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Immigration Corner | Can a British citizen claim benefit while abroad?

Published:Tuesday | August 6, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

Can a British citizen still claim benefits while living abroad? Any advice would really assist.



Dear F.M.,

British citizens may still be able to claim some benefits if they travel or move abroad, or if they are already living abroad. What they are entitled to depends on where they are going and how long they are going for.

British citizens must tell their local Jobcentre Plus or the office that pays their benefit if they are going abroad. If it is a temporary move, they should tell them when they intend to return. Those persons must tell Her Majesty Revenue & Customs when leaving the country.

Claiming when abroad


If persons are going to, or are already living in, a European Economic Area country or one with a special agreement with the UK, they may be able to claim:


•UK-based benefits;

•Benefits provided by the country they are going to.


They will need a statement of National Insurance that they have paid in the United Kingdom to get these benefits - unless they are claiming Winter Fuel Payments.


Those persons can also claim their state pension abroad. That is they can claim State Pension abroad if they have paid enough UK National Insurance contributions to qualify. Persons should apply for a State

Pension statement if they need to find out how much State Pension they may get.


To make a claim, persons must be within four months of their state pension age to claim. To claim a pension, persons can either:


•Contact the International Pension Centre;

•Send the international claim form to the International Pension Centre. Please note the address is on the form.

If persons live part of the year abroad they must choose which country they want their pension to be paid in. They cannot be paid in one country for part of the year and another for the rest of the year.

Bank accounts that a pension can be paid into

The state pension can be paid into:

•A bank in the country they are living in;

•A bank or building society in the United Kingdom.

Persons can use:

•An account in their name;

•A joint account;

•Someone else’s account - if they have that person’s permission and keep to the terms and conditions of the account

They will need the international bank account number and bank identification code numbers if they have an overseas account.

Persons will be paid in local currency - the amount received may change due to exchange rates. Persons can choose to be paid every four or 13 weeks. If the State Pension is under £5 per week, persons will be paid once a year in December.

The date that a person receives the payment will depend on which benefit they claim. If persons live abroad and their payment is due in the same week as a US bank holiday, it could arrive one day late. This is because a US company processes these payments.


Benefit fraud


Please be aware that persons are committing benefit fraud if they:


•Do not tell the office that pays the benefit that they are going abroad, even if it is just for a visit;

•Deliberately do not report a change in their circumstances while abroad, like buying a property, working, or claiming a pension or benefit from another country;

•Are dishonest in order to get benefits, like continuing to claim the pension or benefit of someone who has died overseas.

The following countries have social security agreements with the UK:

Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Channel Islands, Israel, Jamaica, Kosovo, Mauritius, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, the Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, USA.

Persons may be able to claim certain benefits in these countries but it will depend on the particular country.

Good luck.

John S. Bassie


John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email