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Retiring to an EU country from the UK post-Brexit

Retiring abroad is still the dream for many people in the UK, however Brexit now completed, how do you retire in the EU?

Written by E4E Editor on 17 August 2021

In a post-Brexit world where UK nationals have lost the freedom of movement within the EU, planning to retire and relocate to Europe is not as simple as what it once was.

Although not everything has changed, it is always important to have a good understanding of what to expect when planning to relocate abroad.

Below is a breakdown of both the changes that have been applied due to leaving the EU, as well as a general overview of what things are important to consider.

Visa requirements

As the UK is now defined as a ‘third country’ (due to no longer holding special status with other European countries), this effectively means that you will now require a visa when trying to spend any more than 90 days within an EU country within any 180-day period.

Each European country will come with its own specific requirements, meaning the hoops that you may have to jump through in order to move abroad, will vary from place to place.

Some examples of this would be the specifics between Spain, Italy and France;

For Spain, a temporary residence visa (Tarjeta de Residencia) is needed to be able to stay longer than 90 days, and then a temporary visa will allow you to stay from anywhere between three months to five years (depending on the individuals circumstances).

For Italy, the process of a permanent move is broken in to two stages. You will need to successfully obtain a Long Stay Visa (along with an application fee) which will confirm that you are eligible to apply for your relocation. You will then require a residence permit to be able to remain in the country permanently.

And for France, firstly a successful application for a long-stay visa will be required if planning to live there longer than a 90-day period. Then going forward, you are given up to one year after you first arrived in France to obtain a residence permit.

Passport requirement changes

Post-Brexit, for a British passport to be recognized as valid and used successfully, it must now be valid for at least another 6 months from the day of attempted travel.

It must also be no older than ten years, on the day of attempted travel.

Both of these points are important to note in regard to travel change when attempting to fly to any European country, due to British passports previously being valid for use right up until, and also on the day of expiry, which is no longer the case).

Wills and death planning

The fact that has not changed is that it is always essential for you to have a Will in place that is legally binding in your country of residence, whether you are retired or not.

Whenever anyone retires abroad, death is something that must be a part of the planning process.

It is vital to seek advice from a professional to ensure that the rules are clear and known, and to ensure that the correct documents are in place to allow your wishes to be carried out.

Seeking advice from an expert can also help you to understand how the particular country that you are interested in moving to, has rules that will determine how your assets are governed.

Health care access

With each country within the EU comes different approaches to healthcare. Each country’s healthcare system may not always include the things that would come free of charge within the UK from the NHS.

If you are eligible for a UK state pension, you may apply for an S1 Healthcare Certificate form.  This means that upon retirement abroad, you (and any dependants) will be entitled to healthcare within your EU country of choice, on the same basis as a resident of that country would be.

However, depending on the country you chose to retire in, you may need to make some payment contributions toward your care (which are commonly known as co-payments).

Also, all European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) that were issued before the end of the year in 2020, will be valid up until their expiry date.

Once expired, the EHIC card will be replaced with a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This card will cover British citizens for any emergent healthcare issues whilst in a European country.


If you are planning to use your personal pension (not the State Pension) as your primary source of income, you may be able to transfer any funds out of the UK and into an EU or other country within the EEA (e.g. Malta or Gibraltar) into a QROPS and therefore receive your income in Euros rather than GBP.

While QROPS have a range of benefits and drawbacks, QROPS themselves haven’t been affected by Brexit, however some UK firms will not have the rights to provide advice or assistance outside of the UK due to not having the financial passporting rights.

This may also cause difficulties if you plan to retire in the EU and leave your pension in the UK, so you should seek advice from someone who has the correct authority to provide advice in both the UK and the EU.

Cost of living research

No matter which location you have chosen for your retirement in the sun, living costs must not be overlooked.

Different countries will vary massively when it comes to the cost of living, and a better understanding of your upcoming daily expenses can help avoid some nasty surprises later on.

It is always recommended to do your research over several locations (that is if your heart is not already set on one in particular!). Figure out if you have the potential for financial gain from moving there, compared to your expenses living in the UK.

As well as this, with the UK no longer being a part of the EU, it could mean increased pricing on some UK products, depending on where you are and what it is you are trying to get hold of. Especially if the goods you seek and rely on need to be shipped overseas regularly.

Most people retiring abroad are probably moving for a new experience, to try new foods and enjoy a different lifestyle, but many people like those homely ‘creature comforts’, so it is important to understand that although they may still be available, import costs have increased.

What to do with your UK property

Another big decision for you in the midst of your retirement plans abroad, “what should I do with my current home?”

Each individual is different, and it will ultimately come down to what you are looking to gain from your move away.

Many enjoy the idea of their retirement abroad giving them freedom to start new, without the tie of keeping and managing a property from overseas. This approach is certainly simpler, and comes with the potential for immediate financial gain due to putting it on the market and selling before your move.

Others may prefer the idea of not selling, and renting out their owned UK property for a steady, consistent income per month.

Becoming an overseas landlord does provide a solid basis for persistent financial gain, however does also come with a lot of responsibilities, ties and back-and-forth arrangement between yourself and others in the UK that may be assisting you in the management of your property and tenants.

A third option is to keep your UK property after retiring abroad. This can provide a stable place for any visits back to the UK in the future, but would also need to have arrangements made with either professionals or family members/friends in regards to managing and looking after the property while you are living overseas.

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