How to Transfer to an Overseas Pension Scheme

Piggy Bank - How to Transfer Your UK Pension Overseas

Picture this: you’re lounging on a sun-soaked Mediterranean beach, sipping a cocktail with a tiny umbrella, and enjoying your well-earned retirement. The only cloud on this idyllic horizon? Figuring out how to transfer your UK pension abroad without getting tangled in a web of paperwork, taxes, and confusing jargon. Fear not, intrepid retiree! This article is your trusty guide to navigating the world of international pension transfers, so you can keep those retirement dreams sunny-side up.

The short answer to transferring your UK pension overseas is to explore options like Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) or International SIPPs, and seek professional advice to ensure you make the best choice for your circumstances. But don’t pack your bags just yet! Keep reading to discover the ins and outs of transferring your UK pension abroad, along with tips, tricks, and expert insights to make the process a breeze. So, let’s dive into this adventure and help you keep those golden years truly golden!

Transferring your UK pension abroad via a recognised transfer to a qualifying overseas pension scheme can unlock numerous benefits, including tax advantages and pension consolidation. However, it’s vital to weigh the potential risks and rewards of this process.

To ensure a smooth transfer, your chosen overseas pension scheme must meet the UK government’s requirements, such as appropriate regulatory oversight and similar tax rules to UK pensions. Overlooking these criteria could lead to hefty tax penalties. Additionally, it’s important to consider the impact of currency exchange rates on your pension fund’s value.

While there may be risks, transferring your UK pension abroad can simplify retirement planning, streamline finances, and offer more favorable tax treatment in some countries. To help you navigate this process, we’ll first lay the groundwork by explaining the basics of UK pensions and how they work before diving into the step-by-step guide on transferring your pension.

Table of contents

Understanding UK Pensions

Understanding UK Pensions

What are the different types of UK pensions, and how do they work?

UK pensions are retirement savings plans used by people in the United Kingdom. They include state pensions, workplace pensions (defined benefit and defined contribution), and personal pensions.

What is a State Pension?

This is a basic pension provided by the government to those who have reached retirement age and have made sufficient National Insurance contributions throughout their working life. The current full new State Pension is £179.60 per week (2021/22 tax year).

What are Workplace Pensions, and how do Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution pensions differ?

Workplace pension schemes come in two types: defined contribution and defined benefit. The former is dependent on the amount contributed by the employee and employer, as well as the performance of investments.

Defined benefit pensions, or final salary schemes, provide a guaranteed income based on an employee’s salary at retirement and length of service. Defined contribution pensions, or money purchase schemes, involve investing money into a fund that grows over time until retirement. The pension pot’s size depends on contributions, investment returns, fees charged by providers, and other factors.

Pension contributions can be made through automatic enrolment or voluntary contributions from salaries, with employees often receiving additional contributions from their employers.

Managing Your UK Pension: Contributions, Growth, and Withdrawals

How do UK pension contributions work, and how do they help me save for retirement?

Through automatic enrolment or voluntary contributions, individuals add funds to their pension accounts from their salaries, building a retirement fund over time. Employers may also contribute to employees’ retirement funds as part of a workplace pension scheme, making it easier for individuals in the UK to save for retirement and achieve financial security.

What types of investments are involved in pension growth, and how does it affect transferring a UK pension abroad?

Pension funds invest in various assets, such as stocks, shares, bonds, and property. Stocks and shares offer high potential returns but can be volatile. Bonds are lower risk but offer lower returns. Property investments provide a stable income through rental yields and capital growth but may entail additional costs. When considering transferring a UK pension abroad, it’s crucial to account for potential tax implications for each type of investment and seek professional advice.

When can I access my pension pot, and what are my options for withdrawing funds?

At the age of 55 (rising to 57 from 2028), individuals can access their pension pots, taking up to 25% tax-free as a lump sum or receiving regular payments through an annuity or drawdown plan. Withdrawing money from a pension pot too early may result in lower retirement income.

Why Transfer Your UK Pension Abroad

Why Transfer Your UK Pension Abroad

Retiring Abroad

Retiring abroad can be an exciting prospect, offering new cultural experiences and potentially lower costs of living. If you hold a UK pension plan, transferring it abroad might be necessary to ensure access to your funds and retirement income. Be aware of extra expenses and paperwork associated with this process.

Tax Advantages: Who Doesn’t Love Them?

A main reason for transferring UK pensions abroad is tax benefits. Some countries offer more favorable tax treatment for pensions than the UK does. By transferring your pension abroad, you could potentially reduce the amount of tax that you pay on your retirement income. Keep in mind that this will depend on the specific rules and regulations in each country.

Currency Risk: Protect Your Retirement Savings

Mitigating currency risk is another reason to transfer UK pensions abroad. If you leave your pension in the UK and retire abroad, fluctuations in exchange rates between GBP and your local currency could impact the value of your pension. Transferring your pension overseas and investing in local currency-denominated assets or using financial instruments to hedge against currency fluctuations can potentially reduce this risk.

Consolidation: Simplify Your Retirement Planning

Transferring UK pensions abroad for consolidation purposes can simplify your retirement planning and potentially reduce costs. If you have multiple pensions from different employers or schemes in the UK, consolidating them into a single overseas scheme allows you to take advantage of any tax benefits or investment opportunities available in your retirement destination. This could help boost your retirement income and provide greater financial security in later life.”

Transfering Your UK Pension

Pension transfers involve moving your pension from one country to another and can be complex, requiring careful consideration. One crucial aspect is ensuring the overseas pension scheme is recognized by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK.

To meet HMRC’s criteria, an overseas scheme must be a recognised overseas pension scheme (ROPS). Your pension fund’s transferred value will be assessed against the Lifetime Allowance (LTA) in the UK, currently set at £1.073 million. Transferring your defined contribution pension to an overseas scheme may result in an overseas transfer charge of 25% of the transferred value.

Keep in mind that not all overseas schemes are recognised by HMRC. Ensure the scheme meets the necessary requirements before proceeding with a transfer to avoid legal or financial issues in either country.

For example, in Australia, transferring your pension fund may impact your eligibility for the Age Pension – a means-tested payment provided by the government to eligible retirees. It’s vital to understand how such transfers affect your eligibility for payments in both countries.

Consider the Different Pension Schemes Available in Your Destination Country

When considering moving your pension to another country, it’s essential to explore the different pension plans available there. Some plans might offer better tax and investment options compared to your current pension.

For instance, some countries have a state pension scheme that provides a basic retirement income, while private pensions may offer better investment returns or lower fees than those in your home country. Carefully consider all options before deciding to transfer your pension overseas, and consult a financial advisor specializing in international pensions.

Evaluate You Pension’s Transfer Option Carefully

Evaluate You Pension’s Transfer Option Carefully

Before transferring your pension overseas, thoroughly assess the transfer option associated with you pension. Some pensions may incur penalties or fees for overseas transfers, significantly impacting your retirement income.

Additionally, consider whether you can access your funds once transferred overseas. Some countries impose strict regulations on foreign pension withdrawals, potentially limiting access to your retirement savings when needed. Research your destination country’s pension schemes and compare them with other countries.

Is an International SIPP a Viable Option When Transfering my UK Pension?

An international SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension) offers greater flexibility in investments and payments. This type of pension allows investment in various assets, including stocks, bonds, and property.

International SIPPs provide more control over retirement payment methods and timings. However, they can be complex products that warrant careful consideration before investing. Seek further advice on international SIPPs and QROPS to determine the best option for you. Check out this great article by Experts for Expats on QROPS (ROPS) vs SIPP: Which pension scheme is right for you?

How Can You Manage Currency Risk When Transferring Retirement Savings?

When moving retirement funds to a foreign bank account, be aware of currency risk. The value of your savings may fluctuate due to changing exchange rates, potentially decreasing your money’s value when converted back to your home currency.

To mitigate this risk, consider using a currency exchange service with competitive rates and low fees. Monitor exchange rates regularly and adjust your investment strategy if needed. We personally recommend CurrencyUK for international money transfers and have been using them ourselves for a number of years.

Are ROPS Available in Your Destination Country?

ROPS (Recognized Overseas Pension Schemes) are pension schemes approved by HM Revenue & Customs for tax purposes, offering tax benefits and a wider range of investment funds. If transferring your pension overseas, research ROPS availability in your destination country. Note that not all countries recognize ROPS, so verify their availability in your chosen location.

QROPS Criteria & Eligibility

Transferring UK pension benefits to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) is popular for those planning to retire abroad. However, certain criteria must be met for a valid transfer.

Criteria for QROPS Transfer

Firstly, the QROPS pension scheme must meet certain criteria and be recognised by HM Revenue and Customs. These criteria are as follows:

  • Residency: The pension scheme must be based in a country outside the United Kingdom.
  • Tax Status: The scheme must be recognized for tax purposes in the country where it is based, meaning it should either be a qualifying tax-exempt pension scheme or receive tax relief on contributions and/or investment growth.
  • Regulation: The pension scheme must be regulated by the appropriate authority in the country where it is based. If the country has no regulatory body for pension schemes, the scheme must be regulated by an organization responsible for the supervision of financial institutions, such as banks or insurance companies.
  • Access to Benefits: The scheme must provide access to pension benefits no earlier than the UK’s normal minimum pension age (currently 55), except in cases of serious ill health.
  • Pension Payment Types: The scheme must provide benefits that are broadly similar to those provided by UK registered pension schemes, including the ability to pay lifetime annuities, scheme pensions, and lump-sum payments.
  • Reporting: The scheme manager must agree to report any relevant information about the scheme members and their pension funds to HMRC when required.

You can find more information on whether your chosen QROPS pension scheme is recognised on the offical HMRC website here:
Check the recognised overseas pension scheme notification list.

Secondly, individuals who wish to transfer their UK pension benefits overseas must meet certain criteria as well:

  • Residency Status: The individual must have left the UK permanently or intend to leave in the near future, usually within the next 12 months.
  • Pension Benefits: The individual must not have started receiving their pension benefits yet. The transfer process should be initiated before the benefits are drawn.
  • Age: The individual should be below the normal minimum pension age (currently 55) or meet specific criteria for accessing their pension benefits early due to ill health or disability.
  • Transfer Approval: The individual’s current pension scheme must allow for transfers to an overseas scheme. Some UK pension schemes may have restrictions on transferring benefits to QROPS or other overseas schemes.
  • Informed Decision: It’s recommended that the individual seek professional advice from a financial advisor or specialist pensions advisor before proceeding with the transfer to ensure they fully understand the implications and potential benefits of transferring their UK pension overseas.

How to Transfer Your Pension to a QROPS (step-by-step)

The process of transferring UK pension benefits overseas involves several steps.

  1. Find a suitable QROPS provider: Research and identify a QROPS provider that meets the necessary criteria. Consider seeking professional advice from a financial or specialist pensions advisor. Check the official list of recognised providers for your country.
  2. Request a Transfer Value Analysis (TVA) report: Apply for a TVA report from your existing pension provider to obtain an estimate of your pension benefits’ value and the potential amount receivable if transferred overseas.
  3. Decide to proceed: After reviewing the TVA report and considering the implications, decide whether to proceed with the pension transfer.
  4. Complete required paperwork: Fill out the necessary forms and documents provided by both your existing pension provider and the QROPS provider. Your should receive instructions about which forms and documentation are required from your provider.
  5. Provide identification documents: Submit copies of identification documents, such as passports or driving licenses, as required by the QROPS provider.
  6. Notify the International Pension Centre (IPC): The IPC needs to be informed of your intention to transfer your pension to a QROPS, as it could affect your entitlement to state benefits. You can notify them here, or have it done through your QROPS provider.
  7. Monitor the transfer process: Stay in touch with both your existing pension provider and the QROPS provider to ensure a smooth transfer of your pension benefits.

What are the Benefits of Transferring Your UK Pension Overseas

1. Greater investment flexibility

Transferring your UK pension overseas, particularly to a QROPS, allows for a wider range of investment options, such as property or commodities. This provides you with more control over where your money is invested and how it grows.

2. Currency choices

QROPS schemes often let you hold your pension benefits in different currencies, which can be useful if you’re planning to retire abroad and need to manage finances in a foreign currency.

3. Potential tax benefits

Transferring your UK pension overseas may result in lower taxes on pension income, depending on the tax rates and regulations in the country where your new pension scheme is located.

4. Access to lump sum withdrawals

Some overseas pension providers may offer the option to withdraw a lump sum from your pension upon transfer, which can be helpful for covering large expenses or unexpected financial needs.

5. Avoidance of UK lifetime allowance (LTA) charges

Transferring your pension overseas might help you avoid LTA charges if your pension savings exceed the UK’s LTA threshold.

6. Estate planning advantages

Depending on the jurisdiction of the overseas pension scheme, transferring your UK pension overseas may offer more favorable inheritance tax rules or allow you to pass on your pension to your beneficiaries more easily.

7. Protection against UK legislative changes

Transferring your pension overseas can provide some insulation from future changes to UK pension regulations, which might negatively impact your retirement savings.

8. Aligning your pension with your retirement destination

If you plan to retire abroad, transferring your UK pension to your destination country can simplify financial planning and management by consolidating your assets in one country.

Keep in mind that transferring a UK pension overseas also has potential risks and drawbacks. It’s essential to thoroughly research your options and seek professional advice from a financial or specialist pensions advisor before proceeding with a transfer.

What are the Cons of Transferring Benefits Overseas via QROPS?

1. Higher fees and charges

Transferring your UK pension overseas, particularly to a QROPS, might result in higher fees for administration, investment management, and other services compared to UK registered schemes.

2. Currency risk

When transferring your pension overseas, you may be exposed to currency risk due to fluctuating exchange rates, potentially affecting the value of your retirement savings when converted back to your home currency.

3. Regulatory and jurisdiction risks

Overseas pension schemes are subject to the regulations and rules of their respective countries, which may differ from UK regulations. This can lead to potential risks and uncertainties regarding your pension savings.

4. Risk of unstable investments

Transferring your pension overseas could expose your savings to potentially unstable investments or markets, increasing the risk of significant losses.

5. Potential loss of UK pension protections

UK pension schemes offer certain guarantees and protections, such as the Pension Protection Fund. Transferring your pension overseas may result in the loss of these safeguards.

6. Restricted access to funds

Some countries impose strict regulations on foreign pension withdrawals, potentially limiting your access to your retirement savings when needed.

7. Complexity and administrative burden

Transferring your pension overseas can be a complex process that may require additional paperwork, time, and effort to manage, especially when dealing with regulatory and tax requirements in multiple countries.

8. Risk of triggering a Benefit Crystallisation Event (BCE)

Transferring your UK pension benefits overseas could potentially trigger a BCE if your pension savings exceed the UK’s Lifetime Allowance (LTA). This may result in additional taxes on your pension benefits.

What are the Rules for Pension Transfers Between the UK and Other Countries?

What are the Rules for Pension Transfers Between the UK and Other Countries?

Pension transfers between the UK and other countries are subject to strict rules and regulations. These rules aim to protect individuals’ pension savings while ensuring that they receive their retirement benefits in a tax-efficient manner. In this section, we will discuss the key rules and considerations when transferring pensions between the UK and other countries.

Transferring to Registered Pension Schemes

UK pensions can only be transferred to a registered pension scheme in the destination country. A registered scheme meets certain criteria set by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), is recognized as a pension scheme under local law, operates for the primary purpose of providing retirement benefits, and is regulated by an appropriate authority.

HMRC must be notified of any pension transfers, and the transfer must meet specific criteria to be legitimate. Transferring your UK pension to an overseas scheme not recognized by HMRC may result in significant tax charges.

Destination Country Legislation and Restrictions

Legislation and restrictions vary depending on the destination country, so research the specific requirements before initiating a transfer. Some countries have agreements with the UK for easier pension transfers, while others may have more stringent requirements.

For example, transferring your UK pension to Australia or New Zealand means you can transfer your entire pension fund without facing tax charges. However, transferring your UK pension to Canada or South Africa may result in significant tax charges unless you comply with specific requirements.

International Agreements for Easier Pension Transfers

The UK has signed agreements with several countries, including all EU member states, allowing for easier pension transfers. These agreements provide additional protections for individuals’ pensions while facilitating cross-border transfers.

The UK’s agreements with EU member states allow for free movement of capital within the EU, meaning individuals can transfer their pensions between EU member states without facing tax charges or penalties.

The UK has also signed agreements with several non-EU countries, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, to ensure easier pension transfers and protection of individuals’ pensions.

How to Choose a Financial Adviser for Pension Transfer?

When planning to transfer your UK pension to an overseas scheme, one of the most critical steps is choosing the right financial adviser to guide you through the process. This decision can have a substantial impact on your future financial security, making it essential to choose wisely.

The right adviser will have a deep understanding of both UK and international pension regulations, provide transparent and competitive fees, and prioritize open and regular communication.

This section will guide you through the key considerations when selecting a financial adviser for your pension transfer, from checking their regulatory compliance to evaluating their level of expertise in international pension transfers.

Recognizing the Importance of Regulated Financial Advice

Seek regulated financial advice from a qualified adviser authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to provide pension transfer advice. This ensures appropriate and trustworthy guidance. Check if your adviser is registered with the FSO here.

Consulting Your Pension Provider

Verify if your pension provider offers a registered pension scheme for overseas transfers. Ensure the scheme is registered with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) if available.

Considering Fees and Charges

Compare fees charged by advisers and pension providers to choose one that suits your budget and needs.

Key Factors in Selecting a Pension Transfer Adviser

  1. Expertise in International Pension Transfers: Choose advisers specializing in international pension transfers.
  2. FCA Regulation and Compliance: Ensure the adviser is regulated by the FCA.
  3. Experience and Client Testimonials: Consider their experience and seek references or testimonials from previous clients.
  4. Transparency in Fees and Charges: Ask about fees and charges upfront and understand what you’ll be paying for their services.
  5. Regular Updates and Communication: Ensure the adviser keeps you informed at every step of the process.

Remember that transferring your pension overseas is a long-term investment decision requiring careful consideration and planning. Seek professional financial advice before making decisions about your personal pension plan or retirement income.

Utilizing Pension Wise for Impartial Help

Consider using Pension Wise, a free government service providing guidance on pension options and retirement income.

Understanding the Lifetime Allowance Limit

Be aware of the lifetime allowance (LTA) limit for pension transfers, currently set at £1,073,100 for the 2021/22 tax year. Additional taxes may apply if your total pensions savings exceed this amount.

Preparing for International Fund Transfers

Set up a bank account in the destination country before initiating the transfer process to avoid delays or complications.

Having a local bank account makes it easier to access your pension funds and take money out when needed. It also eliminates the need for costly currency exchanges every time you want to withdraw money.

Tax Implications of Moving Your Pension Abroad from the UK/US

Moving your pension abroad may seem like a great idea, especially if you’re planning to retire overseas. However, it’s important to understand the tax implications that come with such a decision. In this section, we will go over the tax rules and charges that apply when moving your pension abroad from the UK/US.

  1. UK Income Tax on Pension Income: UK residents moving pensions abroad may be liable for UK income tax, depending on the tax rules in the destination country and whether there’s a double taxation agreement in place.
  2. Tax Charges for Exceeding Lifetime Allowance (LTA): Be aware of potential LTA tax charges when moving your pension abroad if your pension savings exceed the LTA limit.
  3. Double Taxation: Understand the risk of double taxation and the existence of international agreements designed to prevent double taxation on pensions.
  4. Consecutive Tax Years: Keep track of consecutive tax years, as some countries may require residency for a certain number of years to become eligible for tax benefits or exemptions.
  5. Staying Updated on Tax Laws: Stay informed about changes in taxation laws and regulations in both your home country and your new country of residence, as they can significantly impact your pension income and tax liabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the eligibility criteria for transferring UK pensions abroad?

The eligibility criteria depend on the type of pension scheme you have. If you have a defined benefit (DB) pension, you can transfer it abroad if the receiving scheme is a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme (QROPS). On the other hand, if you have a defined contribution (DC) pension, you can transfer it to any overseas scheme that accepts transfers.

It’s worth noting that some UK pensions may not allow transfers or may charge high fees for transferring. Some countries may have restrictions on accepting foreign pensions. Therefore, it’s essential to check with your current provider and seek professional advice before making any decisions.

What is the process for transferring UK pensions abroad?

It’s worth noting that some UK pensions may not allow transfers or may charge high fees for transferring. Some countries may have restrictions on accepting foreign pensions. Therefore, it’s essential to check with your current provider and seek professional advice before making any decisions.

What is the process for transferring UK pensions abroad?

The process of transferring your UK pension abroad involves several steps. Firstly, you need to find a suitable overseas pension scheme that meets your needs and is QROPS-recognised, if applicable. You should also consider factors such as fees, investment options and currency exchange rates.

Once you’ve chosen an overseas scheme, you’ll need to inform your current provider of your intention to transfer and complete any necessary paperwork. Your current provider will then provide information about the value of your pension fund and any charges or penalties associated with transferring.

After this, the funds will be transferred from your UK pension scheme to the overseas scheme. This process can take several weeks or even months depending on various factors such as administrative processes and currency exchange rates.

What are the potential risks involved in transferring UK pensions abroad?

Transferring your UK pension abroad comes with potential risks that must be considered before making any decisions. One significant risk is currency fluctuations; when transferring funds internationally, changes in exchange rates can significantly affect the value of your pension fund.

Another risk is tax implications; different countries may apply different tax rules on foreign pensions which could result in higher tax liabilities. It’s essential to seek professional advice to understand the tax implications of transferring your pension abroad.

Lastly, there is a risk of scams and fraud when transferring pensions abroad. You should be cautious of unsolicited offers or cold calls and only deal with reputable providers.


In conclusion, transferring your UK pension abroad can be a complex process that requires careful consideration and planning. However, with the right guidance and support, you can make the most of your pension savings and enjoy a comfortable retirement overseas.

If you are considering an international move from the UK, 1st Move International can provide you with reliable and efficient international removals services to ensure a smooth transition. With our faster shipping and safer packing, you can trust us to deliver your belongings safely to your new destination.

So why not take the first step towards your new life abroad and request a quote from 1st Move International for your international removals needs? Our experienced team will guide you through the process and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Remember, transferring your UK pension abroad and moving overseas can be an exciting new chapter in your life. Let 1st Move International help you get there. Contact us today to get started.

Avatar for Mike Harvey
As the Managing Director of 1st Move International, Mike Harvey brings more than two decades of logistics expertise and three years of specialised experience in international relocations to his role. His comprehensive knowledge spans the intricacies of overseas shipping, secondary yet crucial areas such as visa application processes and immigration requirements, and the wider topic of moving abroad including topics such as comparative analyses of cost of living, healthcare and educational systems worldwide. This expertise allows 1st Move International to equip people with the information they need to not just move overseas, but to make informed decisions about whether, and where, to relocate.