An introduction to moving abroad
Moving homes within a city or town in itself can be a major event. Moving across the country adds to the scale of the effort. It comes as no surprise, then, that moving abroad is a significantly momentous endeavour, with a whole new dynamic attached to it. There are lots of things to think over and do, that much is evident, but with a bit of careful planning and incisive deliberation, even a noteworthy undertaking such as this can be simplified greatly.
This introductory guide aims to give you a general overview of some of the things that need to be considered before you think about logistics like hiring international removals experts or embracing the touching, emotional, but unavoidable goodbyes to friends and family members.
If there is a golden rule to making relocation abroad a relatively straightforward affair, it’s “get savvy with everything and anything”. Having even a morsel of knowledge about, for example, very niche financial matters like expat banking – tax advantages – or being conversant in matters of tax relating to renting out your old home, helps to curb on disquiet.
First things first then is thinking about healthcare, a preeminent thing if ever there was one. In some ways, people living in the UK have it extremely lucky because the welfare system, though by no means perfect, is one of the best in the world.
This is attributed to the fact that for over 100 years, the UK state has sought to have a role in promoting economic and social wellbeing, beginning with the early 20th century liberal welfare reforms – Old-Age Pensions Act, free school meals – moving onto the seismic refinements made by William Beveridge in the aftermath of the Second World War and the modern-day growth of non-governmental organisations that provide social services.
If we take the EU as an example, unlike the UK, whose healthcare is predicated on a National Health Service residence-based system, the majority of European countries have a diametrical opposite. A contribution-based system basically means that people are required to pay into a social security scheme to ensure they are entitled to state healthcare. It’s particularly important to be clear about entitlements – especially if you plan on making your move permanent.
When it comes to finances, this is perhaps one of the most exacting aspects to contend with when moving abroad, along with sorting out property. As a first port of call, contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and ask for an estimate on your state pension and information relevant to your tax liability on any income that is generated above the UK personal allowance. The last part is important as UK tax payable overseas varies from country to country – you don’t want to be paying any unnecessary tax after all.
Another key aspect regarding finances is banking. Naturally, if you’ve been with a bank for years, you may want to keep an account open in the UK – a practical way to continue paying bills and direct debits – but you will need an international account, principally for having your salary paid into, as well as for everyday banking use. It is very likely that your existing bank will be able to open up an overseas account, but you can always consider a foreign provider.
There are two rudimentary aspects of property to think about. Firstly, depending on whether you rent or own a home in the UK, you need to iron out your property commitments. While concluding rent is fairly simple – you pay off your contract – thinking about what to do if you have a home to sell requires serious rumination. The other aspect is whether you rent or buy abroad, which we’ll come back to.
Two questions immediately come to mind with the first part: do you want to sell or do you want to rent out your UK property? Selling, in such a tough market, can be a protracted affair, so factor this in to your timeframe. It’ll be much easier to sell your property if you’re still in the country.
As for renting it out, you will need to contact your mortgage provider and insurance provider of the changing circumstances, as well as your local council (their tax department and electoral registration unit will be informed of the changes to your circumstances).
Because you are still liable to pay taxes on the rent you accrue, you may want to opt for the government’s non-resident landlords’ scheme. If, for example, you don’t register, and you’re renting through a letting agent, they will deduct tax from the payments.
With buying abroad, the best advice is to rent first and foremost, unless you’re familiar with the country and specific area you’re relocating to. With renting you get to establish a base, a sort of physical grounding that allows you to take your time to explore a location that you can imagine settling in.
However, if you’re keen on bagging a property straight away, a hefty bit of research is nevertheless warranted. As with anything, property laws differ from country to country, so it might be apt to hire a local, English-speaking lawyer to help. To source someone suitable, look up the relevant British Embassy website: this will have a list of credible lawyers.
Take all of the above into consideration and you’re well on your way to making your dream move a streamlined process. As an introduction, the guide is by no means comprehensive, but serves as a starting point – accurate instructions to point you in the right direction. Each aspect, from property to finance to healthcare, opens up further, with subject-specific questions and pointers to think about. Big moves equal big changes.