The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a warning to British nationals who are considering a move abroad, advising them to plan for the unexpected before they move to a new destination.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Simmonds said:
"The appeal of warmer climates and experiencing different countries and cultures is strong for many British citizens. We want to pave the way for our expatriates to have the best experience possible when they move abroad.
"Our consular staff across the world have dealt with a high number of British expats requiring assistance for financial issues – whether as a result of a house purchase gone wrong, having inadequate funds to pay for medical bills or experiencing some other misfortune that has resulted in financial hardship.
"It’s important to do your homework so that you are well informed about your new environment before you travel. We have put together a checklist to help people prepare fully before travelling abroad. Take a look at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for country-specific information."
FCO staff last year helped a number of British expatriates with a variety of issues, with many people facing heavy fines, financial ruin or finding themselves on the wrong side of the law because they were not fully prepared.
These cases involved issues such as property disputes, bankruptcy caused by changes in personal circumstances, pension complications and unexpected health issues. A recent FCO report* also suggests that high hospitalisation and death rates occur in areas where large numbers of elderly British nationals reside, notably in Europe and South East Asia.
For those considering joining the six million British nationals currently living abroad, the FCO has put together a checklist to ensure a smooth transition into expat life and beyond:
Top Ten Tips for Moving or Retiring Abroad
- Do your homework – Research your destination, visit forums and expat community resources to help get a feel for the area.
- Read up on local laws and customs – Familiarise yourself with local regulations and customs, don’t get caught out because you haven’t done your research. Visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo for more information
- Don’t rush into buying abroad – Take time to visit the area and other properties nearby, don’t be rushed into decision and ensure you are familiar with local protocol.
- Seek independent legal advice – Don’t feel under pressure to use your property developer’s or estate agent’s contacts, check out the gov.uk website for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s English-speaking lawyers lists – it is vital that your legal advisor understands the law in the country you intend to move to. Visit https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-office/series/list-of-lawyers
- Plan for your health – Once you permanently leave the UK you are no longer entitled to medical treatment under the NHS or via a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Be sure to take out health insurance and if you are staying within the European Economic Area (EEA), read up on the S1 form (previously known as the E121 form). For more useful information visit http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/movingabroad
- Consider your long-term financial requirements – Read up on the impact moving overseas may have on any benefits or retirement income received. Be realistic about your living costs overseas; don’t assume they will be the same as at home. Do you have a plan B if things go wrong? Visit https://www.gov.uk/state-pension-if-you-retire-abroad
- Read up on tax regulations – Be sure to research the taxes that will be applicable to you in your new home (as well as back in the UK) once you have moved abroad at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/incometax/tax-leave-uk.htm
- Know the costs – Don’t forget to take into account exchange rates and potential financial implications of moving overseas.
- Tell us you’re leaving – You need to notify the Social Security Office, HM Revenue & Customs and the Department of Work & Pensions that you are moving overseas, as well as your GP. For a full list of who to contact, visit https://www.gov.uk/moving-or-retiring-abroad
- Integrate – An essential part of a successful move abroad is integrating into the local community. Try not to isolate yourself and do make an effort to learn the local language, this will play an important role in helping you settle in to your new home.
If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can now ask questions via the FCO’s new Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am – 6pm BST, Monday – Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing the travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.