United Kingdom (II): Bank Account and NINo

Open a Bank Account and obtaining the NINo (National Insurance Number) are two quite discussed subjects among foreigners who come to the United Kingdom. And what for some seem to be two simple procedures, might be a nightmare for others. I personally had to go through “half” a nightmare.

When I came to London before Christmas, I called the Jobcenter Plus on a Tuesday and arranged an appointment to do the application for the National Insurance Number. I got the appointment for the following Saturday.

[x_alert type=”info”]Arranging an Appointment is really easy, because it does only require a quick call. You simply call 0345 600 0643 from Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm. You’ve got to give some details over phone and point out that you want an appointment to apply for the NINo. Just in a few minutes we’ll get a date and time and a reference number (it is important to write it down!). And that’s it, the first step is done.[/x_alert]

I arrived at the Jobcenter a little bit earlier on Saturday, just to make sure, and I had to wait, outside. I was not allowed to get in because I had arrived to early (15 minutes). So I waited. Once I got in I had to fill out a small sheet with my first name and surname, the reference number I got when I called and if I remember right, my address. After that I had to wait again, and quite a lot. I sat there moreless half an hour until I was called and had the interview.

The interview was a little bit confusing, because they asked me for my last address, which is Spanish, but my passport is German, and for reasons I am not able to understand, they did not believe that a German had Spanish address. After explaining to my interviewer and two of her colleagues that I was indeed German but that I grew up and lived all my live in Spain I gave up and just gave them my sisters address in Germany.

After that some questions about work, which I answered saying that I was searching for a job, and about where I was living at the moment. Finally I received a paper with my name, the date and a reference number. I was asked to wait again. And I waited. Another 40 minutes until I was called, got back my passport and could go home.

[x_alert type=”info”]It seems that some time ago you received a provisional NINo directly after having the interview, but I was told that they changed the procedure, and that you now receive a reference number you can give your employer so he knows you’ve applied for the NINo. This reference number does not mean that you are going to get the NINo! But normally you won’t be rejected. The NINo arrives at the given address between 4 and 6 weeks after the interview.[/x_alert]

Finally I had one thing done. But now it was time for the Bank Account Nightmare! And I postponed that quest until Christmas was over, because no bank could or wanted to give me an appointment earlier.

I first tried the nearest Barclays branch. I hadn’t received the NINo yet, and I also had no rent contract, as a lot of new arrivals in the UK with the first flat share or room share. And with out either one of them I was told at the bank that they could not open an account for me. I asked my landlord to write a letter “certifying” that I lived in his house. But that did also not help because it was no official document.

I tried other Barclays branches, in different parts of London. I tried other banks like Lloyds, TSB, HSBC… Some specific branches recommended by friends and acquaintances at which they where not asked to have the NINo or a rent contract, but I had not that luck.

Finally, after three weeks trying different branches and asking for appointments I surrendered. I said to myself that I would need to wait until I receive the NINo.

And receiving the NINo was like a miracle. I made an appointment at the nearest Barclays which I got almost one week later.

One day before the appointment I got a call from a company to arrange an interview for a job position just half an hour after the bank appointment. I would not be able to get there that fast, so I went to the bank to change the appointment and that was a great idea. One of the employees told me that instead of changing the date he would open an account at that moment. Finally! The process took almost one and a half hours (normally it takes 30 to 40 minutes) because the employee was new and it was his first time opening an account, but he was really clear and everything went smoothly.

Some days later I got by post the credit card, pin, and online access, and some welcome books with information about the bank and the different accounts and advantages.

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