Blog / Moving Abroad

How to Move Abroad from the UK: Essential Guide & Tips

By Matt Wallace

18 April, 20245 mins read

Whether you’ve bought a €1 house in Italy or have landed your dream job overseas, moving abroad is a big adventure. While your excitement will undoubtedly be through the roof, there are a lot of challenges to face when moving country. Whether you’re considering a permanent relocation or planning to keep a base in the UK, there’s a lot to consider — from managing your bank account and council tax to staying connected with a UK phone number. 

In this guide, we’ll help you navigate some of the most essential parts of emigrating, including handling your TV licence, understanding pension implications and ensuring your children have a smooth transition into new education. 

We’ll also explore the cost considerations, the impact on your life insurance and the practicalities of shipping, storing or selling your belongings. With the right preparation, you’ll be able to take out the stress that comes with moving abroad from the UK, ensuring that the journey is as exciting as you expected.

Financial Preparation for Moving Abroad

Three words sit at the heart of how to financially prepare for moving abroad from the UK: Save. Save. Save. (And then save some more). 

The age-old advice for moving country is to have enough savings to cover at least six months of your projected living expenses. This will help cover the initial expense of flights, housing deposits and visas (as well as any unexpected costs) while giving you some financial security as you settle into your new home. 

Establishing a savings plan with clear targets (and sticking to it) can keep you disciplined while exploring options for accessible savings accounts abroad ensures you continue growing your financial safety net. This groundwork is crucial for navigating the initial adjustment period and avoiding financial stress.

Estimating the Cost of Moving Abroad

While you should aim to save up as much money as you possibly can before moving abroad, having a well-thought-out financial strategy and estimate will help give you a savings target. 

By accurately estimating your moving costs, you’ll be minimising the risk of having any expensive surprises down the line. Major expenses include international moving companies, initial accommodation and general setup needs in your new country, such as new furniture, utility bills and deposits. 

You will also need to factor in the cost of health and travel insurance, to make sure you and your family are covered no matter what happens. Early planning and budgeting for these expenses will help you to better control costs and make informed decisions, like choosing between shipping, selling or storing belongings. 

Pro Tip: Expect the unexpected. By increasing your projected budget by 10-20%, you’ll be in a better position to cover any unexpected costs. 

Managing Finances Abroad

Saving and planning will go a long way in making your move abroad go smoothly. However, most banks will charge a fee (plus an inflated exchange rate) for using your normal UK debit or credit card overseas — which means you may need to find a new way to access your money. This is another step that’s worth researching early on. 

Travel money cards and multi-currency debit accounts from digital banks like Revolut, Monzo and Wise can be great ways to spend and access your money while abroad (even if you’re just on holiday). While each provider offers different products, many of them provide good exchange rates and contactless payments — some even offer unlimited cash withdrawals. 

However, you may still need a local bank account, as some local authorities and utility providers will only accept payments made with local banks. If you’re starting a new job abroad, there’s also a good chance that your employer will only be able to pay your salary into a local bank account. And, if you do need a local bank account, you may have to jump through a lot of hoops and provide lots of paperwork to get one. 

Managing your finances smoothly across borders will likely require a lot of planning, but it could be really easy — it all depends on where you’re going. The last thing you need when you’re settling in is to be fined for not paying your council tax, just as the electricity and hot water are cut off! 

Pro Tip: If you’re ever planning on returning to the UK, keeping a GBP account will help manage obligations and mitigate fluctuations in exchange rates.

Passport and Visa Essentials

With a steadfast savings plan and an easy way to access your money when you’re not in the UK, the next thing you need to do is ensure your passport is up to date and apply for any necessary visas you may need. While it may sound obvious, this is an essential step that’s all too easy to overlook amidst everything else that’s going on when you’re moving abroad.

Before diving into visa applications, make sure you understand and meet these requirements to avoid entry issues. For example, many countries require your passport to have at least six months of validity beyond your arrival date. It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the visa requirements of your destination, as these can vary greatly from one country to the next. 

Early preparation and understanding of these essentials can smooth your transition, helping you focus on the excitement of your move rather than boring old bureaucracy.

Navigating Healthcare Abroad

Understanding and navigating the healthcare system in your new country is also essential when moving abroad. 

It’s important to do plenty of research on the healthcare of where you’ll be moving to and whether your current health (or travel) insurance will cover your needs. It’s also worth getting familiar with the requirements of the healthcare system and how much access you’ll have with your visa. 

Gather all your medical records and complete the required immunisations. Investigate the legality and availability of any prescription medications you may need, and plan to take an ample supply from the UK if you need to (and is legal to do so). 

When you touchdown in your new destination, learn how to access local healthcare services. As you might require specific local documentation, it’s better to sort this out in advance rather than wait until you need a doctor.

Additionally, consider securing travel and/or health insurance or verifying that your employment provides sufficient coverage. This comprehensive approach ensures you and your family can rest assured knowing you’ll have access to medical help when you need it most.

Notifying the Authorities

When moving abroad, there are several authorities and governmental bodies that you need to notify to keep your affairs in order, including: 

  • Local Council: Inform them about your move to cease council tax payments (or apply for non-resident status) and provide them with a forwarding address. 
  • Benefits: If you currently claim benefits, contact the Department for Work and Pensions to discuss how moving abroad affects you.
  • Pensions: You’ll need to contact the International Pension Centre, and notify private pension providers about your plans to emigrate (more on this in a moment). 
  • Student Loans: You’ll need to tell the Student Loans Company that you’re moving abroad to ensure you continue paying the right amount back.
  • Taxes: HMRC also needs to be notified of your big move to ensure you carry on paying the right amount of tax. But, depending on your circumstances, you might not need to pay anything — at least not to the UK government, as you may need to pay taxes in the country you’re moving to.  
  • Voting & Citizenship: Most UK citizens can continue to vote in UK elections when they move abroad, though you may want to contact your local embassy for more information on your rights as a UK citizen. 

For detailed guidance, visit the government’s official page on moving or retiring abroad

Cancelling Your TV Licence

If there’s one thing you don’t need to worry about when moving overseas, it’s paying for a TV license! You will, however, need to tell TV Licensing that you’ll be cancelling your license — you might even get a refund.

The TV Licensing company will check your refund eligibility and how much your refund will be based on the following criteria: 

  • The date your licence was issued.
  • The expiry date of your license.
  • The date you can prove you’ll no longer need a license. 

Any money you’re owed will be calculated by the number of months left on your license. You need to have at least one complete month before it expires to get a refund. Be sure to do this ahead of time as refund requests must be submitted two weeks before you relocate.

While claiming a refund will automatically cancel your license, if you’re not entitled to a refund, you still need to notify the TV Licensing company to cancel it, as well as any direct debits. 

Keeping Your UK Phone Number

Having access to a UK phone number has become an essential part of everyday life. It’s not just about making it easy for your friends and family to reach you, it’s about ensuring you have access to all your usual UK-based services.

If, for example, you plan to keep a UK bank account, there’s a good chance you’ll need a UK phone number to access it. However, banks aren’t the only ones that will need a UK phone number to send verification codes in order to grant you access to their services. 

One of the easiest ways to keep your UK phone number while living abroad is by transferring your number to a virtual number service. This approach allows you to maintain your UK presence and stay connected with contacts in the UK without the need for a physical SIM card. 

Services like these often offer apps that enable you to make and receive calls and messages over the internet, ensuring you can use your UK number anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Understanding Pension Implications When Moving Overseas

Understanding the implications for your pension is another important factor you need to consider when moving out of the UK. Pensions can be complex when relocating and not all countries have agreements that allow for easy pension transfers. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine whether you can transfer your pension abroad and whether you can continue contributing to it while working in a new country. 

It’s essential to explore your options early and understand the regulations of your destination country. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on the specific rules for British nationals moving or retiring abroad, we suggest visiting the UK government’s official page on state pensions

Helping Children Adapt

Moving abroad with children presents an additional set of factors to consider, with education often being a major priority. As with many other aspects of moving overseas, it’s best to start researching your options and exploring different schools early on. 

International schools, where English is often the spoken language, may offer a smoother transition and a more familiar curriculum than local schools. However, you may face some tough competition in securing a place for your child, and the fees can quickly add up. With this in mind, it’s best to make a decision quickly and include the school’s fees in your budget. 

While local schools may also be a good option for your children, it may be expected that they’re fluent in the local language. Plus, the curriculum could be different from what they’re used to. This may seem like a small thing, but it could make the move harder for your child. 

You may also consider homeschooling your kids, something that provides flexibility and consistency amidst the change. However, this choice comes with its own set of challenges and requirements that should be researched thoroughly to ensure it’s a viable option for your family’s needs and circumstances.

You also need to remember that moving abroad is your decision, not theirs, so it’s important to try and involve them in the process as much as possible and discuss openly what they’re excited and nervous about. 

Pro Tip: You can help your children prepare for the move by exploring the culture and language of your new country together. 

Checking Your Life Insurance

Before you pack your bags, it’s important to make sure that your life insurance will follow you overseas, as many policies only offer limited coverage depending on where you’re based. This means your cover might pause the moment you step off British soil. 

Your first step should be to speak to your insurance provider to discuss the specifics of your relocation and whether your policy needs updating or if you need a new international policy. This is a crucial step for maintaining the financial security of your loved ones, no matter what. 

Checking Your Driving Licence

Navigating the roads in a new country isn’t just about getting used to driving on the other side of the road (as very few countries drive on the left!). In fact, the first thing you should do is understand the local driving license regulations — unfortunately, your UK licence might not be enough for a long-term stay.

First off, find out whether you’ll need an international driving permit or a local driving licence, and how to get one. Starting this process sooner rather than later will help you avoid obstacles later down the road. 

Integrating with the Community 

While a lot of the steps we’ve covered in this guide are things you need to do before you move, here’s one you can focus on a bit more once you’ve started to settle: integration. 

Of course, it’s worth starting to learn the language and the culture before you start packing, but generally speaking, this is something you don’t have to really focus on until you’re in your new home. Engaging with local communities, learning the language and embracing cultural practices will make it a lot easier to settle in to your new home. 

However, as well as the cultural and language difference that comes with adjusting to your new environment, you’ll also need to stay up to date with any new laws and regulations that may affect your residency, employment and social life. 

This proactive approach not only helps in navigating the practical aspects of living in a new country but also enriches your experience of life as an expat! 

Ship, Sell or Store? 

Finally, deciding whether to ship, store or sell your belongings is a major part of planning an international move. Whatever decision you make comes with its own pros and cons, and the best solution for you will depend on your needs and long-term plans. 

With that in mind, here are some things to consider: 

  • Shipping: Ideal if you’re moving permanently and your items hold significant sentimental or monetary value. Assess how much it will cost to ship your possessions against replacing them in your new country.
  • Selling: You might also have several items that you no longer use, but still hold some monetary value. Whether it’s clothes, gadgets or furniture, even small sales will add up to help boost your moving budget — while also reducing your shipping or storing costs!
  • Storing: Personal self storage is perfect for the things you want to keep but don’t immediately need. This is a flexible solution for those who might one day return to the UK or haven’t decided on the permanency of their move.

For those leaning towards self storage, Pay Less for Storage provides secure, accessible and affordable shipping containers to keep your belongings safe and secure until you need them again. 

Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace

Matt is a Director of Pay Less for Storage. He blogs tips for storage customers and helps them navigate self storage.

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