Press release

Dreaming of moving abroad? Plan for the unexpected

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

FCO issues checklist for Brits planning a move abroad

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a warning to British nationals who are considering a move abroad, advising them to plan for the unexpected before they move to a new destination.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Simmonds said:

The appeal of warmer climates and experiencing different countries and cultures is strong for many British citizens. We want to pave the way for our expatriates to have the best experience possible when they move abroad.

Our consular staff across the world have dealt with a high number of British expats requiring assistance for financial issues – whether as a result of a house purchase gone wrong, having inadequate funds to pay for medical bills or experiencing some other misfortune that has resulted in financial hardship.

It’s important to do your homework so that you are well informed about your new environment before you travel. We have put together a checklist to help people prepare fully before travelling abroad. Take a look at for country-specific information.

FCO staff last year helped a number of British expatriates with a variety of issues, with many people facing heavy fines, financial ruin or finding themselves on the wrong side of the law because they were not fully prepared.

These cases involved issues such as property disputes, bankruptcy caused by changes in personal circumstances, pension complications and unexpected health issues. A recent FCO report* also suggests that high hospitalisation and death rates occur in areas where large numbers of elderly British nationals reside, notably in Europe and South East Asia.

For those considering joining the 6 million British nationals currently living abroad, the FCO has put together a checklist to ensure a smooth transition into expat life and beyond:

Top 10 Tips for Moving or Retiring Abroad

  1. Do your homework – Research your destination, visit forums and expat community resources to help get a feel for the area.

  2. Read up on local laws and customs – Familiarise yourself with local regulations and customs, don’t get caught out because you haven’t done your research. The FCO’s Know Before You Go page on has more information.

  3. Don’t rush into buying abroad – Take time to visit the area and other properties nearby, don’t be rushed into decision and ensure you are familiar with local protocol.

  4. Seek independent legal advice – Don’t feel under pressure to use your property developer’s or estate agent’s contacts, check out the website for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s English-speaking lawyers lists – it is vital that your legal advisor understands the law in the country you intend to move to.

  5. Plan for your health – Once you permanently leave the UK you are no longer entitled to medical treatment under the NHS or via a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Be sure to take out health insurance and if you are staying within the European Economic Area (EEA), read up on the S1 form (previously known as the E121 form). For more useful information visit the NHS moving abroad page.

  6. Consider your long-term financial requirements – Read up on the impact moving overseas may have on any benefits or retirement income received. Be realistic about your living costs overseas; don’t assume they will be the same as at home. Do you have a plan B if things go wrong? Visit our state pension abroad page for more details.

  7. Read up on tax regulations – Be sure to research the taxes that will be applicable to you in your new home (as well as back in the UK) once you have moved abroad.

  8. Know the costs – Don’t forget to take into account exchange rates and potential financial implications of moving overseas.

  9. Tell us you’re leaving – You need to notify the Social Security Office, HM Revenue & Customs and the Department of Work & Pensions that you are moving overseas, as well as your GP. For a full list of who to contact, visit our retiring abroad page

  10. Integrate – An essential part of a successful move abroad is integrating into the local community. Try not to isolate yourself and do make an effort to learn the local language, this will play an important role in helping you settle in to your new home.

The FCO has developed a video containing advice to help British nationals plan a move abroad.

A representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be providing advice to people who are considering living abroad at the A Place In the Sun event (27-29 September) at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre.

If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can now ask questions via the FCO’s new Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am – 6pm BST, Monday – 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 the travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.

You can also keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO’s Facebook and Twitter feeds: or @fcotravel

Further information

If you would like further information please contact 0207 478 7840 or

*Information taken from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, British Behaviour Abroad report 2013

About the Know Before You Go Campaign

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 around 600 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit our Know Before You Go page

Information about how the FCO can help British nationals abroad:

The FCO can: The FCO can’t:
Issue you with an emergency travel document Help you enter a country if you don’t have a valid passport or necessary visas
Give you a list of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors or funeral directors Give you legal advice
Contact friends and family back home for you if necessary Get you better treatment in hospital or prison than is given to local people but will raise concerns if treatment falls below internationally recognised standards
Provide information about transferring funds Pay any bills or give you money
Visit you in hospital or if you have been arrested Make travel arrangements for you