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Retirement for Expats in the United Kingdom

Author: Jason Zhou
Submitted: July 2013

Retiring to the UK

You may wish to live in the UK after retirement. However, bear in mind that you may need a visa to stay in the UK permanently. 

If you have retired in another country but want to move to the UK, you normally need a visa, unless you are a citizen of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. Apart from other routes, this used to be achieved through a 'retired persons of independent means' immigration category. However, this category was closed from 27 November 2008. Those who have obtained such visas should choose to apply for a replacement visa called Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), or extend their visas for another five year maximum period. The UK Border Agency gives details about the changes here:


If you are a British citizen and retired in another country, there is no restriction on you living in the UK.  Normally, you will not receive any state pension unless you have paid pension contributions in the UK. However, you still can get free treatment from the National Health Service (NHS). For more information about NHS charges, please see here:


Retiring in the UK

When to retire

However, some employers may offer a bonus as an incentive to encourage elder employees to retire voluntarily. Certain companies do have their own Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) as long as they can clearly justify it.

If you have worked or paid pension contributions in the UK, you are normally entitled to the state pension. State Pension Age (SPA) is not the same as retirement age and continuing to work beyond SPA will not stop you getting your pension. Currently, SPA can be between 61 and 68, depending on when you were born and if you are male or female. For more SPA information, please see the State Pension Guide here: www.direct.gov.uk.

If you are a member of occupational pension schemes, no matter if phased retirement and working beyond the scheme’s normal pension age are supported or not, you normally need to discuss your options with your pension scheme manager as changes in working hours or income might impact upon your pension. 

How to retire

You can choose to retire completely or to phase retirement by working flexibly. It is suggested that you discuss your plans with your employer.

Since there is no compulsory retirement age, to retire is more like a form of resignation. If you want to retire completely, to avoid dispute your employer will ask you to confirm in writing. They will tell you about the notice period and whether you should work all or part of such period, and confirm your leaving date.  More information about resignation can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/handling-staff-resignations.

If you choose to phase retirement by working flexibly, you should make a statutory application for working flexibly. You only can make such an application if you have continuously worked for the same employer in the past 26 weeks and such application can only be made once a year. To apply, you need to write to your employer stating the reasons for your application and how you want to work flexibly.  Your employer should discuss the application with you within 28 days after the application is received, and must make a decision within 14 days after the discussion. If the application is agreed, you will receive a new contract.

Your employer has the right to reject your application. If this happens, you can appeal.  More information about flexible working can be found here:


Challenge discrimination

If you think you may be being discriminated against, seek informal solutions to solve the problem first: for example, talking, or hiring a mediator to talk to your employer to solve the problem. Mediators are trained to deal with difficult discussions between parties. They may help you to solve the problem before a formal procedure takes place. You also can call ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) on 08457 474747 to seek help and advice about ways to solve the problem.

If these attempts do not work, you can challenge the discrimination at an employment tribunal. To claim, you need to fill in a claim form to apply to the employment tribunal, or the Office of Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal if you are in Northern Ireland.  You also can get help from your trade union or call the Employment Tribunal public enquiry line at 08457 959775 or 08457 573722 (Minicom) to seek advice.  More information, including the claim form, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunals

Life of retirement  

Popular retirement places

Many people choose to move to the most popular counties to enjoy their retirement, such as counties in the south west of England. There are lots of articles online suggesting the top places to retire in the UK. 

To decide where to retire, some of the following points may be considered: the proximity of family and friends, a peaceful and quiet environment, the climate, local costs including house prices and daily expenses, local services such as access to health services and transportation. Retirement homes or villages may also be considered.

Financial planning

Most people would like to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. However, as stated in recent research from HSBC, UK retirement lasts about 19 years on average and financial problems are likely to emerge after 7 years. The report can be found here:


It is therefore recommended to have a detailed financial plan for retirement as early as possible.  Apart from savings and some popular investments, personal or stakeholder pensions or life insurance may be considered. General information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/plan-retirement-income/overview .



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