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Moving to London 

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A Unique Relationship

After Brexit in 2016, unlike for other EU nationals, little changed in Irish emigrants’ access to the United Kingdom (UK). Irish nationals have a unique status in the UK.


From the end of the Irish war of independence and formation of the Free State in 1922 until 1948 Ireland was part of the British Commonwealth.

In the late 1940s Ireland left the Commonwealth and declared itself an independent Republic. The response of the British government, after heavy lobbying by Canada, New Zealand and Australia, was to confirm that Irish citizens would not be treated as ‘aliens’ (i.e.foreign) when in Britain but as if they were ‘subjects’ (of the monarch, like all British and, at the time, Commonwealth citizens). This ensured Irish people could continue to move to Britain easily and the UK has been their chief destination ever since.

Preparing for Life in London

If you're planning to move to London, there are several crucial steps you should take to ease your transition and ensure a smooth start to your life in this vibrant city. From healthcare registration to housing and job hunting, here's a guide to help you navigate the essentials.

NHS Registration: Prioritise Your Health

One of your top priorities should be to register with the National Health Service (NHS) as early as possible. Locate the local GP surgeries in your area of residence and check if they are accepting new patients. You don't need proof of address or an NHS number to register. Your GP will be your primary point of contact for healthcare issues and can refer you to other NHS services if necessary.

By registering with a GP, you gain access to a wide range of healthcare services within the NHS.


Apply for a National Insurance Number

You will need a National Insurance number to work, even if you are studying. Employers need the number in order to make tax deductions to your wages. You won’t be able to gain employment in the UK without a national insurance number. You can apply here.

Setting Up a Bank Account: Managing Your Finances

It's essential to open a local bank account early on to receive payments and manage your finances smoothly. To do this, you'll typically need two things: proof of identity, such as a passport or driving license, and proof of address, like a tenancy agreement, gas bill, or council tax bill.

But what if you haven't secured an address yet? Some banks have become more flexible and may accept alternative documents, such as a letter from your employer or Jobcentre Plus confirming your National Insurance number. Keep in mind that using Irish bank accounts and credit cards in the interim may incur avoidable fees. Some UK banks offer international accounts, but they often require a substantial initial deposit and a minimum monthly balance.

Finding Suitable Accommodation

The choice of where to live in London depends on various factors, including proximity to work, your social network, affordability, and transportation options. People in London often ask about your location, the Tube or train line you're on, and commute times, so your choice of residence can significantly impact your daily life.

For example, areas south of the river like Clapham and Balham are well-connected by the Northern line, while places like Islington, Finsbury Park, and Walthamstow are easily accessible via the Victoria line. Some Londoners prefer to avoid changing lines for their daily commute, so your job location may influence your housing decision. However, London's efficient transport system allows for relatively quick cross-city journeys.

Consider proximity to airports if you travel frequently. Heathrow and Gatwick are in the south, while Stansted and Luton are in the north, and London City Airport serves the east.

Dealing with London's Rental Market

Renting in London can be challenging due to high costs and limited availability. Be prepared for long queues and fierce competition when viewing houses and apartments. Rental prices have surged in recent years, with some areas experiencing a 23% increase in rents in just 12 months.

If you're coming from Ireland, consider visiting London for a few days to view properties. Bring references from an Irish landlord and, if available, a job offer. Property listing websites like Rightmove, Zoopla, Gumtree, OpenRent, and OnTheMarket can be valuable resources.

Employment Opportunities

Securing employment is crucial for many newcomers. The job market in the UK, including London, is generally buoyant, with millions of vacancies advertised monthly. There's a particular demand for nurses, HGV drivers, and social care workers. However, keep in mind that wage growth may not keep pace with inflation, so research and negotiate your salary carefully.

Average salaries in London vary by sector, with Glassdoor reporting an average base salary of just over £44,000. Industries like banking and financial services typically offer higher salaries, while media roles tend to be less lucrative.

Settling Families: Consider Schools

For families moving to London, choosing a suitable area often revolves around school options. Primary education in the UK starts at age four with the reception class, and admission is typically based on catchment areas, among other factors like religion or sibling attendance. Catchment areas can be small, especially for popular schools, which can also drive up property prices in those areas.

To apply for primary school places, use the local authority's application process within a specified timeframe. Thanks to the Common Travel Area between the UK and Ireland, Irish children can attend school in the UK with ease.

Support from the Irish Community in London

Maintaining connections with the Irish community in London can be valuable. The London Irish Centre offers advice on housing, benefits, bank account setup, and hosts a variety of events. Other areas have their own Irish community spaces and services and there is a great range of Irish networks in London as well as Irish cultural and sports organisations.

Enjoying London: Pubs and Culture


While in London, don't forget to explore the city's vibrant culture. If you're in the mood for a pint, check out the list of Irish pubs here on our site. Additionally, London has a thriving GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) community, with its headquarters in McGovern Park, Ruislip, participating in the Connacht Senior Football Championship.

Lastly, Irish citizens can register to vote online using their National Insurance number, although it's possible to register without one.

Moving to London is an exciting adventure, but it comes with its unique challenges. By planning ahead and familiarising yourself with essential aspects of life in London, you can make a successful transition and enjoy all that this dynamic city has to offer.

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