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Working and living in the UK

This is a general guide to some important information that you may need and face when you arrive in the UK, we have outlined some points mainly related to work, if you need more information please ask your employer or feel free to ask us.

Working abroad is a great way to simultaneously further your career with international experience, broaden your horizons by living and learning in a new environment and not least, to have the time of your life!


EEA nationals:

European Community law gives EEA nationals a right to live and work in the UK. This is called a right of residence. You have an initial right of residence in the UK for three months if you are an EEA national. If you are an EEA national and you want to live in the UK for more than three months, you must be a ‘qualified person’. A qualified person means an EEA national who is in the UK as: a jobseeker, a worker, self-employed person, a self-sufficient person (someone who can support themselves financially) or a student.

National Insurance:

National Insurance (NI) is a form of taxation, administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), where people in work make payments towards benefits. In other words, you pay NI contributions to build up your entitlement to certain state benefits, including your pension.

NI contributions also go towards the costs of the National Health Service. If you are planning to work in the UK, it’s important that you apply for your NI as soon as possible (it can take up to three months). Your NI number will enable you to obtain Government benefits such as free medical services and can make life a whole lot easier when applying for your tax returns.

Your National Insurance number is like your own personal account number, it is unique to you and you keep the same one all your life. The number ensures the NI contributions (NIC) and tax you pay are properly recorded on your account. It also acts as a reference number when communicating with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

You will need to obtain an NI number from the Department for Work & Pensions. This can be done via your local Jobcentre Plus office (your local jobcentre office will be listed in the phone book or log onto for more information).

Applying for a National Insurance number:

If you have the right to work in the UK and you are looking for, starting work or are setting up as self-employed, phone Jobcentre Plus on 0845 600 0643. Lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday.

Jobcentre Plus will arrange an Evidence of Identity (EOI) interview for you or send you a postal application. They will confirm the date, time and location of your interview. They will also tell you what information and documentation is required to support your application.

Go early as NI numbers can take weeks, sometimes months, to process. If you are working, take a letter to that effect from your employer or employment agency. Where you secure a position before obtaining your NI number, you will be given an emergency number based on your birthday.

National Insurance Registrations Helpline: 0845 915 7006 - 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday


It is more than likely that you will pay tax and your NI contributions through the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. You won’t have to do anything, as your local tax office will provide your employer with a tax code to calculate how much tax and NIC you should be paying. It is deducted from your salary, so your payslip reflects your net earnings.

For further information, log onto

Bank accounts:

Opening a bank account is one of the biggest frustrations for newly arrived travelers, since it’s difficult to receive timely payment or to secure a lease without one.

You may have heard that it is not as easy as you think to open a bank account in the UK. While this may be true to some degree, with a bit of common sense and following these few simple steps, you will be seeing your first pay cheque arrive in your account in no time.

Banks are concerned about security: yours and theirs. This means they will want to see various documents before opening your account. They will want to see your passport so don’t forget to take it along.

If you have a British or EU passport or visa, you will probably find it easier to open an account than those on working holiday visas. In addition to your passport, take along as many of the following as you can:

  • A letter of introduction/reference from your bank manager at home
  • Proof of address either in the form of a rental agreement, a bill to you at your address or a letter from someone whose name is on the lease
  • A letter from your employer (if you have already found work) stating your role, duration of employment and your address
  • A letter from an employment agency (if you have registered with one) stating your registration and explaining that you are actively seeking work

There are a number of high street retail banks to choose from when you arrive but having recognised how tricky the process can often be, HSBC have set up their Passport Account which has been specifically designed to assist customers relocating to new countries. This service allows you to open your bank account before you leave home, which means that your account will be up and running by the time you arrive in the UK.


If you are lucky enough to have friends in the UK to stay with when you arrive, you can avoid a few initial stresses. However, finding accommodation after you arrive is not such a daunting task. In fact, many firms will help you with finding accommodation and point you in the direction of estate agents, as well as provide other assistance. A basic rule is: the more central you are, the higher your rent will be, but your transport costs will be reduced. The further out you live, the cheaper your rent, but the more you’ll shell out for transport. If you’re unsure where you will be working, keep your options open committing to no more that a six-month lease. Check out for an overview of particular areas.


For most healthcare issues, you can find your answer on the NHS website or in more urgent circumstances, you can call the NHS Direct helpline 24 hours a day on 0845 4647 with any health queries you may have.


Visiting a doctor is free and the only charge is for medicines prescribed. You will need to register with your local NHS doctor, who can be found in your telephone directory or through the NHS website


There is no such thing as free dental care in the UK, however, even if you do find an NHS dentist you will have to pay towards any treatment that you receive, even regular check ups.


Most high streets will have at least one opticians’ practice. Some are independent, others part of larger chains.

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