How to transfer your pension abroad?

Zorica Lončar
08.06.21
5 minute read

If you’re planning a big move abroad, one of the most important things to sort out is your finances. This is particularly important for retirees, who’ll be relying on retirement savings to live on once they move to a new country.

So, can you transfer your pension abroad and if so, how do you go about it? We’ll cover everything you need to know in this handy guide, so you can start making your preparations.

And remember, if you’re looking to move pension savings or other income across borders, the Wise multi-currency account is the smart way to do it. With low transfer fees, the mid-market exchange rate and a huge choice of currencies, Wise could be the perfect solution if you’re planning an international retirement.

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But more on this later. For now, let’s focus on transferring your private pensions abroad.

Is it possible to transfer a pension abroad?

The good news for British retirees moving abroad is that you can transfer private pensions from the UK to other countries. However, there are a few important things to remember.

The first is that transferring UK-based pensions abroad may have significant tax implications. These can sometimes be complex and costly, depending where you’re moving to. It’s always a good idea to speak to a pensions or tax specialist for advice before making a decision.

The second crucial thing to know is that ideally, you’ll need to move your pension to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) in your new country of residence. This means that it’s on HMRC’s list of approved QROPS schemes, which could make it easier to transfer your pension - and crucially, help you avoid an eye-watering tax bill.

If you move your pension to a non-QROPS scheme, you could pay at least 40% tax on the transfer¹. And that’s if your UK pension provider will agree to the transfer in the first place, as many will only allow transfers to approved QROPS overseas.

However, not every country is on HMRC’s QROPS list, or you may have limited choice when it comes to available schemes. We’ll look at how to find a QROPS scheme in just a moment.

Can I transfer my UK state pension abroad?

You can’t physically transfer your UK state pension pot abroad, but you can receive your pension payments from it in another country.

All you’ll need to do is apply to the International Pension Centre within 4 months of your state pension age, requesting payments to a bank account (or your Wise multi-currency account)

How to transfer your pension abroad - a step-by-step guide

If you’ve done your homework on tax, pensions and living abroad, you’re about ready to arrange your pension transfer. If you have all the required information to hand, it should be relatively simple and straightforward. Here’s what you need to do:

Step 1 - Find a QROPS scheme

The first thing to do is check whether there are suitable QROPS available in the country you’re retiring to. The easiest way to do this is on the recognised overseas pension schemes notification list here. Sorted alphabetically by country, these are all the schemes that meet HMRC’s requirements to be a QROPS.

Step 2 - Check that your UK pension scheme allows transfers

The next step is checking whether your UK pension provider will permit a transfer to an overseas pension scheme. It should if it’s a QROPS, but it’s always worth getting in touch to check. There may also be conditions, costs or other tax implications you need to know about before setting up the transfer.

Step 3 - Complete Form APSS 263 and give it to your UK pension scheme administrator

You’re nearly ready to request your pension transfer. All that’s left to do is complete the paperwork. You’ll need to download and complete Form APSS 263 from the UK Government website, which will request information such as²:

  • Your personal details and National Insurance number
  • Address and contact information for you in the UK (or your previous UK address if you’ve already moved)
  • Details of the QROPS - including the name, address, country in which the scheme is established and regulated and its HMRC reference number
  • Your employment details (if relevant)

Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to submit it to your UK pension scheme administrator to start the transfer process.

Crucially, you’ll need to make sure you don’t miss out any information on the form. Regardless of any of the other details of your pension transfer, it’ll be taxed at 25% if you don’t provide all the requested information within 60 days of submitting your form¹.

A quick note on tax and QROPS¹

According to the UK government website, you could still pay tax on your pension transfer even if you choose a QROPS in your new country. It all depends where you live, and where your QROPS is based.

For example, you’ll pay 25% tax if your QROPS is in the EEA or Gibraltar and you don’t live within this area. But if you transfer to a QROPS outside these areas and live in the same country as the QROPS is based in, you won’t pay tax.

Receiving income from the UK? Use Wise to avoid high bank fees and poor exchange rates

If you’re moving abroad and expect to receive state pension payments or other income from the UK, hold fire before automatically using your bank.

When it comes to international payments, banks tend to charge high currency conversion fees. They can also add a mark-up to the exchange rate, all of which eats into the money you receive.

A smarter, cheaper way to receive income from abroad could be to use Wise.

With a Wise multi-currency account, you can receive payments for low fees, in the local currency. This means no expensive currency conversion. If you need to convert to another currency, you can do it at your leisure using Wise’s real, mid-market exchange rate and tiny conversion fees. This gives you back control of your money, even across borders.

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So, that’s it - all the essentials you need to know about transferring a pension abroad. After reading this guide, you should be all set to look up QROPS in your new country and complete the paperwork to kickstart your transfer.

It should be reasonably straightforward, but make sure you’re fully clued-up on the tax implications before you make any big decisions. Good luck, and enjoy your overseas retirement!


Sources used for this article:

  1. Gov.uk - transferring to an overseas pension scheme
  2. Gov.uk - QROPS

Sources checked on 01-Jun-2021.


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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