Moved to the UK?
Meet Ashika of Absolutely Ashika (@AbsolutelyAshika), a content creator and expat helping people around the world move to the UK. Ashika has first-hand experience of the visa process, finding a place to live without a credit score, getting a UK driving licence, and more.
She’s here to chat about her experience of moving to the UK and to share everything she’s learned in the process.
Hi Ashika! Let’s talk about your journey before you arrived in the UK. A lot of people find the visa process quite confusing. Did you have to apply for a visa?
My husband is on an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa, now called a Senior or Specialist Worker visa. I didn’t need to apply for a visa as you can bring along dependents* on Senior or Specialist Worker visas. *A dependent is a wife, husband, civil partner, unmarried partner, child under 18 or child over 18 if they’re being classed as your dependent.
With student visas, you can also bring dependents with you. But lots of other visas don’t allow you to bring dependents. As a general rule, if it’s a long-term visa which is more than one or two years, you can usually bring your dependents. If it’s short-term, under nine months, you often can’t bring dependents with you.
Is applying for a visa complicated?
If you’ve ever filled out a Schengen visa form, the process of filling out visa forms for the UK is fairly similar. But there’s triple the amount of forms to do for the UK visa form than the Schengen form!
The first time you see the visa application it can be overwhelming as there’s so much information to fill out. And if you make one mistake it gets rejected. That’s why I created a video on how to fill out each step of the form, which people can watch here.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when you arrived in the UK?
One challenge was deciding where to live! There didn’t seem to be a single method for deciding, especially for someone who’s never been to the UK. My husband was going to be working in London but it’s too expensive to live in London if you want a larger house. That’s very different to where I’m from in India where if you work in the city you live in the city. It was like searching in the dark…
How did you go about finding somewhere to live?
We looked for places that were close to London and asked people about the schools there. We wanted to make sure they were Good or Outstanding. That helped us narrow down our search to Maidenhead and St Albans.
Did your lack of a UK credit score cause any problems with renting?
My husband got a work transfer to come to the UK so he had pay slips for the last few years. That gave the rental companies a level of security even though we didn’t have a credit score. My husband’s company also wrote a letter to say how long he’d be working in the UK and our resident’s permit confirmed how long we’d be here.
We then gave our salary brackets to the renting companies to prove we could afford the rent. When they see you can pay the rent comfortably, it becomes easier to get accepted. For renting, credit history is less important as they can just evict you if you don’t pay. But it’s different for leasing a car as you could just drive away and be gone forever!
That’s very true! And leads nicely to our next question: how did you find the process of buying a car in the UK?
In India, when you buy a pre-owned car, you take a mechanic with you. But most Indians who’ve moved to the UK don’t have that option as mechanics are expensive here. Buying a car from an individual in the UK is risky for us as it’s tricky to tell if there’s anything wrong with it. Especially if the car is registered on a used car marketplace by an individual. Individuals don’t always have to declare the car’s accident history!
The problem with going through a company or brand dealership is that it’s almost impossible to get a car on finance. Firstly, the UK finance terms are very different to the terms in India, so it’s hard to know what you’re getting into. Secondly, it’s also difficult to get a car on finance if you don’t have a UK credit history.
Luckily someone mentioned to me that Skoda, Volkwagon and Seat (who all happen to be part of the Volkwagon family) and BMW sell cars to expats on finance. We went to BMW and they were extremely efficient. They asked for my husband’s pay slips, saw the salary bracket and were able to give us a car without a credit history.
How did you get a UK driving licence as an expat?
Indians can come to the UK and drive immediately using their Indian licence for one year. But you need to apply for a driving test within one year of living here.
One thing we didn’t realise is how long it takes to book a driving test in the UK! In India, the whole thing takes around a week. That’s not the case here. You should apply for your driving test after six months of being in the UK - something we didn’t do. Now we have a car but no licence!
It’s important to remember that you can buy insurance initially using your international licence with certain companies (including Marshmallow - get a quote here!) but you can’t renew your insurance on an international licence as the licence is only valid for one year.
You’ve been here for nearly two years now. Is there anything that surprised you about life in the UK?
I didn’t realise how much you need a car if you live outside of the city. I’m not just saying this to push Marshmallow insurance! We can’t drive our car right now and it’s an absolute nightmare.
It’s extremely expensive to take an Uber to work in the UK, especially if you live outside the city. If you don’t have a car, you either spend a lot of time walking to get places or spend a lot of money getting taxis or trains.
The other challenge we faced was healthcare over here. In India, private healthcare is affordable even without insurance. Most people opt for private healthcare and wait times are around half an hour to an hour. That’s not the case in the UK. I tell people to think carefully about what kind of healthcare they need before committing to moving here full-time.
Thinking about the unexpected costs of living in the UK, do you have any tips for expats during the current cost of living crisis?
I’ve done a bunch of videos on this as well! A lot of people move to the UK and don’t do the right calculations. They don’t realise how much money they’ll lose to things like tax, rent, travel and food. In India, you always try to save money and it’s fairly doable. But, in the UK, if you haven’t done your calculations properly to live here, you can easily get surprised by a bill you didn’t know you had to pay, like for dental care or council tax. It makes it really hard to save money.
Before you come here, the most important thing to do is plan your finances. Make a spreadsheet and write down the cost of everything… milk, bread, clothes, household bills, the cost of having a car, the cost of not having a car.
A lot of people come to the UK from India because they want to make more money. But the cost of living is around 2/3 cheaper in India than in the UK. So you need to plan your finances to work out if you’re actually going to save more money by moving. The UK is an expensive place to live!
Want to know more about moving to the UK from someone with first-hand experience? Head over to Ashika’s YouTube channel.
Already moved here and need to get car insurance fast? Get cover with us. We save expats an average of £230 a year by looking at their previous driving experience overseas. Start a quote here.