Many people dream of moving to the continent for warmer climes when they retire. But, in this post-Brexit world, is it still possible? What requirements need to be met? And where should we start?
Thankfully, if you’re dreaming of embracing life in Spain whilst drawing your pension, or strolling through French vineyards in your dotage, with a little extra research and preparation you should still be able to make this dream a reality.
Here’s what you need to consider if retiring to an EU country.
What are my rights?
You can still spend up to 90 days in an EU country every 180 days without having to apply for a visa. So for those hoping to break up their retirement with regular trips to the continent, or spend the colder months in a property across the channel, very little will have changed, other than stricter rules on duration. You will also need to ensure you make adequate provision for health cover or take out appropriate travel insurance.
Making a permanent move is a little more complicated. Unless you have EU citizenship you will now need to apply for a visa. Details of visa application and requirements can be found at the embassy of your chosen country, so the first step should be to make contact with officials in the UK and find out specific hurdles that need to be cleared. While requirements may vary a little from country to country, it is likely that you will have to prove you have sufficient income or assets in order to be granted residence.
In addition to proving your income, you may also need to show evidence that you have healthcare provision in your chosen country of residence. While some coverage will be available from the UK Government in the form of an ‘S1’ (see below), it’s sometimes necessary to get private health insurance for the first year in order to meet initial visa requirements. Health cover can be expensive, so make sure you shop around to find the best deal for you.
What about my pension?
If you’re hoping to draw on your UK state pension and/or a private pension while living abroad, the good news is that you can still do this. Also good is the fact that the UK’s double-taxation agreements with EU countries are currently still in place, meaning you shouldn’t be taxed twice on the same income. Usually, you will need to make a declaration in your country of residence or fill in a specific form to ensure that the appropriate taxes and exemptions are applied.
When it comes to the UK state pension, the ‘triple-lock’ guarantee will mean that your income will continue to be updated by 2.5% annually, in line with earnings growth or in line with inflation (whichever is the higher).
If you’re entitled to a UK state pension, then you can apply to the Department of Work and Pensions for a form called an S1 which will help cover your healthcare expenses as a retiree. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your healthcare will effectively be ‘free’ and, depending on your host country’s provision, you may need to take out additional insurance to ensure full cover on an ongoing basis.
Inheritance rights may vary in other EU countries, so it’s important to ensure that you investigate inheritance rules in your chosen country of residence. You may be able to choose to have British law applied to your Will – but this is not an automatic process.
Countries such as France have strict laws governing inheritance, and unlike the UK laws, you may not have the automatic right to divide your estate as you please. It’s important to seek advice on inheritance to ensure you have everything in place before making the move and that you take steps to ensure that your wishes will be honoured in the event of your death.
With legislation and agreements still evolving between the UK and the EU, rights and other protections may evolve over the years. So there are no guarantees. It will be important to keep abreast of any changes regarding healthcare and other rights which will be subject to alteration from 2023.
Retire and thrive!
Whilst the list of requirements may seem rather daunting, it’s important to remember that many UK citizens still take the choice to retire to the EU. Once the right to reside is obtained and you organise your finances and healthcare, living on the continent can be a wonderful experience. And, while you may need to jump through a few more hoops to get there, happily it is still possible.