Moving to the UK

Two Christmases ago Jeannine left her job in Melbourne to begin an adventure on the other side of the world. At 28 she realised there was more she wanted to do and struck out from her ‘comfort zone’ to discover Europe. Lying on a beach in Brisbane, she realised that ‘Brisbane wasn’t going to be big enough’, and six months later she was studying in Italy, the country she had fallen in love with the previous year.

Studying the language and ‘living on no money’ afforded a very different lifestyle from her time as a business analyst with an Australian bank – ‘I’d had a pretty full-on career’, she admits. After four months she was ready to move on to Britain, but was apprehensive about living and working in London. ‘I thought it was too big, too impersonal,’ she explains. ‘I couldn’t see where I would fit in.’

She stuck to her guns, though, and found that London was not as intimidating as she’d feared. Within weeks she was temping as a PA and starting to unpeel her many-layered surroundings. ‘There are different faces to London – it can be big and mean, but it can also be chilled and exciting, and even warm,’ she says.

Not that she didn’t take a while to adjust. ‘I spent three months umm-ing and ah-ing over whether I could afford the coffee!’ But at the end of that three months Jeannine had found a permanent position and somewhere to live. Her skills as a business analyst landed her a job in a City firm, and she is very enthusiastic about the opportunities available for overseas graduates in London and in Britain in general.

‘The current skills shortage means that you can find your niche here, particularly if you are in technology,’ Jeannine explains. She was able to work because her grandmother was born in England – a parent or a grandparent native to Britain entitles you to a four-year residency in the country. However, you don’t have to have British antecedents to work here. The working holiday visa allows those between 17 and 27 to spend up to two years in Britain, working either part-time or full-time (but in the latter case only for half of their stay). Four-year permits are also available to those with ‘special skills’ such as IT, engineering or teaching, although these generally require that you have a job arranged before you enter the country.

While casual work is fairly easy to come by, with tourist areas like London needing their fair share of bartenders, hotel staff and shop assistants, there are plenty of openings for more interesting work. Even on a two-year working holiday visa, it is possible to work in challenging areas like law, accountancy, banking and IT, without breaking your visa restrictions, by doing contract or temping work. Office secretarial is another possibility, but if you don’t want to work indoors there are always the summer options of holiday camp work and fruit-picking.

There are a couple of things that you can do to make it easier to settle when you arrive. One is setting up a bank account – if you are planning a long stay, this is pretty important as you’ll need a bank account to secure accommodation. The best way to handle this is to ask your bank in your home country to arrange one before you leave. Some banks are able to do this via reciprocal relationships with European banks.

Jeannine suggests that you also try to find yourself a job before you arrive in the country. ‘Organising it from home is a much better idea than landing with nothing to go to – come prepared.’ She also suggests some circumspection when you are looking for accommodation. ‘Live somewhere near work,’ she says. ‘Don’t catch the tube if you can avoid it!’

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