If you are an expat about to retire and want to claim your state pension, you can still claim your pension by getting in touch with the International Pension centre.
It’s likely that if you have spent some time out of the UK that the government has lost track of your overseas address.
But claiming the state pension as an expat is still easy if you follow some simple steps.
If you do not receive a claim form in the post four months before your state pension retirement age, then contact the International Pension Centre about three months before you are due to retire.
Before getting in touch, check you are entitled to claim the state pension and/or the additional state pension.
Qualifying years change
Don’t forget the state pension is changing – the old qualification was 30 years of national insurance contributions or credits, but this is rising to 35 years for men born after April 5, 1951 and women born after April 5, 1953.
You can email, call or write to the International Pension Centre:
Telephone: +44 (0)191 218 7777 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday (UK time)
The Pension Service 11
Mail Handling Site A
To have your state pension paid into a foreign bank account, you will need to give the International Pension Centre your bank identification code (BIC) and international bank account number (IBAN).
You can generally find these on your bank statements or online accounts – but your bank will give them if you ask.
Frozen pension payments
Most of the countries where state pension payments are uprated each April in line with inflation are in Europe, leaving thousands of pensioners in around 150 countries, including many former Commonwealth countries struggling financially.
If you have lived and worked overseas, send the claim form to the International Pension Centre unless you have lived or worked in one of the places where the state pension keeps in line with inflation, which are:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden or Switzerland.
Some special arrangements also apply to someone who has lived and worked in other countries, so call the International Pension Centre if you are unsure about your state pension status.
Many expats fail to find out how much their state pension is worth once they have moved abroad. In many countries outside Europe and a few special cases, the pension payment is not index linked and remains at the level of the first payment for life.
The state pension is not affected if they move between EEA countries or between the UK and a country with a social security or ‘reciprocal’ agreement.
Canada and New Zealand have reciprocal social security agreements, but these do not extend to uprating the state pension each year.
The UK government argues uprating the state pension for every expat is too expensive – costing around £600 million in additional payments each year
How is the state pension calculated?
The full state pension is only paid if men born after April 5, 1951 and women born from April 6, 1953, have 35 full years of national insurance contribution entitlement.
Qualifying years include credits for time off work, such as periods of looking after a family, caring for sick relatives or unemployment.
The new state pension started on April 6, 2016, and anyone retiring after this date who has paid national insurance prior to the cut-off date has a pension worked out under transitional rules.
Under these rules, expats are allocated a starting pension amount which is the higher of:
- The amount they would get under the old state pension
- The amount they would get had the new state pension been available when they first started work
From April 6, 2018, the full state pension is £164.35 a week (£8,546.20 a year). This rises by £4.25 a week to £168.60 a week (£8,767.20 a year) from April 6, 2019, for expats in EEA or reciprocal agreement countries.
Expats first receiving their state pension in 2018-19 living outside the EEA/reciprocal agreement list will have their pension payment frozen at £164.35, if they have the full number of qualifying years.
Working out the starting amount
Expats can qualify for extra qualifying years by working after April 6, 2016 until their state pension age.
The value of each qualifying year is calculated as the current state pension full payment divided by 35 years, then multiplying the amount by the number of additional qualifying years since April 6, 2016.
For example, was given a starting amount of £140 a week but worked an extra five years after April 6, 2016.
The new starting amount is £164.35 divided by 35, which is £4.70 a week. Multiply this by five (£23.48) and add this amount to £140 to give a new starting amount of £163.48.
Any extra years worked after 2016-17 will not increase the state pension payment if an expat already has 35 qualifying years by April 5, 2016.
No NIC payments before April 6, 2016
Anyone starting NIC payments after April 6, 2016 will have their state pension entitlement worked out under the new rules.
The calculation is simply the full current state pension divided by 35 multiplied by the number of national insurance qualifying years.
So if an expat has 25 qualifying years, the calculations is £164.35/35 x 25 = £117.39.
Unless you have at least 10 qualifying years of national insurance payments, you cannot claim the UK state pension.
Qualifying years from working overseas
If you have lived and worked outside the UK, any social security contributions you may have made may be considered as qualifying years towards the British state pension.
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