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The Legal Side of Moving Abroad


Moving abroad is a big decision and one which nobody makes lightly. But whilst everyone worries over the logistics of the move and the huge upcoming life change, there are some very important things that many potential expats neglect to think about; the legal stuff. You'll need a lot of help here and there's undoubtedly a lot to go through, but the legal process will generally vary dramatically depending on where you plan to relocate, so here we'll just be going over the basics.

Finding representation

Don't automatically go with whichever legal advisor your property developer or estate agent puts you in contact with. Also checking before you leave the country that your lawyer speaks good English and that they understand the law of the land should go without saying really. If you're moving to a country where they don't speak very good English this could be a problem, so in this case make sure you look for multi-lingual representation. It will probably set you back a little more, but it'll be worth it in the long run.

Tell the government

OK, this one should be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people think it's fine to simply leave the UK for good without letting the government know. The first step should be to contact your council, the social security office and the DWP, giving them your forwarding address. You should also clear up any benefits or pension arrangements you might be dealing with. Thankfully, the .gov.uk website is a resource wealthy with information in this regard. You also need to let the HMRC know you're moving abroad so they can continue to tax you (as loathe as you might well be to do this, it's illegal not to). Finally, before you leave the UK make sure you cancel all your bills and direct debits.

Abroad

Driving

Even if you're 100% clear on the local driving regulations, you'll still need to apply for an International Driving Permit and remember to have it renewed annually. Also remember that driving laws are different in every country and some of the laws might seem a little odd, but that doesn't mean they won't be enforced! On a related note, it would be advisable to buy a car once you're over there, as shipping a vehicle overseas can prove very costly.

Healthcare

Whilst many might complain about it, the NHS is one of the best things Britain has going for it, so if you move abroad, the cost of health care can be a genuine shock. If you're moving within the EU, you'll need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card, which will mean you'll receive treatment at a reduced cost or for free. Australia and New Zealand meanwhile, have the Medicare system, which works in much the same manner as the NHS, so if you Move to New Zealand from the UK, the shock might not be so severe. Remember, however, that rules are constantly changing, so do your research and always take out health insurance. Also pay your doctor a visit before you leave to get all necessary vaccinations and remember to take a copy of your medical records with you to your new country!

Tax

When buying your overseas home, tax and legal fees can add as much as 10% to the purchase price. There are also different taxes depending on what country you choose to move to and you'll have to prepare for capital gains tax on any profit you’ve made when you sell your home in the future. A bank or building society will always deduct tax on any interest payments you receive, so if you move abroad, you might be taxed twice; once in the UK and once as income in your new country. In order to get your interest without tax deducted remember to submit form R105 to your bank and remember that in some countries you will have to declare your income to the government. Each country has its own tax rules, some specific for expats and there is the risk of significant fines or even imprisonment if you don't adhere to these local rules. Is it really worth risking it? Make sure you always set some of your income aside, just in case.

Visa

British citizens don’t need a visa to move to a country in the EU, but getting the right paperwork can be difficult if you’re moving to America or looking at a Visa for New Zealand (for example). For those going for work, you often need to be sponsored by your workplace or have a skill which the country needs.

Pensions

Whilst the state pension increases annually in Britain, you only get a rise if your new country is in a tax agreement with the UK. Expats living in countries like Australia and Canada have always complained about their pensions being frozen and with good reason!

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