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Living abroad after retirement

Many people dream of moving abroad after they retire. However, moving abroad is a big step, and there are lots of things you should consider first, especially when it comes to your finances. 

Which country should I move to?

With so many choices, finding a country and area to settle in can be difficult. Here are some steps to help you narrow down your search.

Step 1: Do your research. Try to find out as much as possible about the country you plan to live in, so you can be sure the culture and lifestyle will suit you. When looking at your finances, plan for the future and consider how you would cope with any unforeseen costs.

Think about these questions:

  • Will you need to learn a new language?
  • What are the average living costs?
  • What are the healthcare services like and how much do they cost?
  • Will you be able to travel back easily to see friends or family if you want to?
  • Will you have to apply for a local driving licence or re-take your driving test?
  • If you have any pets, will you be able to take them with you?

Step 2: Think about where you will live. Before committing to an area, consider renting a property first. This will help you see what daily life is like at different times of the year.

If you decide to buy a property, think about these questions:

  • Are there local amenities within easy walking distance?
  • Are there good public transport links nearby?
  • Will you have any neighbours? They are often a vital source of support.
  • Will the property be easy to maintain or adapt if your needs and abilities change over the years?
  • Do properties in the area sell quickly and easily?

Step 3: If you decide to go ahead and buy a property, speak to an independent legal advisor and understand local inheritance laws.

What happens to my pension and benefits if I move abroad?

Most people who retire have 2 types of income:

  • the UK State Pension
  • a workplace or personal pension scheme.

You can get your State Pension in any country in the world, but you must tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of your move. Depending on which country you move to, your pension may be frozen at a certain rate or linked to the cost-of-living.

Your work or personal pension scheme may have a different arrangement. Contact your pension provider for specific information about moving abroad.

The local exchange rate will affect how much pension you actually receive. Pensions will be paid in pound sterling and then converted to the local currency. This is important to consider because your income may go up and down.

Very few benefits are available while you’re living outside the UK, as it can be hard to meet the criteria for receiving them. For example, Pension Credit will stop if you move overseas. But some benefits are still claimable, depending on the country you move to.

Contact the DWP or Citizens Advice Bureau for more information

Will I need to pay tax if I move abroad?

Tax laws vary from country to country and you need to get clear, professional advice. Even though you may be living in another country, you may still need to pay UK tax.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) can tell you whether your income is taxable in the UK

Can I still vote if I move abroad?

You can keep your right to vote in general and EU elections for 15 years after leaving the UK. This may give you the opportunity to influence the level of support and services offered to UK nationals abroad.

Visit the Electoral Commission website has more information about voting

What happens to my will if I move abroad?

A will made in the UK may not deal with assets in a different country in the way that you wish. This is because of the different local laws. It’s important to make a will in each of the countries where you have assets.

Obtain independent legal advice about inheritance laws and wills. In the UK, you can choose a solicitor through organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Law Society.

Will I have the same healthcare available to me while I’m abroad?

Find out what healthcare is available in the country you want to move to. It is probably quite different to what you can receive in England. In many countries, there will be some costs involved in healthcare and you may need to pay a proportion of the total cost or the full cost of treatments. The costs of medication or healthcare could be high, so you may want to look into health insurance.

The UK has arrangements with some countries that may offer you certain healthcare entitlements. The NHS provides a country-by-country guide on how to access healthcare abroad

Whilst living abroad, you may be able to access state healthcare paid for by the UK if:
• you’ve moved to a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
• you receive an exportable UK pension or certain exportable benefits

To access this you must have a UK-issued S1 form and have registered it with authorities in that EEA country or Switzerland. This is your certificate of entitlement.

If you register your S1 and return to the UK for a visit, you’ll be eligible for free NHS non-emergency hospital treatment straight away. The NHS won't charge you for GP treatment.

What should I do next?

Further information

Contact the British Embassy or high commission of the country you want to move to

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Last updated: Jul 21 2020

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