FYI: Citizens Advice Bureau

It is great to know that as a foreigner, there are places to go for advice. Of course, there is always the American Embassy for some big issues, but you don’t want to have to go to London every time you need advice on everyday matters. In Britain, that’s what the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) is for.

There is a CAB in every town and it is essentially run by volunteers trained to give information to ordinary everyday folks. The CABs serve only residents within their county boundaries. Some places require appointments, while others are exclusively run on a “first come, first served” walk-in basis. You can get information about how and where to find a doctor, what you need to know about getting your license, how to resolve disputes, issues with your landlord, etc.

In recent years, with the increased rate in immigration, the CAB has turned into a stopping point for immigrants to get information on how to get benefits and other issues related to living and working in the UK. From the leaflets, posters and other advice on view, it seems the CAB deal a lot with immigration issues. The other big area that the CAB seem to focus on is discrimination – of all kinds, sexual, racial, sexual orientation, etc.

I don’t think there is an equivalent institution in the US, although you can get some information through your Town Hall. The CAB is distinct from the Town Hall as it can provide semi-legal advice. If the volunteer does not have the answers readily, he/she can look in their database for the relevant information or point you in the right direction. It is a wonderful and reliable service, even if you might have to wait for an hour before being seen. Any newcomer to England should be aware of this invaluable institution.

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