With public school fees reaching anything up to £30,000 a year, many independent day and boarding schools have already diversified from their traditional British middle class base in favour of plugging into the needs of the ultra-wealthy global elite. Indeed, a UK education for a foreign national is something of a highly prized commodity.
Although the Independent Schools Council has recently reported a slight decrease in applications from UK families for public school places, the number of applications from foreign families are on the up. According to latest statistics, just over 5% of children currently attending public schools are foreign-born, with parents who live overseas. Of these children, the biggest proportion are of sixth-form age and reside predominantly in boarding schools.
Who’s most interested?
With business becoming increasingly global, the chance for children of high net worth individuals to mix with people from a diverse range of nationalities is very appealing. Many high performing independent British schools in fact launch recruitment drives in countries boasting a progressively affluent middle-class, such as China, Turkey and Russia.
Chinese students represent the largest proportion of overseas pupils at UK public schools by a sizeable proportion; in fact it has increased by over 190% over the past ten years.
Brexit and the weakening pound
Quality of life and access to the highest quality educational establishments are key drivers in pushing demand for a British education. Although Swiss, Australian and US private schools and universities all attract students from abroad, the private boarding schools of the UK are still regarded as the “gold standard”. This has meant a rush of applications for top British public schools from the globe’s richest families, particularly following the weakening of sterling since the referendum on EU membership in 2016. It’s effectively meant that the devalued pound means private education in Britain has become increasingly competitive.
So what’s the problem?
Essentially the issue is that visa applications can be long-winded, especially if the applicant has less than fluent English writing skills. Whilst the process itself is unavoidable, individuals will want to give themselves the very best chances of success first time.
At the time of publishing, citizens from China, Turkey and Russia do not have the ability to travel to the UK without a visa. The rules for obtaining a visa for entry into the UK are understandably draconian and can represent a sizeable barrier for individuals from those countries coming here to work and study.Therefore, anything that makes an applicant appear more favourable to the UK government can help to boost their chances of acceptance for a visa.
For example, applying from China for a UK tourist visa is a difficult process. Applicants must prove that they are coming to UK simply to travel, study and spend money, not to remain here.To prove to the UK government that an applicant’s intentions are honest, it is vital that they demonstrate a stable income and lifestyle in China. A host of supporting documents are essential, particularly the financial ones. In addition, applicants must also provideall previous travel documents (for example any expired passports showing old visas), a detailed study and/or employment history, a census form and – if self-employed – proof of business type and income.
All documents must be translated into English before being officially certified.
This whole process of preparing and translating the documents, correctly submitting them and then attending the visa application centre in China in person (run by UK Visas and Immigration) generally takes aroundone month. Indeed, the visa itself costs around £100 and success is by no means guaranteed.For citizens of other countries such as Russia and Turkey, the process is very similar.
Essentially, the application process for UK visitor, study or residence visas cannot be avoided and each application is judged on its own merits. But high net worth individuals in particular can make sure they present themselves in the very best light to give the highest chance of success, making second citizenship in particular very appealing.
How can second citizenship by investment help?
Obviously the UK immigration laws are binding and ultimately take full precedence. Students must, in any case, apply for a visa to come to the UK from abroad to study, whatever their financial or educational background. However, whilst circumventing the UK immigration process altogether is rightly impossible, gaining citizenship of certain third party nations has been regarded by many to potentially boost an applicant’s success. Not only does second citizenship bring with it a wealth of benefits, it means an applicant can better demonstrate high financial solvency and that they are of good character. It must be noted though that the only way to gain permanent residence in the UK is to apply for a residence visa and, as mentioned, young people wishing to study here will still need a student visa.
A passport to opportunity
Given that a child’s education can span anything up to 16 years or more, many parents from around the world see UK private education as a long term commitment. Enrolling a child into a British public school is, for many families, about much more than financial investment; it’s an investment into their future. Indeed, with the majority of high net worth individuals from abroad appearing unfazed by the impact of Brexit, the UK is still regarded as a global educational exemplar. With the chance for their children to study in the UK, learn English and gain educational experience critical to their social and financial standing, applications from abroad are booming.
If you are interested in any aspect of citizenship by investment or would like to speak to our expert team, please do get in touch today. We will be pleased to assist in any way we can.