Gordon Delaney, Regional Head of Europe,, AXA - Global Healthcare

A Post-Brexit Checklist for Expats

PUBLISHED: 1 November 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 23 November 2020

For a long time now, travelling between Europe and the UK has been relatively pain-free. With Brexit on the horizon though, it’s time to start thinking about the various extra considerations that it may cause before travelling.

UK citizens considering moving to or travelling in the European Union (EU) from February onwards are likely to have a lot more to check off their list before they leave.

With this in mind, we at AXA – Global Healthcare have put together a Brexit Health Insurance FAQ and a checklist of some of the most important questions that you may need to ask yourself before moving to or travelling in the EU post-Brexit:

How will you access and pay for your medical needs?

Our own research* has found that 84% of expats living abroad have needed access to healthcare, but only one in ten (10%) prioritised preparing for this before they left. When moving to the EU, many Brits may rely heavily on their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for the first few months, until they’ve settled in, despite it only being designed to cover short term healthcare needs. In the event that it isn’t valid after Brexit, though, you’ll definitely need to take a look at your options and work out what type of healthcare cover you might need from day one of your time abroad.

Of those surveyed who have used healthcare whilst living abroad, a fifth (18%) needed emergency care. So, remembering that in some countries, you could rack up a hefty bill from just a trip to hospital in an ambulance is really important.

Do you travel for work?

Getting a new job is never easy, whether it’s at home or abroad, so it’s important to make sure you have all the right preparations in place. If you’re finding yourself a new job in the EU, think about whether you’ll need a visa and whether your job will require travel across borders. After Brexit, laws regarding your freedom of movement throughout the EU might change, so make sure to check whether or not you can travel between the required countries before attempting to do so.

Commuting is also a vital part of working life, so you’ll also need to check whether or not you can still drive throughout the EU and whether you’ll need additional insurance cover. One important thing to remember is that some countries might require you to have an international driving permit.

Are your finances in order?

We know that only a quarter (24%) of expats prioritise preparing their finances before moving abroad, but it’s certainly a good idea to make sure everything is in order before you go.

If you’re planning to work abroad, think about which account your wages will be paid into. Do you need to set up a local bank account? It’s worth researching whether any specific banks offer benefits or better rates for expats. After all, everyone wants to get that little bit more for their money.

More broadly, it’s worth considering what will happen to your pension, life insurance and mortgage. The best way to work this out is to contact your service provider and make sure that everything is in place before you move.

Tax is another area that could be impacted in a big way post Brexit, so making sure you’re up to date with any decisions that are made is vital. One thing that could have a big impact on your monthly income is whether or not tax-free pension transfers will still apply. Even if you’re a long way off retirement age, it’s worth taking some time to think about what will happen if you live in the EU when you eventually do qualify for your pension.

Are you taking your family pet?

Taking a pet abroad has always had its complications. From getting a pet passport, right through to signing up to a local vet once you’ve arrived, there can be a lot to consider. Making sure that your furry friend has the right vaccinations though is incredibly important, as well as thinking about whether they’ll need to be quarantined before entering the country.

But, after Brexit, there will probably be more checks that you and your pet will need to observe in order to travel to the EU. According to the government, the UK is likely to be categorised as an ‘unlisted’ country by the RU Pet Travel Scheme. If it is, all pet owners hoping to take their dog, cat or ferret abroad will need to make sure they’re microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. You’ll also need to remember to send a blood sample to an EU-approved blood testing lab three months before you can travel abroad.

Can you still stock up on home comforts?

Coming second only to family and friends, half (48%) of expats from the UK said that local food and drink was the thing they missed most about their home country. 

Leaving the EU without a deal could mean tougher restrictions on taking certain foods into Europe. Animal products – meat, fish, and dairy for example – in particular could be subject to increased controls. So, if you were hoping to take a little bit of fresh British cuisine abroad to help with homesickness, you might need to think again.

What if you’re an EU citizen in the UK?

British expats aren’t the only ones with Brexit-related challenges to overcome. Our own research has found that a third (31%) of expats living in the UK are concerned about domestic politics, and it seems there are a number of reasons for them to feel distressed.

For example, if you’re an EU citizen and have been living in the UK for five years or more, you can apply for permanent residency status. This essentially means that you’ll be able to continue living and working in the United Kingdom for as long as you choose, as well as access the National Health Service. If you’re an EU citizen looking to make the move to the UK after Brexit though, there’s still no word on what this process might look like.

The weeks and months ahead are likely to be very confusing for both UK citizens moving to Europe and European citizens in the UK. The most important thing is to be prepared and do your research before making any commitments, and make sure you’ve considered every eventuality.