What to do when you first arrive in the UK

12 April 2017
A Bellerbys star student

Arriving in the UK as an international student

It is never easy to pack-up your life in two suitcases and uproot yourself to move to a faraway land. This challenge is no less difficult for international students moving to the UK. Anyone from a different country, or even a different continent, who arrives in Britain for the first time is bound to feel confused to begin with. I was perplexed when I first arrived in the UK. There were plenty of forms to fill in and many tasks to be done before I could settle in.

There are the most important items for your arrivals To-Do list.

Get a UK phone number

One of the first things you should do when you arrive is get a UK mobile SIM card for your phone.

Of course you'll want to call you family as soon as your plane touches-down to let them know you've arrived safely. It's a lot cheaper to call home using a UK mobile service. Many of the registrations you need to go through will also ask for your contact number, so it's useful to have a UK number from the start.

There are many mobile phone service providers to choose from in the UK. Do some research on which providers and packages will suit you before you leave home, to save a lot of time when you arrive. 

Lycamobile and Giffgaff UK are very popular among international students as they offer bargain international calling charges. You can choose a Pay As You Go or a monthly mobile contract, depending on how much you will use your phone. And Bellerbys students can get a Lebara SIM card, which you can top-up, from Student Services.

Set up a bank account

It is never wise to carry a large amount of cash with you. If you will be staying in the UK for six months or longer you should open a bank account as soon as possible.  

Some banks may require a three-month or longer residency in the UK to be eligible to open a bank account. To open a bank account you will need to provide the bank with your passport, along with your letter of acceptance from your college or institution and proof of address (which can be obtained from your school’s Student Service). 

Ideally choose a bank that has branches on campus or near your accommodation. There are plenty of banks to choose from and the most popular with international students are HSBC (which has branches in many countries), Lloyds TSB and NatWest. Most banks in the UK are open from 9:00 to 16:00, Monday to Friday (except on bank holidays) and sometimes on Saturday morning. Current account sometimes have a monthly charge, others are free. Do some research and ask for advice from Student Services before making a decision.

GP registration

If your study in the UK lasts six months or longer you are entitled to receive free treatment from the British National Health Service (NHS) from the very beginning of your stay. This applies to both routine appointments with a doctor - who are called General Practitioner, or GP, in the UK - and hospital treatment.

You will be reminded to register with a GP the very first day you come to school. GPs are the first point of contact when you are feeling unwell. Your college will provide you with a list of local GP surgeries for you to choose from. To register with a GP, simply take your passport, letter of enrolment as proof of your identity, and proof of address to the GP surgery. 

If you are under 16 years old, or under 18 years old and in full education, you are entitled to free NHS prescription and an NHS eye test. Dental treatment however is not free.

Police registration

Students from certain countries are required to register with the police within seven days of your arrival in the UK.

To find out whether or not you are obliged to do so, check your visa or residence permit or entry clearance stamp.

If you are in London it is likely that you must register at the Overseas Visitors Record Office. If you live outside London you will be asked to register at a major local police station. You must take your passport and two photographs of yourself with you.

Travel pass

If you will be living with a host family you should get a bus pass, or Oyster card in London, to save money when you travel to and from college. Ask your host family or Student Services to tell you where you can get one.

If you live in college campus accommodation may not need a bus pass or Oyster card, but there will still be discounted travel tickets that you can use when you explore your new home-town .

Don't be shy about asking for help

At Bellerbys, the friendly Student Services staff will always be happy to answer all your questions. They can offer help, support and advice on everything from medical registration with a GP to where to purchase your bus pass. Whatever and whenever you need, they will provide the best support to help as you're settling into life in the UK so that you can fully concentrate on your study.