Before I planned my big moving to London adventure I was concerned about all the paperwork I’d have to fill out just to work here. Bank Accounts I understood, but the National Insurance Number seemed completely foreign to me.
The National Insurance Number (think Tax File Number Australians) is required by your employer and while used for tax purposes it also gets you access to free health services should you ever need them. As for your bank account, well that’s just so you can get paid and stop having to convert your home currency into the pound and pay a fortune in conversion fees.
The big catch I found was that for both of these services you need some form of address to get either of them. Not so easy when you only arrived in the country a week ago and your address has already changed twice thanks to hostel life and some questionable room mates.
I found that you can get the address in a couple of ways. Find a place to rent, hook up with a friend already living here or have a kind word to the hostel staff and get them to let you use their address on your application forms. I struggled with finding rentable accommodation in London so got very friendly with hostel management and they allowed me to get mail posted to them.
Having the address was the first step but the bank required proof of me living there in a form of a bill or equivalent. Luckily I’d made my parents signatories on my bank account before leaving home in case something bad happened. I got them to change my postal address on my bank account back home to show my new address here in London. Thanks to the beauty of online bank statements I printed it off and finally had the proof the UK banks would need. From there its a matter of picking the bank that you like the best and booking in for an appointment to go through the details. Be sure to bring along your passport and any details on a job (if you have one) as well as any other forms of ID just to be sure you cover all your bases.
Applying for my National Insurance Number after having gone through the bank account process was a dream. You apply through Jobcenter Plus on 0845 600 0643 from 8am-6pm Monday-Friday. Depending on if you are working or not they can require you to attend an appointment to apply but nobody I know has ever had to go through that process.
My application required me to call up the number above and answer a few questions, they then posted out a form to fill in and all I had to do was post it back to them. Some 8-10 weeks later a piece of paper arrived in my mailbox detailing my national insurance number and I was all set.
Most employers will take you on without a number in the beginning but given you will also need your bank account to get paid (normally monthly here) its best to get both applied for and in your hand as soon as you can.
While there are companies that offer services to help you get your bank account and national insurance number before and after moving to London, they can often be costly and from what I’ve heard are a mixed bag on just how supportive they are. Doing it yourself is far more rewarding especially if your out exploring the world as a solo traveller.
Photo Credit: comedy_nose