Moving Abroad – Part 2

A new city. Full of possibilities. Lots of challenges ahead. Not a single day goes by without something new to learn. Sometimes everything goes as planned, sometimes nothing seems to work.

Packing stuff and organising a transport is just the beginning. When moving abroad, it is important to find out about the bureaucracy of the target country. Are there any mandatory steps to take? Do you need to tell the authorities? Do you need to apply for a work permit or a visa or can you just step out of the plane and start making money?

When you leave your home country as an expatriate working for the same employer, everything is easier. There’s always the HR department to answer your questions. Your new colleagues can also help. Internet is full of forums and expat groups with answers. There might even be a wiki in the company intranet containing all the important stuff.

In my case the new country is UK, which is an easy place for an EU or EEC citizen. There isn’t huge amount of forms to fill and permits to apply for. In theory, you can just step out of the plane and stay in the country.

In practice, you need to at least apply for a National Insurance Number. Which is one phone call to book a time slot for an interview and about half an hour spent at Job Centre Plus, answering the questions. Plus the unknown amount of time spent while queueing before the interview with other immigrants, of course, and waiting for several weeks to receive the actual NI number.

There is one catch, which is important to understand. In Finland, there is a register of residents that organisations and companies use to get your address details. In the UK there is not. In Finland you just give a notification of move and your details will get updated automatically after a short period of time. In the UK you will often have to prove your address if you want to register to services.

You need a proof of address to open a bank account. You will also need a proof of address to apply for the NI number.

Usually. Not always. It varies a lot.

What is a proof of address then? There is also some variation, but the most common proof is a utility bill sent to you, to your local address. Electricity, gas, water or landline phone bill will do fine. Sometimes a bank or credit card statement will also be fine. Sometimes a letter from an authority is fine. In theory, these documents act as a proof that you live in that particular address. In practice, this is of course not 100% reliable method, but there aren’t any better solutions.

I happen to live in a company accommodation (temporary solution), which means that I don’t get any utility bills. Banks are helpful to list on their websites the documents you need to show to prove your eligibility to open an account. What they might not mention is that in some branch your statement from a foreign bank is not a valid proof of address because that bank is not well known. In some other branch there might be a person who will accept it.

I visited three different banks until I managed to open a bank account without a proof of address, but I have heard stories that it’s not always that straightforward in my bank. It often depends on the position of stars and the Moon on the sky. If the bank you visit does not approve your documents, try the next one.

I also managed to pass the NI number interview without providing any proof of my address. Maybe I was just lucky?

In the next part I will tell my joyful story about finding a place to live.