If you are thinking of moving to the United Kingdom or have just arrived, you will be faced with some red tape that you have to navigate through before you are comfortably settled in this popular expat destination and start enjoy the advantages of your migration. To help you cut through the process here is an explanation of things you will have to deal with:
What you need to know when immigrating to the United Kingdom
Moving to the United Kingdom starts with a UK visa
If you are moving to the United Kingdom to work, you will need to ensure you have the correct work permit. If you are a South African and don’t have UK ancestors, you will have to obtain a visa and/or work permit before finding employment in the UK. It’s important to remember that having a visa doesn’t necessarily mean you are automatically able to work in the UK, you may also need a work permit to begin working. You cannot apply for a work permit directly, instead, your employer in the UK will need to apply on your behalf. The length of your permit will depend on the type of work you do and the sort of permit granted.
Settling into work life with National Insurance and tax
Even with Brexit looming, London remains a top destination for professional expats. It is one of the major European powerhouses and one of the biggest job providers if you have a financially based career. In the HSBC’s 2017 Expat Explorer Index, it commands third place for career progression up 6 points since 2016 and more than half (56%) of expats in the UK say their earnings are higher than they were back home.
If you are working in the UK, you will need a National Insurance (NI) number. Everyone living in the UK receives an NI number before their 16th birthdays. You can only make application for your NI number once you have arrived in the UK and you may have to start working while your application is being processed.
Once you have received your NI number, your employer will deduct National Insurance payments from your wages and these will be recorded as your contribution to health and welfare costs. You will also need to apply for a tax registration number and an income tax code. Your income tax will be deducted from your wages and these payments go towards paying for services provided by the government like defence services, housing benefits, and the maintenance of prisons and courts.
Free healthcare for you and your family
In order to access free healthcare in the UK, you have to live in the country. Your first step is to register with a local General Practitioner (GP) surgery. To do this, take along your proof of residency. It’s important to note that your local GP surgery may have closed their books to new patients – in which case you will have to look further afield. If you need to receive treatment at a hospital, you will be asked which GP you are registered with, so it is important you do this as soon as you have arrived so there are no problems if you need hospital medical care.
Settling down and dealing with Council Tax
Every UK resident over the age of 18 must be registered with their local authority. Every property receives an annual bill for council tax, which pays for local services including street lights, rubbish collection and road maintenance. This bill is usually not paid by the landlord and is paid annually by the household or is split between the people living on the property. Most people pay by monthly instalments as the annual bill can often be between one and two thousand pounds.
Driving Licenses for South Africans
As a South African you will be allowed to use your valid international driving license for up to 12 months, after which you must exchange it for a UK driving license. It is advisable to do this within five years of becoming a UK resident – if you wait longer you will need to take the UK theory and driving test. If you are driving in the UK, whether it is for five days or five years, you must be covered by valid car insurance.
As part of your car insurance application, you will be required to produce a Ministry of Transport (MOT) certificate to prove your vehicle has passed its annual check, which can be done at a garage of your choice. A qualified car mechanic will assess whether your vehicle is safe to drive and whether you need to do any work to your car.
Make the most of moving to the United Kingdom
FinGlobal specialises in Financial Emigration and while we cannot assist you with arranging your UK Visa, if you are a South African living or moving to the UK and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances by financially emigrating from South Africa, accessing your South African retirement annuity from abroad and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.