Jennifer Ridgway and Caroline Vollers at Farrer & Co and Harriet Brook, Head of Consultancy at Keystone Tutors, discuss their top tips for families moving to the UK for their children’s education. These tips will help provide non-UK families with a checklist of things to consider before relocating and help you navigate the UK education system.
- Plan ahead wherever possible: The earlier you start looking at school options, entry points and processes, the better chance you will have at finding suitable schools and / or universities. The length of time required to find a space for your child will vary depending on their academic year group and the type of schools you are looking at, as well as how competitive the schools’ entry processes are. For some UK schools, you are requested to register a minimum of one year before entry, while other schools require a registration form to be completed three years before joining. More information about this can be found here. For those who don’t have the luxury of planning time, do not fear, you can always go down the Occasional Place route when looking for school places. The UCAS (university application) application process takes place at the start of Year 13. There are two deadlines depending on what you are applying for, either 16 October or the end of January. You can check which applies here.
- Tax considerations: The UK's tax year runs from 6 April in one year to 5 April in the next. The timing of when during the tax year you move to the UK is important as it can have an impact on how much tax you need to pay. In the UK, you are taxed on a self-assessment basis. This means that each individual has an obligation to declare the income and gains generated in a tax year and pay tax on those amounts. Whether or not an individual is in fact UK tax resident is also determined on a self-assessment basis, and so your residence position is often not known for certain until the end of the tax year in question, depending on how many days you have spent in the UK. If an individual becomes UK resident part way through a tax year, they are generally treated as if they have been UK resident for the whole tax year (ie from 6 April) which could have unwanted tax implications. There are exceptions to this rule where you can qualify for ‘split year’ treatment, but this is complex and requires detailed advice. There is potentially some pre-arrival tax planning that could be considered and would need to be implemented in the tax year before you become UK resident so it is wise to take advice and plan your financial affairs before moving to the UK.
- Student visas: Children resident in the UK normally have the right to attend school. Those entering from overseas to access schooling should have an immigration permission that allows them to study in the UK. Schools will need to check a student’s right to study in the UK before they offer a place. If your child does not already have the type of immigration permission required to allow them to study, you may consider obtaining a “Child Student” or “Student” visa by contacting the school or university directly and asking them to sponsor your child. A student visa does not in itself lead to permanent status unless your child is able to accrue 10 consecutive years living in the UK, however there are other routes to permanent status which can be considered.
- Immigration for the rest of the family: Parents and other family members who would like to reside in the UK will also need to secure their own visa status. There are many options available in such situations, depending on each family’s individual circumstances. Examples include work and other economic activity-based visas, artist, and other talent-based visas, or the parent of a child student visa (which will allow one parent to accompany a child student visa holder aged between four and 11 to the UK). Tailored advice will be required on the range of options available on a case-by-case basis. Processing times for visa applications vary depending on the type of application but it is worth factoring in at least six to 12 weeks prior to any relocation date.
- Work out your location: Some families choose to secure a house before applying for schools: (this will be especially necessary if you are looking at the state school route), while other families opt to secure places at schools before finding a home. Securing school places before committing to a property purchase / rental might make life easier in the long term, as it will enable you to think through your family logistics in terms of both parent and child commutes, drop-offs, extra-curricular activities and so on.
- Buying a property: Navigating the fast-moving property market in the UK can be daunting, therefore deciding whether to rent or buy a property and arranging your affairs early on is advisable. Properties are usually marketed by estate agencies, but you may prefer to instruct a buying agent instead (for a fee) who will carry out specific search for you having considered your requirements, eg being close to the school or university that you are considering, living in a certain area, freehold (usually a house) or leasehold (usually a flat) etc. You can hold a property in different ways, such as through a company or in your individual name, and each will have their own tax implications. We recommend taking legal advice on how best to structure the purchase. In England and Wales, a maximum of four people can legally own a property and every owner must be over 18 years old (although it is possible to hold property on trust for children). After the purchase completes, it will be recorded at the Land Registry, meaning that the price you paid and your name (or company name) will be entered on a public register. Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) will also be payable, although different rates apply to different situations and your property solicitor will be able to advise you as to your SDLT liability. A typical transaction may take up to six weeks, but some can exchange and complete within a week if the parties are willing and able!
- Understand your child’s academic level: Many UK schools are academically selective, so we advise that you understand your child’s academic suitability for schools in advance. This can be gauged through school reports and / or additional assessments. Often international schools or non-UK curriculum schools cover different material and teach differently, so it is also worth looking to address any gaps in knowledge in advance of entry assessments. Universities have minimum grade requirements, so predicted grades are crucial to the UCAS application process. Once you’ve established your key priorities alongside your child’s academic level you can generate a shortlist of schools / universities with a better understanding of their suitability for those institutions.
- Broader logistics: If you have more than one child, don’t forget to consider how the day-to-day logistics are going to work for all family members. This includes thinking about your commute time through the academic year and, if looking at boarding, how pick-ups / drop-offs, match viewings etc are going to work in the longer term.
- Employment: Many families choose to employ a nanny and / or housekeeper to help in the home and with the children. The school day in the UK usually runs between about 8.30am and 3.30pm, so support with school drop-offs and pick-ups can be particularly helpful. Depending on the arrangements you put in place, domestic staff will generally be entitled to employment law protections in the UK and obliged to pay tax on their income. This means that you will need to put in place an employment contract complying with statutory minimums in relation to, among other things, pay and working time. You will also need to deduct tax and Employee’s National Insurance contributions and pay Employer’s National Insurance contributions wherever an employee’s earnings exceed specified thresholds. In addition, you are required to enrol an employee that meets certain eligibility criteria into a pension scheme and make a minimum level of contributions. Before an employee starts work, you must check that they have the right to work in the UK and keep a record of the checks having been carried out. There are many agencies in the UK that can help you find staff and carry out relevant background checks, as well as companies that will operate payroll for you.
- General UK issues: Once you move to the UK and own property here, you should put in place a UK Will straight away. If you have a Will in another jurisdiction, we will usually need to work with your advisers there to make sure the Wills work together so that your worldwide succession is covered. If you are intestate in the UK, you should not assume that your spouse will inherit everything as this is not the case where there are other children or surviving close relatives. A UK Will is required to ensure your UK situated assets pass to your chosen beneficiaries, and to help minimise the exposure to UK inheritance tax (IHT) on your death. The general rule is that IHT is payable at a rate of 40 per cent on all UK situated property (and in some cases, depending on other factors, on your worldwide property), subject to any available reliefs and exemptions. You can also make appropriate provision for your children in your Will to ensure they do not inherit a large amount of wealth at age 18 and appoint legal guardians for them should both parents die while they are still young. We also recommend putting in place Lasting Powers of Attorney in the UK so that you are protected in the event that you lose mental capacity and important decisions in relation to your financial affairs and health and welfare decisions can still be made.
For further information about anything covered in this briefing please contact Jennifer Ridgway or Caroline Vollers at Farrer & Co, or Harriet Brook at Keystone Tutors.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, May 2023