A post-visa, step by step guide to settling into the UK

It’s come to that point in time where I need to extend my visa.

The thought of it inevitably brought to mind the application nightmare I went through a few years ago – hence it was with some dismay that I discovered that the form for extension is nearly identical to the initial application form, requiring numerous details and documentary evidence.

Moreover, after going through all the hassle of getting a visa – including the substantial application fees – one would think that the biggest hurdle of settling into the UK has been cleared. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth – it just means that you can enter and stay here legally.

So, what other paperwork do you need to truly settle in the UK? Here is a step by step guide to all the other documents you will need if you have arrived as a partner of someone with right to reside in the UK.

1) Obtain a mobile line

Unless you can prove that you’ve lived in the UK for 3 years, you can forget about obtaining a post-paid mobile line in your name. Instead, don’t hesitate to ask your partner to set one up for your use instead, or purchase one of Three Mobile or Giff Gaff’s wonderful pay as you go SIM plans.

2) Get your name on a utilities or telephone/internet bill

You will need at least two documents as proof of address (see #5). In most cases, a utilities or telephone/internet bill addressed to you and delivered to your current UK address would be a suitable example.

3) Register with a job agency

Most agencies will require you to fill in a form of some sort – ensure you get a copy of this, as this will be proof that you are actively seeking work. This will be needed for #4.

4) Apply for a National Insurance Number

Having a National Insurance Number will be another suitable proof of address (see #5). To do that, you will need to apply with a local Job Centre to go through the procedures. You will have to go in person twice: once to indicate your intent and get an interview appointment, the second to present all your documents and undergo an interview. One of the documents required is to demonstrate that you are actively seeking work – as in #3.

Not all Job Centres offer this service though. In Belfast, the most central Job Centre that does so is on Great Victoria Street.

5) Set up a bank account

To do so, you will need to present 2 documents proving your current address in the UK – of which #2 and #4 are suitable examples. Do note that a signed tenancy agreement from letting agents proving that you live at an address does NOT suffice.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that of all the banks in Northern Ireland, Santander is the easiest with which to set up an account. An American friend referred me to Santander, and they were also most helpful in advising me on the documents required. Banking with them means that you can apply for their awesome 123 Current Account, which gives you up to 3% interest on your bank balance.

6) Get on the Electoral Register

Being on the Electoral Register is probably the best proof of your existence and residence in the country. It is also an essential step towards #7, so register to vote here now. The process is not immediate, and you’ll only be added to the register upon a certain date.

7) Applying for a Credit Card

This is by far the most difficult. I still haven’t succeeded in applying for a credit card, in spite of promises from a few credit card companies, getting my credit rating and several attempts at applying for one. There are plenty of resources out there on how to improve your credit score – do check them out, and good luck!

Update, 14/04/15: I’ve finally managed to get a credit card from CapitalOne, albeit with a ridiculously low credit limit and an obscenely high interest rate. Still – some history is better than no history! 


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