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11: What to do when you arrive

Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account may be the easiest way for you to manage your finances in the UK. You won’t be able to open account until you’ve arrived in the UK and enrolled on your course. Once you're enrolled, you can request a banking letter through your student portal. Your bank will need this as part of your account application.

It can take a few weeks to open an account, so please ensure you have a way to meet your financial obligations at the beginning of your studies. This is especially important if you need to quarantine when you arrive, as you may need to visit a bank in person to open an account. A prepaid debit card or credit card may be the best way for you to access money during this time. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted cards in the UK.

If you'll be in the UK for less than six months, it will probably not be possible for you to open a UK bank account, so please speak with your bank at home about the best way to access funds.

Registering with the police

Students from some countries need to register with the police. If this applies to you, you must book an appointment online within seven days of arriving in the UK. When the day of your appointment arrives, you must attend in person with the requested materials. All of the steps you need to follow are outlined in our student visa guide.

Students on visas will need to collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) when they arrive. We recommend that when you apply for your visa, you choose St Mary’s University as the place you would like to pick up your BRP. You will receive further instructions in your visa letter.

Your phone

You can purchase a pay-as-you-go UK SIM card when you arrive, or speak with your current mobile provider to see if they can offer you a competitive contract while you're in the UK.

Please note that if you have to quarantine, you may not be able to arrange a phone contract for the first 10 days you’re in the country. Make sure that you will have WiFi access during this time to help you keep in touch.

Health care

Most medical care in the UK is provided through the National Health Service (NHS). If you're in the UK for longer than six months on a Student Route visa, you will have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge. This surcharge entitles you to NHS-funded healthcare. Students from the EU may be able to use a European Health Insurance Card to access the NHS. UKCISA has further information about healthcare access for EU students and you can see the English government’s guidance for further details. More information for EU and EEA students is also available here.

Some NHS treatment, such as accident and emergency services, is free for everyone. UKCISA publishes a full list of what’s included. Remember that you should also have travel insurance to protect yourself while you’re in the UK.

You should register with a primary care doctor (called a general practitioner, or GP) when you arrive. You can find a GP in your local area here. You can also find other NHS medical services, such as dentists, on that site.

Next: International orientation

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