Moving back to the UK: a checklist for global citizens

You’re here because you’ve made the decision to move back home to the UK after living abroad for a period of time, or you’re thinking about it. Last time we looked at the things that may affect you unexpectedly when moving back to the UK. In that article we explored some of the challenges you may face on the journey from expat to repat. That post was about understanding some of the unexpected situations you might come up against when moving — because after all being forewarned is being forearmed.

The next task is to work out everything that needs to be done to put that plan into action and ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible. Although this might sound overwhelming, and a big job, we promise you it’ll be fine. Just take it a step at a time and you’ll be home before you know it.

Whilst this post does not aim to be a fully comprehensive checklist, we hope that it’ll be a useful starting place for you in preparing to move back to the UK. As you read through it think about which points are applicable to you and make a note of them. You can then use this to create a full checklist tailored to your needs and covering all you have to do.

When you’ve built that list, a top tip is to give yourself a deadline for each task, and then enjoy the satisfaction of ticking them off one by one when each step is completed and you move ever closer to your goal. This is an extremely effective approach to help you make sure you don’t forget anything, and also to help you stay motivated as you work through the list.

It’s also important to remember that returning home doesn’t happen overnight, and that it’s important to be kind to yourself in the meantime while you’re working towards starting a new chapter back in the UK.

So without further ado, here is our checklist for global citizens moving back to the UK.

Checklist for British expats returning to the UK

1. Give notice on your rental property abroad, or sell your property if applicable

If you own your own home, then sell your property abroad first. It always takes longer than you think. If you’re renting make sure to give your notice according to the terms of your lease.

2. Give a forwarding address to utility companies

They’ll then be able to send your final bills to your UK address.

3. Build a safety net of savings

Having a safety net available can help make the transition back to the UK less stressful as it affords you the peace of mind that you can cope if you run into problems with work or housing.

4. Make sure you have a UK bank account

If you already have UK bank accounts, make sure they’re still active. Otherwise take steps to open one, or to have access to an international account you will still be able to use in the UK. If you’re unable to open a UK bank, there are some specialist providers like Monese who have created accounts specifically for people moving from overseas.

5. Get tax advice

When it comes to tax, there’s a lot to consider when moving back to the UK. Useful guidance from the UK government on income tax can be found here. Your income tax situation will be different depending on the amount of time that you were living abroad. Once back in the UK however, you’ll be a UK resident again and you’ll pay tax on income and gains, including foreign income and gains. You’ll also start paying National Insurance again if you’re working in the UK. If you didn’t pay it while you were abroad, you might want to check your National Insurance (NI) record to see how your State Pension might be affected. Can’t find your NI number? Find it here. It’s a good idea to let HMRC know you’re back and to discuss your obligations with them over the phone. And if you have considerable assets or offshore accounts it’d be wise to seek advice from a professional.

6. Find out what your tax situation is for importing your belongings

Another thing to note is that you will have tax and customs responsibilities when moving your personal belongings to the UK from abroad. You can find out more here.

7. Organise transport for your belongings

If you’re moving your belongings back to the UK, you’ll need to research the best way for you to do so. This will depend very much on your individual situation, where in the world you are and the amount of stuff you have. This guide explains air freight, shipping, and other relocation options in the UK.

8. Work out what you need to do to bring your pet with you

If you want to bring your cat, dog or… ferret (!?) with you — check out the advice from the UK government here.

9. Ensure any professional qualifications will be recognised

If you are a practising professional you’ll need to ensure your qualifications are recognised in the UK before you continue working. To do this you’ll need to contact the relevant regulator in the UK for your profession.

10. Contact schools

If you are bringing children of school age with you, then once your move back to the UK is confirmed you’ll need to get in touch with the UK local education authority to explore available placements.

11. Check the guidance on bringing family members back with you

If you are bringing family members back to the UK with you who don’t have UK citizenship, then you’ll need to check the immigration rules to find out what’s required. You can do that here.

12. Review your pension

This is another area where you may need support from a specialist, especially if you have pensions overseas as the tax situation can be complicated. You’ll also want to understand your pension provisions both in the UK and abroad — as well as consider moving any foreign pensions to the UK.

13. Work out your budget

Depending on the exchange rates and living costs involved with where you’ve been living abroad compared to the UK, you may find that your money doesn’t go as far once back home. To stay in control of this rather than drifting into debt, it’s a great idea to plan your budget and work out what you can afford ahead of moving.

14. Find somewhere to live temporarily

Arrange a temporary place to stay for when you move back to the UK. Because the property market is hot, especially in the cities, it’s usually easier to look for a permanent home from within the UK once you’ve moved back.

15. Build up your credit history

If you’ve been abroad for a long time, your credit history may be a blank slate. This makes it difficult for you to be accepted for credit agreements because lenders aren’t able to assess how well you can handle your money. Credit histories are reviewed for many reasons from getting a mobile phone, to taking a mortgage, to applying for rental property. That’s why reestablishing your credit history is critical to getting life going again when you come back home — especially if you know you’ll want to apply for credit. Loqbox is a free tool that can help you build your credit score, while you save. To find out more and sign up visit the website here.

16. Research what mortgages are available to you

Once back in the UK, if you need a mortgage to get on the property ladder then begin shopping around to identify the mortgages that are available to you and the steps you need to take to increase your attractiveness to lenders. You might find talking to a mortgage advisor helpful.

17. Research areas you might like to live in and prices

Spend some time adventuring around the UK’s cities, towns and villages virtually to narrow down your selection of places you’d like to live and identify the living costs for those areas. You can then check out local property prices on Rightmove or Zoopla.

18. Check your NHS entitlement

As long as you’re a permanent resident, you’re entitled to free healthcare from the NHS. If you or a member of your family don’t yet have permanent residency you’ll want to take out some health insurance to cover any needs that you might have.

19. Register with a doctor, and a dentist

An important thing to do when moving back to the UK is to register with a GP and a dentist. It can take a few days to a week to register.

20. Bring enough medicine back with you to tide you over

Because registering with a doctor and making an appointment can take a little while, you’ll want to make sure you bring enough medicine back with you to tide you over in the meantime. Your existing GP abroad will be able to help you with the prescription.

21. Transfer your medical records

Bring a copy of your medical records back with you and give them to your new GP in the UK when you register. That way they’re better able to provide care for you in future.

22. Stay informed with the latest changes as a result of Brexit

With Brexit in full swing, and no deal on the table, all the balls are up in the air. It’s an extremely uncertain time, and the best we can do is make sure we’re up to date with the latest policy changes coming into effect as a result.

23. Update your driving license

If you took your driving test in the UK you should be able to contact DVLA to get your driving license reissued. You will however need to provide a current UK address.

24. Make a plan to buy a car if you need one

If you need a car once you’ve moved back to the UK then make a plan for how you’ll acquire one. Until you’ve built your credit history back up it may be challenging to access finance deals. Therefore savings may be your best bet.

25. Find a job

Seek career advice to explore what options are open to you now you’re back in the UK, and let your professional network know you’re back. Through sites like LinkedIn, people you know can help you find work if they know you’re looking.

26. Let your friends and family know you’re coming back, and make some plans

An obvious one, but sometimes it’s easy to forget amidst all the preparations that need to be made when moving back to the UK. Making this a priority can help to make the whole transition much more enjoyable and give you lots to look forward to when you get back.

27. Change is hard, take it easy and make a plan for handling it

Moving back home can be really difficult because of all the change so try to be kind to yourself and take it easy. All will settle down and become easier in time.

We wish you the best of luck with your move! For further support, check out this page of advice from the UK government for expats returning to the UK.

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For just £2.50 a week, you could see your credit score rise by up to 300 points in the first three months
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Improvements to your credit score are not guaranteed