I have now started settling in my apartment in Edinburgh, and along the way, I've stumbled across a number of things well worth documenting for the all-knowing interwebs.
The Bank Issue
I have enough friends who have moved to the UK to know what terrible travails are involved in getting setup with a bank account. First you wait, 3-4 weeks, for your first utility bill. Then, you bring it and your passport to the bank. Then, 2 weeks later, you finally have everything in place. Waiting two months for your first salary to materialize hasn't been unusual.
I tried to circumvent this with my move.
First, I tried applying to HSBC — who have their HSBC Passport: a bank account explicitly for immigrants. They do adress verification with utility bills from your OLD foreign adress, and thus you can get set early.
HSBC turned down my application. I fail their internal criteria for credit-worthiness, and they will not tell me how or why.
Second, I got in touch with Handelsbanken
, where a very nice Edinburgh representative told me that since I'm a customer with Handelsbanken
in Sweden, they can get me up and running quickly there. They'll even take a signed lease instead of a full on utility bill as proof of adress.
Being fully set this way, I went into RBS
upon arrival, just to see whether anything could be done quicker.
BOTH had some secret tricks up their sleeves that immigrants aren't necessarily aware of.
At the RBS, they told me about a fast lane to adress verification: you can call up the HM Revenue and Customs
(the UK tax agency), and request a form that provides proof of your taxation bracket (the name eludes me). They will then mail this to the adress you state; and this works as a proof of adress.
At the BoS, they told me about an account form they have — with only a debit card, and with severe penalties for misbehaving — but which takes, as proof of adress, the return of a card they send to your stated adress. This is the solution I ended up going with — it will take 1-2 weeks after setting foot in a BoS office until you are all set.
LycaMobile, phone numbers and porting
As I arrived, I picked up a SIM card from a corner store, just to have a phone I could be using. The phone number was particularly pleasing — and so I got quickly attached to it. However, the provider — Lyca Mobile
quickly turned out to be not the best choice for me. They specialize in catering to the immigrant crowd, just like Lebara, and others, and so offer decent rates for calls abroad. However, with out infatuation with Rebtel
, we don't need international calls to make international calls — so it would be a lot more helpful to have something that gives me cheap UK-calls, good internet access, and is well-established enough that Twitter recognizes them.
I found one: Vodafone has decent deals. And they told me what to do to keep my number — just get my PAC code from Lyca.
You see, the way porting works in Sweden (and thus the way I'm used to it working), you sign a piece of paper, and the phone company slugs it out with your old provider. The way it works in the UK, however, is that you get a code from your old provider and you give it to your new provider, and they then setup the changeover.
Lyca — it turns out — have a track record of being assholes about this. Once I got around to googling "Lycamobile PAC" I found no shortage of stories about the hoops they send customers through.
Now that I have gone far enough in the process to check things out, here's how it is supposed to go according to the industry regulations enforced by the Office of Communications (OfCom):
- You call your customer service, and ask for a PAC code.
- They read you your PAC code, or send it by SMS, or maybe even by paper mail — within 2h.
Here's what happened so far with Lyca:
- On September 5, I call them and request a PAC code. They give me 20 questions about why I am changing provider, and then give me a reference number. Tell me to call back after 24h to get my code.
- Today, September 7, I call them and request my PAC code. They start on the 20 questions again, and I give them the reference number. They tell me I need to submit a bank statement because my account is a "fancy number". I tell them it's insane and that I will be checking with OfCom about these practices.
- I call OfCom, and describe the situation so far. They give me the flowchart above — with 2h maximum time for producing the code — and will now start pressuring Lyca to give me my damn PAC number. If I haven't received it within 24h, I am to call back and escalate my complaint.
I'll update once I know whether OfCom pressure has any effect.