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Moving your family to the UK – what you need to know

Located approximately 11,500 miles from New Zealand, right in the middle of the northern hemisphere, lies the United Kingdom (UK). Widely renowned as an economic and cultural powerhouse, the collective of countries is responsible for many of the world’s artistic, scientific, intellectual and political accomplishments.

Comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom is a tight knit, homogenous society, despite minor regional differences. However, each country has it’s own culture, customs and reserves separate political rights.

Families moving to the UK typically experience a warm and welcoming reception to their new home, and have no trouble adapting to a new style of life.

Visas

First things first, you will need a visa before you visit the UK (if you are not British or from the European Economic Area). New Zealanders can apply for a visa online, the process includes the payment of a fee as well as the supplying of biometric data. Learn more about getting a UK visa in New Zealand on the .gov.uk website’s apply for New Zealand visa page.

Note that you should not apply more than three months before your intended travel date.

Working conditions

Since the beginning of April 2016, new legislation states that all skilled workers from outside the EU who have been living there for under 10 years will need to earn at least £35,000 a year to settle permanently in the UK.

Some jobs, such as nursing and PhD level work are temporarily exempt from this rule. Workers whose trades come under the UK Government’s Tier 2 ‘Shortage Occupation’ list are also exempt from the legislation.

Shortage occupations include: physical scientists, mechanical, civil and electrical engineers, environmental professionals, information technology and communication professionals, social workers and secondary level education teachers among many other professions.

Read the Teir 2 Shortage Occupation list (PDF)

Along with these changes, a new £1,000 a year immigration skills levy has been introduced on all firms for each skilled migrant they recruit from outside Europe.

This is an interesting time to be moving to the UK. The new legislation has been controversial, and is expected to cut the flow of skilled migrant workers by up to 20%.

It pays to understand these new working conditions when thinking of your potential employment opportunities. If you have already secured a contract then communication with your employer is necessary to establish your opportunities for long-term residency.

Finding the right home

It’s important to be aware of significant differences in the New Zealand and UK housing markets when planning your move.

There are no restrictions on foreign residents purchasing their own homes in the UK, however there are a number of factors that families on the move need to take in to account:

  • Securing a mortgage without a credit history in the UK is near impossible.
  • Knowledge of local areas which you intend to buy in is important.
  • Whether you still own a home in New Zealand needs to be taken into consideration, depending on associated finance and running costs.
  • How long you intend to stay in your new country. If you do not own a home in the UK for more than one year, you will be liable to pay tax. Also, under the terms of mortgage contracts there can be financial penalties for redeeming the mortgage early.

Like New Zealand there are both leasehold and freehold purchase agreements.

A freehold provides the buyer with complete ownership of the land for an unlimited period of time. A leasehold grants the buyer rights to the land for a fixed period of time. The leasehold continues to run down regardless of who owns the property.

There is a process which takes place called “gazumping”, sometimes called “being skittled” in New Zealand. This occurs when, having agreed to pay the asking price and your offer having been accepted, you are outbid by another prospective buyer. Gazumping can happen up until contracts have been exchanged between yourself and the vendor, this is a process that can take up to 3 months. Although this sometimes take place in New Zealand, it is far more common in the UK.

The UK is known to have a smaller amount of available rental properties than other European countries and many landlords make their properties available to rent only to corporations rather than individuals. It’s recommended to use a localised and reputable real estate agent for all property dealings.

Finding the right school 

It goes without saying that your children’s happiness with their new home and environment is a crucial factor to the success of the international move. And one of the most important processes for them is finding the right school.

Before you fly out from New Zealand, you will need to communicate with prospective schools your children may attend. Gaining information about schools’ curricula and facilities are necessary to help you make the decision.

Local schools in the UK are mainly either state or private schools. Like New Zealand, state schools are public and provide free education to the children of any UK citizen and to certain foreign residents.

Private schools are known as independent schools, and there is a wide range of these schools accepting children from age 2 to 19 of all abilities and backgrounds. Independent schools are for fee paying students, although some offer scholarships and financial assistance. Many of these schools also have a waiting list – more motivation to look for a school early on in the process.

There are also international school available, offering the International Baccalaureate qualification, as well as catering to students whose second language is English.

Healthcare in the UK

The National Health Service (NHS) provides low cost and sometimes free medical care to all residents and is funded through taxation.

The UK Kingdom has a reciprocal healthcare arrangement with a number of countries including Australia and New Zealand where these citizens are generally speaking exempt from healthcare payments.

New Zealanders staying on a visa for more than six months will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of their visa application. Further information is available on the .gov.uk Visa’s and immigration page.

Getting comfortable

Settling in to a new neighbourhood so far from New Zealand can be a tough experience. It’s important for you and your family to familiarise yourselves with the local culture to feel comfortable.

Like New Zealand, the UK is filled with sport loving countries; from soccer (football), to rugby and cricket, Kiwis should have no trouble identifying the local teams of choice and getting amongst the action.

Getting kids involved with extracurricular activities is also an assured way to meet other parents and get your young ones developing friendships quickly.