Edinburgh Europe Expat Life Scotland Tips

Moving to Edinburgh: Finding a Job and Getting Settled

Jun 01

Calton Hill Edinburgh

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.

Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit

Your BRP grants you permission to work in the UK and access the health services, and you must pick it up within ten days of arriving in the UK.

Simply take your passport and head to the assigned post office to collect your BRP. (The post office address will be provided in your decision letter and mailed along with your passport.)

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 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

I was lucky enough to have accommodations sorted before I arrived in Edinburgh, but if you’re looking to rent a room or a flat, Spareroom and Gumtree are two good sites to use.

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 BRP card, 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.

Getting around

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 £2 and an unlimited day pass costs £5.

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 £62 per month.

Looking for more tips on moving to Edinburgh? Check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, let me know in the comments!

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Moving to Edinburgh with a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa? Read this post for tips on what to do when you arrive - from opening a bank account to finding a job.


  • Reply Alice A Aug 25 at 3:04 am

    This post is so helpful! I’m considering moving to Edinburgh (all the way from Australia, what a hike) and the whole job and living thing was worrying me. Thanks for all the tips!

    • Reply ashleywanders Aug 28 at 7:32 pm

      You’re welcome, Alice! Searching for a job can be stressful here at times, but recruitment agencies have been so helpful, and I’m sure you’d have no issues finding work if you decided to move here 🙂

  • Reply Ricardo Prentice Sep 06 at 10:56 am

    This post is wonderful. I started to plan my travel to Edinburgh the last week, and I have 3 months to get all ready.
    I am from Madrid, but I am bilingual, have british nationality, so I feel like in home wherever in the UK.
    I am searching for a job with Indeed.co.uk, in order to have already a job when I arrive to Edinburgh. What do you think it is the best way to have a job? Once being there?

    Thank you very much

    • Reply ashleywanders Sep 09 at 5:47 pm

      Hey Ricardo,
      You can definitely start searching and applying for jobs in advance, maybe a month or so before arriving in Edinburgh, I’d say. As soon as you arrive in Edinburgh, I would recommend registering with recruitment agencies, as I found them to be very helpful with securing temporary work quickly. A few agencies I’d recommend are Blue Arrow, Cordant, Eden Scott, and Hays. You can also check a few other sites, like s1jobs.com and reed.co.uk.
      I hope that helps! Good luck, and let me know if you have anymore questions 🙂

  • Reply Nila May 15 at 4:20 pm

    I’m actually looking into going to Edinburgh this January and your blog is very helpful! I was just wondering to register with the recruitment agencies is there a fee that you need to pay? Also do you know if it’s easy to get a job at a pub as a waitress in Edinburgh?

    • Reply ashleywanders Jun 06 at 8:29 pm

      Hey Nila, glad you’ve found my blog helpful 🙂 No, there isn’t a fee to register with recruitment agencies, and there are tons of pubs and restaurants here, so I don’t think you’d have any trouble getting a job as a waitress!

  • Reply Diane Jul 26 at 6:03 pm

    I am also going to Edinburgh this fall for (2 years) with the same visa… and I just noticed while filling out the application that they ask for an address and name of person which I am going to stay with. What did you do? Did you put an address of a hotel? I am trying to find a place before, but don’t want to be last minute for the visa! Anxious!

    • Reply ashleywanders Jul 27 at 3:43 pm

      Hi Diane, I had a flat sorted before I moved to Edinburgh because I was moving in with a friend, so I used that address. If you’re planning to book a hostel or Airbnb for the first few days/weeks when you arrive, just use that address. Just bear in mind your BRP card will be sent to a post office near the address you provide.

  • Reply jobsearch agency Aug 22 at 4:52 am

    Helpful post to share. Thank you so much for sharing this article. I would love to hear from you in the future as well. This is useful for the ones who are looking for job. I wonder if you could write more on education and recruitment as you are a great writer seems from your blog. Keep writing and rocking..

  • Reply lucy Feb 13 at 5:47 pm

    Good article. I live in England and have tried to move twice and failed. It’s such a competitive and expensive place to find a home as everyone wants to live there. I will look into the homestay thing as I only want to stay for one summer, but if I made friends it would be a good place to go and visit them.

    • Reply ashleywanders Feb 18 at 11:41 pm

      Thanks, Lucy! I’m sorry to hear that. I know it is quite competitive when trying to find a place to live, but hopefully you’ll have better luck finding temporary accommodation!

  • Reply Ayesha Mar 09 at 2:24 pm

    I am *so* glad to have found this post. All the other blogs for Tier 5 I have found are about England. I am applying from Toronto to go to Scotland (Glasgow) and am SO worried about it, and jobs, etc.
    You’ve put my mind at ease.
    How are you liking it? Have you found a f/t job yet?

    • Reply ashleywanders Mar 09 at 6:19 pm

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful, Ayesha 🙂 I was also really worried about jobs before I moved to Scotland, but try not to stress! I’m sure everything will fall into place like it did for me. I’m back in Canada now, but I lived in Edinburgh for two years and LOVED it. I started doing temp work when I arrived, and then found full-time work after 3 months or so. Good luck in Glasgow!

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