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Handy Guide: 25 Top Tips for Expats Returning to the UK

Given our current social and economic climate, it’s understandable why many UK expats are choosing to return home. There are many things expats have to consider when moving back.

We’ve put together a handy guide that covers everything you need to know.

Our guidance is based on currency and emigration experts, colleagues and clients who have been through the experience before. To help ensure your return to the UK is as smooth as possible, we provide tips that will cover planning, finance, property, healthcare and the benefits available for expats returning to the UK after living abroad.

British passport and map of Europe

Planning Your Return to the UK

Planning your return to the UK ahead of time is key to ensure that everything will occur as expected. Moving overseas, or in this case, returning to your desired country can be stressful as there are plenty of things to consider. Expats worry about leaving, not knowing where to start and wondering if they are planning correctly

1. Be sure you want to return to the UK

Make sure whether you really do want to return to the UK from abroad. You can hit rough patches wherever you settle, but they often pass and things improve. Before making your final decision to return, make sure you have done plenty of research. Consult trusted friends and family and evaluate whether life really will be better for you once you’re back.

2. Get up-to-date on life in the UK

It’s important to understand that things will have changed in the UK since becoming an expat. Your time abroad may also have coloured your views. With the uncertainty caused by Brexit, things became more complicated for those willing to return to the UK. There is ambiguity about what will happen over many aspects of life. This makes it more difficult not only to return to the UK, but also to emigrate after Brexit

Although the UK has officially left the EU, Boris Johnson is still in the process of negotiating with the EU. Things are likely to remain unchanged for at least one year as we are in a transition period. 

Nonetheless, things are very much dependent on how the ongoing negotiations between the UK and EU will turn out. Therefore, once in the UK, understand that it will take time for you to settle down again, so get plenty of encouragement from family, friends, colleagues and support groups.

3. Take your personal circumstances into consideration

Personal circumstances may also have altered since you were last living in the UK. You may have a partner and children, you may have lived in the UK while you were younger. Now you are returning to the UK to perhaps retire or maybe you have a different job and fresh qualifications.

Whatever has happened, ensure that returning to the UK is the best option to meet your current needs and the needs of your family. Our currency and emigration experts can give you professional guidance on your next life-changing move. Feel free to give them a call to ensure that you are making the right choice.

4. Write a checklist

Make a comprehensive checklist of all you have to do. Give yourself a deadline for each point and tick off when each stage is completed. This is a very effective approach to make sure that you don’t forget any important tasks when planning to return to the UK. 

5. Timing is everything

When planning to return to the UK, make sure the timing works for all your family. For instance, you or your partner may have to start a new job on a certain date or your children may need to start school. Plan between how you are going to manage the transition between your present home and the UK.

image of calculator for managing finances

Managing your Finances

Finance is generally an important element to consider for every personal project, particularly when returning to the UK after living abroad. For example, some areas of the UK can be more expensive than you thought. Perhaps Brexit has had a bigger impact on the Pound than you imagined. These situations could ultimately leave you with less funds than you expected.

Finance is an important step, which must be carefully taken into account when returning to the UK. Here are our suggestions:

6. Have a contingency plan

If possible, set up a contingency fund, so you have enough cash to cope if you run into problems with work, housing, income or other issues.

7. Make sure you have a UK bank account

If you have UK bank accounts, ensure they are active. If not, take steps to open an account as soon as possible. One option is to open an international account, so you can use the account now and when you arrive in the UK. Make appropriate arrangements regarding your foreign bank or other financial institution.

8. Get tax advice

Get advice from an independent tax expert who understands the regulations in both countries, so you can maximise your income. Do this before you make your return to the UK, so you can take action on investments, property or other major items. Get back in touch with HM Revenue and Customs and let them know that you have returned permanently to the UK. Be aware that you may initially have an emergency tax code, until your tax affairs are sorted out.

9. Understand your pension

Make sure you understand your pension entitlement, if any, in your present country and the UK. Ask the Department for Work and Pensions in Britain about your entitlement and obligations. You may wish to consult a pension specialist or Independent Financial Advisor.

10. Check exchange rates

Check out the exchange rates that could affect your money conversion. Checking this ahead can save you a considerate amount of money, especially if you need to make regular payments or transfer large proceeds to and from the UK.

Our currency broker experts can help you with this. Contact us to make the most of your money.

Property in the UK

When returning to the UK, make sure that UK property is still a good investment. For those considering purchasing a UK property in 2020, these may be disorienting times. Consider the uncertainty caused by the ongoing Brexit negotiations with the EU. With the average house prices increasing in July 2019 and reaching a 14-month high in 2020, a property in the UK could cost you more than you expected. 

Therefore, make sure you take an informed decision about purchasing a UK property and to follow these steps when returning to the UK after living abroad:

11. Seek expert advice

If you have property in your current country, talk to real estate and financial experts at home and in the UK about what your options are. Be aware that you may incur capital gains tax on any profit when selling your foreign home.

12. Compare mortgages

If you need a mortgage, check out the loan rates and what you might expect to pay in the UK. Shop around and get independent help and advice from an expert to access the best rate.

13. Peruse property prices

This may be a given, but property prices in the UK shift a lot depending on their location. Check out the prices of the property where you want to live in Britain. You might be in for a surprise about how much real estate is in the UK now! You can get an idea of prices of previously sold homes through the Zoopla website and obtain up-to-date estimates from local agents.

14. Get advice when renting

If you are looking to rent, you can get an overview from this new rental report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released in December 2019. Again, estate agents or rental agencies in your immediate area will be able to help with cost estimates and legal requirements for both tenants and landlords.

15. Allow enough time to investigate UK property

Whatever you decide, make sure you give yourself enough time to thoroughly investigate the UK property market and decide what option is best for you. Take advice from independent real estate experts, financial and legal professionals and ensure that detailed due diligence is carried out.

Healthcare in the UK

With all the things you have to plan for your return to the UK, you run the risk to overlook this element. Make sure that you have everything settled and all the documentation needed to receive regular healthcare in the UK whenever you need it. Brexit could have an important influence here too. Make sure that the current Brexit developments over the transition period will not have any influence on you and your healthcare.

Follow these steps to ensure that you have the medical provision needed when returning to the UK.

16. Check residency status and NHS entitlement

UK citizens returning to the country are able to access free National Health Service care, as long as they are permanent resident. If you or members of your family do not qualify, you will need to arrange insurance to cover the treatment. To crackdown on so-called medical tourism, non-residents are now required to pay for non-urgent care.

17. Register with a doctor and dentist

You will need to register with a doctor and dentist. For a list of practices in your area of England, see the NHS Choices website. Options in Scotland can be found at NHS24.scot and in Wales at NHS Direct Wales.

18. Make sure you have your medicines

Depending on availability, finding a local doctor and NHS dentist may take some time, so if you have vital medicines you need to take, ensure you get plenty supplied by your current GP before you leave for the UK.

19. Medical records

Try to bring your current medical records with you to the UK. Your doctor will also try to trace your old UK records. These can be held in storage for up to six years after you leave Britain.

20. Check Brexit status

Arrangements concerning the National Health Service (NHS) and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are still dependent upon the outcome of Brexit negotiations over the transition period. 

Given that an agreement was reached between the UK and EU, the EHIC card, which provides medical treatment when visiting EU nations plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, will still be valid during the transition period up to 31 December 2020. It is unclear what will happen beyond then.

More tips for expats to consider when returning to the UK

Here are some other important elements to add to your checklist when planning to return to the UK:

21. Schools

For those with school-age children, inform your local schools, once your move to Britain is confirmed. Then contact your UK local education authority about the new school placements. If this can begin at the start of term, so much the better. Your children will miss their former friends, so, if appropriate, encourage them to stay in touch via social media.

22. Insurance

Before you leave, find out if your insurance policies that you took out while away from the UK will still be honoured. If not, shop around for cover when you arrive in Britain. There are various online comparison sites you can use to find the best policy for you.

23. Driving

If you previously passed your driving test in the UK, contact DVLA, who should have a record of your old licence. If you have a foreign licence, you can exchange it for a UK one. The authorities will need your new address in the UK. If you have been living outside Europe it is likely that you will need to find a new car. Be aware that UK car prices may be more expensive than those of many other countries. Also, shop around for insurance that will honour any no claims bonus you have built up while overseas.

24. Job search

If you have been away from the UK for some time, it may be worth talking to employment advisors who can assess your skills, experience and job availability. If you still have contacts in Britain, make sure they know you have returned and are looking for openings. Update your social media accounts, contact details and availability. LinkedIn is particularly good for this. Keep an open mind about opportunities and possibly forging any suitable new career path that may open up.

25. Lifestyle

This is a new chapter in your life. Whatever your reason for returning to the UK after living abroad, be kind on yourself. It will likely take time to settle back into life in Britain again, but make every minute count and enjoy your time.

Benefits available for expats returning to the UK

If you are a British or Irish citizen, there are some benefits that you may be eligible for depending on your situation. Before you have permission to make any claim, you will have to be tested for the “habitual residence test”. This is a test that will confirm whether you meet the conditions and requirements needed to make your claims.

This will test your eligibility and documentation to provide evidence regarding your right to live in the country and have benefits. The habitual residence test will also evaluate your intentions of settling in the UK or Ireland, your income and savings. The benefits that you could be eligible for when you return to the UK include:

  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction

If you are returning to the UK, we can guide you on each step of the journey.