So you’re about to make the move across the pond to start a promising career in the UK. Once the initial excitement dissipates, you may realize you don’t know much about working in the UK, except maybe where to show up the first day. Here are the four essential things every new UK employee should know.

The Cost of Living is Higher

In negotiating your salary, remember that your money won’t stretch as far in the UK as it did in the US. In fact, Numbeo reports that local purchasing power in the UK is 14.16 percent lower than that of the US. You can safely assume you’ll be paying more for groceries, rent, and other expenses, so make sure your salary can keep up.

You can Apply for a Visa up to Three Months Before you Move to the UK

If you’ve been offered a skilled job in the UK, you can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. Before you can travel to the UK to work, you’ll need a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor — usually your employer. This certificate isn’t actually a piece of paper; it’s a reference number that your employer provides for you to include on your application. To qualify for a Tier 2 visa, the job you’re offered must pay at least ₤20,800 ($32,267).

You Can Only Apply for a National Insurance Number Once You’re in the UK

National Insurance Numbers (NINs) are in the UK what social security numbers are in the US. The number helps administer the UK’s National Insuran ce system and is also used for tax purposes. You’ll need a NIN in order to work in the UK, but you can’t apply until you arrive. You’ll apply via telephone, and you’ll need to prove you have the right to work in the UK.

The Working Conditions may be Different from What You’re Used To

Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect from the UK’s labor laws:

  • The maximum workweek is 48 hours
  • You’re entitled to at least one day off per week and four full weeks of paid leave per year
  • Most workers qualify for an income-tax-free allowance of around ₤10,000, and the basic rate of income tax is about 20 percent

Starting a new career in a foreign country is a life-changing event. Now that you know the basics of working in the UK, you’ll be able to hit the ground running when you arrive. Check out our Relocation Guide to learn even more about living and working in London.

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