Moving abroad? Here’s what you need to consider as a UK expat

The United Nations estimated that 1.3million people born in the UK lived in other EU countries in 2017, there must be a good reason why. Emigrating to another country may mean better weather, access to increased opportunities, a higher standard of living and reduced tax rates (not that anyone cares about that!).

If you’re a British resident considering relocating to Canada, Spain, Singapore or any of the destinations that are popular with UK expats, this guide will help you to understand what immigration really means and how you can prepare.

Tips for your relocation overseas

Becoming an expat is a bold move, you’re essentially immersing yourself into an unknown world with very few connections, friends, security or foundations. These recommendations have been set to help you plan your journey and approach some of the situations you’ll face with more knowledge, to help you make more informed decisions.

Buying a property abroad

It’s obvious that an expatriate will need to organise selling or moving out of their UK home and find a new one, but knowing all of the options available can help you to make smarter decisions, saving time and money.

International real estate, helping you to buy overseas

International property shows are a fantastic way to connect with realtors who have experience securing properties all over the world. Buying a property abroad can become a very long winded process unless you’re experienced, so it’s a smart idea to seek professional help. The International Property Show holds events perfect for expats, regardless of whether you’re ready to make a decision or simply want to find out more information.

If you’ve already decided where you’re relocating to, you can search Rightmove for overseas properties by destination.

Renting out your UK home whilst living abroad

Now that you’re on your way to your new home, you’ll need to start considering your old property. If you’re looking to outright sell your UK home, then your best bet is to contact your preferred local estate agent. But have you considered the other options available to you? It’s easier than ever to remotely rent out your accommodation with some careful planning, and here are some of the options:

Airbnb is a fantastic way to rent out your home at a premium nightly rate that automatically provides you with insurance against any guests. You should bear in mind, however, that there is more admin involved with this and you’ll need to find a trusted cleaner to prepare your property in between guest stays. There is also no guarantee that your property will be inhabited, but it’s a good idea to check out what other properties near you are being rented out for to gauge the market and price you’ll be able to charge. Alternatively, contact your preferred local letting agency who can advise you on what it means, and how to become a landlord.      

Global banking for British Expats

International relocation means that you’ll need to change the way your bank to avoid fees and transfer delays. The confusion here is that your bank account may be receiving and sending out payments automatically, so closing your account may not be your best option. Quite simply, you can close your current account and seek a provider abroad, but you may not need too...

Expats are influenced by the economy of the destination they move to and you may find that in 10 years a once popular expatriate destination will be avoided! This is just part of the process of relocating abroad, things change that you cannot control that may force you to take action. Ultimately the point here is, why do you need to close your UK bank account? Retaining a presence in the UK, albeit an inactive bank, is a good contingency in case of a forced move back.

International banking, helping you to avoid fees and save money

There are alternative options available too. International bank accounts are provided by most UK banks and are inclusive of standard features such as overdrafts, debit cards etc. Additionally, you can define which currency you’d like to hold in your bank - and some even let you hold multiple currencies! Although this is an attractive option, you’ll have to meet the criteria and you can expect to pay some fees.

Travel money cards, prepaid currency for expats

A short-term solution also exists in the form of prepaid travel cards. You can transfer money onto these cards and use them abroad, usually with no transaction fee, but often with limitations. These cards may be useful for an expat who is in the process of organising their new bank, but needs access to funding in the meantime. Compare the best prepaid cards for you.

Where are the best places to live for expats?

Social and cultural differences exist all across the world, and that’s a great thing. Reading up on your new destination is a great way to prepare yourself for these differences and stock up on any home comforts you think you’ll miss.

Blogging is becoming more and more popular. Authors are keen to share their experiences with people in the same situation - you’re also not being sold something but gain something valuable. Why not read up some other peoples blogs and start writing your own? Your experience may end up helping someone else in your situation 3 years from now!

The expat community, a valuable resource for anyone moving countries

Expats have been around for a long time, which means there have been a lot of mistakes and lessons learnt. Dedicated expat communities are a fantastic resource for anyone who is considering a move.

There are multiple forums available that provide a great channel to ask specific questions about any concerns you have, because someone there has probably had them too. Here are our favourite two:

Other expats are also a fantastic way to connect with like-minded people from similar backgrounds in a location you’d otherwise know no one. Many expats move abroad and try to start a business, this could be the perfect opportunity to meet someone at a similar stage in their life and having a friend will make the move that bit easier.

Top tip: Why not prepare some personal contact cards for your move?

You’ve found an event in Spain called ‘BBQ and burgers’ for the expat community. You’ll be meeting a lot of new people, and they probably will too. Stay remembered with a personal touch and you might find it leads to new opportunities and budding relationships.

How will an international move affect you?

Regardless of whether you’re planning your new life in Ireland, Switzerland or Dubai, there are certain considerations that impact every expat.

Taxes for expats, your questions answered

One attraction for moving abroad is the tax rates that can be found in different countries. It is essential that you inform the UK government that you’re relocating, failure to do so may result in paying tax you were otherwise ineligible for. You’ll need to complete a P85 form in order for them to process your request. If you plan on moving away but visiting the UK regularly, you can visit the UK a maximum 182 days a year until the UK government considers you a resident.

You’ll be expected to complete a tax return before your departure. Within this you detail any interest you’ll be receiving, assets you are profiting off and additional sources of income such as pensions. It is essential that this information is accurate to avoid overpaying or underpaying. If you’re not confident with doing this yourself, there is a multitude of accounting software to support you or, alternatively, you can seek professional help from an accountant.

Medical insurance abroad, your worldwide healthcare plan

Unlike the UK, many countries operate a private healthcare system where healthcare insurance is standard practice - but don’t pay out more than you have to! As a UK citizen, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Whilst this is only useful for expats considering a move to the EU, it’s a good short-term solution until you organise a permanent solution. Apply for an EHIC here.

For non-EU expats, and all long-term migrators, you should read up on the location-specific health system of your destination to gauge if, and what medical insurance you may need.

Expat travel, European of international driving licence?

As an expat living internationally, you’re going to need to consider your travelling arrangements once you’ve moved in. You should research the public transport available in your new location, as well as any specific taxation laws so you’re not surprised with any costs.

If you’re staying within the EU, you can use your UK driving licence hassle free. However, anyone moving outside of the EU will need to apply for an International Driving Permit. There is a fee of £5.50 and the process can be completed online, lasting you for a total of 12 months.

Living abroad? Tell your UK service providers of expatriate status

You’ve probably been planning this for a while. Your friends are sick of hearing it, your family don’t want reminding that your leaving, yet your UK service providers have no idea.

Many organisations such as gas and electric companies need to know when to stop charging and will usually send their correspondence by post. Equally, your GP, dentist and other similar services may all try to communicate with you via mail, so make sure to let them know of your departure.

If you’re unsure on if you’ll return to the UK and wish to remain registered with such practices, a virtual mailbox is a fantastic solution to manage important mail on your phone whilst abroad, without losing access to these core services.

Retaining a presence in the UK

There is a multitude of reasons as to why UK residents become expatriates, but it’s worth considering some of those same reasons may occur in your new destination, and that might encourage a move back home. Retaining a presence in the UK is simple and could save you a big headache in the future.

Registering to vote whilst living abroad

Maybe you left the UK because of the political climate? If this changes in the future, you may see an opportunity to return. You may also have family in the UK who will be impacted by the change, and retaining a foot in the UK political system means that you can still have your say.

Find out how to vote abroad.

UK postal address and online mail management

You’ll still be receiving post when you leave that may be important and confidential, so do you really want to leave this unmanaged?

UK Postbox offers a variety of options suited for expats, regardless of if it’s on a personal or business level. Inclusive of this service you’ll have access to a mail management app, allowing you to read, forward, destroy or store any of your correspondence online, you’re entirely in control. Furthermore, this service is completely secure and allows you a single place to action all of your mail on an item by item basis.

Keeping up with your post whilst away has never been simpler, but it also means that if you return to the UK you’re already set up with a registered address for future correspondence.

Register for a UK address
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Donna Chester