What are the aspects to consider if you are thinking to move to London with a family?
Visiting London as a tourist and living this city with a family are very different things. London is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, full of things to do, with plenty of opportunities for those who want to emerge, but it also has a high cost of living. If you are a family, there are many aspects that you need to consider before moving.
This post has been updated in April 2020, and therefore includes the new selective process for moving to the UK after Brexit.
Table of contents:
LONDON AFTER BREXIT, WHAT HAS CHANGED?
The new provisions for access to the United Kingdom will enter into force on 1 January 2021, once the freedom of movement within the European Union (EU) will be ended. These provisions will equally affect EU and third-country nationals while Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.
The points system to be able to enter the UK
From 2021 it will be possible to enter the United Kingdom for a period longer than 6 months for work or study purposes only with the application for a visa.
The new parameters seem to be quite restrictive and are based on a points system.
Let’s see below what they are:
The first 50 points are mandatory for all migrants. It is therefore necessary that those who move to the United Kingdom arrive with a job offer already in hand, know English at a certain level, and can demonstrate that they have specific work skills. The other points are awarded on the basis of salary – the better the job is paid, the more chances there are to obtain the permit – and the qualification: to have a PhD in the sector in which the job offer was received, for example, bring another ten points.
We are part of those citizens who can take advantage of a special regime, the Settled Status. By proving that you live in the United Kingdom for at least six months before December 31, 2020, you can continue to live in the United Kingdom even after June 30, 2021.
So if you are wondering either now or never … well, this is the time. Who is inside is inside, who is outside is outside …
HOW TO WORK IN LONDON AND IN THE UK AFTER BREXIT
Like you, me and the English newspapers have also wondered how the country will be able to cope with the huge demand for low-skilled jobs with this system.
They will certainly adjust the pull, for example for the agricultural sector it is clear that agricultural visas could be extended, recognising the considerable dependence that this sector has on temporary workers with low qualifications.
If you earn less than this – but not less than £ 20,480 – you may still be able to apply points by “swapping” on specific features for your salary. For example, if you have a job offer in a job shortage or have a PhD relevant to the job.
Details on how the points system will work can be found in the policy statement.
You must also be in possession of the National Insurance Number (NIN), a sort of English tax code.
It will be possible to apply and pay for the visa online.
When you apply, you will be asked to provide your biometric information:
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens – you will need to provide a digital photo of your face using a smartphone app. You don’t have to fingerprint.
Non-EU citizens – fingerprints and a photo in a visa application center abroad.
For those visiting London or the United Kingdom, even if only for a few days, from 1 January 2021 it will also be mandatory to have a passport.
MOVING TO LONDON AFTER BREXIT: MY ADVICE
My advice is to look for a house as far as you arrive in order to have a permanent address, because a proof of address is necessary for almost everything.
In order to open a bank account you have to provide two proof of address (which may be the electricity or water utilities, the TV licence or the Council tax, (that is the only one to pay to the Council where you leave) or the National Insurance Number.
In order to apply for the GP, which is a clinic with many different doctors, you need to show the bank account or one of the above mentioned proofs of address.
If you are interested in understanding how the English healthcare system works, you might be interested in reading Pediatrician in UK vs Italy.
British Citizenship: you can apply only if you have been living in the UK for at least 5 years and you need to pass an exam that evaluates your knowledge of English history and culture.
HOW TO FIND A JOB IN LONDON
My personal experience tells that it’s easy to find an unqualified job. I took a career break to raise my family and when it came to find a job I found it very hard. Because of the maternity leave, I suggest to take this time to update your skills. Put on your CV that while raising your family you took some courses and give a social proof for that. For me, having a blog allowed to land a new job in marketing, which I didn’t experience before. And then I opened my digital agency.
Networking is fundamental. Again, my blog helped me a lot with that, because of the connections I created. Speak to people, don’t be shy I connect with more people you can.
MOVING TO LONDON, WHERE TO LIVE
The first thing to do before moving with a family to London is to understand in which area (borough) to live. London is massive. I lived in Milan (which is not exactly small…) but it is nothing compared to the largeness of London. You mostly live in your borough, so it is essential to choose it well and consider the commuting to work.
You need to have a precise idea of your monthly income will be, in order to choose where to live. Renting a flat or a house in London can be very expensive and it absorbs most of your monthly budget.
Choosing the borough is not easy: once you have established your budget and the area considering the commuting, you can take into account schools, safety and parks. If you are an expat, you might also consider the transfer to the airports.
What are the most family-friendly areas of London?
Generally, West London is the most recommended if you are looking for quiet life, with good parks. In this area, I can mention Kensington, Chiswick, Hammersmith and Ealing.
In South London, the most recommended boroughs for families are Sutton, Richmond, Dulwich and Wandsworth. In North London, West Hampstead and Muswell Hill.
Besides, I suggest to consider the schools. Each school is given a score from Ofsted, and it is public. Once identified a property, I recommend also to check if you are in the catchment area of a good school.
SOME TIPS HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST AREA TO LIVE IN LONDON
– London has 6 zones, The centre is zone 1. Living in zone 1 and 2 can be very expensive. London is so big that you will live mostly in your borough most of the time. Each borough is like a village. Usually the borough south the Thames are cheaper as for the transport is with less choices.
– There are some cheaper buildings, you can look for ex-council (local authority) flats. Check carefully the area around the flat to be safe when go back home.
– You can live in zone 3 or 6 but close to a tube or a train station and it’s expensive as well. You should figure out a way to reach the tube. A scooter maybe?
– Check your commute time to go to work or study. For more on transport in and around London, look up TFL transport for London.
How much does it cost to rent a two-bedrooms flat in London?
In the borough of Kensington you can’t find anything decent under £600 per week. Up to Zone 3 it is difficult to find something below £400 per week, unless you can accept a second floor without a lift (with narrow stairs and high steps as all the London houses). It’ important to specify if you need the dishwasher because it’s a plus or if you want a family fridge (because it is common to find the mini fridge).
It makes the difference also if you look for an unfurnished flat, in this case you can find something cheaper.
THE COST OF CHILDCARE
In England there aren’t the public nurseries as we are used to have in Italy. Up to three years there are only private nurseries and the cost for a full time place is very high: around 1200-1300 £ a month are the cheapest solutions. The UK Government supports families with low incomes (but really low ones!), granting 15 hours’ free childcare per week starting from two years old.
In the best case, you will pay the whole amount till the age of three.
When your child will be three, you are eligible to have 15 hours per week by the Government.
However, you don’t pay 15 hours less, you have actually a discount on your monthly fee.
What are the alternatives?
Many moms don’t work or have part-time solutions or arrange with grandparents. Other options are the childminders, that are usually less expensive than a nursery, and the babysitters, that cost £10 per hour excluding taxes.
When a child is three years old, he can go to the preschool, but generally they have reduced time (9-12.30), and if you are an expat without grandparents, it is a little difficult to consider, unless you have a babysitter.
So till the beginning of the school with the Reception, the costs of childcare is expensive.
MOVING TO LONDON TIPS
- I can easily say that the cost of life in London is the double than in Italy. Rent, childcare and transport are all onerous.
- The less you spend to live far from the centre, the more you spend in transport.
- The food does not cost much more than Italy, but the quality of fruit and vegetables is mediocre. You can get an idea of the main items of cost of living from Numbeo.
- Healthcare is a basic but efficient service. Everything is free, prescriptions included.
- The dentist is free until the age of 18 but there isn’t the public pediatrician.
- An agile bureaucracy, is another plus.
- London is a city full of parks, with an admirable attention to the green.
- When looking for a home, always consider the proximity to a park, a good escape when you have young children.
- Schools in the UK are a special chapter. I’ll write a post soon, because even for us it’s time to document.
For us, the choice was perhaps easier to take because our children were small. In any case I suggest you also to read how to move abroad with children, where you will also find some advices and tips of another expat mother, that has lots of moves with her family.
I hope to have answered to most of the questions and doubts if you plan to move to London with a family. If you want to deepen some points, you can write me an email.
And to those who like me live in London, do you have any other suggestions to give?
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