A Guide to Retrieving Your Pension From Outside the UK

Highway Sign - RetirementWhen you choose to retire abroad, one of your biggest concerns is going to be your pension. In the UK, you don’t have to spend time and money figuring out how to get what is owed to you. But when you’re abroad, you might be worried that the process is overly complicated, and that it will take time and energy you’d rather not expend. Then there’s the matter of the high fees when you’re living off euros but getting paid in pounds. The money you’ll lose on exchange fees is a major factor.

But is it really that difficult, and how much does it have to cost you? This is a quick guide to getting your pension with minimum time and money involved.

The forms

The first and most obvious aspect of retrieving your pension from the UK is knowing which forms to fill out. The form you’ll need is the IPC BR1 NSP. That link will take you directly to the form. You need to fill it in on your PC or laptop, print it out, and send it to the address on the form.

You’ll need the following information and documents:

  • Your National Insurance (NI) number, which can be found on your NI number card,
  • letters from social security or payslips
  • Your original birth certificate or a copy certified by a civil servant (or other authorities detailed on the form). If you do not have your birth certificate, send the form through while you try to claim it
  • Any (original) documents showing you were employed in the UK
  • Certificates relating to your marital status – marriage/death/divorce/annulment
  • All the information of where the money is to be paid

Send the forms through to the address, and you can expect to wait around 8 weeks for them to be processed.

If you are not yet of age to claim a pension, you should be within 4 months of the relevant date.

You can choose to get paid every 4 weeks or every 13 weeks. If your state pension is less than £5 per week, you will get paid once a year in December.

Difficulties you may encounter

You may face difficulties if you do not have the necessary documents available. Claiming the documents can take a while, so you should start the process as soon as possible. Filling out the forms themselves is not hard. Most of the information you will know offhand, and any other information (work details, etc.) should be readily available to you.

The government takes care of the payment itself, and all you need to do is provide account details. If the details are incorrect and you lose money, you may not be able to claim what you have lost. If too much is paid to you, return it immediately. The government has the right to claim it back, and you don’t want to get yourself into a sticky situation.

Currency exchange difficulties

One of the biggest problems expats face when claiming pensions from abroad is that the money received fluctuates due to the exchange rate. The past few months have served as a particularly good example of how much is at risk from currency fluctuations.

£100 on 22 November 2015 would have bought you €142.77.

£100 on 7 April 2016 would have bought you €123.58.

As you can see, there is quite a difference.

Getting the best value

Since getting a consistent rate is important to how you manage your finances and are able to live abroad, money transfer firms offer tools to help you manage the exchange.

For example, many companies offer forward contracts, which fix a rate for you for a certain amount of time. While this means you won’t benefit from any improvement in the exchange rate, it secures the amount you get each month so that you don’t have to worry about unexpected drops.

Money transfer firms like Moneycorp and World First also offer the best exchange rates, up to 80% better than what the banks offer and with far lower fees.

Finally, using a money transfer company gives you added value for money. They can aid you with the technicalities, as they deal with many retired expats living off their UK pensions. They generally offer these services at no extra cost.

Conclusion

While filling out forms might not seem the best use of your time, retrieving your pension from abroad will not require too much from you. The forms are relatively simple, as long as you have the necessary documents.

You can expect to incur transfer fees and fluctuating exchange rates, but these can be managed. Costs can be kept to a bare minimum. So, while you might encounter difficulties, they should not prevent you from taking up residence in sunny Spain or the like.

 

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