Settling into life in Britain as a migrant
So you have finally done it, your visa has come through and you have now arrived in the UK. So, what do you need to know? Well, in general, life in the UK is pretty easy. We have a stable democracy, a good school system, good infrastructure and local government that even though it can sometimes be frustrating, generally works well. In the below sections you will find information about several areas of British life that are crucial knowledge for those who have just arrived.
All children in the UK have a right to schooling from 5 years of age. Your local council will be in charge of the allocation of places in its local schools. The process for applying for a school place differs from council to council, but as a general rule, you will be expected to apply for a place in a school for your child. This application is made to the local council and they will advise on the process.
Formal education in the UK is now continued until 18 years of age. This comprises primary and secondary education. Britain also has a wide selection of universities and higher education institutions and these are regarded as some of the best in the world. Your child is guaranteed an education in line with the National Curriculum and this ensures that all basic needs are met.
You have several choices when it comes to accommodation in the UK. In general these are split into two distinct areas: renting and buying. Buying is a straightforward process that uses conveyancing to transfer property from a buyer to a seller, much the same as it is around the world. Of course there are taxes and fees to pay, but these are also similar to any other country. Renting will depend on whether you rent privately (from a private landlord) or from a council/housing association (known as social housing). You can rent on the private market freely, but if you are going to apply for council/housing association assistance, you are likely to face a very long wait for a home due to the lack of social housing in the UK.
There are also other schemes that have been created such as Shared Ownership that allow would-be homeowners the chance to buy a portion of their property and rent the rest. This is a great option for those who want to buy but cannot afford the total cost.
If you have just entered the UK, it may be very tough to get a mortgage, so it’s likely that you will be renting to begin with.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is a so-called universal healthcare system. In the UK this service offers free at the point of use healthcare (paid for by taxation) and means you can get a doctor’s appointment, hospital appointment and medical care without needing to worry about insurance or facing a huge bill. If you are entering the country on a visa, you will have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) already and this covers your usage of the service.
Once you have arrived in the UK, you will need to locate a local General Practitioner (GP) surgery and register with them. Your GP is usually the first point of contact with the NHS for medical care (unless it’s an accident or an emergency – in which case you use an appropriate hospital) and you can locate a list of local GPs on the NHS website. You will need to register yourself and any dependents to be entitled to care.
The NHS also subsidises optical and dental care to help reduce the cost. You will still need to pay towards your optical and dental care, but it is heavily subsidised.
If you wish to drive in the UK then you will need to have a driving licence. Depending on where you have come from originally, you may be able to swap your driving licence (should you already have one) for a British one, or use your own for a fixed period of time. If you do not have a licence, you will need to take driving lessons with either an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) or with someone you know who is over 21 years of age and has more than 3 years experience driving on a licence. The car itself must also be insured for your use. Once you are competent, you can then take the driving test. This test is split into two parts (theory and practical) and are used to assess your knowledge and ability. After passing both, you will then be able to apply for your full driving licence.
When it comes to owning a car, you will need to ensure that the car is insured (UK law insists that all cars on the road have a minimum of third party insurance), taxed (road tax is used to build roads and infrastructure and is paid either monthly, six monthly or annually) and has an MOT certificate (MOT tests are conducted annually and are used to check the safety of the vehicle). As long as you have these, you are free to drive on British roads.
If you do already run a business or are looking to start one, you may wish to consider using an accountant. This is especially true for those who are on a business related visa such as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa. When you come to extend your visa, you will be asked to provide documentary evidence that is linked to the finances of your business. By using an accountant, you can ensure that this information is easy to come by and will be presented in a format that is agreeable to any Border Force agent who needs to see it.
Accountants can also help make tax simple. By handling all of your accounting, they can give you an accurate breakdown of your tax bill and handle the logistics of paying it. In the long run, for a busy business, accountants are very helpful.
Where To Get More Help
If you need more help settling into the UK or indeed you have any other immigration related query, get in touch today and speak to our friendly and experienced immigration solicitors. They can help with all manner of enquiries using their years of experience in the field.