Moving to LA with 3 kids in July

(122 Posts)
acapulco Tue 02-Feb-21 11:36:21

It’s not the ideal time to be moving anywhere but here we are. My partners job is relocating to the office in Hollywood. We’re in the process of applying for an L1 Visa and realistically we should be moving by July.

It’s my job to scope the cost of moving and setting up life in LA. I was hoping someone on here could offer all the insights and advice they have and anything I should be aware of and consider. We won’t have credit history obviously and will be renting.

For various reasons we’d like to be living within easyish reach of Marina Del Rey but not live in that actual location. We have drawn a curve around potential places and high schools that could work - so Venice, El Segundo, towards Manhattan Beach (I think this is too far to commute to Hollywood daily?).

We have 2 boys 16yr, 13yrs and a toddler. Obviously we need to make it work for the 16yr old on every level. Particularly school wise.

What is it that can tell me that I should aware of or be thinking about? It’s all slightly daunting when we can’t travel to scope everything out properly. That said we have travelled to LA a few times and travelled around so understand the geography but not practicalities.

OP’s posts: |
Katw137 Tue 02-Feb-21 14:26:23

Are you married? U.S. visa law does not recognize common-law relationships; therefore a partner or fiancée is not eligible to apply for derivative visa status. In such cases, the partner is required to qualify for a visa in his or her own right.

Borogroves Tue 02-Feb-21 14:51:11

As Kat says you will need to be married to be eligible for an L2 visa. I thought L1 visa processing was still suspended at the moment? Hopefully Biden will reverse Trump's executive order soon.

You'll find lots of useful info on the British Expats Forum. Things that immediately come to my mind are:
Apply for an Amex card if you don't already have one. If you have a few months' credit history with them here then when you are in the US you will be able to transfer to a US Amex card and have a line of credit available to you which will then help to build up your credit rating.

Look on the great schools website for school ratings. Bear in mind that the school you go to is normally strictly determined by your address.

Make sure you negotiate a good package with your employer- at least double U.K. salary and check the health insurance offered. If you want the option to stay there permanently then try and get a commitment to apply for a green card in your partner's contract.

acapulco Tue 02-Feb-21 15:51:02

Well picked up both of you on the lack of marriage. We are waiting for everything to open up again in England to be able to do this - we have a provisional date booked so fingers crossed this happens and they can submit the application as soon as that is done.

I had heard about the Amex so will do that now.

If I have understood correctly you have to be within a School District and that's it?

Thanks for advice so far.

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Candacewasalwaysright Tue 02-Feb-21 16:30:15

US schools and their catchment areas can be funny old things, depending on how the district wants to do its schooling. Where we are now, it is how close you are to the actual school which determines which is your home school. Where we lived before (different state), the school closest to our house was not our actual 'home' school, it was a school further away. The district liked to mix up the population in its schools, I think.

That being said, the further up the school system you go, from elementary to middle to high, the less schools there are, so the more likely it is that you will be at the closest school to your house.

Also, re the visa, if you're not yet married, getting married and then applying for the visa may not result in you getting out here by July. There's a massive backlog I imagine following the suspension of the visa program by the Trump administration.

Good luck with everything, though!

Swissypup Tue 02-Feb-21 16:42:58

I think you're going to run into significant timeline issues if you aren't already married. Also you need a solid plan for the 16 year old. The secondary school systems are very different and don't cross over. What is your plan for university for the 16 year old? If it's to come back to the U.K. you're going to need a British private school in the Us. Cost of going to uni in the US is astronomical. I think you'd also pay overseas fees or your 16 year old would need to do a gap year back in the UK first after graduation. It's a very hard point to move educationwise. I'd use an educational consultant to help you. Every school district is different and each state is different.

Swissypup Tue 02-Feb-21 16:50:55

Have they not given you a relo package and company to sort all of this?

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acapulco Tue 02-Feb-21 17:12:00

Thanks. The visa is being sorted by the Company's lawyers in the US so I'm slightly out the loop.. But if it is a realistic prospect this year then I'd like to be ahead of the information game so I'm not in a complete panic.

We haven't sorted the relo package out yet but we wanted to have rough idea of costs to consider and location ideas etc before he has the meeting next week.

It's going to be tough for the 16yr old for sure. He has his GCSEs to sit (well in whatever format they eventually decide to take). His mock grades were really good and has clear pathway for 6th form and hopefully uni. One we're familiar with obviously. So yes he'll be hit the hardest. But I'm hoping we can overcome these issues. He'll be our main focus to be fair by making sure he isn't completely disadvantaged by the move.

OP’s posts: |
Swissypup Tue 02-Feb-21 17:26:27

I'd push hard for fees to be paid for your 16 year old for A levels in a British school. I'd start your area search around whatever the British school is in LA. Do not underestimate LA traffic. It makes london look like a cake walk. You then need to come to terms with the 13 being prepared for US uni and how you'll pay for it or commit to fees for him/her as well.

If you plonk your 16 year old into a state high school they won't be able to come back to the U.K. easily or at all for uni.

Candacewasalwaysright Tue 02-Feb-21 19:09:32

You do need to prepare for the possibility of huge university fees. US universities are generally split into state and private. Private colleges charge a lot, full stop. State colleges charge different rates for in state students and out of state students, generally out of state tuition is about 3 times the instate rate.

If you attend college/uni as a student on a visa, you can be charged as an out of state student. If you have a green card, generally you will pay in state tuition rates. I just looked up UCLA as an example, in state rates are $13k per year tuition, out of state is $43k pyt.

BackToWhereItAllBegan Tue 02-Feb-21 20:15:34

It will be incredibly difficult for your 16yr old to move into a US High school after GCSE's, there is no equivalent of A-levels.
Based upon my own DS's High school (there will be may be some slight variations), in 11th Grade he'll be taking 6 different subjects. Most of them are AP classes which have pre-requisites that he's built up over the past 3 years. For example, my DS's science will be Physics C which has a pre-requisite of Pre-Calculus and AP Chemistry, which themselves had other math and science pre-requisites.
If he's applying to US Universities then he'll also need to start sitting the ACT and SAT and you'll need to make yourselves fully aware of the costs and visa issues he may run into.
If he's applying to the UK then I'd imagine he'll be classed as an overseas student so again you'll need to investigate the costs.
I'd seriously consider boarding school in the UK for his A-levels as an alternative if that's something that could suit his personality.

BackToWhereItAllBegan Tue 02-Feb-21 20:24:37

I don't mean that to sound so harsh, I've recently had to investigate moving in the opposite direction so the differences became all to painfully clear! (we decided to stay in the US for a few more years to let DS finish High School)
On a brighter note, I know several people who have moved here in the last few months on L1 visas so there are definitely exemptions to the ban.

Candacewasalwaysright Tue 02-Feb-21 20:34:34

Yes, Back, we faced that issue too and decided to stay here rather than move back to the U.K. with a 16 year old. I know someone out here who moved to a third country and their DC stayed here and went to boarding school, and another whose DC went to boarding school in the U.K. when their parents moved to the US.

acapulco Tue 02-Feb-21 20:57:10

Thanks for all your advice. So much to think about.

Its a lot to consider for the 16yr old for sure as he's worked so hard to date. If we/he stays in the UK to do Alevels he wants to study Maths, Further Maths, Physics and either Economics or Geography leading, he thinks at this point, to some sort of engineering degree. So yes, to pull the rug from that trajectory, if he can make it, can't be done lightly.

I'd feel terrible boarding him and all of us saunter off to the other side of the world. He's spent the last 5 years in an outstanding public school (in what was/still is/ a deprived area) 5 mins from home and I think the cultural shift of a private school maybe quite stark (and I say that with his younger brother currently in a private school) and this shift to boarding as well. But I'll need to consider this as a possibility.

Thank you again for all the straight talking.

OP’s posts: |
Kobanidaughters Tue 02-Feb-21 20:58:12

I live in LA so can help with any practical issues. Just before then to Wade in on 16yr old and university, and you may already know this, but you actually have to be resident in the U.K. 3 years prior to applying through UCAS to pay resident fees, nationality counts for nothing if you live abroad. Might be worth you holding onto a home address in the U.K. if you can so you don’t get charged foreign student fees.

MDR to hollywood is far and horrible traffic wise, I live on the west side and it’s great but we chose it because DH works in Santa Monica and I work all over the city but as a freelancer, so we prioritised him having a short commute. If you can come inland and north even a little it would help with his commute.

Schools wise there are individual cities within LA itself so if you live in Santa Monica/Manhattan Beach/Redondo/West Hollywood you would be in those school districts, otherwise you’d come under LAUSD which is the second largest school district in the country and not without its problems (you’ll get a LOT of people saying how awful it is) but we’ve had great experiences so far.

Venice HS has come a long way in the last decade or so - if we stay here our D.C. will go there. It has a few different programs but you want to be in the boundaries for it tobe your home school as you won’t have any magnet points to apply to the magnet program. The same goes for the 13yr old and Middle School - I would actually pay a lot of attention to this child too and MS notoriously are a bit shit.

Every school has zoned and wherever you live your “home” school has to give you a place so it might be worth your while figuring out the school situation and renting within the boundaries rather than having to go through permits etc. And there’s a lot to be said for kids going to local schools with their local friends. It feels a bit overwhelming but knowing the city gives you a good head start at least.

Out of curiosity, why MDR? It’s mainly apartment complexes round there and it’s fine but a little soulless in my opinion, great if you like to sail though!

Feel free to PM if you like, my DC are younger than your two eldest but we’ve been here a decade so I know it pretty well

Figgyboa Tue 02-Feb-21 20:59:51

Hi OP, I was in your exact situation a few years ago but minus the kids. Unfortunately you're in for a long, tiring ride.
I moved to CA back in 2014 so pre covid and Trump and it took my OH nearly 2 years to get his L1, we were originally told 6 months. We got married so I could apply for an L2 visa, that took another couple of months. I had to have an interview at the embassy and provide a ton of paperwork.
The areas you are talking about moving to are some of the most expensive in LA. Manhattan Beach is too far from Hollywood. Traffic is atrocious....it will take at least 1hr to go 10 miles in rush hour traffic.
You will struggle to rent straight away since you'll have no credit history. You'll need a guarantor...my OH work was ours.
The first year was definitely challenging but I love living here. Our lifestyle is 100% better now but expensive...you pay for 360 days worth of sunshine!
Feel free to PM me if you want more information or help. Just be aware that any move will take longer and cost you more than you expect

Kobanidaughters Tue 02-Feb-21 21:00:31

Oh and join the Brits in LA Facebook group - a huge wealth of info and support

lljkk Tue 02-Feb-21 21:01:15

<cough> <cough>. My cousin is an immigration lawyer in the greater LA area. Should you need one.

Clymene Tue 02-Feb-21 21:05:40

Honestly, it's a terrible, terrible idea to relocate at this point in your kids' lives.

Like you say, your kids have worked really hard and you're about to throw them under the bus.

Really unfair on them.

Swissypup Tue 02-Feb-21 21:22:08

I would move the 16 year old to a private school with boarding for A levels in the U.K. I'll eat my hat if you're out of here by July. I think you'll be lucky to be gone in a year given you aren't yet married. Then he can choose to stay where he is or go. Mind you if it takes too long you're going to run into the same issue with his younger sibling. Moving to a boarding school in the U.K. will not be so stark a change culturally as putting him into the US system in LA at 16! That's really going to be a shocker. Do you have family here who could support him through A levels and university?

pallisers Tue 02-Feb-21 21:35:16

I live on the east coast of the US and my biggest concern would be your 16 year old. The US school system - private or public - is mostly based on a 4 year high school cycle where you graduate if you meet certain requirements set down by the board of education for your state - including usually 3 sciences, math, a modern language, english and then some additional choices. It is nothing like the A-level system. Your son would be going into junior year most likely (3rd year of high school) which is a tough enough year and also the year american kids start looking at colleges. I agree with others that boarding/family support in the UK would be far less of a culture and academic shock for him unless he was going to a British School following the A level curriculum.

The best time to move your 13 year old is when he would be entering 9th grade - the first year of high school - (8th grade wouldn't be that bad). if you are delayed and will have to move him later, I think it would be disruptive for him too.

Also look carefully at your health insurance coverage in the package being offered to your partner.

shiningstar2 Tue 02-Feb-21 21:49:23

Retired Secondary school teacher here. I think you have some really difficult decisions regarding your 16 year old. He seems to have a definite academic/career pathway planned and he is working hard towards achieving this. If the rug is pulled from under him at this stage he could end up adrift between two systems. I have a grandson myself in year 11 and from both my professional and personal experience I can see that this could really go pear shaped.

I am not saying this to dampened your enthusiasm for a move you probably must make and could be wonderful for everybody else, but to help you clarify a few options for you and him.

Here goes: Could he stay with grand parents or other relatives so he could do his A levels here? He could fly out for the longer holidays.

Could he go to boarding school here? A level kids get quite a high level of freedom. There are places where you can weekly board and go to relatives at the weekends if possible so he could maybe catch up with his old friends. Full boarding if you have no options for weekends. There are some really good state boarding schools. In these you don't pay for tuition, only board. They have excellent reputations and are much cheaper that private.
Alternatively could her go to a private USA school which does A levels?

None of these solutions are ideal. Personally I would try to 'sell' the state boarding idea to your son. Be honest about the advantages and disadvantages. Leaving him behind would be a terrible sacrifice for you but may be in his best interests,
Good luck op with whatever you, his Dad and your son decide. One last thought. Would the company sending you help with any fees necessary for your son either here in USA. flowers

acapulco Tue 02-Feb-21 21:56:01

It will undeniably be a tough move but one we may have to make work for work reasons. My OH has a call with lawyers and his boss this week so can ask for some clearer understanding on realistic time scales etc and yes we asking them to be our guarantor for that reason.

MDR - well my 16yr old rows in a competition squad in London and we feel that it would be important to have that tie in/continuity. Another outlet for meeting people etc and the rowing clubs are based there. We want to give him the opportunity to continue rowing even as a hobby. I definitely don't want to live in MDR itself but in commutable distance. 13yr old plays rugby so close enough to get to the club in Santa Monica for the 3 months a year they play it could be useful but not essential.

We could go anywhere as long as the High School is good essentially ,Middle School decent (noted!) commutable to Hollywood and back to the rowing clubs in MDR. Any suggestions of other areas to consider are very welcome. I feel like I'm playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey but with a map.

All the advice re cost etc are being noted and the exact info I need to be reminded of.

Thanks. I may have a clearer picture by the end of this week although I'll still not married...lets hope Boris eases lockdown.

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Clymene Tue 02-Feb-21 22:06:35

Have you considered saying no? Presumably your partner would get redundancy.

I don't think you have really considered what moving to US schools from U.K. ones involves. I did it in primary and it was super hard - took a couple of years to adjust. Your children don't have that luxury.

acapulco Tue 02-Feb-21 22:13:20

@shiningstar2 everything you've addressed is spot on. Its why I feel exceptionally uneasy on hand but opportunity is balanced on the other.

I'm now wondering whether an IB school may avoid some of the High School problems as the Advance Diploma is completed over the two years of 6th form I believe? I may look into that.

But you have laid out more options to consider. For various different reasons grandparents aren't an option for us. Having said that applications to boarding schools closed in December so it'd all be longshot if he could get a place anywhere now.

Thank you for your gentle but pragmatic advice.

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