Have you ever thought about packing your bags for somewhere new?
Making the decision to move to another country doesn’t come lightly. There are many positives for those brave enough to take the leap in leaving the UK to live abroad; an exciting new career, improving your work-life balance and incredible new experiences. But living abroad can also have it’s challenges; a different culture, making new friends, and being so far away from friends and family.
Whether you’re looking to advance your career, retire in the sunshine or simply start a new chapter in your life, our guide to help British citizens move abroad will help to get you started.
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Are you thinking about moving and living abroad?
The desire to experience life in another country is on the rise. The global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have led to a huge increase in remote working, which has made it possible for many professionals to work from any location.
Others simply want a better quality of life, a personal challenge and to chase their dreams.
Whatever your reason is for deciding to move abroad, our ultimate guide for British expats living abroad is packed full of all the information you will need to make the transition as smooth as possible.
What effect has Brexit had on British expats living abroad?
This is the big question on everyone’s mind. So, how does Brexit affect your ability to settle overseas?
When Britain left the European Union, British citizens lost their EU citizenship. This has had one major impact, which is that British citizens have lost their automatic right to settle in EU countries – but worry not, it can still be done, albeit with a little more paperwork than before.
Living in the EU after Brexit
- Already living in the EU
If you were already living in the EU before January 1, 2021, not much will change for you. Your rights will have been protected by the Withdrawal Agreement. If you are covered, your family members will also be covered.
Depending on the country you are living in, and if you have not lived there for 5 years, you may need to apply for a new residency permit. After 5 years of residency, you will be able to apply for resident status.
- Moving to the EU
The UK is now classed as a “third country” to the EU, which means it has no special status. Therefore, depending which country you want to move to, you will have to apply just as anybody else would.
You typically have the right to live in the EU for up to 90 days in a 180 day period (always ensuring you have at least 6 months left before your passport expires). Beyond this, you will need to apply for settlement through the normal channels. This process will vary depending on which country you want to live in, but will typically require one or several of these things:
- Working visa including authorisation from an employer who has offered you a job in advance
- Residence visa, which will need to be renewed from time to time – once you have lived in the country for at least 5 years, you will be eligible for resident status
- Special non-lucrative or retirement visa if you want to move to an EU country as a retiree
All of these will require proof of things such as adequate income, savings and investments, accommodation and international health insurance
The best place to find everything you need to get you started is the EU immigration portal.
What about Ireland?
As a UK citizen, you do not need a visa or resident permit to live and work in Ireland. You also have the right to vote in local elections and use the public health system. However, you will need to make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months.
Right – that’s the B-word out of the way, now let’s turn our attention to the rest of the world…
How to move and settle abroad as a British expat
Moving abroad is simple on paper. Go to another country, buy or rent a property, find a job and settle down.
Of course, in real life, the process is far more complex. Every nation has its own laws dictating who can move there, how long they can stay and the rules they have to follow in order to make money and enjoy their lives.
Is it hard to move to another country?
Depending on which country you want to move to, there are various hurdles you may need to jump over to get there.
This is because certain countries require you to complete certain arrangements before you arrive.
Visas and citizenship for British citizens abroad
When you first move to another country, it’s expected that you will need to apply for a visa. This will give you basic expatriate rights, including the right to live and work, and (in some places) the right to take advantage of public healthcare, vote in elections and other things.
Once you have been settled for many years (usually a minimum of 5, but sometimes up to 10 years) you may be eligible to apply for citizenship. This will mean you have the right to live and work in that country indefinitely. Some countries will allow you to become a dual citizen, so that you will get to keep your British citizenship, but others will require that you give up your British Citizenship.
Working visas (most countries)
Most countries around the world offer a type of visa for people who want to live there, and these can often last for anywhere up to 5 or 10 years. There are many types of working visa, including long-term work visas (for permanent jobs) and seasonal work visas, au pair visas and self-employed work visas. Many countries will specify that you need to show:
- Proof of an offer of employment e.g. a signed letter from your employer
- Proof of savings in a personal bank account
They may also ask for proof of professional or academic qualifications. While most countries use a visa system, every country operates slightly differently, so make sure you know the local policy of the country you intend to move to.
Remember that with working visas, you may need to renew your application regularly. Some countries offer longer working visas than others. After you’ve lived in a country for a certain length of time, you may be able to move straight on to a resident visa or apply for citizenship, after which point you won’t need to keep renewing.
Retirement visas (many countries)
If you’re looking to retire in a foreign country, you may be able to apply for a special retirement visa. These are typically no different to any other visa, giving you all the benefits you would expect as a resident, but instead of being based on income you may need to prove that you have:
- Sufficient savings
- An income from a retirement fund or pension
- Proof of investments
In Europe, Spain and Portugal offer retirement visas. In Asia, you could retire in Thailand, Philippines or Malaysia and in South America in Argentina, Panama or Nicaragua.
The island nations of Vanuatu and Mauritius also offer retirement visas.
Points-based immigration systems (Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand)
If you intend to move to a highly industrialised nation such as Japan, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you may need to complete a points-based immigration application. This is a survey based on a number of criteria (such as education, work experience and personal savings) where you must achieve a certain number of points in order to be eligible to emigrate to that country. The USA is also considering bringing in this method.
Integration Agreement (Austria)
Austria is one of the hardest countries to emigrate to specifically because of its unique system of having an “integration agreement.” This specifies that anyone moving to the country must have an understanding of German language and culture, which they will have to prove by taking a test. In order to move to Austria, you must complete Module One, then to apply for long-term residency you must also complete Module Two.
Getting a residency visa or citizenship
After you’ve been working and living in your new country for a little while, and as you approach the end of your current visa, you may be interested in upgrading your status to one of resident or even citizen.
Different countries take different approaches to citizenship. Some require that you take a citizenship test, while others will make an assessment based on other factors – for instance, do you contribute to the national economy?
In some countries, marrying a citizen will help to fast-track your application for citizenship, although you shouldn’t assume that marriage alone will be enough to qualify you for citizenship.
What nationality will my children be?
Depending on your and your partner’s citizenships, your offspring may be eligible for local citizenship, British citizenship, or both.
If your child is born in a country that observes the system of jus soli (birthright citizenship), they may automatically become a citizen of that country.
Some countries make an assessment based on both factors. For instance, if your partner is a citizen and your child is born overseas, they may be eligible for citizenship. However, if both you and your partner are British (or another nationality) and the country does not observe jus soli, your child may inherit the parents’ citizenship(s).
If you are working age, it’s likely that you’ll need to find a job in another country. Fortunately for British expats, many countries around the world have a plethora of jobs for English-speakers.
You may like to continue your current career or try something new. Check out our guide on getting a job abroad as an expat to help you decide.
Should I find a job before I move abroad?
Unless you have a lump sum of cash that you don’t mind dipping into during your first few months in a foreign country, it’s a good idea to secure a job offer before you move. Some countries also require you to have a job offer before you move there.
This is particularly important if you intend to settle down in a foreign country, as you may only be able to apply for or extend a visa if you can prove you are in stable employment. Proof of employment will also help you to do other essential things, such as renting property, securing a mortgage and opening a bank account.
Finding a job abroad is easier than ever in this digital age, and many British expats are able to secure a job offer before they travel. Check out the top 10 jobs for expats in 2021 to find helpful advice on how to find a job abroad.
Can I work remotely for a British company or as a freelancer?
If you are planning to take your current job or business abroad, the good news is there are plenty of options to help you do this.
Many countries welcome digital nomads and will gladly offer you a working visa, although they may ask for proof of your income. This could range from a copy of your contract to financial accounts for your business.
Just keep in mind that you’ll need to be aware of how you’re paid, and which country you are expected to pay taxes to.
We’ve already written a helpful guide to becoming a digital nomad to help you decide if this is the right path for you.
Should I save money before I move abroad?
Even if you have a job lined up for when you arrive in your new home, it’s a good idea to have some cash at your disposal. You will need this to cover the essential costs of moving and getting set up, which can include:
- Travel costs
- Moving costs if you are shipping items from the UK
- Deposits, for instance tenancy deposits, or for securing places in a local school
- Local taxes, e.g. rental taxes
- Consultancy fees, for instance if you have hired a solicitor or agency to help you move
Depending on where you are moving and the number of people in your family, these fees can quickly add up. Therefore, it could be best to save a substantial amount of money, just to be sure you have enough to get by.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, mind you. Many British expats have managed to move abroad without a penny to their name. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Paying tax when living abroad
Depending where you move in the world, how long you stay and whether you will be working for a local company or as a remote worker for one based in the UK, you will need to be aware of the local tax laws.
As a rule of thumb, if you have a residency visa or working visa, you will be expected to pay tax in the country you are living in. However, if you remain a resident of the United Kingdom too, you may be classed as a “dual resident“, in which case you may still be eligible to pay tax to HMRC. This is especially true if, for instance, you work for a UK-based company while living overseas, or if you own property or a business in the UK.
The exception is when you live in a country that has a double taxation agreement with the UK.
The UK has what’s called a “double-taxation” agreement with several countries. Each country will have its own set of rules determining exactly how this agreement works, but the upshot is that you will typically only be expected to pay tax to one country at a time.
In order to work out which country you pay tax in, you will need to understand things such as:
- How many weeks/months of the year do you spend in each country?
- Do you own taxable investments (including property) in either country?
- Which country is your employer/business registered in?
- Which country is your main bank account (i.e. the one you receive your salary into) based in?
Countries the UK has a double taxation agreement with:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Czech Republic
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Ivory Coast
- Marshall Islands
- Netherlands Antilles
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
- St Lucia
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Turks and Caicos
- United Arab Emirates
- United States of America
As you can see, this list doesn’t feature every country in the world.
Some notable exceptions – in other words, countries the UK does not have a double taxation agreement with – include:
- American Samoa
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Costa Rica
- Cote d’Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- French Polynesia
- Northern Macedonia
- North Korea
- Pitcairn Islands
- Republic of the Congo
- South Sudan
- Wallis and Futuna
School is very important to your children’s’ social development, so if you are moving abroad with children, it’s important to make sure they have a school place waiting for them.
Equally as important is ensuring their learning will not be disrupted by the move, and that they can continue to access high-quality teaching in a foreign country.
State education vs. private education – what are your options?
Thankfully, most countries offer state education to all children. So, if you are moving abroad with children, you should be able to find a place for them in a local school.
However, this isn’t always guaranteed. If you are moving to a busy city, it could be a challenge finding a state school that has space for your children.
Furthermore, you must consider the quality of that country’s state education. Some countries lag behind the UK in terms of teaching quality. In other countries, you may find that they teach a different curriculum altogether. If your child has already started their education in the UK, moving to another country and adapting to their education system can be a serious disruption.
That’s why many British expats tend to prefer private or international schools to take care of their children’s’ educations.
Are international and private schools expensive?
The short answer is yes – private education can be a considerable expense in many countries. This cost is multiplied by the number of children you have.
And, as with state schools, you must be sure that an international or private school has space to accept your child. If you can’t find space in a local private or international school, you may want to look further afield and consider boarding as an option.
In any case, you must weigh up your options very seriously before committing to leaving the UK to live abroad. Can you be sure that you will be able to find a space for your child in a local school? If you are choosing private education, can you be sure that school fees fit your budget?
It might be a good idea to contact schools well ahead of time. You may be able to secure a space ahead of time, and you may even find support to help with fees.
Accessing healthcare in another country can be a great worry for many British expats. Will you be eligible for state healthcare and, if not, what kind of insurance will you need?
Thankfully, as international healthcare experts ourselves, with clients in over 170 different countries, it’s safe to say we know a fair bit about this topic! And luckily, the answers are usually fairly simple.
Will I be able to access state healthcare abroad?
If you are planning to move to another country to work, and if you are going to be paying taxes in that country, you should be able to access the local healthcare system. However, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case, particularly as individual countries set their own rules.
That’s why it’s always advisable to have international health insurance before you move abroad. In fact, many countries – even those with state healthcare systems – now make it mandatory for expats to take out worldwide medical cover before they arrive.
If you’re going to Europe just for a short time, you’ll be covered for some treatment by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If yours has expired you’ll need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which works in a similar way. But this is only a temporary solution and there are limitations on the healthcare you can access.
What is international health insurance?
International health insurance, or global medical cover, is an insurance package especially designed for expatriates. It allows you to access medical services no matter where you decide to settle down.
This is especially important for several reasons:
- Many countries will not allow non-citizens to access state healthcare, while other countries do not offer state healthcare. In these instances, you will need to pay for healthcare costs out of your own pocket. This can be extremely expensive, unless you have a global insurance provider to help you cover the costs.
- The cost of healthcare is going up all over the world, so even if you think you might be able to afford it on your own, you could end up paying an unexpectedly high bill if you’re not covered.
- Seeking healthcare in a foreign country can be daunting. Long waiting times, poor-quality facilities and doctors speaking a language you don’t understand can make seeking healthcare difficult. With international health insurance, you can make sure you have access to higher-quality, private medical facilities, including doctors who speak your native language.
- You may want access to certain types of medical treatment that are not available abroad, or perhaps you want a care of a higher standard. For this, you may need to return to the UK for your treatment. With a worldwide health plan from William Russell, you have the option to seek medical treatment in any country. The plans also come with cover for emergency medical evacuation, which means if the urgent medical treatment you need isn’t available locally, we’ll organise your evacuation to a location where treatment is available.
Wherever you move, go with total peace of mind
Making the move to another country can be challenging. But no matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays, and we can even offer medical evacuations to patients who require treatment in other countries.