In 2021, the number of study visas issued to Nigerian nationals rose by 347%, so we’ve prepared this guide to help Nigerians moving to the U.K.
If you’ve gotten your visa to study or live in the U.K and you already have a travel date, you’re bound to have a lot of questions if you’re a first-time traveller. Can I get accommodation from Nigeria? What are the things I need to sort out first? These questions are normal and finding clear answers in one place can be challenging so we’ve put this article together to help you.
For Nigerians moving to the U.K, it’s natural to worry about where you’ll lay your head on the first day. In theory, the internet should make it very easy to find and pay for accommodation before you even leave Nigeria. Yet, it may not be the best idea to pay for accommodation before you leave Nigeria. Most landlords are wary of renting out houses to people they’ve never met before. Also, it’s entirely possible that the apartment you find online may not meet your expectations when you see it.
What we recommend instead is to use websites like Zoopla, Rightmove and Openrent to do some checks and narrow down an area you’d love to live in. You could also use these websites to get budget ideas for what rent would cost you and narrow down a couple of apartments you would like to rent after seeing it in person. Also, areas where students live are often cheaper and the landlords may not need a lot of background checks.
Bottom line: Before you leave Nigeria, find out the average housing cost for the area you’re looking to stay in using the websites we recommended. Also, plan to stay with friends or family, or at a hotel for the first week you arrive in the U.K to prevent the anxiety of worrying about accommodation.
With that out of the way, you can now get to worrying about airport transfers and getting to your hotel. For others, this may be getting to the home of the family or friend you’re staying with for your first week.
Heathrow may be the most popular airport in the U.K, but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable for you. It’s always a good idea to consider choosing an airport that is close to your final destination to ease your travel time.
Your first day in the UK is going to be—well, let’s just say it’ll be a lot. You’ve got to find your way from the airport to your hotel and then get settled, figure out where you’re going to be living, and so much more. That’s why it’s important to take care of transportation right away.
Heads up: Uber won’t collect cash so having some Pounds on your person may not be helpful. What you can do is book a shuttle or cab service before you arrive and pay for it with a Dollar card before you even land. Also, you can have a friend or family member pick you up from the airport.
See also: How does Lemonade finance work?
It’s generally a good idea to have some cash on your person when you enter the U.K. Keep in mind that if you’re holding cash that’s over $10,000, you’re obligated to report it to customs upon arrival.
That said, carrying cash around or holding a dollar card from Nigeria without making plans to open a bank account is not a good idea. For a lot of people arriving in the U.K, digital bank accounts from Monzo and Revolut are popular options, and while these apps have their uses, it’s great to be aware of their limitations.
Say you’re holding £7,000 in physical cash, you’d need to pay it into your bank account as a matter of safety. Yet, Revolut for instance can’t accept the payment of physical cash into your account, which means you can’t bank your £7,000. For Monzo, the maximum amount you can pay into your account is £1,000 a month. And you can only bank this cash at the post office or pay points.
Some people might ask, what if I paid my £7,000 into a friend’s bank account and have them transfer it to my bank account? You should know that many banks have a ban on transferring physical cash into a bank account that’s not yours, mostly as a way to prevent fraud.
Side note: Lemonade Finance allows you to send money from your wallet to your U.K bank account.
It means that you have to open an account with a traditional U.K bank as soon as you can. If you’re a student, take your student letter to your bank and you should be set up easily. Banks like Barclays and Lloyds also let you download their app first, after which you can take the required documents to the bank and have your bank account verified. Another reason why it’s super important to have an account with a traditional bank is your credit score.
Now that we’ve got the money end covered, let’s talk about your health.
Health is wealth: arrange your health coverage immediately
One of the most important things you need to do when you’re all settled in is to register with a General Practitioner a.k.a a doctor. Thankfully, it’s super easy to find a GP near you using a simple tool like this. When you find a GP near you, you can call them over the phone and make an appointment or walk-in and ask if they’re taking patients.
This is especially important if you have kids who still need to take their shots. Your kids will not get vaccinated if you’re not registered with a GP. The good news is that immediately you’re registered, your hospital will reach out to you and be able to get your kids into the system.
For people with kids, you need to be conscious that while education is free, primary education doesn’t start until kids are five years old. So between the ages of three and four, you only get fifteen free hours of childcare per week, which is equivalent to three days of work or school.
So if you have kids who are under five and you’re getting a job, you have to consider hiring a childminder while you’re at work.
If you have the right to work in the U.K, you need to apply for a National Insurance number as soon as you can because every employer will have it as a requirement. You can check if you’re eligible and apply for a National Insurance number here.
For transportation, if you know the city you’re moving to, then it helps to know that every area has their bus prices on their council website. Knowing the bus prices will help you wrap your head around what your transport costs are likely to be. If you’re a student, this is important because you need to know the distance between your school and your apartment. You also need to know the buses to take and the cost. Google Maps is super useful for figuring out travel times.
Side Note: It is advisable to get a police report from Nigeria before you travel as some jobs require a criminal record check. You should also get an international drivers licence as it comes in handy as well and it is often valid for up to one year after entry.
In the first few weeks after you arrive in the U.K, jobs may not always be super easy to find, since you’re getting used to applying for jobs in a new country with a different culture. While you’re searching for the perfect job, websites like Indeed Flex can help you find temporary jobs till you find the right balance.