Moving abroad? Read FCO's advice

Going to live abroad is a major decision and you should obtain as much information and advice as possible before you go. The following tips from the Know Before You Go Campaign will help you on your way…  


Before you leave:

  • Work out what your retirement income will be - You must be clear about your financial situation on your retirement. Remember to allow for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation.
  • Request a UK State Pension Forecast - A state pension forecast tells you in today’s money the amount of state pension you have earned already and the amount you can expect to receive at state pension age. You will still receive your state pension on retirement (provided you have reached state pension age) if you live overseas, but it may not be increased annually if you are going to live outside the EEA or if you reside within the EEA but are not covered by EC social security regulations.
  • Find out about your tax liability abroad - If you retire abroad you may still have to pay UK tax on income you receive from the UK, over and above your age-related personal allowance. You may also have to pay tax on UK income in the country in which you live.
  • Find out about your welfare rights abroad - You may be able to claim a benefit in your country of residency, but the benefits you receive in the UK may also be affected by your move abroad. Each benefit has different rules and some cannot be paid outside the UK. Remember that British nationals generally have to have lived in the UK for five years to be entitled to income-related UK benefits. This may affect you if you have to return to the UK for any reason. You can find out more about the ‘habitual residency test’ on the Department of Work and Pensions’ website ( or the Citizens Advice website (
  • Let people know your change of address - Let your Social Security Office, HM Revenue & Customs, National Insurance Contributions Office – Centre for Non-Residents, and the DWP know when you are going to leave and give them your address abroad. Don’t forget to let them know if you later change your address. 
  • Find out about health costs abroad - When you ask the DWP about getting your pension paid to you in another EEA country, they will automatically check to see if you can get the E121 as well. If so, you will receive the same free or reduced-cost medical treatment as a qualified pensioner of the country you are in, under its state health care scheme. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid for non-UK residents and is no longer valid once you move abroad. It is highly recommended to get health insurance to cover private medical and dental treatment, and medical repatriation to the UK.
  • Find out about accommodation costs – Buying abroad to live full time is a big decision and it may be better to rent to begin with. Make sure you seek independent professional legal advice before purchasing. Your local British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers who can assist you. Know Before You Go’s advice is “Buy with CARE”: Go into it with Caution, make sure you seek Advice (local laws can be complex and unclear), do your own Research then Evaluate before proceeding.

When you arrive:

  • Register with the local authorities - This may give you access to the local welfare services after a short period of time. If you are moving to another EEA country you must apply for a residence permit within three months of arrival. If you do not register, at best you may be unable to access local benefits to which you are entitled and at worst you may be breaking local law.
  • Learn the local language - Try to fit in with the local community. Hospital and local welfare services staff will not usually speak English. You will find day-to-day life much easier if you can make yourself understood.
  • Make a will - If you die intestate abroad this can cause difficulties for your heirs. Seek professional legal advice. You may require separate wills for assets and property held in the UK and other countries. Your local British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers who can assist you.
  • Find out about British Associations - There may be clubs, publications and charity organisations for the expatriate community. Lists of these are available from your local British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
  • Keep your vote - You can register to vote as an overseas elector for up to 15 years after you were last registered in the UK. To register, contact the electoral registration officer at the local council where you were last registered as an elector when living in the UK. For further information see the Electoral Commission websites and

To find out what the British Consulate, High Commission or Embassy can do for you when you’re moving abroad, and for a list of useful contact details, visit

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