Arriving and living in the UK
The International Student Advice team understand that as an international student coming to study in the UK, there will many things you need to do when you first arrive and information you'll need to settle in. In this section, we hope to provide you with the guidance you need to be able to adjust to life in the UK.
You will find important information for when you first arrive, such as how to register with a doctor (GP) and how to open a bank account.
You will also find information on living in the UK, for example, healthcare advice and travel information, as well as signposting links that you may find useful.
Healthcare in the UK
Most migrants and their accompanying dependants who come to the UK for a stay of more than six months will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their visa application. The IHS is currently £470 per student and each dependant per year of leave. This entitles you to use free health services under the National Health Service (NHS), although you may be required to pay for some services such as prescriptions and dental treatment.
Please note: You can’t opt-out of paying the IHS even if you have private medical insurance.
If you plan to be here for less than six months, you should take out private health insurance before you come to the UK. Without this, you will be charged for any healthcare services you need.
However long your course, we recommend that you obtain additional health insurance prior to travelling to the UK. Your policy should cover medical costs plus any additional possible costs resulting from illness (such as lost fees if you are unable to complete your course and the cost of returning to your home country for treatment). Please check that your health insurance covers any pre-existing medical conditions, as you are likely not to be covered under the NHS.
If your doctor prescribes you medicine, you will usually have to pay a prescription charge (£9.15 as of April 2020). If you are receiving ongoing treatment it may be worth your while getting a Prescription Payment Certificate, which costs £29.65 for three months and £105.90 for 12 months. The certificate covers all prescription charges during that period.
Please note: if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 you should visit the NHS website - Covid symptoms.
Healthcare services available to you:
Your GP (doctor)
This is often your first point of contact for medical treatment. Most illnesses and other problems can be treated by the GP. Please see the drop down box below on how to register with a GP.
As qualified healthcare professions, pharmacists can offer clinical advice and provide over the counter medicines on a wide range of health issues. You don’t need an appointment for this and many pharmacists will have extended opening hours and be open over the weekend. Find out more about how pharmacists can help you and how to locate your nearest pharmacist.
If you have a minor injury or illness you may wish to visit one of the walk-in centres. The walk-in centres can offer advice on a wide range of health issues such as minor infections and rashes, stomach upsets, superficial cuts and bruises and strains and sprains. There are walk-in centres in and around Liverpool. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, if you would like to attend a walk-in centre, you will need to contact them by telephone first. Call 0300 100 1004.
For advice on an urgent medical problem and you are not sure what to do you can call 111.
Accident and emergency (A&E)
Only go to A&E if you have a serious accident or emergency, which requires urgent care. A&E can get very busy and their waiting times can often be long.
Find out more about healthcare issues depending on whether you are an EEA or a Non-EEA national:
*Leaflet produced by Royal Liverpool Hospital
Call 999 if you have a medical emergency.
COVID-19 symptoms and testing
For more information on healthcare services in Liverpool please read the Healthwatch leaflet.
For further general information on healthcare please go to the UKCISA website.
Registering with a GP (doctor) and dentist
You are advised to register with a GP (doctor) as soon as it is possible after you arrive in Liverpool. Please don’t wait until you are ill. By registering with a GP you can get an appointment and urgent treatment when you need it.
Once you are in Liverpool, you can find a GP in your local neighbourhood by visiting the NHS website and searching using your post code. Once you find the GP you want to register with, please contact them (by phone) to see how they register their patients.
Under the NHS, appointments with doctors are free (except for certain things such as vaccinations for travel or getting a sickness certificate).
If your doctor prescribes you medicine you will usually have to pay a prescription charge (£9.15 from April 2020). If you are receiving ongoing treatment it may be worth your while getting a Prescription Payment Certificate, which costs £29.65 for three months and £105.90 for 12 months. The certificate covers all prescription charges during that period
What documents will I need to register with a GP?
You will usually require the following documents, however, please ensure that you ask the GP surgery that you are registering with for the documents they require to register you.
- Confirmation of your UK address
- Your passport/BRP
Registering with a dentist
You can also search for a dentist via the NHS website. You must pay for the cost of any dental treatment you receive in the UK. The cost varies depending on whether you are registered with an NHS or a private dentist. Dental treatment can be very expensive, so you should check the cost before embarking on any course of treatment.
Please see information about registering with a doctor/dentist in Liverpool city centre.
Opening a UK bank account
In order to open a bank account in the UK you will need to provide a letter from LJMU. You can request this letter via the My LJMU Portal in the 'My Services' tab, under 'Letter Request.
The International Advice Team have produced an information sheet about opening a bank account in the UK which you can read here:
Council tax information
Council tax is set by local authorities in the UK to help pay for services such as the police, fire brigade and bin collections. To be eligible for council tax exemption, you must be on a full-time course for a period of more than 24 weeks.
Your eligibility will also depend on who you live with. Council tax exemption forms can be requested through My Services.
You can find more information on the UKCISA website about council tax.
Driving in the UK
Licence issued in the UK or EEA
If you hold a licence that was issued in the UK or in any EEA (European economic area) country you can drive using this as long as it remains valid.
If your driving licence was issued outside of the EEA, you can use your license to drive in the UK for up to 12 months from your date of entry into in the UK (this is known as the concession period).
Holders of licences from designated countries
You can drive using this licence for up to 12 months from the date you became resident in the UK (as long as the licence remains valid). In order to continue driving after this period, you should apply to exchange this for a British licence within the concession period.
Designated countries: Andorra, Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, South Korea and Zimbabwe.
Holders of licences issued from other countries
You can drive using your licence or an international driving permit for up to 12 months. Once you have been resident in the UK for six months, you can apply for a UK provisional licence and take the UK driving test.
If you cease to be lawfully resident in the UK (for example if you become an overstayer) the DVLA can revoke your licence.
For information on driving in the UK please see the UKCISA guidance notes.
Travelling during studies - Schengen visas
Many of our international students like to travel to Europe during their stay in the UK. Some international students may need to apply for a Schengen visa before they travel.
The International Student Advice team at LJMU have produced an information sheet with answers to FAQs about the Schengen visa. Please see our Schengen Guidance: Information on applying for the Schengen visa
Travel to Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland
If you hold a valid UK visa you will not need to apply for a visa for travel to Northern Ireland as it is part of the UK.
If you wish to travel to the Republic of Ireland, you may need to apply for a visa to do so. You can read more about applying for a visa for Ireland.
Chinese and Indian nationals holding a UK Standard Visitor visa can travel to the Republic of Ireland under the British-Irish Visa Scheme.
Travel safety advice
Before you travel
- Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance, which covers your belongings as well as your health care
- Make copies of your passport and BRP card
- You should make a copy of your passport and BRP before you travel and keep this with you, but separate from the actual documents (i.e. in a different bag). You can also keep an electronic copy
- Note down details like your insurance policy number and important phone numbers such as those of your credit card
- Tell friends/family where you will be going and where you will be staying
- Put contact details inside your luggage in case it goes missing and needs returning to you
During your travels
- Split your money and cards and put in different bags – never carry all your personal belongings in one place
- Never leave luggage unattended or locked
- Keep passport/BRP safe at the hotel and carry photocopies
- If you are carrying BRP/passport with you keep it safe (not in a backpack)
- Be vigilant!
If your passport is lost or stolen while abroad
- Report the loss or theft of your passport to the police as soon as possible and ask them for a reference number
- Apply for a replacement passport at your national embassy
- Do not attempt to travel until you have your new passport and new visa
Please see further information about this on our BRP/passport issues section.
HOST UK - stay with a British HOST family
Host UK is a charity that matches international students studying in the UK with residents around the UK. Students can spend a day, weekend or a Christmas break with a HOST family. HOST is a great way to gain a better understanding of life in Britain and can help you to feel more settled. LJMU also pays half the cost of your first HOST visit.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, HOST UK are currently operating remotely and will be virtually matching international students with HOST families. To find out more please see the HOST UK website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.