Moving to the U.S.? How to Tie Up Loose Ends at Home

If moving home is stressful, moving countries can be far worse – so it is even more important to plan ahead, before the rush of events and deadlines gets on top of you. There are so many things going on that you must list the essential tasks in advance.

But don’t burn all your bridges. You will forget a few chores, and the unexpected will happen. So maintain contact with your bank, doctor, solicitor, family and close friends to pick up the leftovers.

1. Use bank accounts as stepping stones to your new country. If you are already with a bank that has a branch near your destination, fine. Otherwise, check out the banks there and work back. When I was planning to leave the U.K. for Pasadena in California, my bank was Intelligent Finance, the online arm of Halifax. They had nothing in Pasadena, so I moved to Citibank U.K. That was my springboard to Citibank U.S. I keep that U.K. account to receive money and pay the odd bill. It also carries a Visa debit card that I use on visits and avoid foreign exchange charges.

2. Although it has a pesky annual fee, take out an American Express before you leave Britain. A problem when you arrive in a new country, especially outside Europe, is that you have no credit history. That is OK if you can afford to pay cash for a car, furniture and meals for several months, but it is a nuisance. And forget a mortgage. Most lenders will not count your U.K. credit record, but Amex will.

3. While you can leave some savings in the U.K., you should usually sell all other investments and property. You might be tempted to keep your old house or even a small flat, but unless HM Revenue & Customs are convinced that you really are a U.K. non-resident, you could be caught between two tax regimes. Your British pensions and life assurance can be left alone, as they are long-term contracts. Give them your new address, though.

4. Tell U.K. Social Security you are emigrating, so that you can collect your state pension.

5. You can still win Premium bond prizes, but while non-residents are not specifically excluded it is worth asking a friend or family member to hold them on your behalf – with a written agreement.

6. Talk to your U.K. solicitor about your will, and consult a solicitor at your destination. You may have to write a new will to comply with local law.

7. Keep your British driving license, for use if you return.

8. Claim rebates: vehicle tax, TV license and house, car and accident insurance.

9. As when moving house within U.K., close utilities, phone, newspaper, club and magazine subscriptions, as well as all direct debits and that gym membership standing order you never got around to cancelling.

10. Get a friend or family member to serve as your U.K. forwarding address. Redirect mail for a year.

11. Cancel your British doctor and dentist. Transfer their medical records – but keep in touch.

12. A pay-as-you go U.K. mobile phone is handy for visits. Obtain or keep an Oyster card for traveling around London. And when you are old enough, buy a Senior Railcard.

What have been your experiences tying up loose ends during the emigration process? Tell us below:


William Kay

Bill Kay was a London business journalist until he emigrated to Pasadena, ten miles north of Los Angeles, from where he writes a financial advice column for the London Sunday Times. He was City Editor of The Times and the Mail on Sunday and has written a dozen books, including a Pasadena murder-mystery novel, as well as dipping into screenwriting and stand-up comedy. He attended Westminster City School and The Queen's College, Oxford, and still manages to follow Chelsea Football Club. He has two adult sons, Andrew and Ben - and two grandchildren, Jackson and Indiana - all in London.
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