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This guide covers some essential basics that most doctors follow to move to the UK for work and employment. It will discuss some of the steps involved in moving to the UK, including finding a jo, accommodation, opening a bank account, financial planning, as well as understanding the UK healthcare system. The COVID pandemic changes some requirements and timelines for most of these steps, it would be good to also check for the latest updates on the UK immigration website.

  • Visa and legal requirements.

  • Do some research.

  • Arrange your travel.

  • Manage your finances.

  • Healthcare in the UK.

  • Rent and accommodation.

  • Childcare & schooling options.

  • Know the emergency numbers.

  • Driving in the UK.

  • Social life.

  • Get on the electoral register.

  • Register For Council Tax Payments & TV Licence

  • Learning to speak English.

  • 21 things to know about the UK.

Figure out your legal visa requirements. Regardless of where you are from or what other citizenship you may have, you will need a valid passport to apply for permission to enter the UK. Due to Brexit’s ongoing transition, your passport and visa requirements will be different if you are an EU citizen. If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, then all the guidelines will remain the same. If you’re unsure, check online on the UK Government’s website to see whether you need a UK work permit. Obtaining a visa may be difficult in some circumstances, it is good to plan ahead when it comes to gathering your documents and arranging your trip to the visa/biometric center. Most medical professions are on the UK shortage occupation list. The UK visa types, costs, and requirements will differ based on your eligibility and choice of application. The UK visa costs depends on several factors, mainly the type of visa, and whether the application was made inside or outside the UK. If you are the primary applicant, you will need a Tier 2 Work Visa (Skilled-worker visa). Some individuals may apply as a Tier 2 dependent under a spouse who already has a right to work or live in the UK, but there may be some limitations to working as a doctor/dentist under this visa. Speak to an immigration professional for clarifications. Do some research: know your relocation city Moving to a new city may come with some questions and anxiety. You can alleviate some of those fears by getting to know the location or work organization that you are moving to. Fact-finding can be in any form but here are some pointers to help:

  1. Search the internet

  2. Speak to peers who live or work in that area/region or in that clinical field.

  3. Ask HR to send you an introduction brief about your new place of employment (this is usually sent with your application or job offer, so you may want to review your inbox first).

Arrange Your Travel - with little or no stress. Planning your travel would depend on you and your circumstances. Are you travelling alone or with dependents? Are you arriving during summer or winter (need to pack thicker warmer clothes)? Would you be leaving your valuable memorabilia back home? How many suitcases would you be packing? This is important if you are transiting through several cities/airports or coming with dependent children also. Would you be hiring a relocation company to ship or freight your property? Are you arriving with pets? While cost and time are important, it is also logical to check which customs regulations apply to any special items. Selecting a direct flight to the UK would reduce the stress of travelling, especially if relocating with kids. Booking your flights ahead of time may help in reducing flight costs.

Manage Your Finances; including opening a bank account. Finance is a common cause for stress during relocation, and the first few weeks before your first paycheck. It is vital that you arrange your finances to support you (and any dependents) during your first few weeks or months in the UK. After arrival, good financial well-being in the UK requires both short-term and long-term financial management.

  • Banks: Research your retail banking options and documents needed to set-up an account on arrival. Unfortunately, due to the high rate of scams originating from Nigeria, some banks may have strict policies and require extra documentation. We think this article by Expatica may help in understanding bank accounts in the UK.

  • UK Tax & Pensions: The UK operates under a strict tax system. It is mandatory by law for workers to pay tax unless exempted, and this is deducted immediately from your salary. Most times, you would be enrolled in the NHS pensions scheme, unless you opt-out. You should always speak to a professional pensions adviser before making a decision to opt out of the NHS pensions scheme. Find out about the UK tax system and the UK pension system.

  • Insurance: if you are migrating from EU or another developed country, you may already have access to travel insurance options, and may want to sign up to a policy or review your existing policy before travelling. Insurance in the UK is compulsory for certain things like car and employers' liability. Insurance provides cover for motor, breakdown, home, pet and travel products. There are also life insurance as part of income protection for residents in the UK. Whatever your need, shop around and speak to an insurance adviser.

Healthcare in the UK. The National Health Service (NHS) is a publicly-owned health service in the UK and provides free universal health services for all UK residents and EU/EFTA nationals with a European Health Insurance Card (some post-Brexit changes may apply to EHIC) . The universal health system was initiated under the National Health Service Act, and came into effect on 5 July 1948. It operates very differently from the USA (usually insurance-based system) or Nigeria (pay as you go, cash & carry). Universal health care in the UK means you have access to medical care without having to pay for personal insurance. Some individuals may still opt to get private insurance also. NHS Surcharge: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, all skilled workers including medical professionals were required to pay NHS surcharge (like health insurance). This has now been waived for doctors and medical professionals but may change in the future. We recommend you confirm if this is still required as part your application. Register with a GP and Dentist near you: We recommend registering with a GP and Dentist near your home. It is not advisable to delay or wait for emergencies before registering with a GP or dentist. Read about NHS guide to moving to the UK and use this link to find a GP/Dentist near you.

Renting & Accommodation The housing market is fast-paced, and there are various types of property to choose from. Of course, it is more difficult and expensive renting in major cities. Smaller towns and rural areas would have more rent and housing vacancies. Most renting agencies would check your right to live and rent property in the UK (BRP), confirm your identity, references, check your employment status and assess your credit score. Since you are new in the UK and may not have a credit score, most would require substantial rent advance payment (including the mandatory tenancy deposit) or a credible guarantor.

Childcare & Schooling Options Are you travelling with kids? Research early about educational options in your location of choice or work. There are good options for public and private education, monitored by the UK government. You can find an inspection report of a school you are considering.

You may also want to speak to an adviser to see if you qualify for support with childcare costs in the UK. Options for childcare include a childminder, a nanny, Au pair, day nurseries, playgroup or pre-school, nursery school, or afterschool club.

Know The Emergency Numbers. The following table lists some emergency contacts to have in mind.

  • General emergency, including police, ambulance, fire: 999

  • NHS Direct (urgent but not emergency): 111

  • COVID-19 booking service: 119

  • Your GP Surgery

  • Your Dentist Surgery

Driving In The UK Nigeria operates a left-hand drive, while the UK driving system is right-handed. Driving seems like a daunting prospect for new arrivals but it is doable. The DVLA is the executive authority for issuing a driving licence, and you can read how to apply and prepare for a driving licence test. International licence holders visiting the UK can drive on their valid foreign licence for up to 12 months. You would also be able to drive or rent a car with your Nigerian driving license for 12 months after arrival. Take extra care if driving for the first time in the UK because of the right-handed drive. Many would recommend enlisting a driving instructor to coach you on driving in the UK for the first time, even with your foreign licence. All individuals above the age of 16 can apply for a provisional licence and this is valid for 10 years, but you only have two years from the date you pass your driving theory test to take your practical driving test.

Your Social Life In The UK. Do not isolate yourself or be lonely. Make friends and get in touch with other people, Nigerians, or expats in the UK. This is an important aspect of work-life balance and well-being in the UK. One of the easiest way to ignore your social life is to focus on the need to work and earn money to offset the cost of migration or the cost of caring for dependents in the UK or back home. While Facebook has become a dedicated way to make and maintain contact with friends, other networking and social events are helpful in getting off the couch. Examples include our NDUK social events, Internation - a community of expats in major cities around the world, or connecting with like-minded individuals based on your social interests like sports, music, etc.

Get On The Electoral Register. The electoral register (sometimes called the ‘electoral roll’) lists the names and addresses of everyone who’s registered to vote. As a UK resident, you and any dependents over 16 years are eligible to register to vote in the UK. You can vote in person or via post. Getting on the electoral rolls has several benefits for renting, improving your credit score, and maintaining your civic duty. It also allows you to shape the leadership in your locality through your legal vote. If you’re asked to register to vote and you do not, you could be fined. Register online or contact your local council for registration.

Register For Council Tax Payments & TV Licence Mandatory by law, if you’re an adult and not in full-time education, or covered by another exemption or relief, you must pay a local council tax and TV licence. Some rent payments are inclusive of council tax and TV licence, be sure to ask about renting a property and if so, get documentation to enable you to claim exemption. The council tax is different from the 'federal tax' known as PAYE (deducted from your salary). Local council taxes are used to fund some aspects of education, school meals, road maintenance, fire and police services, etc within your local community of residence. The amount you pay is valued based on your location and the value of the property owned or rented. You can register online or visit your local council for registration. The TV Licence costs £159 and is needed to watch or record programmes on a TV, computer or other device as they’re broadcast, download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer. Find out if you need a TV Licence on the TV Licensing website.

Learning How To Speak English. Hold on! As a Nigerian doctor or dentist migrating to the UK, your academic IELTS speaks volumes about your professional competency in written and spoken English - on an academic level! Nigeria's education system operates a British education curriculum, taught in English. An African or Nigerian ascent should not be mistaken for an inability to speak English fluently, and the NHS has taken positive steps to ensure that diversity prevails in its organization. However, English proficiency is not the same as clinical communication skills. Good communication skills are an asset in medical practice and influence your confidence as a physician, improves patient understanding and compliance, and builds healthy patient-doctor relationship. All medical professionals are encouraged to train and improve their communication skills for clinical practice.

21 Things to Know Before Moving to the UK

  1. Compared to Nigeria, it is always cold. There are different thicknesses and qualities of duvets. A good duvet is essential for good sleep.

  2. The UK has 4 seasons, whereas Nigeria has two. You may also experience four seasons in one day.

  3. The UK clock changes twice in a year. Take a cue and change your clock. Many have over-slept and missed shifts, or turned up for work 1hr early.

  4. The public holidays are different, and often less than in Nigeria.

  5. You will discover your 'indoor voice' in the UK.

  6. The work-life balance is great...or so they say! You must take charge to achieve this.

  7. You'll certainly miss those suya & point-and-kill joints!

  8. It’s pretty easy to get around using public transport....but a car is a necessity for most.

  9. Not everyone speaks like the Queen. There are several ascents in the UK and you will need time to adjust.

  10. There are 9 spelling differences between the UK and the US: British: anaemia is sort of the same as US: anaemia. You can set your laptop to UK English and it will highlight the differences. Thank you Microsoft!

  11. Expect the jokes to go over your head, but you will eventually get it.

  12. There are tons of picturesque areas. Travel a little.

  13. There is more cheese, less salt & spice than our traditional meals.

  14. Unless you live in major busy cities, the sparsely-located African shop-owner will be your friend and on your contact.

  15. Stores work a little differently here. You will fill your car tank by yourself and most stores & supermarkets have self-checkouts.

  16. The equivalent of peppersoup in the UK in tea. Respect the tea.

  17. The equivalent of jollof rice is 'Sunday dinner'. Add this to your list of UK cultural experiences.

  18. You would still need a visa to holiday in Europe and Ireland.

  19. There is no air-conditioning. Just heating and portable fans for the summer, if needed.

  20. The summer sun shines sunly at 11 pm. Invest in good black-out curtains right from the go!

  21. Brexit is a very important and sensitive matter, you can choose to kontinue or keep qwiet! - Only speak with facts.

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Jul 17, 2023
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22. For those coming with kids, know the difference between nursery and school. Your child can't start school until they turn 4. Until then, you pay for nursery and it is quite significant. It is important because it will help your child adapt faster to the UK.

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