Here’s a list of major considerations to take in to account if you’re planning to come to the UK. It’s mainly aimed at Kiwi’s coming for 6+ months but you should still find some helpful info even if you don’t fit that description:
Well before takeoff:
Visa – obvious, but important and not something you want to leave too late when plane tickets have already been bought! I’ll be doing an up to date in-depth post soon on the whole UK visa application process specifically for Kiwis applying for the Youth Mobility Scheme – Tier 5 visa as it’s quite confusing (and expensive!) and we feel we have some valuable info to share having just gone through it. In the meantime Auzzie Nomad also offers some great info (albeit from a broader, less recent perspective).
Travel Insurance – We set up ours through Southern Cross which allows you to purchase travel insurance for up to a year. Ours cost NZ$1,100 for single trip family cover for both of us for 12 months. Some providers won’t allow you to purchase travel insurance once you have already left NZ so this is important to look in to (though we hear that Global Nomads does allow this). We’d personally recommend getting this as soon as if not the same date that you purchase your flights because you could need to make a claim long before your planned departure date (e.g. due an unexpected event such as the death of a family member which could impact your travel plans).
Will – it sounds dramatic if you’re in your 20’s but a will can still be really important (e.g. if you’ve accumulated a decent sum of money in KiwiSaver/superannuation funds) just in case the worst was to happen to make sure that the money goes to your spouse/family and is not first whittled down through the public system. We got ours both done through a local lawyer in NZ for NZ$340 incl gst for us both as a couple which we should be able to leave unchanged for a good few years until we have kids.
Student Loan Repayments – Long story short, if you’re overseas for over 184 days your student loan will start being charged interest. The good news however is that this just gets added to the loan total and you can request to go on a loan repayment holiday for up to 365 days so (depending on your personal circumstances) you may not need to pay anything while you’re overseas! You can apply to go on a repayment holiday either before you leave or up to 184 days afterwards but I’d recommend getting this sorted before the time and making sure your IRD online login is good to go too as there’s a handy new online messaging service in there. Check out the handy IR223 factsheet and this IRD webpage for more info.
SIM Cards – Consider ordering yours before you arrive (around 1 week prior) unless you are 100% sure that you can purchase one in person. Our preferred provider Giffgaff currently offers a great bundle deal for ₤10/month (1G of data, 500mins, unlimited txts and unlimited calls to other Giffgaff users) but you can only order your free SIM online (delivered 3-5 days later). USwitch and WhistleOut are good places to compare different providers (but WhistleOut doesn’t appear to list Giffgaff).
RealMe – worth looking in to a few weeks before your departure but not worth a big write up. More info here.
After your arrival (you’re finally here!!):
Bank Account – (If you haven’t already let your NZ bank know you’re overseas, as a former bank employee I recommend that you organise this immediately to avoid your NZ cards being blocked due to unusual overseas purchases. It’ll save everyone a lot of bother.) After much online research I found that Lloyds Bank appears to be the only major UK bank that will let you open an account without formal proof of your UK address as long as you have a passport from either NZ, Aus, USA, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong or Japan. Whew! We popped in store to book an appointment the day we landed and had our new joint account set up the following afternoon! Easy! Note however – your cards will take 1 week to arrive by post with a separate letter containing the pin number and you can only have your internet banking set up once you have a mobile number as your password is sent via txt (hence the importance of pre-organising a SIM card). Unlike when coming to NZ I don’t believe it’s currently easy/possible to try to start this process before you arrive in UK. (Apparently Travelex used to offer a service through HSBC a few years ago but this no longer seems to be offered, my guess is due to the more recent international push in Anti-Money Laundering legislation).
National Insurance Number (NIN) – As per the official government website you can’t start this process until you arrive in the UK so don’t worry about it until then. However, do start thinking about a UK address you can use for post because once you arrive in the UK you’ll need to call the National Insurance Number Allocation Service (the waiting time is just a few minutes)and they’ll post your application to you in 7-10 days. Online alternatives are not currently possible which I double-checked today with them directly. Note – this form requires that you list any past UK entry and exit dates (over 30 days) and that you provide a photocopies of your passport, visa and of any entry/exit passport stamps which is worth knowing before your trip in case these stamps are in your old passports.
The website also says you can still work without an NIN but I don’t know what the realities of this are as we have recently been turned away from a potential employer due to not having our NIN’s yet. Please do comment if you’ve had any further experience around this topic.
Oyster Card – if you’re going to be using the Underground buy an Oyster Card on your very first trip because they allow you to buy discounted fares compared to just straight tickets. An Oyster Card costs just ₤5 (refundable upon return of the card) and can be bought directly from the ticket machine and preloaded with credit. It really makes the whole underground experience so much easier to just tag in and tag out. (We made the horrible mistake of putting off getting our Oyster Cards until later and accidentally buying a really expensive anytime fare from Heathrow Airport which cost around triple what we should have paid).
I hope that’s helpful! Please comment if you’ve found this info useful or if you have any questions!