This page contains information about the UK relevant for residents of Japan. Organising voluntary contributions to the UK State Pension is possibly the most important financial matter that eligible residents of Japan should consider; more information is provided in the section below.
UK State Pension
The new State Pension can be claimed by individuals with sufficient qualifying years on their National Insurance record irrespective of nationality and residency. (Men born before 6th April 1951 and women born before 6th April 1953 will instead receive the older basic State Pension.) Ordinarily, at least 10 qualifying years are required to receive benefits. They do not have to be 10 qualifying years in a row. In principle, 35 qualifying years are required to receive the full state pension (£203.85 per week or £10,600.20 per 52 weeks in 2023-2024). Those with fewer qualifying years will receive a pro rated amount.
Individual circumstances for people with national insurance records starting before 2016 mean that some people may need 'extra' qualifying years to receive the full pension (particularly people 'contracted out'), and some people may receive more than the stated 'full state pension' (those with a 'protected payment'); see the gov.uk guide for further details.
Qualifying years are tax years when sufficient contributions and/or credits have been made, via any combination of the below:
- national insurance contributions made via employment or self employment (earnings or profit need to be above a threshold, so part-time employment may not satisfy this condition)
- national insurance credits, eg when claiming benefits, acting as a carer, undertaking jury service, etc. Some individuals will have received starting credits automatically for the years in which they turned 16, 17 and 18.
- voluntary national insurance contributions
You can check your national insurance record online (requires Government Gateway access), by phone or by post (details for all methods in the link).
You can find out further information about national insurance credits via the gov.uk guide to national insurance credits and the NI Manual section on national insurance credits. Credits are automatically applied in many circumstances, but there are some circumstances in which an application is necessary, and full details can be found in the above gov.uk guide.
Your state pension age can be confirmed online. It is subject to future change. People at/approaching retirement now have a state pension age of 66 (this applies to people born between 6th October 1954 and 5th April 1960). People born on or after 6th April 1978 currently have a state pension age of 68. People between these two cohorts currently have a state pension age between 66 and 68.
There is an Agreement between the UK and Japan on Social Security. It is not a totalisation agreement, meaning qualifying years for the UK state pension cannot be transferred to the Japan state pension, or vice versa. The agreement prevents compulsory dual coverage, meaning that people should only have a requirement to make mandatory contributions to one system at any one time. People making mandatory contributions to the Japanese pension system are usually able to make voluntary NICs to the UK system, if eligible. HMRC has published a summary of the agreement in plain English with some FAQs at the end.
Voluntary National Insurance Contributions from abroad
People with National Insurance records can apply to make voluntary National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from abroad (information and application form available via this link) in order to accumulate qualifying years towards the UK state pension, provided they meet eligibility criteria. The form can only be submitted by post, and HMRC will often take several months to respond by mail.
Those accepted are often eligible to back-pay recent years which did not meet the threshold to be qualifying years. Ordinarily, back payments are limited to six years. However, until 5th April 2025 it is possible to pay voluntary contributions to make up for gaps between April 2006 and April 2016 if you’re eligible. This unique opportunity to back-pay up to 18 years has arisen because of transitional arrangements surrounding the introduction of the new State Pension in 2016. These transitional arrangements had been due to end on 5th April 2023, but the deadline was extended until 31st July 2023 as described in this gov.uk press release, and explained more fully in this MoneySavingExpert article, then further extended until 5th April 2025 as explained in this 12th June 2023 gov.uk press release.
There are two classes of voluntary contributions with differing eligibility criteria: Class 2 and Class 3. The weekly rates for 2023-2024 are £3.45 for Class 2 and £17.45 for Class 3. (52-week rates are £179.40 for Class 2 and £907.40 for Class 3.)
The rules regarding eligibility are complex and subject to change, so potential applicants are encouraged to check the latest information carefully on gov.uk. However, a summary of the eligibility criteria is as below:
|All three of the below conditions must be met:|
|1. You’re employed or self-employed outside the UK, and|
|2. You’ve lived in the UK for a continuous 3-year period at any time before the period for which NICs are to be paid, or before going abroad, you paid a set amount in NICs for 3 years or more (this will be checked when you ask to pay Class 2 NICs), and|
|3. Immediately before going abroad, you were ordinarily an employed or self-employed earner in the UK.|
|One of the following conditions needs to be met:|
|1(a) You’ve lived in the UK for a continuous 3-year period at any time before the period for which NICs are to be paid, or|
|1(b) Before going abroad, you paid a set amount in NICs for 3 years or more, or|
|1(c) You've paid Class 1 contributions for the first 52 weeks of your employment abroad|
The application requires a National Insurance Number (NINO), complete employment and address history since leaving the UK, and some detail of time in the UK as well. An HMRC Subject Access Request (SAR) could be useful to establish details of the last UK employment and national insurance contributions.
Applicants select their preferred payment method at application stage: monthly direct debit, six-monthly direct debit (Class 2 only), manual payment (annually in arrears; via bank transfer or sterling cheque), or via an agent in the UK (who would himself/herself have the option to pay via direct debit or manually). Those opting to pay manually will ordinarily receive a bill around the end of each tax year.
Before sending any money for the voluntary NICs, you may be asked to confirm with the Pension Service (part of DWP) that these voluntary contributions will increase your State Pension. This can be done by phone (+44 191 2183600), and the Pension Centre will then send you a State Pension Forecast. When this forecast confirms that You can improve your forecast with voluntary contributions, this has to be communicated with HMRC. With this note on your record, your payment should then be properly allocated to your state pension record.
Form CF83: notes
Form CF83 (Application to pay National Insurance contributions abroad) is published by gov.uk in conjunction with NI38 Social Security Abroad.
There are some confusion points as:
- the form is written in different tenses. At points, it reads as if the applicant has not yet moved abroad (Q7. Name of the country you’re going to) whereas elsewhere it reads as if the applicant has already moved (Q13. Before leaving the UK, were you...)
- there are some internal inconsistencies in the pamphlet and form (eg the form directs the reader to 'the notes on page 31', but the Nov 2022 version of NI38 does not carry page numbers, and the previous version had 'Special notes and advice for completion of application form CF83' beginning on page 32)
Below are some notes regarding the form, in addition to the notes provided in NI38:
- Q6 (National Insurance Number): the notes give instructions should you not know your NINO, but there are methods to retrieve a lost NINO and applicants may wish to consider pursuing these methods first so as to provide as complete information as possible upon application
- Q11 (How long do you intend to stay abroad?): the purpose of this question appears to be to sift out applicants on short-term (less than one-year) secondment abroad who would be liable for Class 1 NICs in the UK. Long-term residents abroad may wonder how best to answer this question. 'Indefinitely' is a valid answer, as is 'x+' years (where x = years already spent abroad).
- Q12 (Are you ordinarily resident in the UK?): there are extensive notes on this in NI38. As stated in these notes, your answer should be based on your status at the time you left the UK. The wording of the question is misleading; consider instead the following when determining your answer: "Immediately prior to departure from the UK, were you (or, if you have not already departed, will you be) ordinarily resident in the UK?" As with Q11, it is probable that Q12 is used to determine if an applicant is liable for Class 1 contributions, which won't be the case for those who are based abroad long-term.
- Direct Debit instruction: this precedes the question about payment choice; you do of course have the option to leave this blank and select an alternative payment method
- Q14 (What date did you last pay national insurance contributions?): just to note that if you don't know this, one possibility would be to retrieve the information via an HMRC Subject Access Request (SAR)
- Q25 (Do you want to know about any shortfall of National Insurance contributions that you can pay?): Answering yes here does of course not bind you into paying these, but should give you the fullest possible information as to your options, so is highly recommended.
In many cases, applicants may have to supply additional information in a covering letter, eg if they have had more than one job or address since leaving the UK.
Neither Form CF83, Pamphlet NI38 nor indeed the underlying legislation (Regulation 147 of The Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001) provides further definition to the Class 2 criterion of 'immediately before going abroad, you were ordinarily an employed or self-employed earner in the UK'. Applicants for whom this is not clear cut may wish to present their case on this point in their covering letter. HMRC's thinking may be akin to the 'ordinarily resident' guidance. A long work history in the UK with a short gap to prepare for an international move might reasonably satisfy the criterion (although not actually employed immediately prior to leaving the UK, you ordinarily were). Even a more extended earning gap such as a university course might satisfy the criterion (the course is time-limited, and if your prior history supports your case, you might be considered to be ordinarily employed or self-employed despite being on a study break).
As described above, there are various payment methods (monthly or six-monthly direct debit; annual sterling cheque; annual bank transfer; agent). Further details for each method can be found within NI38, and on HMRC correspondence. Some basic information is provided in the table below, intended to be in a format so as to easily and readily compare the main payment options (direct debit / annual payments / agent), though there are further options for annual payments to take into consideration:
|How you pay||What you pay||When you pay||When payments cease|
|Direct debit: monthly||Amount covering either 4 or 5 weeks, depending on the numbers of Sundays in the month
(there may be arrears to pay for the year in which the direct debit begins, which can either be paid by direct debit or sterling cheque)
|4 months in arrears, ordinarily on or up to 3 working days after the second Friday of each month||Until you cancel it (or payments lapse/fail) or until you've paid for all weeks prior to state pension age (since payments are in arrears, this will happen about 4 months after reaching state pension age); also, if you make a manual payment, HMRC might discontinue the direct debit|
|Direct debit: 6-monthly||Amount covering either 26 or 27 weeks, depending on the number of Sundays in the 6-month period
(there may be arrears to pay for the year in which the direct debit begins, which can either be paid by direct debit or sterling cheque)
|January and July||Until you cancel it (or payments lapse/fail) or until you've paid for all weeks prior to state pension age (since payments are in arrears, this may happen after reaching state pension age); also, if you make a manual payment, HMRC might discontinue the direct debit|
|Annual payment (eg bank transfer; sterling cheque)||Amount covering a full year||Annually, in arrears. HMRC should send a payment request around the end of a financial year.||[Payments are manual. If you do not make payments for two consecutive tax years, HMRC will stop sending correspondence on voluntary contributions.]|
|Agent||[Agent selects direct debit or manual options]|
|How you pay||What you pay||When you pay||When payments cease|
|Direct debit: monthly||Amount covering either 4 or 5 weeks, depending on the numbers of Sundays in the month
(there may be arrears to pay for the year in which the direct debit begins, which can either be paid by direct debit or sterling cheque)
|Monthly in arrears, ordinarily on or up to 3 working days after the second Friday of each month||Until you cancel it or until you've paid for all weeks prior to state pension age (since payments are in arrears, this will happen about 4 months after reaching state pension age); also, if you make a manual payment, HMRC might discontinue the direct debit|
|Annual payment||Amount covering a full year||Annually, in arrears. HMRC should send a payment request around the end of a financial year.||[Payments are manual. If you do not make payments for two consecutive tax years, HMRC will stop sending correspondence on voluntary contributions.]|
|Agent||[Agent selects direct debit or manual options]|
If searching for payment information online, take care to ensure information is relevant for overseas residents; often information is geared towards UK residents, yet there is a separate HMRC bank account for overseas contributors (see below), and different payment references too.
Bank transfer details for non-UK residents
There is a separate HMRC bank account for overseas residents to make contributions. Note that much of the info on gov.uk steers people towards the details for UK residents, which includes an 18-digit reference number. Overseas residents do not need an 18-digit reference numbers to make NICs, and their payment reference derives from their NINO and name. Please see HMRC payment instructions here for Class 2 and Class 3 (bank details are the same in both cases). For absolute clarity, the bank transfer details are provided below (and this information is ordinarily present on the correspondence HMRC sends when a payment is due):
|Sort Code||20 20 48|
|Account Name||HMRC NIC receipts|
|Bank identifier code (BIC)||BARCGB22|
|Reference||Use your National Insurance number followed by IC, your surname then your initial.
If your name is Anne Jones, you’d write the reference as QQ123456AICJONESA
After making a payment, it may be beneficial to communicate with HMRC confirming the payment amount and the tax year(s) it covers to ensure it is properly allocated on your record.
Sterling cheque details for non-UK residents
The instructions are for all contributors (UK resident and non-UK resident). Be sure to include all information on the instructions, and ask for a receipt if you would like one.
The instructions state that if you do not have an HMRC payslip, you should either include an 18-digit reference number or your National Insurance Number (NINO). Overseas contributors will not ordinarily have an 18-digit reference number, so should include their NINO (if not in possession of an HMRC payslip).
Making back payments
The application form is worded so that it is effectively an application to make ongoing voluntary national insurance contributions (see Q22-23), but there is a box to tick to find out about any shortfalls (Q25). These shortfalls can be back paid.
Ordinarily, back payments are limited to the past 6 years. However, until 5th April 2025 it is possible to pay voluntary contributions to make up for gaps between April 2006 and April 2016 if you’re eligible.
Payments will be due at the current rate, except if you are paying Class 2 contributions for the previous tax year or Class 3 contributions for the previous 2 tax years, when payment will be due at the original rates for those tax years. (Payments made between 6th April 2023 and 31st July 2023 will be at the rates which would have been valid on 5th April 2023 due to a special extension.) There are also provisions for payments to be at original rates for those disadvantaged through an error in the HMRC guidance between 17th November 2017 and 8th April 2019 - refer to NI38 for details.
These payments are entirely voluntary and there is no requirement to pay the maximum amount allowed; you can pay for years of your choosing on a timetable of your choosing (within the rules, and obeying any instructions in the correspondence from HMRC). It could be that different years cost different amounts for the following reasons:
- payments for most years will be at the current rates, but payments for the previous 2 tax years may be at the original rates (see above); furthermore there is a special extension from 6th April 2023 to 31st July 2023 in which rates will be frozen (see above); furthermore there are provisions for payment at the original rates for individuals disadvantaged by a specific error published in the HMRC guidance (see above)
- you could have partially complete years, eg years in which you made some contributions but insufficient to meet the threshold of a qualifying year
- you could have years split between Class 2 and Class 3 rates, eg if you fulfil the criteria for Class 2 but have had gaps between employment abroad, the gaps will be ineligible for Class 2 contributions and so Class 3 rates should be due for those time periods
As with any manual payments, it is highly recommended to contact HMRC to confirm the payment amount and the tax year(s) it represents to enable the contributions to be properly allocated to your national insurance record.
Reporting requirements whilst contributing
HMRC should be informed of any relevant change of circumstances, including:
- change of address
- change of name
- change of employment status
- death of a voluntary contributor
Please note that entitlement to pay Class 2 contributions is only possible if the person is gainfully employed (or self-employed) outside the UK throughout the week each payment relates to. Thus, any gaps between jobs would be likely to create periods of ineligibility for Class 2 contributions.
Claiming and receiving the state pension from abroad
The state pension can be claimed by eligible individuals at any point after reaching state pension age (claims can be lodged up to 4 months in advance; claims can also be backdated up to 12 months). Those resident outside the UK should use an overseas claim form.
A state pension can be deferred, in which case it will be paid at an enhanced rate when claimed. If a pension is not claimed, deferment will be automatic; no action is required to defer it.
Recipients of the state pension resident in Japan will not have their state pension amount uprated annually; it will be 'frozen' at the level upon claiming the state pension.
Recipients of the state pension resident in Japan will ordinarily be liable for Japanese taxes on the pension benefits, and there are ordinarily provisions in place to be exempt from paying UK income tax on such benefits.
Overseas recipients may be required to periodically complete a 'life certificate' in order to continue receiving the state pension.
If a state pension recipient does not receive the full state pension and is eligible to make voluntary contributions, there are provisions to make such contributions to increase the state pension.
Claiming the state pension from abroad
Claims from abroad can be made by phone, or by a paper application. (Since the paper application is complex and requires a signed declaration as well as supporting evidence, the phone method may well be an initial step, to be followed up with paperwork.) The International State Pension claim form for the new state pension (IPC BR1 NSP form) requests a significant amount of detail and evidence, including:
- original birth certificate (or a photocopy signed and stamped by an individual belonging to a very restrictive list of professions)
- address history including dates for all periods of living in the UK, and dates of any other time in the UK such as visits
- full employment details of all time in the UK, including payroll/staff/reference numbers, and (if available) original contribution or National Insurance record cards (?) or notices that you were employed in the UK
- original documentation regarding marital status, if applicable
- information about living and working abroad (country(ies), dates, details of your social security reference number(s) in the overseas country(ies) and name(s) and address(es) of overseas Social Security Authority(ies))
The state pension can be claimed up to four months in advance. It is a good idea to claim in advance as it may take a while for your claim to be processed. A claim can be backdated for a period of up to 12 months, but not to a date before state pension age. If backdating, you will receive a lump sum, and there will be no interest paid. You do not need to provide a reason for backdating. If you claim more than 12 months after reaching state pension age, you are treated as having deferred the state pension.
Deferring the state pension
The state pension can be deferred, and the benefit amount will increase every week you defer, as long as you defer for at least 9 weeks. The state pension increases by the equivalent of 1% for every 9 weeks you defer. This works out as just under 5.8% for every 52 weeks. The extra amount is paid with your regular state pension payment. No action needs to be taken to defer the pension; until you claim it, it will be deferred.
Note that for Japan residents, even if the state pension is deferred and claimed in a tax year when the state pension has been uprated for UK residents, no uprating will apply to the Japan-resident individual. The increases due to deferral are, however, available to all.
Receiving the state pension abroad
Overseas recipients of the state pension can receive the pension either in a UK bank or building society in GBP or in a bank in the country of residence in the local currency.
Recipients can decide whether to receive payments every 4 weeks or every 13 weeks. Payments will be sent in arrears. The initial payment may be for a slightly adjusted time period, but subsequent payments will be for exactly 4 weeks or 13 weeks. (Those whose pension is less than £5 per week will be paid once a year in December.)
The amount of the pension will not be uprated annually for recipients resident in Japan.
Uprating ('frozen' and 'unfrozen' pensions)
State pension recipients resident in the UK and in a selection of other countries will have their pension uprated annually ('unfrozen'). Those resident in countries not on the aforementioned list will not have their pension uprated annually ('frozen'). Japan falls into the 'frozen' category. Thus, a person resident in Japan reaching state pension age in 2022-2023 would have their pension ‘frozen’ at the 2022-2023 payment level.
The individual still has the option to defer the pension to increase the benefit amount as detailed above. The effect of deferring would be a simple 1% increase in benefit for every 9 weeks of deferral. Should the pension actually be claimed in 2023-2024, the new rate for 2023-2024 would not apply to this individual. If an individual with a 'frozen' pension moves to the UK or another eligible country, the pension will be uprated ('unfrozen'); conversely, if an individual with an 'unfrozen' pension moves to a 'frozen' country, the pension will be 'frozen' upon change of residency.
Recipients of 'frozen' pensions remaining in Japan or other 'frozen' countries may have their pension temporarily uprated ('thawed') during visits to the UK and other eligible countries. There is also an annual £10 Christmas bonus which state pension recipients may be eligible for if visiting the UK in early December.
Taxation of state pension benefits for Japan-resident individuals
Information concerning taxation for UK state pension recipients resident in Japan can be found on this wiki. The Japan-UK Double Taxation Convention is a complex document, but the basic principle is that primary taxation rights are assigned to the country of main residence, which in the case of Japan-resident individuals is likely to be Japan. Thus, recipients of the UK state pension resident in Japan are likely to only be subject to Japanese taxes on the pension benefits.
Form Japan 1 DT and 'Japan individual notes' should be used by Japan residents wishing to claim relief on UK income tax on income from UK pensions. Applicants may find it easier to get the Japanese National Tax Agency Office to issue a certificate of residency rather than sign and stamp Form Japan 1 DT.
State pension recipients living outside of the UK may be periodically required to submit a 'life certificate' in order to confirm they are still eligible for the pension. Such a document will need a witness (PDF). Authoritative information on life certificates is limited, but in March 2023, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Laura Trott, made the following written answer:
DWP issues Life Certificates to overseas State Pension customers on a rolling 24-month cycle. Therefore, if a customer receives multiple Life Certificates in this period, when they have already completed and returned a Life Certificate, we recommend that they contact the International Pension Centre helpline on 0044 191 2187777 to ensure that we have received the completed Life Certificate for the period concerned. This will ensure that their State Pension remains in payment and is not subject to a potential temporary suspension.
Making voluntary National Insurance contributions whilst receiving the state pension
If you are already receiving the state pension but are not getting the full amount and have gaps in your National Insurance record eligible for voluntary contributions, you will be able to make voluntary contributions to increase your state pension. This MoneySavingExpert guide notes:
If you're already claiming state pension, HMRC will notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that you've done so, and prompt DWP to carry out a benefit review, so your payments won't increase straightaway. However, the DWP will backdate the increase to the date you made the payment (NOT to the date you started claiming state pension).
Reporting requirements whilst receiving the state pension
- change of name
- change of address
- change of bank details
- death of a state pension recipient
Online access for some aspects of the state pension proves difficult for some people resident overseas. Mail and phone may prove useful. In late 2022, some Japan residents reported that the ID requirements for online access (Government Gateway account, etc) had changed favourably, eliminating some situations where some people were locked out.
The below table summarises the main actions surrounding the state pension and provides links, phone numbers and mailing addresses where known.
NB in early 2023, contacting HMRC by phone is proving extremely difficult for many as documented by MoneySavingExpert. Some RetireJapan members have reported success using +44 161 931 9070 -- see this RetireJapan discussion for further details.
|Access national insurance record||link||+ 44 191 203 7010||National Insurance Contributions and Employers Office
HM Revenue and Customs BX9 1AN
|Determine state pension age||link|
|Retrieve lost NINO||link||Complete Form CA5403 (fill in online then print and post) or Form CA5403 (fully paper version; PDF) together with evidence of identity and send to:
National Insurance Contributions and Employers Office HM Revenue and Customs BX9 1AN
|Retrieve records of employment in the UK||link||+ 44 191 203 7010||SARS/DPU
HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Contributions Office BX9 1AN
|Receive a state pension forecast||link||+44 191 2183600||Complete Form BR19 and send to:
Newcastle Pension Centre Futures Group The Pension Service 9 Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 1LU
|Apply for National Insurance credits||link||+ 44 191 203 7010||Check the link carefully and follow instructions according to your circumstances. In most cases, the instructions to apply for credits which have not been automatically applied are to write to:
PT Operations North East England, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AN, United Kingdom. Include your National Insurance number and say when the credits are for and why you’re eligible.
|Apply to make voluntary NICs from abroad||Cannot be done online||Cannot be done by phone||Complete Form CF38 and send to:
PT Operations North East England HM Revenue and Customs BX9 1AN
|Pay voluntary NICs from abroad||Class 2 Class 3||Follow the instructions for Class 2 or Class 3 voluntary payments by post and send a sterling cheque to the following address (making sure to include all information in the instructions):
HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office BX9 1AN
|Claim the state pension whilst living abroad||Cannot be done online||The International Pension Centre: +44 (0) 191 218 7777||Complete International State Pension claim form IPC BR1 and send to:
International Pension Centre The Pension Service 11 Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 1LW
|Apply for relief from UK income tax on UK state pension income while resident in Japan||Cannot be done online||Complete Form Japan 1 DT and send to:
HM Revenue and Customs Pay as You Earn and Self Assessment BX9 1AS
|Report a change in circumstances||The International Pension Centre: +44 (0) 191 218 7777||International Pension Centre
The Pension Service 11 Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 1LW
|Apply to have the state pension temporarily uprated during a visit to the UK or other eligible countries (all 'unfrozen' countries except USA and Bermuda) and/or apply for a Christmas Bonus||Cannot be done online||The International Pension Centre: +44 (0) 191 218 7777||International Pension Centre
The Pension Service 11 Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 1LW
|Complete a 'life certificate'||Cannot be done online||Cannot be done by phone||Follow instructions on the certificate.|
|Report the death of a voluntary contributor or state pension recipient overseas||The International Pension Centre: +44 (0) 191 218 7777||International Pension Centre
The Pension Service 11 Mail Handling Site A Wolverhampton WV98 1LW
Comparison between UK and Japan state pensions
|Period of contributions||50-52 years (16-state pension age)
(50 years (16-65) for those reaching state pension age now; 52 years (16-67) for those born on or after 6th April 1978)
|40 years (20-59)
(voluntary contributions possible for many from 60-64 and in limited circumstances from 65-69)
|Qualifying years required to receive any benefits||10 (some exceptions)||10 (some exceptions)|
|Qualifying years required to receive full pension||35
(for new state pension; in some cases people who were 'contracted out' may need more qualifying years)
(actually, 480 months; Japanese system is based on months of coverage rather than 'qualifying years')
|Qualifying years for full pension / period of contributions||70% (for those reaching state pension age now);
67% (for those born on or after 6th April 1978)
|State pension age||Currently 66; iterating to 68||65|
|Voluntary contributions possible if not resident in the country?||Yes, if eligible||Yes, but only for Japanese citizens|
|Approximate full pension amount (JPY)||¥1,700,000
(for new state pension)
|¥800,000 for kokumin nenkin; more for kosei nenkin (as a rule of thumb, kosei nenkin benefits will be double kokumin nenkin benefits if monthly remuneration is about ¥300,000)|
|Can you receive the pension before state retirement age?||No||Yes, can receive at a reduced rate any time from 60. At 60, the pension would be paid at 76% of the full rate.|
|Can the pension be deferred?||Yes, indefinitely. The pension increases by 1% for every 9 weeks it is deferred.||Yes, indefinitely. The pension value is 108.4% at age 66 and then increases by 0.7% for every month it is deferred, up to a maximum value of 184% at age 75.|
|Can the pension be received globally?||Yes||Yes|
|2021 Mercer Global Pension Grade (Index)||B
UK state pension resources
- The new State Pension (gov.uk guide)
- State pension if you retire abroad (gov.uk guide)
- Guidance on Social Security Abroad (NI38) and Application to pay National Insurance contributions abroad (CF83) (official guidance and application form)
- HMRC Community Forum: NI contributions (HMRC community forum, with questions answered by HMRC staff)
- The Money Saving Expert guide to voluntary national insurance contributions (generally updated swiftly following any changes to rules; mostly geared to UK-based people, but clearly and comprehensively written)
- The BEST investment for British expats (RetireJapan YouTube guide to UK state pension)
- Age UK State Pension Factsheet (PDF) (Clear, comprehensive, well-written guide to the UK state pension)
- Low Incomes Tax Reform Group guide to National Insurance (contains a clear explanation of qualifying years in plain English)
Further government resources
- The Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001, and in particular, Case F: Residence and Persons Abroad (legislation)
- Relevant section of the National Insurance Manual
- https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/: a wealth of statistical information, including:
- Japan-resident recipients of the UK state pension have risen from 234 (May 2002) to 6,763 (August 2020), an almost 3,000% increase.
- Japan is currently one of the top 20 countries of UK state pension recipients (whether ‘frozen’ or ‘unfrozen’), ranking above Greece, Thailand and India.
- Among the frozen pension countries and territories, Japan currently has the 5th most UK state pension recipients (following Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa)
- Frozen overseas pensions (Feb 2021 House of Commons Library Briefing Paper)
- State Pension age review (Oct 2022 House of Commons Library Research Briefing)
- If you lived and worked in an EU, EEA country, Switzerland or Turkey, time spent there may help you to meet this condition.
- 6th April to 5th April, though there is consideration to change this in the future; see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/exploring-a-change-to-the-uk-tax-year-end-date
UK personal pensions
Former UK residents may have accumulated personal pensions during their time in the UK, including workplace pension schemes and Self-invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs).
Managing UK personal pensions whilst non-UK resident
UK personal pensions can be managed from Japan, but it may not be possible to make new contributions as most providers only accept contributions eligible for tax relief, and most non-residents are not eligible for tax relief. However, some non-UK residents will be classified as relevant UK individuals who are eligible for tax relief, eg those who were based in the UK in the last five years, but some providers may still have additional stipulations, such as contributions from non-UK residents are only accepted if these were set up when UK-resident, even if the individual is a relevant UK individual. Providers known to accept contributions not eligible for tax relief (ie from people outside the UK who are not relevant UK individuals) include:
- [readers are encouraged to add to this list]
Providers should be kept up to date with your address. There may be death benefit nomination forms, which should be kept up to date too.
Transferring to new providers
It is possible to consolidate and transfer existing personal pensions with some providers whilst non-UK resident. This includes transferring a stakeholder pension into a Self-invested Personal Pension (SIPP).
Benefits can ordinarily be taken from 55 years of age. This will change to 57 from 2028 (though if your pension was set up by April 2023, the old rule of 55 may still apply). Some providers may have a maximum age (usually 75) at which the pension must be drawn.
If your life expectancy is less than a year due to serious ill health, you may be able to take the whole pension pot as a lump sum (tax free from the UK perspective).
- Purchase an annuity
- Flexible retirement income (pension drawdown)
- Multiple lump sums
- Single lump sum
- Mixture of the above
Taxation of UK personal pensions for Japan-resident individuals
The Japan-UK Double Tax Convention makes provisions for individuals deemed resident in Japan to only pay Japanese taxes on most UK pensions. Form Japan 1 DT should be used by Japan-resident individuals wishing to claim relief from UK income tax on pension benefits. The same form covers UK personal pensions and the UK state pension.
However, UK Government, local authority and publicly funded educational institution pensions are excluded:
If you receive a pension paid by the UK for service to the UK Government or a local authority, there are special provisions in the Double Taxation Convention. Your pension from that employment will be exempt from UK tax only if you’re a national of Japan or a dual national of the UK and of Japan, as well as being resident there. If these provisions mean that your pension will be taxed in the UK, you may be able to claim UK personal allowances, provided you satisfy certain conditions.
Source: Japan individual notes
Tracing lost or forgotten pensions
UK savings and investments
UK-based savings and investment options are limited for Japan-resident individuals.
Existing accounts can be maintained (and a limited number of providers may allow you to transfer an existing ISA to them), but Japan does not recognise the tax-protected status of these accounts. After becoming a permanent resident for tax purposes (after 5 years of residence in Japan; see residency for tax purposes), income from these accounts are subject to Japanese taxes and should be declared on a tax return.
National Savings and Investments
UK bank accounts and alternatives
UK bank accounts
Options for opening or retaining UK bank accounts whilst resident in Japan may be limited. Readers are encouraged to add information.
Online accounts with UK banking credentials
Wise and Revolut offer multi-currency accounts for residents of Japan. The GBP accounts comes with a UK sort code and account number, and the multi-currency accounts come with debit card which can be used internationally.
Wise multi-currency account
What you can do:
- have UK banking credentials
- make and receive payments, including salaries, pensions, etc.
- convert money at 'real' rates with low fees
- hold money in JPY (but without Japanese banking credentials)
What you cannot do:
- as a Japan resident, hold more than 1 million yen across all currencies (and 'jars')
- issue or pay in cheques
- have JPY banking credentials (you can hold a JPY balance but will not have a Japanese account number and sort code)
- have FCSC protection
Some of the major UK high street banks have offshore accounts designed for expats. Readers are encouraged to add information.
British nationality and British citizenship
Nationality and citizenship laws are complex. This section aims to provide relevant, readable and referenced information for Japan residents, including:
- the different types of British nationality
- the difference between 'British citizen by descent' and 'British citizen otherwise than by descent'
- the citizenship status of children born to one or more British parent
- the difference between automatic acquisition of British citizenship and acquisition by registration or naturalisation
- how to renounce or resume British citizenship
- deprivation of British citizenship (the power of the Home Secretary to revoke an individual's British citizenship in some circumstances)
- considerations regarding Japanese nationality law
There are six types of British nationality, of which British citizenship is the most common. Details of the other five types of British nationality (British overseas territories citizen, British overseas citizen, British subject, British national (overseas) and British protected person) are perhaps beyond the scope of this article, but can be explored in more detail via the gov.uk links above and the HMPO resource below.
British nationality: resources
- This HMPO response to an FOI request (January 2023) (PDF) states:
- (1) how many British passports were issued for each type of nationality (using separate categories for British subject with right of abode and British subject without right of abode) in each month of 2022, and
- (2) how many valid British passports were in circulation for each type of British nationality on 31st December 2022, which may give an indication of the ratios of each type of nationality, though of course many people could hold statuses but not valid passports, and some individuals hold more than one type of British nationality. In terms of British passports held on 31st December 2022, passports of British citizens accounted for about 98.4% of the total.
Gov.uk provides a tool to check if an individual has British citizenship.
British citizens have the right of abode in the UK. A British passport stating 'British citizen' is proof of right of abode; a Certificate of Entitlement to Right of Abode in the United Kingdom can be applied for by British citizens who do not possess British passports, though a British passport is significantly cheaper.
British citizen by descent, and British citizen otherwise than by descent
A British citizen is either a British citizen by descent or a British citizen otherwise than by descent. There is no difference between these two classifications except the automatic ability to pass on British citizenship to their children born overseas.
British citizen otherwise than by descent
A British citizen otherwise than by descent is someone who can pass their citizenship onto a child born overseas. Generally speaking, a British citizen otherwise than by descent is a British citizen who was born, adopted, naturalised or (in some cases) registered in the United Kingdom or a qualifying territory or to a parent working for the crown overseas.
British citizen by descent
A British citizen by descent cannot normally pass on their British citizenship to a child born outside the UK and qualifying territories (unless working for the crown overseas). One large class of British citizens by descent are children born outside the UK to one parent who was a British citizen otherwise than by descent.
British citizen by descent or otherwise: further reading
This six-page government summary provides further detail in a readable format.
The text of the underpinning legislation can be accessed here:
Children of British citizens
Below is a summary of the British citizenship status of children in four scenarios (considering whether the parent is a British citizen by descent or otherwise, and whether the child is born in the UK or overseas):
|British citizen otherwise than by descent
(eg born, adopted, naturalised in the UK or qualifying territories, or to a parent working for the crown overseas)
|British citizen by descent
(eg born overseas, excluding qualifying territories, and excluding to a parent working for the crown overseas)
|Born in UK
(or a qualifying territory, or to a parent working for the crown overseas)
|British citizen otherwise than by descent||British citizen otherwise than by descent|
(excluding qualifying territories, and excluding to a parent working for the crown overseas)
|British citizen by descent
(in the case of these exceptions, the child is not automatically a British citizen, but registration as a British citizen will normally be possible)
|Not automatically a British citizen
(registration of the child as a British citizen might be possible if eligibility requirements are met)
Broadly speaking, British citizens are able to pass on their citizenship whilst abroad for one generation. The subsequent generation of children will not automatically have British citizenship if they are also born abroad. They may, however, be eligible for registration as British citizens, which is a less arduous process than naturalisation. However, it is important to note the exceptions to automatic transmission of British citizenship listed in bullet points in the table above, and detailed more fully in the registration section.
Children of British citizens by descent
British citizens by descent cannot always pass on British citizenship automatically to their children. However, there are a number of cases whereby their child(ren) could automatically be British citizens upon birth or could be registered as British citizens as minors, including:
|Section of the British Nationality Act 1981 under which the child has a claim to British citizenship||Brief description of the eligibility criteria||Automatically a British citizen?||If registration is required, is the route to British citizenship an 'entitlement' or a 'discretion'||British citizen by descent or British citizen otherwise than by descent|
|Section 1(1)||Child born in the UK||Yes||N/A||British citizen otherwise than by descent|
|Section 2(1)||Child's other parent is a British citizen otherwise than by descent; child is born overseas (in this case, the child's British citizenship derives from the child's other parent)||Yes||N/A||British citizen by descent|
|Section 3(2)||The British citizen by descent spends three or more years in the UK at any time prior to the birth of his/her child (overseas) and one or both of his/her parents were British citizens otherwise than by descent; other parent is not a British citizen otherwise than by descent; application for registration is made while the child is a minor||No
(registration required before the child is 18)
|Entitlement||British citizen by descent|
|Section 3(5)||The British citizen by descent, the child (born overseas), and the other parent (unless death or divorce prevent this) spend three years in the UK immediately prior to application for registration while the child is a minor, and both parents (if possible) consent to the application; other parent is not a British citizen otherwise than by descent||No
(registration required before the child is 18)
|Entitlement||British citizen otherwise than by descent|
Children adopted by a British citizen overseas are sometimes eligible for registration as British citizens via Section 3(1). However, adoptions in Japan will not be eligible, because Japan does not appear on any of the following lists:
- before 3 January 2014 in a ‘designated country’
- after 3 January 2014 in a country that is listed in the Adoption (Recognition of Overseas Adoptions) Order 2013 or the Adoption (Recognition of Overseas Adoptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 and the Adoption (Recognition of Overseas Adoptions) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations
- through a Hague Convention adoption
Registration as a British citizen
Section 3: registration of a minor as a British citizen
Registration of a minor as a British Citizen is available in cases as discussed above, including:
- Section 3(2): a British citizen by descent spends three or more years in the UK at any time prior to the birth of his/her child and one or both of his/her parents were British citizens otherwise than descent, the child (born overseas) should have entitlement to be registered as a British citizen provided he/she is a minor at the time of registration
- Section 3(5): a British citizen by descent, his/her child (born overseas), and the other parent (unless death or divorce prevent this) spend three years in the UK immediately prior to application for registration while the child is a minor, and both parents (if possible) consent to the application
Section 3(2) registrations give the child British citizenship by descent, whereas Section 3(5) registrations give the child British citizenship otherwise than by descent. In cases where an application for registration by Section 3(2) is made prior to a child's 15th birthday (ie in cases where it would still be possible for the child and parent(s) to live in the UK for three years before the child reaches 18 and apply via Section 3(5)), there are two checkboxes on the application form to state you are aware of the implications of this and want to proceed anyway.
Section 3(2) and Section 3(5) both have three-year rules. The below table examines who these rules apply to, the deadlines, and the wording of the legislation:
|Who the three-year rule applies to||When must the three-year stay be completed||Wording of the three-year rule|
|Section 3(2)||The British citizen by descent||Before the birth of the child||as regards some period of three years ending with a date not later than the date of the birth:
(i) the parent in question was in the United Kingdom (or a qualifying territory) at the beginning of that period; and
(ii) the number of days on which the parent in question was absent from the United Kingdom (and the qualifying territories) in that period does not exceed 270.
Thus, a period of less than three years but with fewer than 270 days of absence might satisfy this condition
|Section 3(5)||The British citizen by descent and
the other parent (if possible) and the child
|Before application for registration, which must occur before the child is 18||that person and his father and mother were in the United Kingdom (or a qualifying territory) at the beginning of the period of three years ending with the date of the application and that, in the case of each of them, the number of days on which the person in question was absent from the United Kingdom (and the qualifying territories) in that period does not exceed 270|
Registration of a minor via Section 3 involves an application and a fee of £1,012 (unless a fee waiver is applied for and granted). Guidance for the application should be followed in full, as part of the application form requires you to confirm you have understood the guidance. Ordinarily, two referees are required. Should a minor turn 18 before approval, a citizenship ceremony and the corresponding fee is required.
Registration under Section 3 is not possible for adults.
Section 4 (applicable to adults and minors)
Section 4 allows registration for adults and minors in certain circumstances.
Possibly of most relevance to the intended readership of the wiki is the legislation which allows registration for people who were previously excluded British citizenship due to unequal legal provision between the transmissibility of citizenship from father and mother, and unequal treatment depending on a parent's marital status. More specifically:
- Before 1 January 1983 British women were not able to pass on citizenship to children born outside the UK in the same way as British men. Children born before 1 January 1983 to British mothers can apply for registration as a British citizen under Section 4C of the British Nationality Act 1981. They will normally qualify if they would have become British citizens automatically under that Act had women been able to pass on citizenship in the same way as men. Form UKM and the guidance should be used.
- Before 1 July 2006 a British man could not pass on citizenship to a child born outside the UK if he was not married to the child’s mother. Similarly, a child born between 1 January 1983 and 30 June 2006 in the UK to a settled or British citizen father might not have become a British citizen if the parents were not married. Children born to unmarried British or settled fathers can apply for registration as a British citizen under sections 4G – 4I of the British Nationality Act 1981. They will normally qualify if they would have become British citizens automatically under that Act had their parents been married. The application form (Form UKF) and guidance can be found here.
- A child born on or after 1 July 2006 to a British father whose mother was married to someone other than the natural father has entitlement to registration as a British citizen provided they would have become British citizens automatically had their (natural) father been married to their mother, and are of good character. The application form (Form UKF(M)) and guidance can be found here.
Gov.uk guidance can be found here.
Applications for registration via Sections 4C, 4G, 4H, 4I should be made as below:
- Form UKM (born before 1983 to a British mother)
- Form UKF (born before 1 July 2006 to a British father and your parents were not married)
- Form UKF(M) (born on or after July 2006 and your mother was married to someone other than your natural father)
Adult applications only cost £80, which is the cost of the citizenship ceremony. Child application fees are not stated on the fees page, but are presumed to be free (given that adult application fees only cover the cost of the citizenship ceremony, and children do not undertake citizenship ceremonies) unless the child turns 18 prior to approval, in which case a citizenship ceremony and the corresponding fee is required.
Other sub-sections of Section 4 deal with rules for British overseas territories citizens, etc., not elaborated on in this article.
An example of a registration certificate can be found here.
Naturalisation as a British citizen
Individuals wishing to naturalise as a British citizen should check the gov.uk guidance carefully, as eligibility criteria are dependent on circumstances.
A summary of conditions for two main routes to naturalisation are shown below:
|Route to naturalisation||Summary of specific conditions||Link||Summary of general conditions|
|Spouse or civil partner of a British citizen||
|Indefinite Leave to Remain (IDL) or Settled Status||
An example of a naturalisation certificate can be found here.
Persons aged 18 or over who have successfully applied to become British citizens are required to attend a citizenship ceremony (including those who turn 18 before their application is accepted). The fee for the ceremony is ordinarily included in the application fee, but those who turn 18 before their application is accepted may have to pay the fee separately.
People residing outside the United Kingdom can elect to have their British citizenship ceremony at a British embassy or consulate in their country of residence. Between 2017 and 2020 (inclusive) there were 6 British citizenship ceremonies conducted in Japan.
Renunciation and resumption of British citizenship
British nationals who wish to naturalise as Japanese, and people who possess both British and Japanese nationalities (a large sub-set of whom would be offspring of British and Japanese nationals aged below 20 years of age) and who wish to retain their Japanese nationality when their deadline for their choice of nationality approaches, may wish to renounce their British nationality in order to comply with Japanese nationality law.
Applicants must be aged 18 or over. Online applications are encouraged, but applicants may wish to consult the paper application form to see the questions in their entirety before entering data online on a page by page basis. The guidance and fee information should also be consulted.
If an application is successful, a certificate of renunciation will be received. If a successful applicant doesn’t already have Japanese citizenship, he or she will have six months to gain citizenship, otherwise the British renunciation will be invalid.
You have a right (once only) to be registered as a British citizen if you previously renounced British citizenship in order to keep or acquire another citizenship (resumption). Further instances are at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
Deprivation of British citizenship
The Home Secretary has the power to take away a person’s British citizenship if they consider it conducive to the public good, or if the person obtained their citizenship by fraud. This cannot ordinarily happen if such a move would render an individual stateless or unable to acquire another citizenship. Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 is the relevant legislation. A related measure is the withdrawal of a British passport, but such a measure does not affect the individual's citizenship. Deprivation of British citizenship and withdrawal of passports is a comprehensive House of Commons Library report published in January 2023.
Considerations with Japanese nationality law
Japanese nationality law has some aspects which might affect British citizens or those considering becoming British citizens. These include:
- children who automatically acquire both Japanese and British citizenship at birth are entitled to keep both citizenships until their choice of nationality
- British citizens wishing to naturalise as Japanese need to renounce their British citizenship in order to naturalise
- Japanese citizens wishing to naturalise as British will lose their Japanese nationality upon naturalisation
Summary of applications relating to British citizenship mentioned above
|Action||Section of British Nationality Act 1981||Online application||Paper application form||Guidance||Cost||Notes|
|Naturalisation||Section 6||link||AN||AN guidance||£1,330|
|Registration of child (S3)||Section 3||link||MN1||MN1 guidance||£1,012||£80 extra for those who turn 18 before acceptance; this extra is for the citizenship ceremony|
|Registration of child/adult (S4C-I)||Section 4C-I||link (UKM) (born before 1983 to a British mother)
link (UKF) (born before 1 July 2006 to a British father and your parents were not married)
UKF(M): online application not found; (born on or after July 2006 and your mother was married to someone other than your natural father)
|UKM (born before 1983 to a British mother)
UKF (born before 1 July 2006 to a British father and your parents were not married)
UKF(M) (born on or after July 2006 and your mother was married to someone other than your natural father)
|UKM guidanceUKF guidanceUKF(M) guidance||£0/£80||£80 for adult applicants and those who turn 18 before acceptance; the cost is for the citizenship ceremony|
|Renunciation of British citizenship||Section 12||link||RN||RN guidance||£372|
|Resumption of British citizenship||Section 13||(Online application not found)||RS1||RS1 guidance||£1,206|
British citizenship: resources
- Citizenship: Detailed Data Tables (Immigration System Statistics, year ending Dec 2022) The above resource includes the following datasets in Excel sheets:
- Cit_D01: Applications for British citizenship, by application type and nationality
- Cit_D02: Grants of British citizenship, by application type, nationality, sex and age
- Cit_D03: British citizenship ceremonies attended, by local authority
- In 2022, 54 Japanese nationals naturalised as British citizens and 21 Japanese nationals registered as British citizens
- There were 0 British citizenship ceremonies conducted at the British Embassy in Tokyo in 2020, 1 in 2019, 2 in 2018 and 3 in 2017; 2005 has the highest number of citizenship ceremonies in Japan in the data set with 17 (10 at the British Embassy in Tokyo and 7 at the British Consulate General in Osaka)
Applying for a British passport whilst resident in Japan
British nationals resident in Japan who require the issuance, replacement or renewal of a British passport should apply as overseas applicants. The overseas application fee is higher and the processing time is generally longer than for UK-based applications because it can be more difficult to assess overseas applications. British passports are issued from HM Passport Office (HMPO) in the UK and are delivered overseas by courier.
An Emergency Travel Document (ETD) may be issued rapidly from Japan (or other overseas embassies, consulates and high commissions) in cases where a passport is lost, stolen, damaged, full, or at HMPO, an embassy, consulate or high commission ahead of imminent travel.
- some of the general gov.uk passport information does not apply to overseas applications and
- the main gov.uk page for overseas passport applications invites readers to "get the forms, prices and application details you need if you’re a British national and you want to renew or apply for a British passport from overseas". However, the page does not contain any links to the paper application form, and is essentially a tool to start an online application.
- there are different groups of countries, yet it is not clear that the current membership of each groups is published (readers are invited to share details if they find this information). Japan is in Group 1, as confirmed by the HMPO electronic query service.
The online application requires basic information to determine the type of passport application, then a photo before proceeding to the questions which are presented on a screen-by-screen basis without an option to see the whole set of questions. Therefore, online applicants may wish to consult the paper application form, guidance, and supporting documents before proceeding with the online application, though should read the italicised note below and do their own due diligence to check that any guidance applies to online applications.
The guidance document states that it supports the 'OS application form' (the paper form for overseas applications), and some of the information (eg "write in capitals in black ink") is clearly geared towards the paper form. The supporting documents guidance does not state it is to support any particular application method.
Many online applications will require a digital referee, with a notable exception being adult passport renewals where no details have changed and with the likeness of the applicant still being recognisable from the previous passport.
Warning: the main gov.uk resource for digital referees only provides information relevant to UK applicants, which appears to be a big oversight, given that almost half a million overseas passport applications are made per year.
A link provided during the online application includes details for both UK and overseas applicants and should be referenced instead of the link in italics above.
Also, Confirming identity: countersignatories and digital referees (HMPO caseworker guidance) gives the full rules and explains the identity confirmation process in more detail. For overseas applicants, the basic eligibility criteria are:
- at least 18 years of age
- have a British, EU, US or Commonwealth passport (NB UK applicants can only use British passport holders who are UK resident, or Irish passport holders if confirming identity via the offline method)
- be working in or retired from a recognised list of professions and/or be of 'good standing in the community' (there are some discrepancies in the wording between different gov.uk sources)
It is possible for the digital referee to complete the identity checks offline via a 1-page countersignatory form in some circumstances.
Countersignatures will be needed in many cases (with a major exception being simple renewal of an adult passport with no changes and with the likeness of the applicant being still recognisable from the previous passport); details and rules are found in the gov.uk countersigning link, on pages 12-13 of the guidance and in Confirming identity: countersignatories and digital referees (HMPO caseworker guidance). Note that for overseas applicants countersignatories can be holders of current British, Irish, EU, US or Commonwealth passports, whereas UK applicants must use countersignatories who hold current British or Irish passports. (Uncancelled but expired British passports may be acceptable as below although two differing parts of gov.uk word things differently; other passports should be currently valid.)
- The gov.uk countersigning link states that overseas applications will be more swiftly processed if British or Irish countersignatories are used. It does not mention a preference between these two options. However, see below:
- The HMPO caseworker guidance on confirming identity states that the order of preference of citizenship of countersignatory is British, Irish, EU, US, Commonwealth (and it states in the notes on discretion that exceptionally other passport holders could act as countersignatories)
Furthermore, there's another discrepancy:
- The gov.uk countersigning link states that a British countersignatory must hold a current British passport
- The HMPO caseworker guidance on confirming identity states that "an uncancelled British passport (this can be a current or expired passport that has not been replaced)" is permissible.
There appears to be a discrepancy in information regarding supporting documents between the paper application form and the supporting documents guidance, which could be relevant for dual nationals who hold non-British passports:
|Paper application form; Section 3B||You must send us all uncancelled passports with the application.|
|Supporting documents||Uncancelled non-British passports: Please send us a colour photocopy of your non-British passport (every page including blank pages). We retain the right to ask for the original passport. We will let you know by email or post if we need you to send it to us.|
That's quite a difference. Having to surrender the actual non-British passport(s) for an extended period (as the paper application suggests) could be significantly more burdensome than supplying colour photocopies.
- it is possible to make minor changes to your name on your passport, eg deleting middle names. Individuals running into repeated name issues in Japan might consider this, though it could cause problems as well as solving some. See the below note, too.
- if you hold any non-British passports and are applying for a British passport, the name and gender on your British passport must match that on your non-British passport(s)
- a consular birth registration certificate cannot be used as a birth certificate; a translated version of the locally issued birth certificate must be used
- you are free to renew your passport at any time (unlike undamaged Japanese passports which cannot ordinarily be renewed unless details have changed or there is less than one year of validity remaining or three or fewer blank pages remaining)
- since 10th September 2018, any remaining validity on an unexpired passport will not be transferred to the new passport. This is to "meet international guidelines relating to maximum passport validity". Holders of British passports issued prior to 10th September 2018 may have passports with a validity of up to 10 years and 9 months. Some countries do not allow entry to holders of passports issued more than 10 years ago, and passport holders should do their own due diligence.
- www.passportwaitingtime.co.uk is a crowdsourced website giving statistics of recent processing times, categorised by application type and passport office, and the site also hosts a forum with passport-related questions.
Fees for overseas passport applications
From 2nd February 2023, the fees for overseas applications are as follows:
(5 years duration; available to children under 16)
(10 years duration; available to individuals aged 16 or older)
|Online application||Standard (34-page)||£61||£94|
|Frequent traveller (50-page)||£72||£105|
|Postal application||Standard (34-page)||£71.50||£104.50|
|Frequent traveller (50-page)||£82.50||£115.50|
- The fee is waived in full for individuals born on or before 2nd September 1929 for a standard 34-page passport (full fee due for frequent traveller passport)
- The fee is higher for overseas applicants than UK-based applicants because it can be more difficult to establish whether an overseas applicant is entitled to a UK passport (from 2nd February 2023, the overseas fee is £10.50 higher the UK fee for all application types)
- Overseas residents cannot avoid the higher fee for overseas applications by applying in the UK by post or online
- A mandatory courier fee (£19.86 to overseas addresses as of April 2023) will apply in addition to the passport fee
- Unlike the UK fees which are clearly published, gov.uk does not appear to present the fees in a clear table/chart as above; this wiki author/editor had to derive the fees from the 2023 and 2022 legislation, and verify by inputting dummy details into online applications to the point where payment amounts (including the 50-page frequent traveller option) were presented
Applying for a British passport whilst visiting the UK
Applicants wishing to apply for a British passport as an overseas resident while visiting the UK should follow this process.
Multiple passport applications within a family or couple
Multiple passport applications within a family or couple may be sent together, which might negate the need for applicants to supply multiple copies of the same supporting documents. The link provides full guidance, including the following important points:
- if each person has been given a different address (ie different passport office), you can send all applications in one envelope to one of the addresses
- all application references must be written on the envelope above the address
Additional British passports
It is possible to apply for additional British passports, for reasons including frequent travellers and those travelling to "incompatible countries".
There appears to be no customer-facing guidance; the above link is the HMPO caseworker guidance, which states "the additional passport service is not widely promoted and there is no separate service type on the passport issuing system for processing these."
Reporting a lost or stolen passport
You can report and cancel a lost or stolen passport online.
However, an application for an Emergency Travel Document (ETD) automatically counts as the reporting and cancelling of the lost or stolen passport; this does not need to be done separately.
This 2018 government press release gives further information and statistics about the importance of cancelling the passport as soon as possible to minimise the risk of identity fraud.
Reporting the death of a British passport holder and cancelling the passport
Follow this guide (including Form D1) to send a deceased British citizen's passport back to HMPO.
Withdrawal or withholding of British passports
British passports are issued at the discretion of the Home Secretary under the Royal Prerogative (an executive power which does not require legislation). They can be withdrawn or withheld using the same discretionary power. Withdrawal of passports is not the same as withdrawing citizenship. Someone whose passport is withdrawn remains a British citizen but their overseas travel is restricted. Home Office policy states this will be done “sparingly”, such as where the person intends to travel abroad to engage in terrorism.
Source: Deprivation of British citizenship and withdrawal of passports (House of Commons Library, January 2023)
British passports: advice and complaints
Contact details for HMPO include phone, post and an online enquiry form.
British passport: ranking
The British passport is ranked 3rd in the world by the Guide Passport Ranking Index 2023, based on the 'degree of global entry' the passport affords.
Emergency Travel Document (ETD)
An Emergency Travel Document (ETD) can be issued rapidly to a British national outside the UK in limited circumstances, eg if a British passport is lost, stolen, damaged, full, or with HMPO or a foreign embassy or consulate ahead of imminent travel. The ETD will allow travel to a destination country, transiting a maximum of 5 countries, and a return to the country of issuance is permissible if the applicant lives in that country. Travel plans (countries and dates) are printed on the ETD, and no changes to the itinerary are permitted. A non-refundable fee of £100 is required upon application. The gov.uk site suggests that in straightforward cases, an ETD should be ready in 2 working days. An interview at the embassy or consulate may be required. In the case of a lost or stolen passport, an application for an ETD automatically counts as the reporting and cancelling of the lost or stolen passport; this does not need to be done separately.
Emergency Travel Document (ETD) resources
- What to do if you lose your British passport abroad (2019 Freemovement.org.uk blog by a UK immigration and nationality solicitor who went through the process of obtaining and using an ETD himself following the loss of his passport in Greece; clear and comprehensive write-up)
- Government data suggests that between 150 and 200 ETDs were issued in Japan in 2019.
British passports: resources
- HM Passport Office home page
- HM Passport Office: passports policies (a set of publications intended for use for HMPO caseworkers but published for transparency; comprehensive guide to multiple facets of passports policies)
- HM Passport Office data: 2022 Q4 (gov.uk published data)
- In 2022, there were 477,839 overseas passport applications representing 5.7% of the total applications
- In 2021, there were 433,908 overseas passport applications representing 8.8% of the total applications
- In 2020, there were 614,366 overseas passport applications representing 15.2% of the total applications
- In 2019, there were 593,969 overseas passport applications representing 8.7% of the total applications
- In 2018, there were 434,177 overseas passport applications representing 6.4% of the total applications
- Investigation into the performance of HM Passport Office (Dec 2022 National Audit Office report)
- www.passportwaitingtime.co.uk (an independent crowdsourced website giving statistics of recent passport processing times categorised by application type and passport office; the site also has a forum with passport-related questions)
- How to renew a British passport from Japan (City-Cost, 2022. Well-written account with useful info for the photo and mailing stages in particular for Japan residents)
- Deprivation of British citizenship and withdrawal of passports (House of Commons Library, January 2023)
Voting and representation
Currently, British citizens aged 18 and above who are resident outside the UK are usually eligible to vote in UK Parliament Elections and some referendums up to 15 years after leaving the UK, provided that they were registered to vote before leaving the UK (or a parent/guardian was registered if the citizen was too young to vote before they left the UK). They are known as overseas electors.
Overseas electors must register in the constituency in which they were registered before leaving the UK. Those who never registered to vote before leaving the UK are ineligible to register as overseas electors, with the exception of those who left the UK as children, who are able to register using a parent or guardian's registration address (if a parent or guardian was registered).
Under current rules, registration must be renewed annually. (This is anticipated to change to once every three years in 2024.)
Eligible individuals may be able to register to vote before turning 18 and are sometimes known as 'attainers'. Such attainers are able to vote in any eligible elections on or after their 18th birthday.
Registering and voting in England, Wales and Scotland
You can use the online service to register to vote. Alternatively, select the relevant application form here, complete and post to your Electoral Registration Officer whose address can be found via www.electoralcommission.org.uk.
Within the registration process, you will ordinarily be asked for your preferred voting method (in person, proxy, or by post). The Electoral Commission recommends that overseas voters should consider appointing a proxy to vote on their behalf because of the short period available for ballots to be sent and returned from overseas during an election.
- Those wishing to vote by proxy should complete the application to vote by proxy for a British citizen living overseas. Further details of proxy voting, including if your proxy wishes to vote by post, and various methods to cancel a proxy vote, can be found on this Electoral Commission page.
- Those wishing to vote by post should complete the application form.
You can find and contact your local Electoral Registration Office online.
Registering and voting in Northern Ireland
Those applying to register as an overseas elector in Northern Ireland should use the Northern Ireland overseas elector registration form.
- Voting by proxy is possible, and an applicant should complete an application form. Note that a reason for the proxy vote (disability, employment or education) needs to be given, and this requirement could potentially disenfranchise applicants as they may not be disabled, employed or engaged in education, but simply living abroad (retired, perhaps).
- Voting by post is not possible for overseas electors.
You can contact the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland by various methods as described in the link.
'Votes for life'
The Elections Act 2022 makes provision for 'votes for life' for eligible British citizens living abroad. However, secondary legislation is required before the provisions of the Act can be fully implemented. This is expected to happen in 2023, with overseas voters being able to vote under new rules from 2024.
Some key expected changes are:
- Removal of the 15-year rule; overseas electors will have 'votes for life'
- Eligibility for registration will be simplified to those previously registered to vote in the UK or previously resident in the UK. In particular, this eliminates the current situation whereby some people are disenfranchised due to the choices of their parents or guardians: currently those who move abroad as children are only able to register to vote if a parent/guardian was registered to vote.
- Registration renewal to be every three years (rather than the current annual renewal)
Two readable yet authoritative resources providing further detail can be found here:
- Overseas electors: Delivering ‘votes for life’ for British expatriates (Feb 2022 government Policy Paper)
- Overseas voters (Jan 2023 House of Commons Library Briefing Paper)
The MP for your registered constituency will be your representative in parliament.
You can contact your MP via email or letter.
Most MPs receive a high volume of communication and many will only respond to constituents, and some have an auto-reply stating that they will only respond if you confirm your address. In the case of overseas voters, it might be worth concisely but clearly stating your ties, eg "I am contacting you as a registered overseas voter in your constituency (my address is XXX Japan; until January 20XX I was registered to vote with a postcode of XXX YYY)."
Voting and representation resources
- Voting if you move or live abroad (Gov.uk guide)
- Overseas electors (Electoral Commission guide with full criteria and references regarding the current 15-year rule)
- Overseas electors: Delivering ‘votes for life’ for British expatriates (Feb 2022 government Policy Paper)
- Overseas voters (Jan 2023 House of Commons Library Briefing Paper)
- Who can vote in UK elections? (Sept 2022 House of Commons Library Briefing Paper)
- Overseas electoral registration for England and Wales, by Parliamentary constituency, 2017 to 2020 (Office for National Statistics)
Exchanging a GB or NI licence for a Japanese licence
It is possible to exchange a valid GB or NI driving licence for a Japanese driving licence without taking a practical driving test. One of the requirements is at least three months of residence in the UK since the licence was issued. Acceptable proof of this may vary on a case by case basis.
In my experience (sample of 1), although the process is called "exchange", I kept my GB licence, and acquired a Japanese one.
Notes on GB licences whilst non-resident
It can be difficult to find authoritative information on the status of GB licences for non residents. Some considerations are:
- Even if a GB licence is "exchanged" for a Japanese licence, the physical GB licence might be retained (see above)
- DVLA must be informed of change of personal details including change of address (and there can be a fine of up to £1,000 for non compliance)... yet only a GB address can be included on a GB licence
- A GB licence cannot be renewed whilst not resident in GB
- Non-residents (and recent arrivals to GB) cannot apply for GB licences, eg a British citizen resident abroad cannot simply book and take a GB driving test on a visit or short period of residency in Great Britain
Some resources are:
- Information on driving licences (INS57P): a DVLA guide published on gov.uk, and updated multiple times since original publication
- The Road Traffic Act 1988 and in particular Part III: Licensing of drivers of vehicles: the legislation underpinning driving licences
Driving in the UK as a resident of Japan
For information about driving in GB and NI as a Japan resident, see #Driving_in_GB_and_NI_as_a_resident_of_Japan.
Taxation and HMRC
Japan-UK Double Tax Convention
The Japan-UK Double Tax Convention exists to minimise the effects of being doubly taxed by Japan and the UK.
Living or working abroad or offshore: detailed information - UK Government taxation guide for non-UK-residents.
Depending on circumstances, the following forms may be applicable for applying to HMRC for relief/exemption/refund on UK taxes. Please refer to the guidance notes for each form.
- Form Japan-1-DT is for use by an individual resident in Japan receiving pensions, interest or royalties arising in the UK to apply for relief from UK income tax.
- Form Japan-2-DT is for use by a company or concern resident in Japan receiving interest or royalties arising in the UK to apply for relief from UK income tax. (Do not use this form to claim exemption from UK tax on interest under Article 11(3) of the Double Taxation Convention. Use form Japan-3-DT.)
- Form Japan-3-DT is for use by an entity identified in Article 11(3) of the Double Taxation Convention to apply for exemption from UK income tax on interest.
- Form Japan-4-DT is for use by a company or concern resident in Japan to claim repayment of UK income tax deducted from property income dividends paid by UK Real Estate Investment Trusts (‘UK-REITs’).
- Form UK REIT-DT-Individual is for use by an individual resident in a country with which the UK has a double tax treaty or convention that provides for relief from UK income tax on dividends paid by UK Real Estate Investment Trusts (‘UK-REITs’).
Certificate of residency
Your local Japanese tax office can supply a bilingual certificate of residency (PDF) for the purposes of claiming double tax convention benefits. It may prove to be much easier to get the Japanese tax office to issue this rather than signing and stamping a section on one of the above HMRC forms.
Personal experience is that it was relatively quick and straightforward to gain a refund from HMRC on doubly taxed royalties (Form Japan-1-DT), but it is proving a long-running saga for HMRC to issue tax exemption certificates which would prevent my UK payers of royalties from withholding UK income tax in the first place. The tax residency certificate worked in place of the Japanese tax office stamping and signing the HMRC form.
Claiming UK personal allowances and/or tax repayments overseas
Form R43 can be used to claim UK personal allowances and tax repayments by eligible individuals not resident in the UK.
HMRC Subject Access Request (SAR)
Individuals have the right to make a Subject Access Request (SAR) with HMRC. This allows the individual to access information HMRC holds on them, and a request could include:
- employment history
- record of earnings
- tax paid
- National Insurance Contributions paid
- benefits received
- record of written correspondence or telephone calls
Thus, an SAR could be useful for retrieving information that may be required for an application to make voluntary NICs, for claiming a UK state pension, or for other purposes.
The SAR can be made online, by phone or webchat, or in writing, and there is no charge. Ordinarily, the request will be actioned within one month of receipt.
National Insurance Number (NINO)
A National Insurance Number (NINO) is a unique identifier primarily used for national insurance purposes. Most people growing up in the UK are issued a NINO automatically; adults such as inbound migrants and others who did not receive a NINO automatically are able to apply for a NINO if eligible. However, non-UK residents are not eligible to apply for a NINO.
- Methods of retrieving a lost NINO can be found on this gov.uk page
- A NINO is required to make voluntary National Insurance Contributions
- A NINO can be used as a UK Tax Identification Number (TIN). For example, if you are dual tax resident in the UK and Japan and open a Japanese bank account, the Japanese bank will require your UK TIN.
- NINO section of National Insurance Manual
- National Insurance numbers (NINOs): readable 2021 Commons Library Research Briefing on NINOs, with clear wording on who has a right to apply for a NINO and the process for so doing
The HMRC Charter includes seven standards (1. getting things right, 2. making things easy, 3. being responsive, 4. treating you fairly, 5. being aware of your personal situation, 6. recognising that someone can represent you, 7. keeping your data secure)
There is a link to the HMRC complaints process.
There is also an invitation to provide feedback:
HMRC welcomes any feedback about your interactions with them and how they have performed against the Charter. You can email HMRC.Charter@hmrc.gov.uk.
UK inheritance tax (IHT)
UK inheritance tax might be relevant for some individuals in Japan, including (a) people who die and whose estates contained UK assets, or whose history of domicile etc meant their estate is liable for UK inheritance tax, and (b) beneficiaries of UK estates (who wouldn't pay UK IHT directly, unless they'd received certain gifts in the 7 years prior to death, but who may need to be aware of the estate's UK IHT calculations in order to correctly file for Japanese IHT). Japanese inheritance tax may also be due. The wiki article in the link provides a summary of Japanese inheritance tax with a section on transnational inheritance.
Note that in the UK, inheritance tax is levied on an estate, whereas in Japan, tax is levied on the beneficiaries. However, unlike some countries (eg Germany), Japan may credit foreign tax already paid on the estate, to prevent duplication of tax for the beneficiary.
Beneficiaries of UK estates which have already been subjected to UK inheritance tax may have a 'foreign tax credit' applied to any bill for Japanese inheritance tax. The UK inheritance tax payment deadline is ordinarily the end of the sixth month after the month in which the person died. The Japanese inheritance tax deadline is 10 months after the death. In both cases, it is possible to file and pay an estimated return, and correct at a later date. Ordinarily, it is possible to pay the UK IHT bill first (provisionally or otherwise) and then use the 'foreign tax credit system' to offset some of the Japanese IHT bill, if relevant.
Some potential complications:
- As of 2023, Japan considers gifts given in the 3 years prior to the death as part of the estate (changing to 7 years in 2024, with staggered implementation), whereas the UK looks back 7 years. Also, UK allowances on gifts, including the annual allowance, small gifts allowance, wedding gift allowance, etc, would not be recognised by Japan. Therefore, the estate could be considered to be of different sizes by the two tax authorities, so careful records of relevant gifts should be kept.
- Funeral expenses are deductible from the estate in both the UK and Japanese systems. However, there might not be alignment as to the exact nature of the allowable expenses within this category.
- Certain trusts may be considered outside of the estate for UK IHT purposes, but in Japan, a gift bequeathed upon death, even in the form of a trust or other 'testamentary gift', would be considered part of the 'estate' for Japanese IHT purposes
UK inheritance tax resources
- Inheritance tax (Gov.uk guide)
- Inheritance tax forms (full set of HMRC forms and guidance)
- Inheritance tax (MoneySavingExpert guide)
- Inheritance tax (Age UK guide)
- A guide to inheritance tax (MoneyHelper guide)
- HMRC Inheritance Tax Manual (HMRC internal manual)
- Inheritance Tax Act 1984 (legislation)
UK birth certificates and British consular birth registration
UK birth certificates
Babies born in the UK are issued with a UK birth certificate irrespective of nationality and residency. The birth certificate provides a record of the birth registration, and is in no way related to citizenship or residency.
Short certificates and long certificates
There are two forms of UK birth certificates:
- short certificate, which records only the baby's details
- long certificate, which also records the parents' details (NB certificates issued in Scotland do not state the parents' place of birth)
A short certificate is issued for free at birth.
Ordering copies of certificates
Copies of the either the short or long certificate can be ordered by anyone at any time (under UK legislation they are classed as 'public records'). The process for ordering varies according to where the birth was registered:
- England and Wales (also see How to order and pay for civil registration records: Getting the most from the General Register Office)
- Northern Ireland
In addition to these centralised register offices, it may be possible to order copies from the local register office where the birth was registered. Indeed, for births which occurred within the last six months, the General Register Office (for England and Wales) is unable to issue certificates and advises individuals to contact the local register office.
Examples of uses of UK birth certificates for Japan residents
Some potential uses of a UK birth certificate mentioned on this wiki include:
- British consular birth registration: the long birth certificate of the British parent is required (to ascertain the parent's British citizenship status; additional information will be required if the British parent's birth certificate was issued in Scotland)
- Getting married in Japan: a long birth certificate is required for UK-born British citizens to complete the process at the British Embassy in Tokyo
- Claiming the UK state pension from abroad: a request for a birth certificate is made, without specifying which type in the case of UK birth certificates (presumably the purpose is to verify the age of the claimant)
Additionally, birth certificates could provide evidence of kinship/family relations for Japanese inheritance tax purposes in cases where heirs/beneficiaries are not recorded on a Japanese family register.
Amendments to UK birth certificates
- re-registration of a birth following marriage or civil partnership of the child's natural parents: if the natural parents were unmarried and not in a civil partnership at the child's birth but subsequently marry or form a civil partnership, the birth should be re-registered. In some cases, such re-registration may grant automatic British citizenship to the child.
- application to correct details on a birth registration
- application to remove the wrong father's details from a birth registration
UK birth certificates resources
- How to order and pay for civil registration records: Getting the most from the General Register Office (government guidance)
- Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (legislation)
British consular birth registration
British consular birth registration is a service offered by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office which allows a British citizen born overseas to have their birth registered with the General Register Office or National Records Office of Scotland in addition to the locally issued birth certificate.
The fee for consular birth registration is £150 and consular birth registration certificates can be obtained for a fee of £50 each (cheaper copies, currently priced at £11, will be available from the November after the year of registration). Whether or not certificates are ordered initially, the shipping fee for the return of documents costs £5 to the UK, £17.50 to a range of European countries and £22.50 to the rest of the world.
As part of the registration process, it is possible to confirm the name as it should be rendered in English, which should be the same as in the local birth registration with a few exceptions, such as clear Anglicisations (eg Arisu -> Alice), adding a middle name or middle names, and registering the surname as the British parent's surname (if not already registered locally), or registering the surname as a double-barrelled name formed from both parents’ surnames.
Please note the following important information:
- consular birth registration is available for eligible individuals born on or after 1st January 1983
- consular birth registration is available for people born overseas with automatic acquisition of British citizenship; people who acquire British citizenship through adoption, Home Office registration or naturalisation are not eligible for consular birth registration
- a person does not acquire British nationality by virtue of having a consular birth registration
- consular birth registration is not required to obtain a British passport
- a UK consular birth registration certificate is not a UK birth certificate and should not be used as one
- a UK consular birth registration certificate does not replace the original birth certificate issued by the authorities in the country in which the birth took place
- consular birth registration should not be confused with registration of an individual as a British citizen; see the differences below:
|Type of 'registration'||Eligibility|
|Consular birth registration||An individual born overseas who automatically acquired British citizenship at birth and who wishes to have a permanent record of the birth recorded with the UK authorities in addition to the local birth certificate|
|Registration as a British citizen||An individual who is not automatically a British citizen but who fulfils eligibility criteria to apply for registration as a British citizen via the British Nationality Act 1981, and more specifically, Section 3 (minors) and Section 4 (British overseas territories citizens, etc)|
Unlike a UK birth certificate, the UK consular birth registration certificate will state the child's claim to British citizenship (and also that of the parent(s)). In many cases, the child's claim will be listed as 'S2(1)(a) British Nationality Act 1981', ie a person born outside the UK whose father or mother is a British citizen other than by descent at the time of the child's birth.
The 'informant' should be a parent of the child being registered (unless there is a valid reason for another person to act as an informant), or the individual himself/herself if the applicant is aged 18 or more (in which case, the individual could register his or her own birth in this way including the gaining of a middle name or middle names).
Full document requirements may vary over time and with individual circumstances, so should be checked via gov.uk before application. However, a couple of key notes are:
- local birth certificate (officially translated if not in English). If the birth was in Japan, the required document is called the shussetodoke kisaijiko shomeisho (出生届記載事項証明書). This is a certified copy of the A3 form (example (PDF))that the staff of the birth facility (hospital, clinic, midwifery centre, etc) and parents fill in to register the birth, and is different from the 'certificate of acceptance of birth registration' (出生届受理証明書), which can be used as a 'birth certificate' in many international contexts. It can be ordered from the municipal office at the time of registering the birth or shortly afterwards. (It is not a commonly requested document and you may be asked for the reason you require it.) It may have to be ordered from a different office if significant time has passed since the birth registration. In Sapporo City, if more than one month has elapsed since birth registration, the document can be ordered by a parent from the Legal Affairs Bureau (法務局; houmukyoku) for free.
- British parent(s)' birth certificates: these should be the long birth certificates, and if issued in Scotland, the relevant parent(s) must also supply some bio-data from their passport as explained in the notes on the application form (this is because Scottish birth certificates do not display information relating to the parents' place of birth, which FCDO requires to assess the application for consular birth registration)
Advantages of consular birth registration
- the certificate is a government-issued document providing proof of British citizenship without an expiry date (unlike a passport)
- replacement copies can be obtained relatively cheaply and easily, which may not be true of the original birth certificate
- it is in English, so no official translations are required when using the certificate for purposes within the UK
- it provides a permanent and official record of the name in English, including middle names
The legislation underpinning consular birth registration is The Registration of Overseas Births and Deaths Regulations 2014.
Getting married in Japan: information for British citizens
British citizens wishing to marry in Japan should follow the gov.uk guide.
A marriage or civil partnership will be recognised in the UK if both of the following apply:
- you followed the correct process in the country where you got married
- it would be allowed under UK law
Opposite sex marriage
For British citizens, an affirmation (non-religious) or affidavit (religious) is required and this serves as the ‘certificate of no impediment to marriage’ (kon'in yōken gubi shōmeisho / 婚姻要件具備証明書) which the municipal office may refer to. To obtain the affirmation or affidavit the British citizen must read a statement and sign the document in front of an official at the British Embassy in Tokyo, and this is done on an appointment-only basis. If both partners are British, both need to make appointments. The affirmation or affidavit includes the date of the proposed marriage, and for this reason it is recommended that you visit the municipal office with all documents before the proposed date; otherwise, if documents are rejected, you may have to return to the British Embassy to obtain a new affirmation or affidavit.
A ‘long birth certificate’ (as opposed to the ‘short birth certificate’ issued at birth) will be required (for applicants born in the UK) and this can be ordered online from the General Register Office or Scotlands People. Check in advance with your local municipal office whether they require your long birth certificate translated. There might be local variations on whether they accept the English original, the English original with an informal translation, or the English original with an official translation.
Same sex marriage or civil partnership
Same sex marriage or civil partnership is possible under UK law at the British Embassy in Tokyo provided that at least one partner is British, but will not be recognised in Japan. The process involves giving notice of the proposed marriage or civil partnership at the British Embassy, and then getting married or forming a civil partnership at the British Embassy. The marriage or civil partnership requires two witnesses. Full details and document requirements can be found in the guide on gov.uk.
It is also possible to convert a same sex civil partnership (formed in the UK) into a marriage at the British Embassy in Tokyo, provided that at least one partner is British.
Informing UK institutions of marriage or civil partnership
- It is no longer possible to register a marriage or civil partnership abroad with the UK consular service.
- You may need to inform HMRC
- The terms and conditions of UK student loans include a requirement to inform SLC if you get married (the wording does not mention civil partnerships)
- private pension providers (death benefit form may need updating)
If your name changes, then the list of institutions to inform may be significantly longer.
Making decisions on behalf of someone (power of attorney, etc)
The gov.uk guide to making decisions on behalf of someone provides an overview of the topic.
Age UK provides an excellent overview on the power of attorney (an arrangement set up by someone who has mental capacity at the time of the agreement) and deputies (arrangements set up for people who do not have mental capacity).
Lasting power of attorney (LPA)
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows an individual (the donor) to appoint one or more people (the attorneys) to make or help to make decisions.
There are two types of LPA:
- health and welfare
- property and financial affairs
The gov.uk and Age UK guides are both very clear and helpful.
There is no requirement for the donor or attorneys to be resident in the UK or British citizens.
Enduring power of attorney (EPA)
EPAs were replaced by LPAs in October 2007. However, if you made and signed an EPA before 1 October 2007, it should still be valid. An EPA covers decisions about your property and financial affairs, and it comes into effect if you lose mental capacity, or if you want someone to act on your behalf.
Source: Age UK guide
Ordinary power of attorney
This covers decisions about your financial affairs and is valid while you have mental capacity. It is suitable if you need cover for a temporary period (hospital stay or holiday) or if you find it hard to get out, or you want someone to act for you.
Source: Age UK guide
Deputies: make decisions for someone who lacks mental capacity
- Gov.uk guide: Deputies: make decisions for someone who lacks capacity
- Age UK guide: What happens if you don't have a power of attorney?
Making a will
- According to the Japanese government, non-Japanese citizens in Japan have their estate dealt with under the law of their 'home country'.
- UK law says that UK citizens living abroad will have their estates dealt with under the law of their country of residence. Other countries may differ.
The safest approach would seem to be, make as simple a provision in both countries as possible. For information about making a Japanese will, see making a will.
Making a UK will
If your situation is simple, you may be perfectly fine making a will online without legal advice. If your situation is complicated, it is recommended that you consult a solicitor, which you can also do online, via email if necessary.
The UK Law Society recommends employing someone carrying its ‘Wills & Inheritance Quality’ accreditation.
If you employ a solicitor, they will store a copy with HM Courts and Tribunals Service. This can be very useful if the will goes missing for any reason. You can do this yourself, the fee for which is £20 (as of 2021-12-13).
This Monevator post has more on how things work in the UK.
There is also a bi-annual event called Free Wills Month, where you can have a will made free, but you are expected to make a donation to charity.
Other useful links:
Death of a British citizen in Japan
The British government publishes a guide to help deal with practical arrangements following the death of a British citizen in Japan.
The 'Tell Us Once' service in which a death is reported to multiple government departments in one go is not ordinarily available to those residing abroad. UK-based institutions which may need informing of the death include:
- HM Passport Office
- Electoral Registration Office
- International Pension Centre
- UK personal pension providers (eg stakeholder pensions, SIPPs, etc)
- UK banks, building societies, etc
- DVLA / DVA
- Student Loans Company
UK consular death registration
There is no requirement to register the death with the UK authorities, but it is possible to do so if the death happened on or after 1st January 1983. If you choose to register the death with the UK authorities, the death will be recorded with the General Register Offices (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the National Records Office of Scotland, and you can order a consular death registration certificate. The application form can be found here and needs mailing to the UK together with the required documents.
The legislation underpinning consular death registration is The Registration of Overseas Births and Deaths Regulations 2014.
UK student loans
If you have a UK student loan, you are required to tell the Student Loans Company if you leave the UK for more than three months.
People with loans who live abroad are required to fill in an Overseas Income Assessment Form and supply evidence dependent on whether they are (a) employed, (b) self-employed, or (c) not in employment. (There is no facility to check multiple categories; an adviser stated that an applicant should check the most applicable category.) Both the form and the evidence can be submitted online, or posted to Glasgow. Repayments depend upon your loan type and income and are ordinarily made via monthly direct debit.
You will be asked to submit a new Overseas Income Assessment Form annually, together with evidence. You should also do so if your circumstances change in the interim (including if you receive a bonus). A new JPY:GBP exchange rate and JPY income threshold for your loan type will be applied annually, so even with no change in circumstances, repayment amounts may vary from year to year.
If you do not submit the correct evidence, there is a 'fixed monthly repayment' that could be applied, and this rate is considerably higher than many people would be paying had evidence been submitted. A higher rate of interest may also be applied. Also, fines could be applied for failure to keep SLC updated with details such as address change, change of employment or change of employment status, change of country of residence, change of marital status. Anecdotally, it seems lots of people lapse on notifications but are able to avoid fines, punitive interest rates, etc.
Repayment thresholds, exchange rates, and fixed monthly repayments
|Loan type||Exchange Rate||Earnings threshold* (GBP)||Earnings threshold* (JPY)||Upper earnings threshold (GBP)||Upper earnings threshold (JPY)||Fixed monthly repayments (GBP)||Fixed monthly repayments (JPY)||Standard repayment rate||Interest rate (April 2023)|
* Plan 2 appears to have a new 'upper earnings threshold' for repayments from Japan of £49,130 (¥7,966,596)
- an English or Welsh student (or an EU student who studied in England or Wales) who took out a loan before 1 September 2012
- a Northern Irish student (or an EU student who studied in Northern Ireland) who took out a loan on or after 1 September 1998
- an English or Welsh student (or an EU student who studied in England or Wales) who took out a loan on or after 1 September 2012
- an EU student who started an undergraduate course anywhere in England or Wales on or after 1 September 2012
- someone who took out an Advanced Learner Loan on or after 1 August 2013
- a Scottish student who started an undergraduate or postgraduate course anywhere in the UK on or after 1 September 1998
- an EU student who started an undergraduate course in Scotland on or after 1 September 1998
In addition to submitting the Overseas Income Form on request, individuals with loans are obliged to tell SLC of any change of name, address, if you get married (NB no mention is made of civil partnerships, nor divorce, nor becoming a widow(er)), if you change your employment status (eg from employed to self-employed). This list is not exhaustive. Refer to the terms and conditions.
When loans get written off
|Loan type||When loan gets written off|
|Plan 1||Took out loan in academic year 2005-2006 or earlier||Age 65|
|Took out loan in academic year 2006-2007 or later||25 years after the April in which you were first due to repay|
|Plan 2||30 years after the April in which you were first due to repay|
|Plan 4||Took out loan in academic year 2005-2006 or earlier||Age 65, or 30 years after the April you were first due to repay (whichever comes first)|
|Took out loan in academic year 2006-2007 or later||30 years after the April in which you were first due to repay|
|Plan 5||40 years after the April in which you were first due to repay|
|Postgraduate||30 years after the April in which you were first due to repay|
There may be additional nuances. For example, if someone has two Plan 1 loans (for example, for an undergraduate degree and a PGCE), they will both be under the terms of the first loan. Thus, if a first loan was taken out in 2002-2003 and a second was taken out in 2006-2007, both would have 'age 65' as the write-off rule.
Cancellation of the loan upon death
Any outstanding balance on a UK student loan can be cancelled if the holder of the loan dies. Evidence as detailed in the link needs supplying to the SLC.
Legalisation of UK documents
The Legalisation Office within the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) provides a service to legalise UK documents. The process, timeframe and cost can be found in the provided gov.uk link.
Some documents will need a notary or solicitor to make a declaration of authenticity prior to legalisation.
Japan is a signatory to The Hague 1961 Convention on Apostilles and so a UK document legalised with an apostille at FCDO in the UK will be recognised in Japan.
Countries not signatories to the convention (including much of Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia) will require further steps.
- legalisation of British documents is not ordinarily required for British citizens getting married in Japan
Visiting the UK
Visas, customs, etc
'Visit the UK for a holiday or to see family or friends' is a gov.uk guide covering the following topics:
- Check if you're eligible (to visit the UK + check the list of allowed activities on a visit)
- Check if you need a visa (Japanese citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 6 months)
- Apply for a visa / family permit / visa waiver (the visa waiver requiring an application is only for citizens of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and UAE)
- Check what you can bring with you
- Check what you need to show at the UK border
Travelling with children
This Border Force leaflet explains that if you are travelling to the UK with children (under 18) and are not the parent or may not appear to be the parent (for example, if you have a different family name), checks may be carried out to ascertain the relationship between adult and child. Carrying evidence such as the following may help to smoothen the process:
- a birth or adoption certificate showing your relationship with the child
- divorce / marriage certificates if you are the parent but have a different surname to the child
- a letter from the child’s parent(s) giving authority for the child to travel with you and providing contact details if you are not the parent
Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 is the legislation underpinning the duty of the UK government regarding the welfare of children.
Driving in GB and NI as a resident of Japan
Holders of Japanese driving licences who are visiting the UK are permitted to drive in GB and NI for up to 12 months. Although not required, getting a Wikipedia:International Driving Permit might be a good idea. A translation of the licence may also be beneficial; note that an International Driving Permit translates name, nationality, date of birth, and address, but not the date of expiry of the Japanese driving licence. Recent Japanese driving licences display the expiry date using Gregorian years, which might prove useful if using the licence internationally.
Although published before Brexit, the DVLA Guidelines (PDF) give clear rules on driving in GB on licences from 'designated countries', including Japan.
This nidirect.gov.uk article summarises the rules on driving on foreign licences in NI.
When exchanging a GB licence for a Japanese licence, the Japanese authorities might not retain the GB licence. The DVLA does not appear to publish information on whether a GB licence which has been exchanged for a non-GB licence yet has been retained by the licence holder is valid for driving (in GB or elsewhere). In any case, GB licences are not renewable from Japan.
Eligibility for NHS treatment
NHS treatment is available in Scotland (PDF) for former UK residents (and their spouse/civil partner and children) who meet eligibility criteria, summarised as:
- currently working abroad
- lived legally in the UK for 10+ years in the past
- Either left the UK less than five years ago or return to visit the UK at least once every two years or contract allows you to visit the UK at least once every two years or employer will pay for your return to the UK at the end of the contract
Discounts for non-UK residents
Non-UK residents are eligible for special deals including:
- Britrail Pass (various options, including a Britrail Guest Pass available for UK residents travelling together with a non-UK resident holder of a Britrail Pass) or Eurail Pass (various options, covering travel in 33 countries including the UK; eligibility requires non-European residence). Both the Britrail and Eurail passes come in paper or mobile versions, and both offer a free child pass with the purchase of an adult pass.
- National Trust Touring Pass
- English Heritage Overseas Visitors Pass
Tax free shopping
From 1st January 2021, the UK government ended the tax free shopping scheme in most circumstances.
In England, Scotland and Wales tax free shopping is only possible on goods delivered to an address outside the UK and only by participating retailers.
In Northern Ireland some retailers still offer tax free shopping in person, which involves paying the full amount and then claiming a VAT refund. The refund is not applicable if travelling directly from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
See the gov.uk page on tax free shopping.
State pension 'thawing' and Christmas Bonuses
A 'frozen' UK state pension may be 'thawed' (temporarily uprated) during visits to the UK or other 'unfrozen' countries (excluding USA and Bermuda). Individuals for whom this is relevant should contact the International Pension Centre (tel: +44 (0)191 2187777; fax: +44 (0)191 2187021; mail: The Pension Service 11, Mail Handling Site A, WV98 1LW, United Kingdom).
Additionally, if you are a UK state pension recipient and are present in the UK in the 'qualifying week' (ordinarily the first week of December), you may be eligible for a £10 Christmas Bonus. This may need claiming via communication with the International Pension Centre. The legislation giving the right to Chistmas bonuses can be found here.
Applying for a British passport while visiting the UK
This gov.uk page details the process of applying for a British passport while visiting the UK. Note, however, that if an applicant resides overseas, the overseas fees will apply.
Voting in person as an overseas elector
England, Scotland and Wales
If you are registered to vote as an overseas elector, you are entitled to vote in person at your polling station.
From 4th May 2023, overseas voters in England, Wales and Scotland will be required to present photo ID if voting in person. A range of ID options including current or expired British passport or driving licence are contained within the link. There is an option to apply for a free Voter Authority Card (online application or paper application) which acts as acceptable ID.
Even if you have applied to vote by proxy, you are able to cast your vote in person if (a) your proxy has not already voted, and (b) your proxy has not applied to cast the proxy vote by post.
Voters in Northern Ireland require one of seven forms of photo ID to vote in person. It is possible to apply for a free Electoral Identity Card.
Records of visits to the UK might be useful for a number of purposes, including:
- Eligibility for NHS treatment in Scotland (UK visit may be required once every two years)
- Claiming a UK state pension (the international claim form essentially asks for details of every visit to the UK since departure; for this reason, claiming by phone may be preferable)
- Claiming a temporary uprating of the UK state pension and/or a Christmas Bonus
- Determination of tax residency (eg the UK's Statutory Residency Test)
Boarding passes represent better evidence than travel tickets, as tickets could be bought but the journey not made.
Moving to the UK
Returning to the UK is a gov.uk guide for British citizens returning to the UK after living abroad.
Permission to enter/live in the UK
- A family visa can allow a non-British citizen with British family (or family who have settled status in the UK) to live in the UK.
- There are financial requirements, accommodation requirements and language requirements for the visa. This accessible summary published by freemovement.org.uk should be used in conjunction with the gov.uk guidance.
- If applying as a spouse of a British citizen from abroad, note that the British citizen has to 'sponsor' the applicant and it is the British citizen who is subject to the financial requirements. A sponsor without any non-British dependents will ordinarily require savings of £62,500 or earnings of £18,600. Sponsors with non-British dependents will need to meet or exceed higher thresholds. Exact rules and requirements of evidence should be carefully researched.
- Ordinarily a family visa will be issued for 2 years 9 months. An extension will ordinarily be granted for 2 years 6 months. After 5 years of living in the UK on a family visa, an individual is usually eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
- Youth Mobility Scheme visas (ie the UK's version of 'working holiday visas') are available to citizens from a small selection of countries including Japan. Japanese citizens aged 18-30 are eligible to apply but must first be selected in the Youth Mobility Scheme visa ballot, the rules of which can be seen on the link. (Citizens of Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan also have ballots; citizens of Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino and Iceland can apply directly, as can British overseas citizens, British overseas territories citizens and British nationals (overseas).)
- A healthcare surcharge is payable in addition to visa fees for many individuals applying for visas to live in the UK (a notable exception being individuals who work for the NHS or in healthcare and fulfil eligibility criteria)
- A Returning Resident visa is a visa for individuals who have previously held Indefinite Leave to Remain but have let that status lapse via an absence from the UK of 2 or more years.
- A Certificate of Entitlement to Right of Abode in the United Kingdom (see below) can be used by people who do not possess a British passport but do have right of abode, eg British citizens who only have non-British passports, and eligible Commonwealth citizens.
Certificate of Entitlement to Right of Abode in the United Kingdom
All British citizens and some Commonwealth citizens have the right of abode in the UK. Individuals with the right of abode in the UK are entitled to apply for a Certificate of Entitlement to Right of Abode in the United Kingdom, provided they do not already possess a valid British passport or a valid certificate of entitlement in a different passport. The certificate gets affixed to a (non-British) passport, costs £388 from outside the UK and cannot be transferred to another passport (so expires when the passport expires or is cancelled). Immigration (Certificate of Entitlement to Right of Abode in the United Kingdom) Regulations 2006 is the legislation underpinning the certificate.
For Commonwealth citizens, eligibility is either via 'parents' or 'marriage', and the criteria are:
- one of your parents was born in the UK and a citizen of the UK and colonies at the time of your birth or adoption
- have continuously held Commonwealth citizenship since 31st December 1982
- a female Commonwealth citizen
- have been married to someone with right of abode prior to 1st January 1983
- have continuously held Commonwealth citizenship since 31st December 1982
- not be subject to exclusions based on the person you were married to having other living wives or widows (full rules on gov.uk site)
- Tax if you come to live in the UK and Tax if you return to the UK are gov.uk guides providing starting points on UK tax when moving from abroad
- The Statutory Residence Test (SRT) allows you to work out your tax residence for a tax year. Note that it is possible to be tax resident in more than one country, so an SRT determination of UK tax residency does not necessarily mean you ceased to be tax resident in another jurisdiction.
- The Japan-UK Double Tax Convention exists to minimise the effects of being doubly taxed by Japan and the UK.
Pensions and benefits
UK pensions and benefits
- The International Pension Centre states that if returning to live in the UK individuals should contact the Pension Service and provide a return date and contact details, both abroad and in the UK
- State pension recipients moving to the UK from 'frozen' countries such as Japan will have their state pension uprated
- Child Benefit is ordinarily available to eligible individuals from 3 months after starting UK residence, but if Class 1 or Class 2 National Insurance contributions are up to date from working abroad, eligibility may be immediate on starting UK residence
Japanese pensions and benefits
- the Japanese state pension can be received in the UK. See Japanese pension system#Receiving a Japanese pension overseas
- Japanese citizens aged 20-64 can make voluntary contributions to the Japanese pension; non-Japanese citizens cannot
- eligible non-Japanese citizens can apply for a lump sum withdrawal to reclaim some of their contributions
- iDeCo retirement benefits can be received globally
- eligible non-Japanese iDeCo subscribers can receive a lump sum withdrawal of funds, but will be excluded from subscribing to an iDeCo in the future; non-Japanese citizens can manage funds abroad but cannot add to them; eligible Japanese citizens can contribute to the iDeCo from overseas if contributing to the Japanese state pension voluntarily
- This gov.uk guide to using the NHS when returning from abroad gives information on how to register and acceptable evidence that you have moved to live in the UK.
- Home fees for UK universities are usually available to those who are resident and 'settled' in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of the course and who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to the start of the course
- Information on driving licences (INS57P) provides guidance on driving licences, and has proven to be fairly frequently updated. However, information on some fairly routine queries can prove difficult or impossible to find regarding driving, licencing, and moving internationally.
- You can drive in GB and NI for 12 months on a valid Japanese driving licence.
- If you previously held a GB licence and return to GB from a country that is not in the EEA, you can apply for a replacement of your previous GB licence
- A valid Japanese licence can ordinarily be exchanged for a GB or NI licence (DVLA is the licensing authority of GB and DVA is the licensing authority of NI)
- An official translation is required, and The Embassy of Japan in the UK offers an official translation service of Japanese licences for this exchange purpose. The embassy also provides information about the potential return of Japanese licences following exchange procedures, and the arrangements for collecting or disposing of them.
- To be eligible for exchange to a GB licence, you must be normally resident in Britain and have been resident for at least 185 days
- A period of UK residency might confer certain rights on British citizens (and non-British citizens, in the last case), including:
- Under the 'Votes for life' policy (expected to be enacted in effect from 2024), British citizens will be entitled to vote indefinitely provided they have been resident in the UK (or have previously been registered to vote in the UK). Secondary legislation may add clarity as to what constitutes a period of residency in the UK for voting purposes and what evidence will be required.
- A three-year period of UK residency might give British citizens by descent the possibility of passing on their British citizenship, as their children born outside the UK would be eligible for registration as British citizens.
- A continuous three-year period of UK residency is one of the eligibility criteria for voluntary Class 3 national insurance contributions (this is not limited to British citizens)
UK Government UK help and services in Japan portal.
Many thanks to the following RetireWiki.jp users for writing this article:
- ‘’Which?’’: Loophole to beat pension age hike to 57 discovered: should you consider it?
- See also Right of abode: caseworker guidance (gov.uk)
- https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/form-mn1-guidance, p5
- Under 18, within the British Nationality Act 1981 (seehttps://www.gov.uk/government/publications/children-nationality-policy-guidance)
- Intercountry Adoption and British Citizenship (Gov.uk guide)
- The 'designated countries' are those listed within The Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973 and The Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) (Variation) Order 1993
- Fees for citizenship applications (Gov.uk)
- officially applicants are told to allow for 11 weeks rather than the 10 weeks stated for UK applications; unofficial average processing times are significantly shorter
- and those turning 16 within 3 weeks of the application
- 168 according to column BH ("Travel Documents > Emergency Travel Document"), but 193 according to column BZ ("Emergency Travel Documents"); possible that the numbers could be issued documents and applications
- Exceptions include those with a legal incapacity to vote, eg those in prison, those with convictions of certain electoral crimes, and peers in the House of Lords.
- https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn05923/, p7
- Or Channel Islands or Isle of Man or Gibraltar
- Information on driving licences (INS57P), p14