Guidance

Returning to the UK

This page provides information about some of the actions you may need to take if you are a UK national living abroad and you are returning to the UK permanently.

Ending your time living abroad

The government has published guidance for UK nationals living abroad, including actions you need to take to return to the UK from the country you currently live in. 

Bringing family members to the UK

Family members with UK citizenship or settled status can live permanently in the UK and will not need to take further action to do so.

Family members without UK citizenship or settled status will be able to live permanently in the UK subject to immigration rules, for which further guidance is available. Example situations for UK nationals’ family members without UK citizenship or settled status are included below.

Returning from the EU

British citizens’ family members can apply for an EU Settlement Scheme family permit to come to the UK before 29 March 2022 (unless they have reasonable grounds for not returning to the UK before this date) if they’ve lived in an EU or EEA country or Switzerland with the eligible British citizen.

The family member must have lived with the British citizen in that country before 1 January 2021, and be:

  • their spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • under 21 years old, and are their child or grandchild
  • 21 years or older, and are their dependent child or grandchild
  • their dependent parent or grandparent
  • another dependent relative

This includes family members who were adopted under an adoption order that’s recognised in UK law. The country that they lived in together must have been their main residence. The British family member must also have been working, studying or self-sufficient in the country while there.

The relationship with the British citizen member must have existed before 1 February 2020 for the family member (excluding children born after this date) to be eligible to apply, unless they have reasonable grounds for not returning to the UK before 1 January 2021.

Once in the UK, the British citizens’ family members can apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Other family members and future spouses of UK nationals who are returning to the UK will need to apply for a family visa.

Returning from outside of the EU

UK nationals’ family members with EEA or Swiss citizenship who lived outside the EU and moved to the UK after the UK had left the EU were able to do so, without the need for a visa, until 31 December 2020.

Since 1 January 2021, all UK nationals’ family members who live outside the EU and are moving to the UK are able to do so following a successful application for a family visa.

Bringing pets to the UK

Guidance is available on how to bring a pet dog, cat or ferret to the UK. There’s a different process for other animals.

Moving personal belongings to the UK

You have tax and customs responsibilities when you move your personal belongings to the UK from abroad.

Tax if you return to the UK

You may need to take action to ensure you are able to pay UK tax, for instance by registering for Self-Assessment. UK residents pay tax on UK income and gains and must also pay tax on any foreign income and gains.

Access to benefits

UK nationals considering returning to the UK and planning to make new applications for benefits should check eligibility requirements.

Access to housing services

You should check your eligibility with your local council if you intend to apply for housing services such as council housing or homelessness assistance. If you are considering returning to the UK you should ensure that you have secured somewhere to live prior to returning. If you need any advice or assistance to do so, contact either the local council in the area you are considering returning to, or a local advice agency – such as Citizens Advice – to discuss the housing options in the area.

Access to NHS services

To get free NHS healthcare you will need to prove that you’ve returned to the UK to live and you meet the ordinary residence test.

For more information on access to healthcare in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, visit the websites for health services in each country:

Access to adult social care services

You can apply for a needs assessment from social services if you need access to services such as help in your home or residential care in England or Wales.

For information on access to adult social care services in Scotland and Northern Ireland, visit the websites for social care services in each country:

Transport assistance

You may be eligible for assistance with your transportation when travelling to the UK, such as receiving help at an airport. You may also be eligible for assistance once resident in the UK, such as access to the Motability Scheme and a disabled parking badge (blue badge) or a disabled or older person’s bus pass.

Driving licenses and vehicle insurance

EU and EEA-issued driving licences will continue to be recognised after Brexit. If you hold a non-EU/EEA driving licence, you will either need to exchange your licence for a UK licence, or in some cases, apply for a new UK driving licence and retake your driving test. Further information is available on exchanging your licence.

If you’re bringing an EU-registered vehicle to the UK, you will need to obtain a motor insurance Green Card or valid proof of insurance from your insurer. If you are bringing a trailer or caravan alongside your vehicle, you will need a separate Green Card for each vehicle.

VAT on vehicles imported to the UK

Notify HMRC about vehicles brought into the UK from abroad using the online Notification of Vehicle Arrival Procedures (NOVA) system to ensure that VAT is correctly paid.

Access to primary and secondary schooling

If your child is aged 4 or over, contact your local council in England to find out how to apply for a state school place. State schools do not charge fees for education.

Be aware that if you’re returning to the UK from another country, your child’s new school is unlikely to follow the same curriculum as the country you’re moving from.

For information on school places in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, visit the websites for school places in each country:

For families with younger children, guidance is available on childcare.

Access to apprenticeships

If you’re returning to live in the UK and planning to apply for an apprenticeship in England read the relevant guidance on becoming an apprentice for further information.

There is specific guidance on access to apprenticeships in England for UK nationals in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

For information on apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, visit the websites for each country

Access to higher and further education

If you’re planning to take a higher or further education course in England read the relevant guidance to find out what support you may be able to get and make an application:

There is specific guidance on access to higher and further education for UK nationals arriving from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

For information on student support in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland visit the websites for each country

Recognition of professional qualifications

You may need to ensure your professional qualifications are recognised if you intend to practice in a regulated profession in the UK. Contact the relevant regulator to find out how to have your qualifications recognised.

Further guidance is available on how professions and services will be regulated from 1 January 2021.

Published 3 October 2019
Last updated 29 March 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated information on EUSS family permit for British citizens bringing EU citizen family members to the UK.

  2. Added new sections on access to apprenticeships and higher and further education.

  3. First published.