If you are thinking of planning a move to London, there are some things you need to sort out before you arrive. Planning is essential. Too often people forget to plan ahead and get caught with their pants down once they arrive. I know this, because I am one of those people. I always show up to the costume party dressed in regular clothes because I didn’t thoroughly read the invite, and I almost always find myself frantically searching for my misplaced my passport before needing to fly. Had it not been for my better half my arrival would not have accumulated into a series of unfortunate events that would have ultimately lead to my departure or perhaps even my non/arrival.
Anyways, so that you don’t make the same mistakes I had. Let me guide you through the process and make your move as stress-free as possible.
Getting your UK VISA
The process seems like a simple task, but the first time I looked at the site I was left with a what-the-fuck feeling, and a blankness in my mind. I had to ask Matt to clarify for me, because there are actually many different Visa’s to apply for. You could be shaking your head at my idiocy regarding this subject, or you could totally feel me on this one. Either way, I figured it out.
Note, these steps refer to Canadians wishing to come to the UK, I believe the same rules apply to Australia.
Step 1. Where to apply from. You need to be out of the Country to apply for this. Do not leave it until you get here! I’ve heard terrible stories of people figuring they’d apply from London, and realizing they have to fly home.
Step 2. Type. If you’re planning on only visiting for a short trip, or if you aren’t planning on working, congratulations you don’t need a visa. But if you are living la vida broka like myself you’ll need to find work. For those planning on staying long term you are looking at applying for a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Visa. This applies to anyone 18-30 years of age from participating countries. The Visa will allow you to work legally for up to two years before expiring. There is also no option to re-apply so commitment is necessary or you’ll end up wasting the opportunity.
Step 3. Money. You need £1830 in your account, and proof thereof at the time of your application. I wouldn’t try and cheat the system either and have anyone spot you the money for the interview because it’s more necessary than you think. London is EXPENSIVE. Considering costs, £1830 is a reasonable amount to get you started… for a couple of weeks.
Step 4. Documents. Don’t bother filling out then lengthy application until you’re sure you can provide all of the documents. You will need a Valid Passport, with an empty page for the Visa to be placed (make sure it has 2 years left on it as well to avoid a future hassle), a bank statement, and a passport size color photograph.
Step 5. The application process. This should be the easy part right? You simply fill in your information. But alas, you get to the calculation point system and you’re once again confused. Not to worry. Here is how to calculate. Give yourself 30 points for meeting the Nationality requirements, 10 points for meeting the age requirement, and 10 points for meeting the maintenance requirement (ie. do you have enough money in your account?) Why isn’t there a box to simply tick off each requirement? Because that would be far too simple, and they can’t let everyone into the country.
Step 6. Interview. You should get to the part where you set up your interview. A Visa Processing Fee is required, and unfortunately does not guarantee your approval, nor is the money returned should you be declined. Bring all the necessary documents with you when you go; Passport, printed visa application, bank statement, driver’s license, the passport photos etc. Once at the processing center, you will have your photo taken and some finger prints. Don’t be alarmed if you feel a bit like a felon because they will pat you down and ask what you have on you – they are usually very highly secured.
Step 7. Waiting. Once your information has been taken, they will mail your application out. Meaning, they will take your passport from you…
The website states many times not to book your flight because they do not guarantee successful application. What I interpreted from that was not to book a flight to London in case of rejection. So, I booked my flight to Central America in the meantime, departing in 4 weeks’ time, not realizing they needed the physical copy of my passport, with no definite date of returning it to me.
Which leads me to step number 8: Stressing.
I got lucky folks. Really, lucky. My passport arrived in the mail the day before I left, hours before I planned on calling the whole thing off. I couldn’t even reschedule my flight because I didn’t know when the passport would get to me. I still at this point didn’t even know if I had been approved. So I was waiting there, about to cancel my trip to Central America, waiting to find out that I’m also not going to London. It was a painful last few days.
Booking Your Flight
This is the easy part… except that I accidentally flew into Gatwick. London has two main terminals; Gatwick is approximately 30miles south of Central London. If you don’t have any one to pick you up from the airport it can be a bit of an ordeal getting to the city from there. Luckily (again) for me, I was set to stay in the Country for the first 2 nights of my arrival, which happened to be dead centered between both Gatwick and Heathrow.
To make it lucky for you as well, simply book to Heathrow.
Cancelling Your Phone Plan.
I nailed this one. Having a long standing hatred for all North American phone companies, I bought out my plan last year and opted to pay 40 dollars a month month-month with Fido. This was extremely beneficial to me, as I could simply cancel my old account, buy a new sim-card from a UK Carrier and continue on.
Giff-Gaff is the UK Carrier I am currently using. For £15 pounds a month I get 3g of Data, along with all the usual day to day uses of the phone. Compared to any North American plans, this is a laugh! Don’t bother sticking with your old Carrier and getting an international plan, it’s just not worth it.
You’re going to need to apply for a UK bank account as soon as you get here. Put this high on your list of priorities as it takes approximately a week to get set up. NatWest and HSBC are ranked high for banking, and I went with HSBC because of its affiliations with Canada. You will need your Passport, and your Driver’s License for proof of address. I misplaced my driver’s license before leaving for the UK and had to fill out a whole whack of paperwork instead. Unlucky? No, that one was completely my fault… In the meantime, come with a bit of cash, because you will be getting caught with a whole bunch of charges for using your card overseas and when you get here you’ll soon realize that you don’t have that much money to dispend.
So, my advice for anyone planning on embarking on this trip is to just plan ahead. Don’t leave it until the last minute, and don’t leave it to chance. Apply ahead, and that way you can still book ahead. Moving can be stressful, let this be your first step into a stress-free change