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Paperwork & Bureaucracy

This page includes information about obtaining work visas, permits to the UK. (not relevant for EU citizens?)

Note that if you are not British then you will have a lot of trouble with bureaucracy. But since you didn't accept the job for that reason then you're likely to be prepared for that anyway. I previously lived in Holland for 18 months before the UK. Things were tough there, but they're tougher here. You basically don't exist until the moment that you arrive in the UK. I had agencies refuse to help me with housing for the first 6 months. It was difficult to open a bank account. You have no credit history and it will not be possible to get a credit card for some time. I had doctors surgeries tell me that they couldn't add me to their books until I had been in the country for 6 months. In the meantime you're supposed to go to the hospital - and I'm from a country where you only go to the hospital in an EMERGENCY! etc.

The British can appear reserved but if you tell them that you work for the University, they tend to fall over themselves to help you. If they find out that you're a "Doctor" too..... Both of these things are incredibly helpful when searching for housing! smile

Prior to your arrival, someone from Northcott House will contact you regarding your appointment here at the Astrophysics Dept.

Work Permits:

This is typically organised on your behalf. For postdocs they will require proof that you have a PhD?. If you're like me and on your second postdoc and your PhD? is in another country completely, they will accept a letter from your old University stating that you have a PhD?. They will also require a photocopy of your passport etc. But they will tell you all of the information/proof that is required of you.


Most non-EU citizens will need an entry visa into the UK if you wish to work. In order to obtain this visa you will need your work permit. In my experience (Australian living in Holland), I called the British embassy who told me to call the British consulate who told me to apply on-line. I filled out all the necessary paperwork online and was then given an appointment time. They will also give you a list of things that you are required to bring with you. DON"T forget anything because you will have wasted your travel time and it will delay everything.

I showed up at the British consulate in Amsterdam for my appointment and waited for about 4 hours until they got to me, then 20 minutes later I was done with my sticker in the passport and on my merry way.

This may not be your experience, so check with your local British Embassy or Consulate.

Entering the UK for the first time

I heard horror stories before I arrived into the UK where it takes sometime to process your visa upon first entry. I arrived into Exeter airport and took my time so that I didn't hold up the other passengers and in truth it was a 5 minute process. Depends on the location I suppose. If you are non-EU you will still need to fill out a landing card/entry card despite the visa - so be prepared.

Leaving the UK and re-entering.

Every time that you leave the UK and decide to return non-EU citizens will need to fill out a landing card. EVERY SINGLE TIME. I'm not sure of the point of having my work visa in my passport then. I seem to be grilled every time I go through Heathrow immigration as well (even if I only left the country for four days!) but that may only be a Heathrow thing.

After arriving in the UK:

Make an appointment with the administration people at Northcott House ASAP. You will need to provide them with copies of your passport, your entry stamps and your entry visa.

National Insurance Number:

Someone from Northcott House will help you to fill out this form, or at least give it to you to fill out. This is your IDENTITY in the UK. You need this for tax purposes, for the NHS etc. There is a new fast track system in place apparently which means that you only have to send this paperwork away and your number arrives in the mail (2-3 weeks later). You card ill shortly follow this in the mail.

It is no longer necessary to go to Honiton and make an appointment.

Bank Accounts:

It is by no mean feat that you will open a bank account in the UK. Expect to jump through hoops and hurdles.

I originally tried Barclays. Bad experience. They don't bother to get back to you, tell you all is well and then not return your daily calls (no I wasn't stalking them!). And that was BEFORE I gave them any of my money.

The best solution appears to be the NATWEST branch on campus. You will need to visit them and make an appointment. Don't expect to just show up. You will also have a lot of problems if you don't have proof of address! If you are new to the country and even new to Exeter you are not likely to have proof of address. They do not accept rental agreements as proof of address - only utility bills etc.

They are however happy to accept a letter from Northcott house - if the letter, says specifically that they "arranged" your accommodation for you. Anything else and it won't be good enough. The letter must have your name, DOB, address, national insurance number a stamp from the University and must be signed by the "right person" - do you get the idea? Expect to go through more than one letter and to make more than one trip to and from the bank and Northcott house.

Changing your address however is very very simple! Just walk in and tell them that you've moved.

There are other banking options on the High Street of the city.

Credit Card:

Not British? Then forget it - you won't get one.

Some banks will tell you six months of credit history to get a credit card. I tried Barclays. No luck. Tried Virgin (who I have a card with in Australia) after much faffing around they turned me down. I tried "Egg" - no luck. Even when they tell you that your living out of the country prior to your application is not a problem don't believe them- they're lying!

Natwest tells me that I only need to have 3 months of bank history before they will give me a card. I've not been here for 3 months yet - we'll see in May I guess.


Again all explained to you by the administration at Northcott House. The pension fund is University Super Scheme (USS). Talk to them about your options. If you are not planning on staying in the UK, make sure that your pension is portable to wherever your next destination is.

You are also given the option of contributions, where you contribute something like 6% of your salary and the University will do 14%. If however you chose to opt out, so too does the University! So be careful in your decision.

I also heard that it is possible to get your contributions (not the University's) back at your departure from the UK. But check this for yourself.


Very important! If you are coming from overseas, you will likely be put on the basic rate of taxation (indicated by a BR somewhere in the tax section on your payslip). This is because when you transfer jobs within the UK, you are given a form (called a P45) from your old employer which you then give to your new employer. However people coming from overseas will not have one of these, so you must go and get one (the payroll office should be able to supply one) and FILL IT IN QUICK. The UK tax system just assumes that you have paid the correct amount of tax for the year, so if you have been paying basic rate tax for any length of time (ie. did not sort out your tax immediately on arrival), you will have to make an appointment at the Inland Revenue office in Exeter, so that they can give you a new tax code which effectively repays your overpayment. Alternatively you can get a refund at the end of the tax year (April 1st), again by going to the tax office in person.

My experience is that the Northcott people are typically very helpful. They will tell you all of this. Because I also arrived in January, I paid no tax for the first two months because the financial year factors in my earnings for the full year and not the two months I worked.

-- TraceyHill - 10 Apr 2008

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