Leaving The UK? A Comprehensive Checklist For Retirees Moving Abroad
A moving abroad checklist: what you need to do before you leave the UK. Print out and tick off all those chores as you go along and get them done.
Moving abroad is exciting but it’s a big task – or rather, a series of tasks.
If you’re letting your property, have you sorted out gas certificates and carbon monoxide detectors?
Have you got your bank accounts sorted in the UK or set up overseas? What about pension transfer and health cover?
Have you got an international driving permit – and is your passport (and pet’s) up to date?
There are dozens of large and small jobs to do and you should get started several months before you plan to leave.
Here, we comprehensively log all of those chores and provide you with a checklist to print out and tick off. And don’t lose heart – moving isn’t easy but it is well worth it!
Table of Contents:
Keeping your UK account
Decide if you want to retain a UK bank account and/ or credit card – for instance, if you are having rent or a pension paid into it or will still have outgoings for a house in the UK.
It will also help you keep a credit footprint in the UK. But do check you’re allowed to keep any accounts open after you move abroad; some banks have issues with account-holders living overseas but Santander, for instance, only ask you to update your address.
Set up banking access
If you haven’t already, sign up for and set up telephone and internet banking for your UK bank account and download your bank’s app so you can easily gain access from overseas, when you can no longer just pop into a branch.
Get familiar with exchange rates and transfer providers if you want to have monies (such as rent or a pension) paid into a UK account and then transferred as and when needed. But check first with the provider to ensure you provide the right details; for money laundering checks, they will probably want your current residential address if you’ve moved overseas.
Look into international banking, which may come with sterling, dollar and euro options in multiple (but transferrable) accounts. It may help soften big currency leaps and crashes if you are using multiple currencies.
Be aware that you cannot set up new ISAs once you are no longer a UK resident; however, you can leave money in ones opened while you were, meaning there will be no UK liability for income or capital gains tax.
If you were to return and become a UK resident again, you would be able to add further funds to your ISAs for subsequent tax years. However, you may need to pay tax on the returns in your new country of residence.
If you obtain form R105 from HMRC and send it to your bank or building society, they will stop automatically deducting tax while you are non-resident.
Not all building societies or banks offer this facility, so check before you go. (To retrospectively claim personal allowances or tax repayments in later years, if not resident in the UK, use form R43.)
Take a wodge of cash for emergencies and for starting up, especially if you won’t have a local bank account at first. Keep it secure and be aware that you may need to declare cash over €10,000 (or the sterling equivalent) that you take out of the UK using form C9011.
P45 (employee leaving work form)
Ensure you have a P45 if you have recently left work. You will need it when you do leave the UK.
P85 non-resident form
Have a read through the P85 form, which you will need to fill in once you have left to inform HMRC of your newly non-resident status, to claim tax relief or a tax refund and ensure you are not taxed twice on your income and assets.
You may also qualify for split-year treatment with HMRC if you leave during a tax year (6 April to 5 April).
How many days can you visit the UK?
Understand how often you can return to the UK without being considered resident, so you can plan your visits.
You are automatically resident if you spend 183 or more days in the UK in the tax year (6 April – 5 April), and automatically non-resident if you spent fewer than 16 days in the UK (or 46 if not resident for the three previous tax years), or work abroad full-time and spend fewer than 91 days in the UK.
There is also a system of ‘ties’ to the UK to assess so, if your situation is more complicated, you may want to get professional advice.
Double taxation and dual residency
Check rules on both, depending on where you’re moving to. If you live in the UK and another country and both countries tax your income, you’re a dual resident.
You can claim full or partial relief on UK tax on your UK income (such as rent from property) if the two countries have a double taxation agreement (DTA).
You can find UK government guidance in their leaflets on non-resident tax relief under double taxation agreements, relief for foreign tax paid and dual residency. But you will probably need to seek some professional advice if you find yourself in a double taxation or dual residency situation.
Tax on your pension
You have to pay tax on pensions if you’re resident, or were resident in any of the five previous tax years. You also pay tax on any foreign pension payments, including early payments and some lump sums. Read more in the Expatra Guide To Pensions Abroad.
Check if you’ll get a personal allowance (e.g. if you live in a European Economic Area (EEA) country or it’s included in any DTA) and be aware that you’ll have to reclaim it at the end of the tax year using form R43.
Will you need to fill in self-assessment tax returns?
It’s worth knowing this so you can plan ahead. You usually have to send a self-assessment tax return if you rent out property in the UK, or you have a pension outside the UK, and you were UK resident in one of the five previous tax years.
Get a state pension statement from the Future Pension Centre and decide if you want to add any ongoing national insurance voluntary contributions, if still working, or to defer it to gain extra credit.
Pension lump sums withdrawals
Taking out a lump sum from your private pension is tempting but do check your tax liability if you want to do so (especially if you already live abroad before you retire).
Taking your UK state pension overseas
Contact International Pension Centre to discuss this. You can decide whether to have your pension paid into a UK or overseas bank account.
Call your private pension provider
Even if you don’t want to move your private pension, call your provider to tell them you are moving overseas and to ask them if you can send it abroad or sort out a currency transfer for you.
If you already have a local account in your new country (even a non-resident account), they may be able to organise payment to it immediately.
A QROPS warning
If you are retiring abroad, you could potentially benefit from transferring your pension into a Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (ROPS), previously known as QROPS. There are significant advantages but not for everyone – so do speak to a qualified financial advisor first.
You need to draw up a will for each jurisdiction in which you hold assets, in the local language. Even if you are a UK non-resident, it is likely you will remain UK-domiciled and therefore still be liable for UK inheritance tax on some, or all, of your assets.
It may be worth drawing up your UK will before leaving the UK, (although you may have further work to do if you take ownership of property overseas later on), and we recommend consulting a specialist solicitor.
Power of attorney
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) gives your trusted representative the authority to act on your behalf and manage your financial affairs. It’s not just for the elderly – you could be incapacitated for many reasons.
As with wills, you need to have a separate power of attorney drawn up covering each financial jurisdiction where you have money, investments or property.
Both England & Wales and Spain require two separate powers of attorney documents, one covering health and welfare and the other property and finance.
Some jurisdictions will allow you to use your UK LPA, as long as it has been registered with a relevant authority to authenticate it – so it is worth checking this in advance of a move.
Ensure you have European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC cards) for every member of the family.
However, be aware that the EHIC only gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.
Once resident elsewhere, your EHIC is invalidated; if you become a resident in Europe, you can apply for a local EHIC.
S1 form application
S1 forms are issued to people who live in one EEA country but have their healthcare provided by another EEA country.
As the form can take up to 28 days to arrive, we recommend applying for it before moving. (The S1 will only work once you are resident in another country, so the EHIC will provide your temporary healthcare.)
Visit your doctor and dentist
Ensure you are up to date with check-ups and vaccinations, ask for copies of medical, vaccination and dental records and prescriptions to take with you, and then deregister from their files.
Get a new spectacles prescription and ensure you have a spare pair.
Research healthcare cover
You want to be insured as soon as possible and may not always be entitled to an S1 form (e.g. if retiring early or moving outside the EU).
Look at your options ahead of your move. Can you join your new country’s public healthcare system for a fee?
Also research ‘top-up’ cover and local health cover in your new country of residence, both of which will be cheaper than an international plan. When researching international healthcare insurance, look at varying your excess, coverage and treatments covered to get the most affordable quote.
Check that your current life insurance is valid if you are living overseas. A move abroad can invalidate domestic policy cover, due to exclusions for people living overseas for more than three or six consecutive months.
The issue with most insurance policies is where you consider home, for the purposes of repatriation (which is not covered by EHIC, either).
This is exacerbated if you decide to take a vacation after leaving your current country of residence, en route to your new one.
Make sure you’ve researched this before you leave. You probably need one-way travel insurance if you have not booked a return ticket, which should repatriate you to the country you’re heading to, not the one you came from.
Releasing equity from your UK property may be an option to fund your new life, but you need to be aware of tax implications – it is best to consult a specialist financial advisor.
Letting your UK property
If you want to rent your UK property out, you need to:
If you sell your UK property, be aware you will need to pay capital gains tax even if you’re no longer a UK resident once the sale goes through.
Get moving quotes started early.
You could potentially do it yourself by hiring a van if you are moving to the continent. You could also investigate air freight (quicker but more expensive), or even just using your excess baggage allowance if you’re not taking much.
Inventory your goods
It’s often left to the last minute. However, it’s worth taking the time to do a thorough inventory of what you’re taking and what it would cost to replace, so you can get the correct level of insurance. Losing even one box to theft or water damage is costly.
What to hand-carry
Check what paperwork you will need to open bank accounts etc and don’t put those papers in storage or in a removal truck.
That might include birth certificates, no claims bonus car insurance certificate, travel or health insurance documents, driving licences and education certificates for you and your children. Also possibly photos, electronic equipment and a backed-up hard drive.
Check voltage and plugs
Do you really want to take all that stuff? Sometimes the answer is absolutely yes! The UAE, for instance, uses the same voltage and plugs. The US – a bit of a nightmare with transformers.
All of Europe operates on the same 2 round pronged outlets, so you will need adapters.
What items can you not ship?
Your removal company should be able to help with this list, which will be country-specific e.g. spices, dried foods, toiletries, some medication (such as codeine), plants and alcohol.
Start running them down and giving them away otherwise!
If you haven’t already, update your UK licence to a photocard-style driving licence; it is easier to manage and paper driving licences have already been scrapped for licences issued since 1998.
If you already have one, check the expiry date of your photo (section 4B on the card) as the photocard expires every 10 years and you can be fined.
International driving permit
You will need to get a local driving licence if you move abroad (in some countries, without needing to take a local driving test).
If driving to get there, you will probably need an international driving permit (and potentially more than one, depending on which countries you’re driving through). Find out more about the different IDPs on the government site.
You will also need to get a green card (which proves that your insurance covers the minimum cover in the country you’re driving in) from your insurance company and a GB sticker for your car.
Allow a month to get the green card.
Ensure you have a driving kit (tools to change a wheel, a tyre repair kit), especially if required in the country you’re driving to – e.g. a warning triangle or reflective jacket.
Be cautious – apps using radar detectors, such as Waze, are illegal in some countries. Do check.
No claims bonus
Some insurance companies will honour UK no claims bonus (NCB) years so you can continue your no claims discount when you move abroad.
Request a certificate from your UK insurer before you leave, on headed paper and confirming the period for which you are claim-free.
Once you are ready to get quotes for your new insurance overseas, be sure to ask if your NCB can be honoured.
Chat to your vet: As soon as possible, visit your vet to discuss a move, as getting a pet’s passport and transporting pets can take time.
Understand the quarantine laws. Will your pet need to be quarantined? Will it cope? Can you visit? In Australia, for example, quarantine is essential for all animals entering the country.
What will your pet need for your new country of residence e.g. rabies?
Is your pet microchipped? Do you need to transfer details to a different database overseas?
Check whether you can use the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) for your dog, cat (or ferret), for instance, if travelling to the EU, the USA, Australia or Japan.
Alternatively, you may need an animal health certificate (AHC). You should start the process at least four months before you travel. The cost is approximately £200.
There could be a waiting period before you can enter certain countries, even with a passport.
To get a passport your pet must be:
If you have queries, email the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Transporting your pet
You may be able to drive your pet to your new country yourself or even purchase a seat on the same aircraft as you (although beware: some airlines, such as low-cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair, as well as Emirates, do not allow live animals on board).
Alternatively, pets can be shipped as accompanied baggage in the cargo hold and many companies offer pet transportation services. If flying, you will need a ‘fit to fly’ certificate from your vet.
A small number of companies offer overseas travel as part of their pet insurance policies and an even smaller number (such as E&L) offer specialist pet travel insurance. You can also look for one-way pet migration insurance.
You will need to have at least six months on your passport (excluding months over 10 years added if you renewed it early), so make sure you allow plenty of time to apply for new passports before you leave.
These are often needed in new countries so it’s worth getting some taken before you leave, in case you need them immediately upon arrival.
Do you need a good working knowledge of the local language e.g. French or Spanish? Start learning as soon as you can! We recommend the Duolingo app.
Set up a mail redirect with the Post Office for up to a year, even overseas.
Did you know you can keep your right to vote in general and EU elections for 15 years after leaving the UK? Just make sure to register.
Don’t forget to inform your UK utility providers you’re going, and to hand over to tenants if you’re letting your property.
New phone/ SIM
It may be worth sorting out a pay-as-you-go SIM card for your new country before you leave the UK, especially if you’re already a regular visitor.
If you don’t have a smartphone, it could be a good time to sort one out. Also, check whether your UK number will work overseas and what the charges are, so you have a back-up.
Let your local council know you’re leaving so they can prepare your final council tax bill – and bill tenants instead.
Back it all up
Create back-ups of your files, either to a cloud drive such as Dropbox or iCloud but also potentially to a personal hard drive as well.
Set up chats
How will you communicate with family? It’s worth setting up and testing some software before you leave, such as WhatsApp or Skype. Also, be aware that some are blocked in some countries such as the UAE and China.
Find local groups and forums
Start to make friends before you leave. Find online communities, such as Facebook groups or forums, for the country you are moving to, sign up and join in.