Finally, the day is here, all your hard work has paid off and you have landed in the UK. You have just checked into your new accommodation and you are all ready for the full UK experience.
There are a few things you can do on your very first day to ensure that your life in the UK will be a lot easier. As an international student from India, these are 5 things I did on my very first day that made my life a bit more convenient in the UK.
1. UK Sim
Your university accommodation and most public places too will have WiFi but you still need that +44 number to make and receive calls in the UK.
You can go for a prepaid sim card that has a basic data plan and unlimited calls within the UK and some international calling minutes for an emergency when WhatsApp calls are not an option. There are a lot of providers like 3, EE, Vodafone etc. But I found these providers a better option if you require an e-sim or a phone contract.
If you need just a prepaid sim card, the best one out there is Lebara (order a Lebara Sim here to get 50% off). Lebara offers some of the cheapest monthly plans with international minutes included starting from just £5.
2. Bank Account
When you arrive in the UK, you may have a forex card or some hard cash with you. However, you will soon find yourself needing a UK bank account especially if you plan to get a part-time job. Opening an account with a High Street Bank like Lloyds, HSBC or Barclays will require proof of address and sometimes your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP - which usually arrives a couple of weeks after later) or visiting a nearby branch.
If you want a bank account right away the best option is Monzo (click here to open an account). Monzo is an internet bank that has almost all the features of a brick-and-mortar bank. You can create an account right away by downloading the app on your phone and using your passport to verify your identity. Your debit card should arrive within a couple of days and you are good to go.
Monzo also has an inbuilt service to send money overseas and if you are sending it to India you can use the UPI id of the recipient which is very convenient. Keep in mind, however, that it is not very convenient if you want to deposit cash into your account but over the last 2 years, I have never had to deposit cash into my account. If you do find yourself having a lot of cash in hand you can always open an account with a High Street Bank like Lloyds and the best part is you can use your Monzo account statement as your address proof!
3. Registering with a GP
Remember that extra amount you paid during your visa application towards Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)? That covers the cost of your medical expenses in the UK through the National Health Service (NHS). However, you cannot consult a doctor until you register yourself with your nearest General Practitioner (GP). Information regarding your GP can be found online or maybe provided by your university if you live in university accommodation.
You can register yourself at your nearest GP service online in some places while others require you to go there and fill out a form and may require you to submit some documents like proof of address and passport or BRP. Once you complete the procedure you should be registered within the next 5-7 days.
However, while the NHS has an excellent service for emergency care, accidents etc., they are usually overloaded with patients and getting an appointment for minor ailments like a common cold or fever is not recommended. Even if you do get an appointment it may not be for a few weeks and even then there are chances of it being delayed further.
4. Taking photos of your accommodation
This should be the first thing you do when you move into your new accommodation and should have been further up the list. However, I don't think anyone is going to be reading this while they are in the process of moving in and go "damn I wish you said that earlier"!
When you move into your new accommodation, especially if you choose to live as a private tenant and even otherwise, you should take photos of every room and everything that is given to you as a part of your tenancy agreement. Send a copy of all the photos to your landlord or your letting agent. This is important because if something is damaged or requires repair you could be charged for it unless you can prove that you found it damaged when you moved in. This will also help you get back your deposit when you vacate the place especially if you have a shady landlord. I would also advise checking the reviews of your letting agency/ landlord on google and Facebook groups before you sign a rental agreement.
National Insurance Number (NI Number/ NINO). As an international student, this is not something you would be familiar with unless you have researched a lot about working part-time in the UK. NINO is essentially a number issued to you by the UK government through the Department for Work and Pensions. It is somewhat like the Social Security Number in the US or PAN in India. To work in the UK, even part-time, you must get this number as it tracks your pay and work hours for tax purposes.
Until quite recently you had to call a number given by the government and wait for hours before you could talk to someone and start the application process for your NINO. But now it can be done through GOV.UK website (click here to apply for NINO). Remember that it is illegal to work in the UK without having a valid NINO but you can start working if you have applied for one or have a temporary one issued to your name. You will receive your NINO in a letter via post and I would recommend you store a soft copy of it on your phone or drive as employers will ask for it as long as you are working in the UK.