The Ultimate Checklist for Expats Leaving the UK


Relocating abroad is a considerable change in every aspect of your life and an incredible opportunity.

Amid the excitement of starting a new job or settling overseas comes a heap of paperwork for visas, driving licences and opening and closing accounts.

Every significant change comes to a lot of life admin, but dealing with officialdom in two countries is sometimes difficult to keep on top of the red tape, so let’s look at the most important things to check off before you make the big move.

Get your visa in order

The last thing you want is for your move to be scuppered by missing a tick box or submitting the wrong form.

Always make sure you understand precisely the requirements for expats and the conditions of any visas you are travelling under.

Depending on where you are relocating to, you may need visas for passing through other countries along the way.

Sort out somewhere to live

It’s easy to get carried away with the romantic notion of rocking up in a new country with all your earthly possessions in a backpack, but the reality is you’re going to need somewhere to live.

Decide whether to rent or buy, research the local market and organise somewhere to stay – even if only temporarily – while you get your bearings.

If you are moving for a job, your new employer will probably help you find somewhere to live as part of the remuneration package. However, if you are retiring, you are on your own.

Manage your taxes

There are all sorts of factors to managing your tax obligations as an expat, and a lot will depend on whether you plan to study, work or retire and for how long you intend to stay in your new home country.

You’ll need to contact HMRC if you plan to live abroad permanently or if you’re working overseas for a year or more. 

Depending on your circumstances, you might also need to pay tax in your new country of residence and will need to register there too. 

Make sure to read the articles and guides in the Tax archive section.

Think about healthcare

Of course, you hope that you won’t get ill on your travels. First, however, it is crucial to register for healthcare services.

Should you have any prescriptions or ongoing medical requirements, you will need to find a local healthcare provider and ask your GP to transfer your records.

Medical care in some countries can be costly, so if there isn’t a social healthcare system in your destination, taking out decent insurance is wise.

Some countries will insist you have private medical insurance in place on arrival.

Read our Expat Health Insurance Guide to find out the best options.

Draw up a budget

If you’re moving for work, have a home lined up, and know what you will be earning, then you’re probably all set. However, you still need to understand the local cost of living and make sure your income will cover the bills.

There isn’t anything worse than making that dream move and then abandoning your plans because you can’t afford to live there.

Check out the average costs of things like food, rent, travel, schools and utilities, so you’re in the know before you go.

Decide how you’ll get around

Some countries have outstanding public transport systems, and you’ll be far better off using trains or buses than hiring or buying a car. 

Other places are inaccessible without private transport, so do some research and decide whether you’re going to travel under your own steam.

If so, you’ll need to investigate applying for a local driving license. Most countries have a conversion system whereby you can transfer your UK driving license to a domestic one. Sometimes that includes retaking your practical and theory test, so brush up on local driving laws.

Organise your finances

You’ll likely be earning and spending in a different currency, and if you continue using a UK bank account, this can cost a packet in foreign exchange charges. 

Not to mention that your salary will continually be subject to fluctuations against the Pound and that many overseas countries will have rules around using local banking providers.

It is best to open a domestic bank account in advance and transfer the cash or assets you need to start living like a local for a long-term or permanent move.

Close up shop at home

There are plenty of things you might be pleased to leave behind – like the weather, but others need to be sorted out before you step foot on a plane.

Think about:

  • Cancelling direct debits and memberships
  • Turning off your utilities
  • Deciding whether to sell or rent out your property
  • Closing bank accounts and credit cards
  • Redirecting post

Shifting the clutter

We all accumulate stuff, and if you aren’t returning any time soon, you need to plan what to do with all those belongings. For example, you can rent out long-term storage, ship belongings abroad, or sell them on.

International shipping can be expensive, so it’s worth shopping around, deciding what is essential to bring with you, and planning well ahead, so you’re not panicking at the last minute.

Insuring yourself

It’s not the most glamorous part of your relocation, but insurance matters and can make or break if anything goes wrong.

It would be best if you considered insurances for:

  • Healthcare 
  • Driving
  • Life cover

Even if some of your current policies cover you overseas, you will have to contact your insurance provider and let them know about the move.

Stay connected

Lots of mobile providers provide international coverage, but tariffs and contracts won’t necessarily stay the same. So you might find that buying a new phone abroad or signing up to a local provider is far cheaper and provides better service than sticking with your current one.

Check out the most popular networks in your country of destination, and decide whether to purchase a new phone or order a replacement SIM so you can stay connected.

The same applies to broadband – if you organise the service before you travel, you won’t have to worry about any downtime.

Moving your furry friends

If you have pets and plan to take them with you, make sure you know the rules around transporting animals. Some countries have different quarantine and immunisation rules, so swot up on these in advance.

Moving a pet can be stressful, but if you have a pet passport, up to date paperwork and use a reliable transportation company, you will have peace of mind that your fluffy friend is right behind you.

You might also need pet insurance in your new country, and there are laws around dogs on leads and in public spaces, so check up on whether your new home will be the best place for them.

If renting or buying an apartment, check the landlord allows pets – most don’t.

Retirement planning

Retiring to a place in the sun is a dream for many. But, if you’re moving overseas for a peaceful retirement, you need to know what to do about your pension and how to make sure your income stream isn’t interrupted.

Most schemes will continue to pay regardless of where you’re living, but it can be beneficial to transfer your plan, change the currency in which it is paid, or redirect payments to your new bank account.

Make sure to read the articles and guides in the Retirement archive section.

Have the time of your life

It’s easy to get bogged down in detail, but if you take a systematic approach to work through your task list, you can rest assured that your move is well organised.

Please give yourself plenty of time, seek professional advice where you need help (particularly when it comes to taxes and finance), and make the most of your newest adventure.

Leaving the UK FAQ

If I move abroad, can I still vote?

Yes, provided you have informed the authorities of your move and given updated contact details, you will continue to have the right to vote in UK elections. However, you must join the electoral roll for the constituency you last lived in.

Is it better to buy or rent a property abroad?

This depends on where you are moving, for how long, and what sort of budget you have.

The property market in some countries is hugely appealing and can make for a lucrative investment. However, other destinations have restrictions on expat homebuyers.

Do your research and compare the prices to rent or buy to know how best to budget.

Should I ship my furniture overseas when I move?

One of the biggest expat mistakes is shipping all their worldly belongings abroad and finding out they don’t fit or aren’t suited to their new home.

You can bring your furniture with you, put it in storage, or sell it. If you bring it, make sure to measure your new home so you don’t end up stuck with a sofa you can’t get through the front door.

It’s a good idea to photograph and measure large items before you leave so you can make sure they fit your new home before shelling out to bring them over.

What residency status will I have as an expat?

If you are in another country temporarily, you’ll likely remain a UK citizen and resident for tax purposes. However, if you live overseas for a longer time, you will probably qualify as a tax resident.

Most countries have processes for applying for residency or even citizenship after a certain amount of time, so read up on the rules before you go.

Do I need to pay UK tax if I move abroad?

This all depends on where your income comes from and how long you have been living abroad.

If you earn income from a UK employer and remain a UK resident for tax purposes, you are likely to need to pay UK tax on this revenue.

You can even end up paying taxes in both countries, so it’s essential to understand how your taxes will work before you travel.

Below is a list of some related articles, guides and insights that you may find of interest.

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