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International Students’ Guide

Settling in


Opening a UK bank account






Travel & transport


Life in London





Welcome to UCL! Congratulations on your decision to come and study at London’s Global University. We look forward to meeting you.

What is this guide? London and UCL have so much to offer, and we hope you are excited to start making the most of your time here. This guide, created by UCL Student Support and Wellbeing, gives a wide range of essential information to help international students settle in and adjust to university life in the UK. It covers some of the main topics that you’ll need to know about upon arrival, such as opening a bank account, healthcare, accommodation and travel. We hope that you find it useful and comprehensive. If you have a query that isn’t addressed here, please get in contact with us and we’ll do our best to help. We wish you all the best as you start out on your UCL journey. Contact us:


International Students’ Guide

What is ISOP? UCL Student Support and Wellbeing organise the International Student Orientation Programme (ISOP) to help make the transition to life in the UK and studying at UCL as smooth as possible. During ISOP you’ll have the opportunity to complete your in-person enrolment, attend a day of ‘We Are All Global’ talks designed specifically for our new international students (both EU* and overseas) and participate in a variety of social events organised by the Students’ Union as well as campus and library tours. Although ISOP is optional, it is free of charge and is highly recommended as many students find it a helpful opportunity to both meet new people and familiarise themselves with UCL and London. Find out more about ISOP:

*For the purposes of this guide, “EU” includes non-EU countries that are members of the EEA (European Economic Area) and Switzerland. 4


 nrol and get a Statement of Student Status E You need this to obtain your UCL ID card, among other things. You should be given this at your enrolment appointment.

 egister with the police R Only for some international students who have it as a clear requirement on their entry clearance vignette, Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or Home Office letter. This does not apply to students from the EU. (See page 19)

International Students’ Guide

 et your Erasmus Arrival Form signed G Affiliate students only. This can be done at the Student Centre.

 ttend the ISOP ‘We Are All Global’ talks A The International Student Orientation Programme (ISOP) is aimed at helping you settle into university life in London.

 o to Students’ Union events and tours G Check for details and to book tickets.  pen a bank account O You will need to present specific documents to the bank and may need to make an appointment to set up an account. (See pages 7-10)  egister with a doctor (General Practitioner) R It is strongly recommended that you register with a GP as soon as possible after you arrive. (See pages 11-14)  btain an 18+ Student Oyster Photocard O Full-time UCL students can apply for a photocard which may entitle them to discounts of up to 30% on transport. (See pages 21-22)  ttend local induction sessions A Depending on your programme, you may have local induction sessions in your faculty and/or your department.


Opening a bank account in the UK is the safest and most effective way of managing your money as an international student.

How do I choose a bank? Some of the main banks located near to the UCL main Bloomsbury campus are Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, Santander and TSB. You don’t need to worry too much about which bank to choose. They’ll normally offer you a basic current account initially, and may offer additional services later.


International Students’ Guide

We recommend that you research your options online before choosing an account. Some of the accounts available to international students include:

B  arclays Student Additions Account (International)

H  SBC Basic Bank Account

L  loyds Classic Account

N  atWest Student Bank Account

S  antander Essentials Current Account or Basic Current Account

T  SB Classic Account

A basic current account will provide a debit card, which you can use to withdraw cash and pay in shops using Chip & PIN. You’ll usually have online and telephone banking included, will be able to choose to receive paper bank statements and will be able to set up a direct debit (automated transfer). Bear in mind that some banks may require you to pay a monthly subscription fee.


What do I need in order to open an account? The documents you’ll need to provide vary depending on the bank. However, as a general rule, you’ll need to have the following:

• •

Your passport and BRP if you’re a non-EU student

 letter from UCL - which letter you’ll need A depends on the bank*:

 our passport or national ID card if you’re from Y the EU

- Statement of Student Status: this generic letter confirms your permanent (home) and termtime addresses and is issued to all students at enrolment - accepted by Barclays, HSBC and TSB - Hall of Residence letter: issued by your Hall of Residence to confirm your address if you live in UCL accommodation - accepted by Barclays, NatWest (if addressed to the bank) and TSB - Bank account letter: this is a special letter addressed to the bank that confirms your permanent (home) and term-time addresses, and is issued upon request at the Student Centre - accepted by Lloyds and NatWest


 antander need your UCL Student ID card, but S do not need a letter

International Students’ Guide

*If you would like to open an account with a bank not mentioned in this guide, please speak with the bank staff directly to find out which kind of letter they will accept.

IMPORTANT - Your UK address You must ensure that your term-time address has been updated to your UK address and your home address remains as your permanent overseas address on your Portico account. If your details are correct on Portico, your Statement of Student Status will show both your UK address and your address back home - without this, banks may not be able to accept it.

Can I open a bank account if my programme of study lasts for less than 6 months? Not all banks work with students who are in the UK for a short period of time. Some may consider your application, but please ask the bank directly for further information. For more information: international/your-first-weeks/uk-bank-accounts The information provided about local banks and their requirements is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. However, this may be subject to change. 10

In the UK, your GP (General Practitioner) is your first point of contact if you have any issues with your physical or mental health.

All students The National Health Service (NHS) is the healthcare system in the UK. Some NHS services are free at the point of delivery, others you need to pay for. It is likely that the healthcare system in your home country works very differently to the UK, which is why it is important that you read through this information. The following treatment provided by the NHS is free for everyone: accident and emergency services, family planning services, and diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. For full access to NHS services, including for referrals to a specialist, you will need to register with a GP.


International Students’ Guide

EU students Can I register with a GP if my course lasts 6 months or longer? Yes, you can register with a GP. Can I register with a GP if my course lasts less than 6 months? No, you cannot register with a GP, but you can still visit one as a temporary patient if required for advice and treatment. EU nationals and their family members should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to the UK to ensure they can access NHS services for free. If you are an EU student in the UK, in most cases you (and any family members) are required to have comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI). A valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) obtained from your country of residence is acceptable evidence of CSI, if your stay in the UK is to be temporary. You are strongly recommended to obtain one if you are eligible. For more information on the different ways of demonstrating CSI, see our website at the end of this section.


Non-EU students Can I register with a GP if my course lasts 6 months or longer? Yes, you can register with a GP as you will have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your visa application. Can I register with a GP if my course lasts less than 6 months? No, you cannot register with a GP, but you can still visit one as a temporary patient if required for advice and treatment. If you are on a Short-term Study visa, you will need to obtain private medical insurance to ensure you are covered for any medical treatment.

Private medical insurance Do I need private medical insurance? Some students (including those whose programme of study lasts for less than 6 months and who have a Short-term Study visa) will need to obtain private medical insurance. Private medical insurance may be recommended for other students, (as there can be long waiting times for some NHS services and it may cover you for treatment not covered by the NHS), but it is not a requirement.


International Students’ Guide

Registering with a GP Ridgmount Practice is an NHS general practice located near the UCL campus that provides general healthcare, a contraceptive service and a full nursing service. Students can register at Ridgmount Practice if they live within their catchment area in north or central London. To register with Ridgmount Practice, you need to complete the form on their website. You then need to visit in person. You’ll only be able to register after enrolling on your programme of study at UCL (you’ll need to show your UCL identity card). If you live outside Ridgmount Practice’s catchment area, you can search for an NHS general practice near you on the NHS website. You’ll need to contact the relevant practice for details of their registration procedures. If eligible, we strongly recommend that you register with a GP within the first few weeks of arriving in the UK. Find out more: pre-arrival-information/health-advice Find your local GP surgery: Find out about Ridgmount Practice:


In this section, we’ll discuss some of the essential steps you need to take to ensure you can make the most of your time in London and at UCL.

Accommodation If you do not have accommodation in place by the time you arrive in London, the University of London (UoL) Housing Services may be able to help you find private rented accommodation. Once you’ve registered on their website, you can search from hundreds of properties across London. In order to advertise with them, all landlords must sign up to UoL’s Code of Good Practice, which ensures they will deal with student tenants fairly and reasonably. UoL Housing Services also offer a flat-sharing message board, a contract checking service, and information on short-term housing. There are also a number of websites that might help you find something suitable, including Rightmove and Spareroom.


International Students’ Guide

Right to Rent Private landlords (not including UCL Halls of Residence) are required to check their tenants’ immigration status under the Right to Rent scheme. Landlords must take copies of your passport (or national ID card for EU students) and visa or BRP if applicable. If you require a visa to study at UCL and your landlord is unable to complete the checks, UCL can provide you with a letter which exempts your landlord from this requirement, available from the Student Centre. Council tax Council tax is a system of taxation collected by local authorities. As a student living in a household where everyone is a full-time student, you are exempt from paying council tax. To count as a full-time student, your course must last for at least 1 year and involve 21 hours of study per week. Please note that you may be liable to pay council tax as soon as your programme of study has ended even if you have not yet been awarded your degree or attended your graduation ceremony. To apply for an exemption, you will need to provide your Statement of Student Status to your local council. If you live in the London Borough of Camden you must apply online. Find out more about University of London Housing Services:


Tier 4 responsibilities If you are entering the UK with a Tier 4 Student visa, it is important to remember that your immigration status has some conditions attached. To ensure that you comply with the terms and conditions of your Tier 4 visa, you should: 

Collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

 omplete your enrolment at UCL by attending C your in-person enrolment appointment

Check if you need to register with the police

 nsure that you have sufficient funds available E to pay your living costs  pen a UK bank account, choosing to receive paper O statements to use as evidence of sufficient funds Check your work conditions Not attempt to access public funds such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Child Benefit


 oncentrate on your studies to ensure you C complete your programme of study within the expected timescale

Abide by UK law

International Students’ Guide

Keep copies of your personal documents 

 eep all correspondence with the UK K immigration authorities

 eport any changes of circumstances (this means R remembering to keep your contact details on Portico up to date, especially your address and phone number)

For Student Immigration Compliance queries: Students who require Tier 4 immigration advice should contact the Student Immigration Advice Team: tier-4-visas/tier-4-immigration-advice Find out more about Tier 4 responsibilities: tier-4-visas/tier-4-responsibilities


Registering with the police You only need to register with the police in the UK if there is a clear requirement to do so on any of the following:

 our entry clearance vignette (sticker in Y your passport)

• •

Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)  our Home Office letter (your decision letter Y or the letter accompanying your BRP)

If there are clear instructions to register with the police on any of the documents mentioned above, you will need to visit the Overseas Visitors Records Office (OVRO) in person to register. Exact arrangements will vary. Please see the website below for more information. Not registering with the police if you are required to do so is a criminal offence and you may be reported to the Home Office for failure to comply with your visa conditions. Find out more about how to register with the police, including the location and the documents you need to provide: your-first-weeks/police-registration


International Students’ Guide

Mobile phones The main mobile phone providers in the UK are 3, O2, EE, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. There are also some smaller providers, such as Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff. When choosing a mobile phone plan, your options will be:

P  ay-monthly contract, which usually includes a phone. Contracts usually last for 18-24 months.

S  IM-only, which means you will need to provide your own phone.

P  ay-as-you-go (PAYG), which means you will need to top up your phone with credit, paying only for what you use.

If you are going to call abroad often, it is worth considering a SIM aimed at international calling, such as from Lebara and Lycamobile. Comparison sites, like MobilePhoneChecker, allow you to compare different networks to get the best deal, while shops such as Carphone Warehouse stock phones and SIM cards from multiple providers. Find out more: international/your-first-weeks/keep-touch


There are many ways of getting around London. Here are your main transport options.

London Underground The Underground, also known as the Tube, is a fast way to travel around London. The closest Tube stations to UCL’s main Bloomsbury campus are:

Euston Square (Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and Circle lines)

• • •

Warren Street (Northern and Victoria lines) Euston (Northern and Victoria lines) Russell Square (Piccadilly line)

Buses Every bus journey is charged at the same rate of £1.50. UCL’s main Bloomsbury campus is served by many bus routes, including route numbers 10, 14, 24, 29, 73, 134 and 390. London also has a network of Night Buses. 21

International Students’ Guide

Oyster cards The Oyster card is a plastic card used as electronic ticketing on public transport in London. You can load money (for pay-as-you-go) or Travelcards (allowing unlimited travel in certain zones for a certain period of time) onto your card at a ticket machine. Ticket barriers have a yellow pad on them. Touch your Oyster card here, and the gates will open, known as ‘tapping in’ or ‘tapping out’. You only need to tap once when you board a bus. Contactless bank cards can be used in the same way, and are charged at the same pay-as-you-go rates as Oyster. Oyster cards and contactless bank cards are the only way to pay on London buses - cash is not accepted. 18+ Student Oyster Photocard Full-time students can apply online for an 18+ Student Oyster Photocard, which entitles you to a discount of up to 30% on Travelcards and season tickets. You must have fully enrolled before applying. Find out more: (search “student” for more information on the 18+ Student Oyster Photocard). Taxis and minicabs London is famous for its black cabs. Put out your arm to get the taxi to pull over, or take a taxi from a designated rank. There are also a number of alternative transport apps in London, most famously Uber. Visit the Transport for London (TfL) website: Find out more about travelling in London, including cycling: your-first-weeks/travel-london


Travelling in the UK Trains are often the quickest way to get around the UK. There are many websites for booking tickets, such as National Rail and Trainline.

 dvance tickets are usually the cheapest, but A they’re only valid for the specific date, time and train they are booked for.

 ff-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets require you O to travel at specific, less busy times of the day or days of the week, or on a certain rail route.

 nytime tickets offer maximum flexibility, but are A usually the most expensive option.

As a full-time student, you can purchase a 16-25 Railcard that will save you a third on rail fares throughout the UK for either 1 or 3 years. If you’re over 25 and registered as a full-time student, you can still purchase this card to get your discount but will need to complete an additional form, available from train stations. This form should be stamped at the Student Centre. Book train tickets: Find out more about the 16-25 Railcard:


International Students’ Guide

Travelling around Europe If you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) you may need a Schengen visa to travel to Europe. The Schengen visa scheme allows you to apply for one visa to visit any of the countries in the Schengen area, which comprises 26 countries. Depending on the type you apply for, your visa may be valid for up to three months, allowing you multiple entries into the Schengen area. Once your visa is arranged, some of your travel options include flights, trains, ferries and coaches. While you’re travelling abroad, ensure that you look after your possessions, in particular your passport and Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) if applicable. Make a paper copy of important documents and keep these separate from your travel documents in case these are lost or stolen. Find out more about the Schengen visa: other-visas/schengen-visa Find out what to do if you lose your passport or BRP: tier-4-visas/biometric-residence-permit


London really is a city like no other. Here are some important things you need to know to begin to settle into your new home.

Culture shock Culture shock is a term used to describe the impact of moving from a familiar culture to an unfamiliar one. It’s completely normal and these feelings should pass soon. Here are three tips to help you lessen the effects of culture shock: Get involved: This will provide a distraction and help make London your new home. There are so many clubs and societies in the Students’ Union that you’re likely to find something that suits you. Get enough food and sleep: These affect us emotionally, so remember to look after your body. Share how you feel: This will help you interact with people from different cultures and make new friends. 25

International Students’ Guide

If your feelings haven’t improved after about a month, you could contact your GP, a tutor or supervisor, the UCL Cultural Consultation Service or our advisers in UCL Student Support and Wellbeing. Find out more about the UCL Cultural Consultation Service: Find out more about the services we offer in UCL Student Support and Wellbeing: students/ssw

Student discounts (NUS Card & ISIC) A range of excellent discounts are available to students to help you make savings and cut down on the cost of university life. As a full-time student you are eligible for a student discount card. An NUS Extra card, costing £32 for three years or £12 for a year, gives you over 200 UK discounts on a wide range of products and services. For example, you can get 10% off ASOS, up to 40% off at PizzaExpress and 25% off Odeon student priced cinema tickets. It also comes with a one-year free ISIC. An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) allows you to prove your student status worldwide, as well as gain access to over 150,000 discounts and benefits. It costs £12 for a year. Find out more:


Dependants Dependants of students on Tier 4 visas can access a range of facilities, such as free NHS hospital treatment, and can register with a GP. If you’re a Tier 4 visa-holder studying on a postgraduate course for 12 months or more, or if you’re a government-sponsored Tier 4 visa-holder studying for 6 months or more, your partner will be able to work, and dependants of students can usually study on a part-time or full-time basis. Childcare

• • •

UCL has a nursery on campus. Places are limited. Children aged 3-4 can get a certain number of hours of free childcare per year. Contact the council or local authority in your area for more information or search online for a nursery close to you.  hildren aged 5-16 who are dependants C of a student can access free primary and secondary schooling.

Find out more about support for international students with families: international/pre-arrival-information/ students-families


International Students’ Guide

Part-time jobs Living in the country’s capital, there are many possibilities to gain some valuable work experience. What should I consider?

• •

Any work limitations - check your BRP/visa

 ow much you’ll be paid - National Minimum/ H Living Wage is a legal requirement

 ow your part-time work will impact your H studies and how much time you will realistically have to spare

 ational Insurance - you’ll need to apply for a National N Insurance number by calling 0800 141 2075

Finding work

 earch JobShop online (run by the Students’ S Union) for part-time vacancies

 CL JobOnline advertises internships and U part-time roles

 hops and restaurants often advertise in their S windows when they need extra help

 isit UCL Careers for help with your CV and V applications for part-time work

Find out more: immigration-visas/working-uk


Safety The London Metropolitan Police Service do an excellent job keeping London among the safest cities in the world, but it’s up to us to ensure we’re safe from petty crime and that we’re obeying UK law.  When travelling Store your luggage near you. Do not accept any rides from people who are not licensed cab drivers.  On the street The streets of London are, in general, very safe, but try not to walk with your electronics in your hand and don’t hold cash out for long periods of time.  On a night out Plan how and with whom you are going to get home beforehand and don’t walk home alone. Always make sure you have enough money for a taxi or bus and never leave your drink unattended. Find out more: In an emergency on campus, call 222 from any UCL phone. In an emergency off campus, call 999 for the emergency services, or 101 for non-emergency police services. Call 020 7679 2108 (extension 32108 from a UCL phone) to speak to UCL Security Services.


International Students’ Guide

Glossary Affiliate Study: a more formal name for Study Abroad. If you are a Study Abroad student, when you come to UCL you will be registered as an affiliate student. Eduroam: the free WiFi on campus. Faculty: a group of departments working in related fields. For example, the Department of History and the Department of Geography both sit within the Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences. ISD (Information Services Division): UCL’s central IT team, which offers services to students and staff. Moodle: UCL’s virtual learning environment, with online resources to support your face-to-face learning. Portico: the UCL Student Information Service. This online portal allows you to update your contact details, select modules, view exam timetables, find out results, pay fees online, re-enrol each year, apply for graduation ceremony tickets and plan and record skills development. ‘Portico’ is also the name of the iconic building in the Front Quad. Turnitin: an online assignment submission platform, designed to help detect plagiarism. Students’ Union UCL: the representative body for UCL students. As a student, you are automatically a member.


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