Press release

A life abroad is more than bricks and mortar

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

FCO urges British nationals planning to retire abroad to learn more about their destination before moving.

Living Abroad

With six million British nationals planning to head overseas when they retire* , the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is teaming up with ‘A Place in the Sun’ to urge UK retirees and others considering a move abroad to think long-term and plan thoroughly.

According to ‘A Place in the Sun’, there has been a swing back towards more established destinations since the global downturn, with Spain, Portugal and France proving to be particularly popular - both for buying a second home and full-time relocation. For many, moving to foreign climes to settle down in a place with warmer weather, different scenery and a change in lifestyle is an appealing prospect.

But there are many things to consider to help ensure a smooth transition. Despite the importance of being prepared before heading overseas, a recent survey** has suggested that only a third of British nationals (32%) believe doing their own research is the most important thing to do before moving. Just one in ten (10%) saw their long-term financial requirements as the most important factor.

James Duddridge, Minister for Consular Affairs, said:

Moving abroad can be a wonderful experience, but living somewhere new is very different to your average holiday. It’s crucial to think about the future and allow plenty of time to do your research.

A permanent or semi-permanent move overseas involves many practical and social changes. We would advise British nationals to take their time to research all aspects required for a successful move, such as the laws and customs of your future home country, the long-term financial implications for you and your family, any legal issues requiring independent advice and your current and future health needs. Remember, relocating is about more than bricks and mortar.

Andy Bridge, Managing Director of A Place in the Sun, said:

It’s no coincidence that people who make the most successful transition abroad are those who are fully prepared and have done their research. Considering long-term financial requirements, learning the local language and seeking independent legal advice are just some of the important things you should think about. The FCO's moving abroad checklist (PDF, 224KB, 1 page) is a good place to start.’

Carole Hallett Mobbs, editor of ExpatChild.com, moved to South Africa over a year ago and comments:

I speak to British expats frequently, and often people forget simple, everyday steps such as cancelling their water back in the UK, which is a difficult task when you could be thousands of miles away. I would advise those looking to move abroad not to cut all financial ties with their home country when they move. Having a UK bank account left open can prove extremely useful when you discover an outstanding bill or utility needs sorting out, or in case of an emergency.

Almost half (46%) of the survey respondents who already live abroad said their top piece of advice for those looking to relocate is to be realistic with their expectations. Hallett Mobbs echoes the sentiment:

Successful expats are those who go into their new life with their eyes open, and with a sense of adventure tempered by realism. The grass isn’t greener, it’s just different grass.

If you are planning to move abroad, visit the FCO’s Living Abroad page for more information, or see our video guide.

video guide.

If you know the country you would like to move to, check the FCO’s Living In guides for more details.

ExpatChild.com hosted a Moving Abroad Q&A session on Facebook with Carole Hallett Mobbs.

Further information

If you would like further information please contact 0207 781 2342 or fcoteam@consolidatedpr.com

The ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with more than 300 travel industry partners to communicate its messages.

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO’s Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am-6pm BST, Monday to Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Information about how the FCO can help British nationals abroad:

The FCO can: The FCO cannot:
Issue you with an emergency travel document Help you enter a country if you do not have a valid passport or necessary visas
Provide information about transferring money Give you legal advice or translate documents
Provide help if you have suffered rape or serious sexual or physical assault, are a victim of crime, are ill or in hospital Investigate crimes or get you out of prison
Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people, but we will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
Contact you if you are detained abroad Pay any bills or give you money
Contact friends and family back home for you if you wish Make travel arrangements for you
Provide help in cases of forced marriage  
Assist people affected by parental child abduction  

*The MGM Advantage Survey, 2014 recently revealed that more than 6 million UK adults are planning to head overseas when they retire.

**Survey conducted by OnePoll in September 2014, from a nationally representative sample of 400 British residents overseas and 600 British nationals of retirement age looking to move overseas.

Published 23 October 2014