difficult aspect of trying to set up your life in London is that most companies and government agencies assume that you’re already living in the UK.  Therefore, you will have proof of where you live in the form of bills / accounts which have been mailed to you.

Of course, if you’re moving from abroad, you’ll not have any of these documents which is frustrating to no end.

Getting a bank account

You might need a bit of assistance with this one.  There are immigration experts that can assist in verifying your identity and referring you to a bank which is willing to set up an account for you with minimal confirmation of your address.

The key here will be to have a loving friend or relative that already lives in the UK which is able to accept mail on your behalf.  The bank will likely want a residential address, so putting your workplace or even a postal collection service is probably not going to cut it.

Saddle up with your long-lost cousin, or friend that you used to work with 5 years ago and beg them to utilise their address.  The bonus is that you will need to see them to collect the mail, so don’t be afraid to offer copious prosecco (seems to be all the rage) or beer in compensation.

Getting your NINo

The NINO is the abbreviated term for the National Insurance Number (no.). Similarly to the bank account situation, you’re best off here employing the services of an immigration consultant.  They will be able to guide you through the process to get your NINO relatively painlessly.  This will only apply to those who are either British Citizens who aren’t settled in the UK already or those in the EU who are trying to obtain work and need the NINO for their employer – as those entering on a working visa will generally have been granted a NINo through that process.

This will most likely involve setting up an interview for you to attend and provide proof of your residence in the UK.  Again, if you haven’t lived in a flat in your name, or have any proof of this (such as council taxes, rental agreement etc.) then this is going to be pretty difficult.

Again, your worn out friend who is now enjoying free alcohol at your expense will come in handy.  The immigration consultant should eble to guide you through the process with your interview taking place as soon as practicable and your NINo being mailed out in around 2 weeks after the interview (of course, times are completely dependent on how quickly things are being processed).

Getting a flat

What do most landlords want to prove before they let you their flat?  Income!  Of course.  And some rental history too.  This is pretty difficult to prove when you’ve just stepped off a plane.  Your best bet is having a job (of course) and proving your income back in the country that you lived previously.  A letter from your old landlord would help too to provide some character reference.

If you don’t have a job yet, you’ll need to either be very lucky or be able to stump up 6 months rent in advance. (I was not aware of this and was freaking out about us not having a job.  We heard this from a real estate agent who would have been happy to let us a flat if we could provide this 6 months up front – it would bypass their referencing process).

Some options there for you, but most likely, you’re ‘air bnb’ing it (or of course, staying with your now drunk friend until you’re able to let your own flat).

Getting a job

Strangely, getting a job is probably the most straightforward in this conundrum.  Yes, you’ll need a bank account for your hard-earned pounds to be paid – however, most companies in the UK pay monthly (don’t cry!).

You’re also able to start work even if you don’t have a NINo yet.  You just need to have applied for it and able to provide it to your employer within a few months (you might need to look this up as it might have changed) to avoid problems with the revenue office.  You’ll of course be paying a higher rate of tax until you can provide your NINo.

So, you have a bit of a buffer with an employer.  They’ll want to know where you’re living (but won’t need proof, aside from your eligibility to work in the UK) and you can provide your banking and NINo details as soon as you can.

So, who do you know?

I can’t stress this enough.  Moving to the UK without a friendly face to help you on the other side is a nightmare.  You really do need a local for more than just moral support when you’re thrown into the land of rule and regulation.

Tell me your stories

Have you experienced the impossible cycle?  How did you break through?  I’d love to know how you got on.

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