Some considerations for expats returning to the UK



Returning Expats

As a returning UK expat, my partner and I are currently formalising our exit from France and Switzerland (we are border-crosser workers, living in France and working in Geneva). Here are the top 10 things we have had to take into consideration as returning UK expats…

  • Formalising your exit – health insurance, pet insurance and all the rest…

We are experiencing the essential and highly frustrating bureaucracy required to formalise our exit from France and Switzerland. Paperwork can pile as high as Mont Blanc here, so we have been organising this over a period, so we are not overwhelmed. Bills need to be cancelled, health insurance rescinded and permits handed in, so you need to plan.

Our pet insurer even requires proof that we are leaving permanently to cancel our contract. Surprisingly, this did not actually come as too much of a surprise to us after three and a half years of being conditioned to a certain way of doing things over here.

  • Pensions – what happens to our pensions?

In Switzerland, occupational pensions are moved to a holding account when you leave an employer. We will be making sure that our pensions are reinvested with a Swiss pension company so they can continue to grow once we leave. Thankfully, as a financial planner I regularly advise my clients on this subject.

However, you can access at least part of your Swiss pension when you leave permanently to live within the EU. You can even withdraw it all if you are moving outside of the EU. If you are in this situation, it is important to get financial advice on the best options available to you. 

  • Have enough savings to last the initial few months.

Thankfully, we have managed to save some money whilst living here. Somewhat surprising when we consider the cost of an average, weekly trip to Carrefour, compared to our supermarkets back home! It is important to have some savings so we can settle back into life in the UK and buy any essentials that we need for the move. We have also sold a lot of our furniture as we could not take it all home with us, and this will need to be replaced.

Moving home is stressful enough, without additional money problems.

As a financial planner, I always advise clients to have an emergency fund of 3-6 months’ salary and this buffer is even more important when repatriating.

  • Timing – when does the new job start?

I am fortunate in that I am simply moving from our Geneva office to our Head Office in Edinburgh which makes the transition so much easier. My partner is a teacher who will not be able to start a new job until September, so one less income is something we must factor into our planning.

In terms of timing, repatriating during a pandemic is probably not advisable if you have a choice! In any circumstances though, it is important to time your return to reduce the disruption as much as possible.

  • Where am I tax resident?

We are moving in the middle of a UK tax year, which begins on the 6th of April each year. It is important that we speak with HMRC, or a local tax adviser upon our return, to ensure that our tax residency is noted, and our tax affairs are in order.

Your situation may be more complicated than ours, with more assets in different jurisdictions. If that is the case, it is important that you seek tax advice as part of your return.

  • Register with your local dentist and doctor’s surgery.

I have not been the most frequent visitor to the dentist but a recent trip, and the subsequent filling I required, has changed my outlook. I am not a regular flosser and I will be ensuring to register with the local dentist as soon as we get back to the UK.

Make sure you register for a local doctor’s surgery, a dentist and buy some dental floss from the supermarket!

  • Medical/dental records.

My partner needs minor dental surgery in the UK so we asked the dentist to send us her X-ray and dental records so we can provide them to our new dentist.

You should ensure that you get access to medical or dental records as part of your transition and supply them to the NHS.

  • Find somewhere you want to live and do your research.

One of the key decisions in returning home was where are we going to live. We did our research, listened to our hearts and our heads, then decided to move to a new place that was still close enough to home. We now look forward to walking the dog on a beautiful beach in Northumberland.

Returning to the UK is a new chapter for you and should evoke the same excitement you felt when you started your current adventure. Be brave and find somewhere that makes you happy to turn into your forever home.

  • Rent before you buy.

Be brave but also be practical. If you are moving to a new place, take time to ensure you love where you are moving to and take time to find that forever home. This may cost more in the short-term, but it will ensure you have made the right decision and eventually purchase the best home for you and your family.

  • Prepare for the inevitable slump.

Returning to the UK will most likely lead a euphoric high, as we find ourselves relatively close (but not less than 2 metres as per social-distancing rules!) to our family again. We will rejoice at the Greggs £3 meal deal, down from the 15 CHF spent on an unpalatable tuna and gherkin sandwich (sorry Switzerland, I cannot accept your sandwich fillings), pay less than black-market prices for a tin of baked beans and enjoy a cold beer for the price of loose change. Nostalgia will hit us hard on our return.

However, this euphoric high will then inevitably lead to a lower slump when we remember how cold it is (pining for the roasting summer sun) and we realise we cannot buy freshly baked croissants from the local patisserie. Where are those Alpine peaks I used to see every day? Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. 

We have already foreseen this though, having both lived overseas in the past and experienced it before.

If you are returning to the UK, look forward to seeing the people you have missed and doing the things you have not had the opportunity to do while you were overseas. Also, plan to experience new adventures at home with the same brave, possibly foolhardy spirit that took you to another land in the first place.

All your experiences, good and bad will have made you a stronger and more resilient person so you will be fine.

Jamie Tulip is an adviser at Forth Capital.

Forth Capital specialises in retirement planning, expat pensions and investments. You can speak to one of our advisers by clicking HERE or call us on 00 41 22 311 1441

Jamie Tulip

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Jamie Tulip

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