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Retiring abroad: Where can UK retirees move after Brexit?

Retiring abroad has been a popular choice among UK expats over the years. According to the ONS, around 247,000 British citizens aged 65 and over were living in EU countries other than the UK and Ireland in the early 2010s. Whether you’re approaching retirement, or already settling into life beyond the workplace, you may be considering enjoying your newfound free time overseas. However, Brexit has meant British citizens no longer have the automatic right to live in EU countries, leaving many would-be UK expats wondering if it’s still realistic to live out their dreams of retiring abroad. In this blog, we’ll look at what’s on offer in a post-Brexit world for retirees hoping to make the move overseas.

What countries can UK retirees move to after Brexit?

UK retirees may be considering locations further afield like the USA or South Africa since Brexit, but it’s still possible to retire to a range of EU countries. What you may have noticed is that it’s now much harder to understand what your options are. Since the 1st of January 2021, moving to an EU country like Spain, Portugal, or France, has meant that British expats must secure permanent residency status. This means you’ll be considered a third-country national and are subject to the same terms of entry as everyone else outside of the EU.

The eligibility requirements to apply for permanent residency vary from country to country, so you’ll need to invest some time into researching options that suit your individual circumstances. Even if you’ve already decided on an ideal location, consider drawing up a list of possible alternatives to work from. This way, you can keep an open mind and be flexible about location if you need to be.


What is the easiest country to retire to?

Some countries have special visas that can be more accommodating to retirees. This makes the application process easier, although you’ll often have to have sufficient means of support and be willing to invest in your destination country. The financial requirements associated with these visas—sometimes referred to as golden visas—can be hefty, but the application process tends to be streamlined and efficient, meaning you’re less likely to experience delays with this route.

If you’re over 65 years old and have money to invest, you can apply for residency in New Zealand via a Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa. This visa allows you to live in the country for two years and can be renewed if you continue to meet its requirements. However, visa processing for applicants outside of the country is still on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so you'll have to wait for applications to reopen if you choose this location. Alternatively, Spain could be a smart option for you if you’d still like to retire to a country within Europe after Brexit. The Spanish non-lucrative visa is designed for those who have the economic means to stay in the country without working, making it ideal for retirees.


What is the cheapest country to retire to?

One of the benefits of moving abroad can be being in a country with lower costs of living, helping your retirement funds go further. Cyprus is one location that offers UK retirees lower costs of living and it’s still well connected for straightforward trips home to visit family. You’ll pay less for things like restaurant meals and fresh fruit or vegetables, and accommodation is affordable too. Although there’s been a slight uptick in the cost of apartments recently, house prices are generally lower than in the UK. The requirements have changed for British expats who want to gain residency status in Cyprus since Brexit, so be sure to research the eligibility specifications and factor time for the application process into your plans.

Wherever you’re looking to move, we can help you make smarter currency decisions throughout the relocation process, to help you make the most of your retirement funds. You can speak to our team of currency specialists about using a Market Order, which can target a rate above or below what’s currently on offer, to trade automatically should it reach those levels. Meanwhile, a Forward Contract* allows you to lock-in an exchange rate for buying a retirement property abroad. While markets can fluctuate in both directions, a Forward Contract gives you an understanding of how much Sterling you’ll need to transfer into the local currency so that you can plan more effectively.


What is the safest country to retire to?

Malta has lots to offer UK retirees and has been ranked the second-safest place in the world when considering natural hazards and social, political, and environmental risk factors. You can find out more about the Malta Permanent Residency Programme (MPRP) through the High Commission of Malta, but be prepared for requirements including large investments starting at around €100,000. Iceland also claimed a spot in the top ten safest countries but retiring there will take a lot of planning as you’ll have to meet some requirements for a permanent residency permit that could prove demanding. These include living in the country in the four years leading up to your application and attending a course in the Icelandic language.

Regardless of the country you choose to retire to, you should make a note of the details of your local British Embassy and any other important services you may need should you find yourself in an emergency. You can find up-to-date information and contact details for the UK embassies across the world here.


What happens to my pension and taxes if I move abroad?

How your pensions and taxes will be affected by your relocation depends on several factors, including the country you move to. The UK government website has lots of helpful and regularly updated information, from who you should inform about your move abroad to country-specific guidance on pensions and taxes.

Should you need to make frequent payments overseas for pensions or expenses, we can help you arrange cost-effective regular transfers. You can review your payments from any time zone using our award-winning online platform, Global Reach Online.


Making the most of your retirement savings

Your retirement fund is important, so it’s worth understanding how you can make the most of it. There are lots of ways you can enjoy your retirement overseas with more money in your pocket; choosing a currency broker for your money transfers is one. While many high-street banks often offer foreign exchange as a branch of their services, currency brokers specialise in foreign exchange, and keep an eye on the market to help you decide on the best time to make currency transfers for you. At Global Reach, we pride ourselves on our personalised customer service, and have been awarded Feefo’s Platinum Trusted Service Award, as voted for by our customers.

If you’ll be buying an overseas property to retire to, or moving your life savings overseas, remember that you can lock-in an exchange rate for up to two years with a Forward Contract.* This is subject to an initial margin and can be an effective tool for making the most of your money when transferring large amounts. If you’d like to know more about locking-in an exchange rate, get in touch with our friendly team of specialists.

To speak to a currency specialist about how you can make the most of your money when retiring abroad, call us on +44(0)20 7989 0000 or email [email protected].


* When locking in a rate for up to two years, an initial margin payment will be required. Please speak to our team to find out more.