Moving to the UK: Three things worth planning early

20 October 2021

The gradual re-opening of international borders is good news for anyone thinking of relocating abroad on a longer-term basis. Despite struggling during the COVID-19 outbreak, the UK remains a highly-desirable place to live and work.

In June, the consultancy firm EY released its ‘UK Attractiveness Survey’1, painting a largely favourable picture and citing London as the most attractive city in Europe for foreign direct investment, having overtaken Paris. Similarly, a report last year by the World Bank2 ranked the UK in the top 10 of all countries globally, as a good place for doing business.

A combination of factors has historically contributed to the country’s ongoing appeal, but more recently, the impact of COVID-19 has been a catalyst for private wealth holders in countries like India, to look at the UK as being a stable base.

While the motivation for moving might be clear, the potent combination of logistics and emotions, can make the whole process seem overwhelming. So where do you start?

Consideration 1: Timing (tax and immigration)

The two logistical areas that can cause confusion and anxiety in the early planning stages, are tax and immigration. While Barclays Private Bank does not advise on either one, we do work very closely with a number of external partners who support our clients in these areas.

One such partner is international law firm, Mischon De Reya. Charlie Sosna is a Partner in the London office and as he explains, getting on top of the immigration process early, will help smooth the path ahead for future logistical planning: “The benefits of strategically reviewing your immigration options as early as possible, shouldn’t be underestimated. The same goes for pre-arrival tax planning,” he says.

“The Investor VISA is a popular option for UHNW individuals seeking UK residency, but some people may instead prefer to leverage eligibility rights. And when it comes to tax, it’s not just the UK entry that needs to be considered – exiting your current jurisdiction will have its own tax implications as well. Broadly speaking, it’s far better to be proactive with tax planning, than reactive. The latter can often be costly.”

In parallel with VISA applications, it’s also sensible to identify and aim for, a specific moving date at the start of your planning. Ideally, the 6 April would be front-and-centre of your mind because that’s the start of the new tax year in the UK. It’s therefore a key reference point for obtaining and implementing tax advice to ensure that you have the right structures in place before the tax year in which you become UK resident.

Of course, it is not just UK taxes to consider but any tax and emigration formalities in your home country as well. These may also have an impact on the timing of your move.

Mark Tucker, Head of Wealth Advisory for Barclays Private Bank, explains the importance of that annual April milestone: “There are so many considerations to think about when relocating. Understanding when you become UK resident is of paramount importance in determining your overall tax position. An error of judgment in the timing of a move can have disastrous consequences”.

Consideration 2: Property

Finding a house can be stressful at the best of times but the added complexity of doing so as part of an international relocation, requires a bit of extra attention.

You might start by asking yourself what’s important to you when looking for a home? Do you want the hustle-and-bustle of city life, or the peace and tranquillity of the countryside? Perhaps you already have friends and family in the UK whom you want to be close to? Or if you’re planning on doing a lot of international travel, do you prefer to be near a major airport like Heathrow, Gatwick or Manchester?

If you’re thinking of buying rather than renting, there are a few things to consider early which might give you a competitive advantage in the search process. “Clients looking at buying UK property should be ready to move quickly,” says Alexandra Hewazy, Head of UK resident non domiciled clients at Barclays Private Bank.

“This means making sure that they have considered with their tax advisors how to fund the deposit, as well as the tax efficiency of a mortgage, and how that mortgage will be serviced once they move to the UK. Having the financing lined-up, and the tax and legal advice in place, will put purchasers in a good position to avoid missing out to other buyers in a competitive market.”

Consideration 3: Schools

One of the major pieces in the relocation puzzle often involves children, and the idea of moving them and re-settling them into new schools, can trigger a wide range of emotions.

The good news is that the UK has one of the best education systems in the world, with an enviable private school network that attracts students from all over the world.

If you’re likely to be travelling regularly, then a boarding school might appeal for the continuity of your child’s term-time care. Conversely, if you have a good family support network in place, you might prefer a day school. Either way, most independent schools will require an entrance assessment to be taken, so it’s important to get an early sense of the specific requirements of any school you like.

And as we alluded to earlier, it’s worth having early April as a target date for starting a UK residency. Typically, that would mean your children entering a new school in the third and final term of the academic year, before a 6-8 week break over the summer. You may want to relocate first, and then start schooling at the beginning of the next academic year in September.

Final thoughts

There’s no denying that the process of relocating your work and family abroad, is complex and can cause a lot of anxiety if the right support is lacking. By planning ahead and prioritising some areas over others, it can help to strike the balance between embracing the opportunity, and successfully navigating the stresses.

The UK remains one of the friendliest and safest places to live in the world. The weather may be variable, but the people and culture more than make up for it.

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