Finding an internship in London with enough determination and effort shouldn’t be too difficult – the demand for entry level interns to fill positions is huge, especially in the booming on-demand and FinTech sectors here. If you haven’t found an internship yet, check out my article on finding an internship in London. Even if you aren’t Canadian, it should still have some useful information!
Once you’ve found yourself an internship and successfully received your visa, the real struggles begin. There are a few things you’ll want to do to get established here including applying for a NIN, finding a flat, opening a bank account, and getting yourself a rail card.
Applying for a NIN
A NIN, or National Insurance Number, is the UK version of a Social Insurance Number (SIN) in Canada. You need to provide it to employers and it is your unique identification for tax purposes.
The application process is quite simple: you call the NIN hotline, answer a few questions, and they mail you the forms with a deadline. You may or may not have to go into a job centre for a relatively brief interview. The contact information and up-to-date information can be found on their website.
Finding a Flat
Finding a flat or apartment in London is not fun and can often be quite difficult. Many places require you to have a bank account before they will rent to you, and most banks require that you have a UK address before they will open an account, and there’s not much you can do around this (except for what I’ll tell you in the opening a bank account section).
Private landlords will be more flexible, especially if you don’t have a bank account yet. Agencies will be more difficult, and will require you have an account and will charge an agency and reference check fee, which varies but is usually around 200 pounds on top of your deposit (typically one month) and first months rent.
To search for house, almost everyone in London exclusively uses SpareRoom. You can filter by most anything and can view everything on a map. You’ll likely end up viewing quite a few flats before you find something half decent. Rooms go quick in London, so if you find something you like, make sure you act fast.
Some people also use GumTree, but most ads you’ll find on both websites. SpareRoom has a better reputation so I’d go with that.
Also rent is insane expensive in London, so if you’ve lowered your standards once already, lower them again.
Opening a Bank Account
This is also in contention the most challenging thing you’ll do moving to London. I tried a variety of banks including HSBC and Santander. The furthest I got was with HSBC and I do not recommend them here.
If you do decide you want an account at one of these types of banks here is the information you’ll need:
- Proof of UK address
- UK Phone # (detailed below)
- Proof of employment income (or other means of verification)
- Copy of biometric residence permit
- Copy of passport
Also, what I found out the hard way, is proof of UK address, ie: signed lease, doesn’t actually just mean a signed lease. Mine was rejected on my third appointment to the bank as they, apparently, only accept leases from agencies and not private landlords.
This struggle led me to Monese, which is a FinTech startup here in London where you can open an account, receive a contactless chip-enabled card, and manage your money very, very easily. I highly recommend this, especially if your stay is less than a year. It is fully functional and their service is great. Oh, you can also verify your account over Skype for a full account.
Getting a Phone
This is easy – basically walk into your phone provider of choice and pick the monthly pay as you go plan you want. Super easy to do. I used Vodafone and never had any issues.
Getting a Rail Card
I recommend you do spend the 30 pounds on an 18-25 railcard if you qualify. The savings are huge and my card paid for itself in a matter of weeks.