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Finding a place to stay, a place of accommodation in the UK as an international doctor (IMG) may prove to be difficult in different stages of your journey.
I don't have any family living in the UK.
Where will I stay during my PLAB 2 visit?
How do I find an accommodation?
Is there any blacklist of accommodations that I should avoid?
These are the questions asked by many PLAB aspirants when they are planning their visit to the UK prior to joining an academy.
When do an IMG need to look for an accommodation in the UK?
You will at least need to visit the UK once for your PLAB 2 or GMC ID Check (if you are not taking the PLAB route of GMC registration) before coming with a Tier 2 visa for work.
You, as an IMG, can also look for a shared accommodation or a temporary place to stay before committing to renting in the UK when you come with a work visa. So, at two separate times this article is going to be of help:
- Your PLAB 2 visit for academy or course and the PLAB 2 exam
- Before starting to work as a doctor when coming with a Tier 2 visa
People rent the rooms in their houses
I never had any experience of sub-letting before thus for this idea to kick in, it took some time when I was looking for UK accommodation as an IMG.
Obviously, there are a lot of people who are just like me, who don't have any kith and kin living in the UK, goes to the UK for the purpose of PLAB 2, around the year. They'll have to stay at rented properties. And the most common places anyone will want to stay is nearby their PLAB academy or courses.
Where do I look for accommodation?
So, I dug around the internet and found a few websites which contains listing of accommodation in the UK.
I opened accounts in all these websites above. I found out what area which is nearby my PLAB 2 academy and, most importantly, within my budget. In addition to that, I also put together a well written message.
What did I include in my message?
- My name
- My occupation
- Where I'm from
- My purpose of visit to the UK
- From which date I want to rent (I decided this 1-2 days prior to my course starting date)
- The possible duration of my stay
- The state of my visa (In my case, I had no visa and told everyone I am still processing it)
- Anything you wanna add (whether you smoke or not etc - depending on the terms stated on the advert)
- Why the advert caught your attention. (It maybe some terms like female only, or location, or pricing etc)
- And obviously you'll say that you are eagerly awaiting their reply. 🙂
All of this should be concise. Remember, landlords / principle tenants get a lot of messages and queries if they let their room/property at a good price. So one message (not an essay) should clarify your situation completely.
The websites have their way of sending messages without giving away your email ID. When you get a reply you get an email to go to the website to check. Or you can just download the website’s app for more flexibility.
As an IMG, I found my very first UK accommodation through the spareroom website. It felt less cluttered and the adverts had all the information categorised and displayed in one page. Things I considered when searching:
- Location. (Per advert I had Google maps open on another tab to find out what's the distance between the possible address shown in the advert’s map and my course)
- Price. (I always sorted from low to high)
- Bills included in the rent.
- Free internet / wifi
- The type of people I'd be willing to live with (non-smokers, only males, only females, no pets, etc)
In spareroom, you should also open an advert for yourself. That will be used as reference in the messages you send the advertisers.
Then you start messaging the advertisers, with your well written message from above. In my experience, some renters preferred other ways of communication like Whatsapp, Skype etc. See what works best for you.
What do you need from them for your UK Visit Application?
- Assurance that they will be able to provide you accommodation from your starting date. (In my opinion, just assurance is a big thing, but if they tell you that they need you to pay ahead of time, don't pursue further.)
- Clarification about rent and bills and other terms and conditions.
If you don't have a visa and haven't found any other plan for accommodation, you need the following from them:
- An invitation letter stating your name, your passport no, your purpose, your relationship (friend/ tenant) and your duration of stay (to avoid conflict between you visa application’s duration of stay vs your real duration of stay, I would suggest your invitation letter may contain only the starting date of your tenancy)
- Council tax bill of the address.
- Utility bill of the address.
I also saw some advert stating that 'they do accommodation address', maybe they add an extra charge for that. Ask in case it is mentioned. IMGs should be aware of frauds while looking for accommodation in the UK. Look for blacklisted accommodations at the end of this article reported by other IMGs.
Now a question may arise in one’s skeptic mind, who'll do all this? They will. I had messaged maybe around 35-45 advertisers and about 10-12 replied. After talking further with all of them, I finally found who agreed to provide me with what I need, and was also within my budget.
And another clarification about the tenancy agreement. If you don't have the valid leave to remain i.e. your visa, you shouldn't be able to go/sign into a tenancy agreement. If your landlord/principal tenant sends you a confirmation letter of your tenancy and adds a clause that 'only when you have a valid leave to remain', that seals it.
Accommodation Confirmation Letter
You can forward this letter to your landlord if they are not sure how to write a letter for your visa purpose.
The Visa Officer or To Whom It May Concern
UK Visa and Immigration Department
The British High Commission
I can confirm that YOUR NAME will be my tenant at HIS ADDRESS during his course of stay in the UK for a short course, subject to him having obtained for a valid leave to remain. His details are as below:
Date of Birth:
Duration Start Date:
Exam Date: (He added my PLAB 2 date)
Please, feel free to contact me by any of the below mean if any further information is required of me.
My landlord also added the council tax bill and/or utility (electricity) bill copies, which I submitted in my visa application too.
AirBnb can be the option for a shorter stay
AirBnb also has an option to get a letter for visa application through the app when a booking is confirmed. You ccan always use the AirBnb itinerary for your visa application as a proof of planning regarding where you will stay while you visit.
Frequently asked questions
I am a girl who will be going to the UK by myself. Is it safe for me to live in an accommodation?
I, Ibreez, stayed in an accommodation that I found on spareroom after vetting many properties and ensuring that the person I'd be staying with fit what I wanted in my living arrangements. Spareroom has the option to select 'female only', and by searching in that way I was able to find the perfect place. Also, my landlady told me a little about herself and what she did, which I was then able to cross check and verify.
How can I make sure that I am not cheated/rent suddenly doesn't change/etc?
If you aren't staying in a BnB or any other place which already is prepaid, you may be concerned about how to ensure there is no mischief when it comes to paying rent every week/month. What I did was settle on a solid contract with my landlady wherein all the necessary information was laid out and explained. You should be clear in your agreement what the amount to be paid will be, when it must be paid, how it must be paid, any deposits, rules of the living arrangement, etc. This should ideally be signed once you reach your accommodation, and you should always keep a copy of the signed agreement with you.
What if I only have booked a hotel?
The booking of a hotel is also acceptable for any visa application. As UKVI suggests to not make any permanent plans before getting the visa anyway.
One last thing. DO NOT, under any circumstances, send money to ANYONE, be it by Western Union, Paypal, or whatever, until yourself have physically gone to the location and seen it, along with proof that the person actually is authorized to rent it out. There are many scams out there with people who will say they are currently abroad and will mail you the key after you send in some money. IT IS A SCAM. Always verify and be certain what you are doing is legal, above-board, and safe. Also before you move in, take extensive photos and videos of your living quarters so that getting your deposit back won't be a hassle. Other than that, you should be good to go!
We made efforts to make a blacklist of UK accommodation places, where past IMG had horrible experiences. Have a look here, blacklisted accommodations, before you finalize your accommodation just to be safe.
If you have suffered, you can help future doctors by filling this accommodation feedback form.
We hope you all find a good place stay. Good luck!