You’ve received your UK Youth Mobility Scheme Visa and have finally arrived in Edinburgh – now what? Along with job searching and flat hunting, there are a few key things you should try to take care of as soon as you arrive. I’ve listed them here, with tips to help you get sorted as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Applying for a National Insurance number
If you plan to work in the UK, you need to apply for a National Insurance number (British social security number).
Call 0845 6000 643 and wait for the application forms to arrive in the mail. When you call, have your postcode and passport handy as they will ask for them. Once you’ve received them, fill out the forms and mail them back with a photocopy of your passport and visa. I received my number within two weeks or so.
You can work before you have your National Insurance number, but you must let your employer know you’re in the process of applying for one.
Opening a bank account
Opening a bank account in the UK can be challenging – especially if you don’t have accommodations sorted before you arrive. Banks require proof of address (in the form of a utility bill or something similar) when opening an account, but you need a bank account in order to secure your accommodations.
I had arranged a place to stay before I arrived in Edinburgh, so I used the letter I received with the National Insurance application form as proof of address. Barclay’s and HSBC would not accept this as proof of address, but TSB did. They opened an account for me on the spot without any hassle, so I’d highly recommend trying TSB first. (A reader recently told me she tried using her National Insurance application form at a few larger banks to no avail, but was able to use the letter with her National Insurance number once she received it.)
If you’re having trouble opening an account, I’d recommend trying smaller banks like TSB and the Co-operative Bank.
If you have an account with HSBC in Canada, try opening an international account before you head to Scotland.
Finding a flat
If you only plan to stay for a few weeks or months, or if you need accommodations while you search for a flat, you could try Homestay – a website which allows you to rent a room from locals. Rooms are normally rented at a nightly rate, but you could ask for a discounted rate if you plan to stay for a longer period of time.
Finding a job
I would recommend signing up with a recruitment agency straight away, especially if you have reception, administration, call centre, or hospitality experience. I met with two agencies and was placed into a three-day temporary position in less than a week, and then I landed a six-week position shortly thereafter. If you’re looking for something more long-term, just let them know your preferences, but working a one or two-month temporary position can provide income while you search for something else.
Of the two agencies I used, I found Blue Arrow to be very professional and helpful, and would highly recommend them. A few other agencies I’ve heard of that may be worthwhile are Office Angels, Manpower, Stafffinders, and Cordant.
Indeed and S1jobs are two helpful job search sites, as well as Gumtree. There are plenty of pub, hospitality, and cafe jobs available as well – especially in August when the Fringe Festival is in full swing.
Getting a UK mobile number
If you already have a cell phone, I would highly recommend unlocking it before you arrive in the UK so you can order a free SIM card from GiffGaff. They have a range of cheap monthly top-up plans and you don’t have to worry about signing a contract. For £10 per month, I get unlimited texts, 500 UK minutes, and 1GB of data.
If you need to purchase a phone, try one of the major carriers, like Virgin, O2, or Vodafone. Their monthly pay-as-you-go plans are very similar for the most part – starting around £20 per month for unlimited texts, 2GB of data, and 500 UK minutes.
Registering with a local GP
To find the GP closest to you, call 0131 537 8488 or search for it online here. Take your passport and proof of address to the office and fill out the required paperwork, and then you should be able to see a doctor within a few days.
They may only register new patients on specific days, so make sure to call the office before you visit.
Buses in Edinburgh are frequent and convenient. You can view route maps and timetables at lothianbuses.com, or download their free app which provides real-time departure information. (If you download the app, you can purchase tickets online and show the driver your phone when you board the bus.)
When purchasing tickets on the bus, make sure you have the exact change. Single tickets cost £1.60 and an unlimited day pass costs £4.
If you’ll be using the public transportation on a regular basis, I’d recommend purchasing the Ridacard, which offers unlimited bus and tram travel for £54 per month.
Looking for more tips on moving to Edinburgh? Try these posts: