How to Repatriate
It is a rarely discussed truth that out of all the expats heading off to start a new life overseas, many will either be forced to or choose to return. Not everybody is suited to the expat lifestyle, and no one can predict the future. Health scares, family issues and financial problems are just some of the reasons why expats often have to cut their losses and come home.
All expats should be aware of the legal & financial Implications involved in any repatriation back to the UK in case you should find yourself being in such a position. However, do not kid yourself into thinking that you can just get off the plane and pick up where you left off, a lot needs to be done to repatriate successfully.
Are you making the right choice?
For thousands of Britons currently living in the Eurozone and the rest of the world, the Euro crisis and the lack of an economic recovery elsewhere has ruined many expats’ dreams. The ongoing recession has made earning an income hard too, and what’s more, the Eurozone’s instability and struggling global recovery has led to some Brits seriously re-evaluating their position abroad.
However, before you decide to pack it all in, and cut and run back to the UK make sure you think it over to ensure that you are making the right decision. After all, the last thing you want to do is to sit on the plane on the way home with a long list of what you didn’t achieve whilst living overseas. Don’t miss out while you’re abroad and make sure you’re prepared for things to have changed back home.
Can you repatriate?
Once you’ve decided to repatriate back to (for example the UK) there are many things you need to take care of and arrange. Some repatriated expats claim that moving back to their home country was harder than their initial move abroad!
The first thing you need to do is to see if you can return to the country with resident status. You may return to the UK as a resident if:
You were settled in the UK when you last left.
You have been away for 2 years or less.
You are returning to live here permanently
You were not given public funds to pay the costs of leaving the UK.
If you have been away for more than 2 years, you may still qualify to return to live in the UK if, for example, you have strong family ties there or have lived there for most of your life. If you have been away for more than 2 years, you must apply for a visa or an entry clearance certificate before you can return.
Tax, benefits, pensions and National Insurance
Once you’ve sorted out your residence status and eligibility to return to the UK, the next step is to ensure that you notify the relevant authorities.
You need to tell HM Revenue & Customs when you will be coming back, and find out about your tax liability on returning to the UK
You must check with the country you are living in about any tax you may owe before you leave
For National Insurance contributions, contact the HM Revenue & Customs National Insurance Contributions Office (International Services)
Get in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions regarding your pension and benefits, giving them details of your return move and your contact details abroad and in the UK
The local council of the area in the UK you’re going to be moving to needs to be contacted so you can inform the council tax and the electoral registration department where and when you’ll be moving back to.
Inform your GP and dentist in your current country that you are leaving and ask them to send your records over to you new practitioner.
Get your finances in order
By far the most important step when repatriating is to ensure that you get your finances in check. Make sure to inform your utility companies (electric, gas, water etc) in the country your coming back from that you are moving and give them you’re UK address so that they can send you any outstanding bills. You will then need to set up new accounts with UK utility companies once you’ve found a property.
You will also need to:
Repatriate money to the UK by using a FSA approved foreign exchange specialist like TorFX.
Inform any health insurance or travel insurance companies that you have policies with that you are leaving.
Tell your bank that you are moving and decide whether you still need or want this bank account. If you do then you’ll need to give them your new address.
Check whether there is any tax that you owe or any bills that need to be paid before you leave.
Give the necessary notice to your landlord if you’re moving out from an overseas property you’ve rented. If you own your property then you need to decide in advance what you are going to do with it and whether you’ll be keeping, selling or renting it.
Oh and make sure you have your mail forwarded to your new UK address.
When back home and avoiding culture shock
Remember that your life has probably changed more than you realize while living overseas so don’t expect your old life in your home country to be exactly like it was when you left. There is a good chance that your friends and family at home have probably changed a lot too. Just like your move abroad, going home is relocation and you should expect there to be challenges, logistically, mentally and emotionally.
When you do get back be sure to go easy on the storytelling, a lot of expats speak of the negative reactions from their old friends when they go overboard with their accounts of life abroad. It’s hard for people that haven’t lived overseas to understand how life changing the expatriate lifestyle can be. Friends and family members can become tired of stories describing it, especially if they include complaints about how boring life is now that they are back home.
Here’s a step by step guide to settling back into your old home:
Realise that your repatriation may not go as smoothly as you’d hoped and be prepared for obstacles.
It is important to prepare for things to be very different from how you remember them, even if you’ve only been away a while. Social and economic factors change very quickly as well as the fact that your perception of things may well have changed whilst you were away.
Try and make new friends and contact people that you knew from before you emigrated so that you can re-connect.
Do not attempt to recreate your old life. Think of your repatriation as a new chapter and try not to compare it what you remember.
Focus on the positive aspects and don’t see the past through rose tinted glasses.
Explore new places in the UK that you’d never been to and make it feel like an adventure.
Don’t lose your friends from abroad. With emails, webcams, social networking and Skype, there is no reason not to stay in touch.
How to Repatriate Children
If you have children you will have to help them to settle back into their old way of life. If you’ve had a child whilst overseas then you will have to prepare them for the culture shock of leaving the only country they’ve known.
You shouldn’t worry too much about young children as they often tend to settle in easier than older ones as children have the ability to quickly make friends. Older children like teenagers may need a little bit more support however. When moving, make sure that you notify your children’s school that you are leaving.
Before returning, contact the local school authorities in the UK and enquire about local school places for your child.
Moving schools is difficult for a child so be prepared to help them adapt to schooling in the UK.