United Kingdom

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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[1]. They do not have to be 10 qualifying years in a row. Ordinarily, 35 qualifying years are required to receive the full state pension (£185.15 per week or £9,627.80 per 52 weeks in 2022-2023)[2]. Those with fewer qualifying years will receive a pro rated amount.

Qualifying years are tax years[3] when sufficient contributions and/or credits have been made, via any combination of the below:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. voluntary national insurance contributions

You can check your national insurance record online.

Your state pension age can be confirmed online. It is subject to future change. People born on or after 6th April 1978 currently have a state pension age of 68; people born earlier may have lower state pension ages, and there may also be differences according to gender.

The state pension needs to be claimed, and can be paid either to a UK bank or building society in GBP or to a bank in the country in which you reside in the local currency. Claimants can decide whether to receive payments every 4 weeks or every 13 weeks. (Claimants whose pension is less than £5 per week will be paid once a year in December.)

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.

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[4]. If an individual with a 'frozen' pension moves to the UK or another eligible country, the pension will be uprated ('unfrozen'). 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.

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.

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 Japan 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.

Applying to make voluntary National Insurance Contributions from abroad

People with National Insurance records can apply to make voluntary National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from abroad (form CF83 is at the back of the pamphlet) in order to accumulate qualifying years towards the UK state pension from abroad, 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 2023 it is possible to pay voluntary contributions to make up for gaps between April 2006 and April 2016 if you’re eligible[5].

There are two classes of voluntary contributions with differing eligibility criteria: Class 2 and Class 3. The weekly rates for 2022-2023 are £3.15 for Class 2 and £15.85 for Class 3. (52-week rates are £163.80 for Class 2 and £824.20 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 for Class 2 is:

  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[1], 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[1]), and
  3. Immediately before going abroad, you were ordinarily an employed or self-employed earner in the UK.

A summary of the eligibility criteria for Class 3 is:

  1. 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[1], or
  2. Before going abroad, you paid a set amount in NICs for 3 years or more, or
  3. 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.

Those accepted to make voluntary NICs can choose whether to do so via direct debit (monthly, or twice annually), or manually (annually). 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.

Making Payments

HMRC provides payment instructions for Class 2 and Class 3. Click the green Pay now link for the details. Note that the default details are for UK residents. The details from the Overseas payments section, which are the same for both classes, are included below.

HMRC NI Overseas Payments Bank Details
Sort Code 20 20 48
Account Number 30944793
Account Name HMRC NIC receipts
Bank identifier code (BIC) BARCGB22
IBAN GB49BARC20204830944793
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 and the tax year(s) it covers.

Comparison between UK and Japan state pensions

See here for a comparison between UK and Japan state pensions.

Pension Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 If you lived and worked in an EU, EEA country, Switzerland or Turkey, time spent there may help you to meet this condition.
  2. https://www.gov.uk/new-state-pension/what-youll-get
  3. 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
  4. https://www.gov.uk/deferring-state-pension/if-you-move-abroad
  5. https://www.gov.uk/voluntary-national-insurance-contributions/deadlines

Personal pensions

Former UK residents may have accumulated personal pensions during their time in the UK, including workplace pension schemes. These can be managed whilst in 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. (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.)

It is possible to consolidate and transfer existing personal pensions with some providers whilst non resident. This includes transferring a stakeholder pension into a SIPP.

Benefits can ordinarily be taken from 55 years of age. This will change to 57 from 2028 (though if your pension is set up by April 2023, the old rule of 55 may still apply)[1].

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 tax free lump sum.

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.

It is estimated that around £20billion is sitting in lost or forgotten pension pots. The Pension Tracing Service helps to reconnect people with their pension pots.

UK savings and investments

UK-based savings and investment options are limited for Japan-resident individuals.

ISAs

You cannot open or make new contributions to an ISA as a non-UK resident after the tax year in which you leave the UK[2].

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.

Japan has its own tax-advantaged accounts for residents of Japan: see NISA and iDeCo.

National Savings and Investments

NS&I doesn’t have residency restrictions for many of its accounts, but will ordinarily require a linked UK bank account.

UK bank accounts

Options for opening or retaining UK bank accounts whilst resident in Japan may be limited.

Wise offers multi-currency accounts for residents of Japan. The GBP account comes with a UK sort code and account number, and the multi-currency account comes with a debit card.

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.

Voting

British Citizens are usually eligible to vote in UK Parliament Elections and some referendums up to 15 years after leaving the UK. (Exceptions include those too young to vote, and 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.)

See Voting if you move or live abroad.

Applying for a British Passport from Japan

British citizens resident in Japan who require the issuance, replacement or renewal of a British passport should ordinarily follow the instructions at gov.uk. Passports will be issued from HM Passport Office in the UK via courier. An Emergency Travel Document might be issued rapidly in limited circumstances, eg if a passport is lost, stolen or damaged ahead of imminent travel.

The gov.uk tool takes the user through multiple questions, then requires a photo and payment before revealing all the required supporting documents. Therefore, applicants may wish to consult the application form, guidance, and supporting documents before using the tool. If searching for information, note that Japan is in Group 1 of countries (there are different supporting document requirements for countries in different groups).

Note that 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.

There is a different process if you wish to apply for a British passport as an overseas resident while visiting the UK.

Driving Licence

It's possible to get a Japanese driving licence without taking a driving test, by submitting a valid GB or NI licence. 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.

For information about driving in GB as a Japan resident, see #Driving in GB as a resident of Japan.

National Insurance Number (NINO)

Non-UK residents are not eligible to apply for a NINO[3].

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)[4]. 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 resources

Double Tax

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’).

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.

Getting married in Japan: information for British citizens

The main article Getting married in Japan provides more detailed guidance on the process. This section provides information specific to British nationals.

British nationals wishing to marry in Japan should follow the guide on gov.uk.

Opposite sex marriage

For British nationals, an affirmation (non-religious) or affidavit (religious) is required and this serves as the ‘certificate of no impediment’ which the municipal office may refer to. To obtain the affirmation or affidavit the British national 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. 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 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.

It is no longer possible to register the marriage with the UK consular service[5].

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.

British citizenship

Citizenship laws are complex. This section aims to provide relevant, readable and referenced information for Japan residents, including:

  • the citizenship status of children born to one or more British parent
  • the difference between 'British citizen by descent' and 'British citizen otherwise than by descent'
  • the difference between automatic acquisition of British citizenship and acquisition by registration or naturalisation
  • considerations regarding Japanese nationality law

Gov.uk provides a tool to check if an individual has British citizenship.

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.

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.

A British citizen by descent cannot normally pass on their British citizenship to a child born outside the UK. 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.

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):

Parent →

Child ↓

British citizen otherwise than by descent

(eg born, adopted, naturalised in UK)

British citizen by descent

(eg born 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
Born overseas British citizen by descent 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. There may, however, be eligible for registration as British citizens, which is a less arduous process than naturalisation, and generally requires a three-year stay in the UK either before or after the child(ren) of the British citizen by descent are born.

Children of British citizens by descent

British citizens by descent cannot ordinarily pass on British citizenship to their children automatically (as seen in the final cell of the above table). 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'[6] 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 descent; other parent is not a British citizen otherwise than by descent; application for registration is made while the child is a minor[7] 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[7], 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[8]

The eligibility criteria for Section 3(2) and Section 3(5) registrations both include a three-year period of the child living in the UK, and so are somewhat related. However, 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.

Registration 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[7] 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[7], and both parents (if possible) consent to the application

Registration involves an application and a fee of about £1,000 (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.

Registration under Section 3 is not possible for adults.

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 22 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.

The British Nationality Act 1981 provides the legal framework for Renunciation (Section 12) and Resumption (Section 13).

UK Consular Birth Registration

A baby born in Japan must have the birth registered with the Japanese authorities. If the baby automatically has British citizenship there is no requirement to register the birth with the UK authorities, and there is no facility to obtain a full British birth certificate. However, the birth can be registered with the UK authorities for a fee of £150[9], and a consular birth registration certificate can be obtained for a fee of £50[9] (cheaper copies, currently priced at £11, will be available from the November after the year of registration[10]). 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[9]. Consular birth registration is not required to obtain a British passport.

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 Japanese 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 a double-barrelled name formed from both parents’ surnames.

When the individual reaches 18, if this process has not already been done, he or she could register his or her own birth in this way including the gaining of a middle name or middle names.

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[11].

Among the document requirements for the consular birth registration will be a form of the local birth certificate called the shussetodoke kisaijiko shomeisho (出生届記載事項証明書). This is a certified copy of the form that the hospital and parents fill in to register the birth, and is different from the birth registration notification. It can be ordered from the municipal office at the time of registering the birth or shortly afterwards. It may have to be ordered from a different office if significant time has passed since the birth registration. Official translation into English is required.

Consular birth registration should not be confused with registration of a child as a British citizen.

Consular birth registration is only available to children born overseas who have British citizenship automatically on birth, eg children born overseas to one or more parent who is a British citizen otherwise than by descent. Some children who are not automatically a British citizen on birth (eg a child born overseas to a British citizen by descent) have entitlement to register as a British citizen whilst they are a minor, should certain conditions be met.

Advantages of consular birth registration

  • it 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

Death of a British national in Japan

The British government publishes a guide to help deal with practical arrangements following the death of a British national in Japan.

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.

Making a will

  1. According to the Japanese government, non-Japanese citizens in Japan have their estate dealt with under the law of their 'home country'.
  2. 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:

UK Student Loan Repayments

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

2022-2023 earnings thresholds and fixed monthly repayments for Japan
Loan type Exchange Rate Earnings threshold (GBP) Earnings threshold (JPY) Fixed monthly repayments (GBP) Fixed monthly repayments (JPY)
Plan 1 0.006664 £20,195 ¥3,030,462 £246 ¥36,914
Plan 2 0.006664 £27,295 ¥4,095,888 £201 ¥30,162
Plan 4 0.006664 £25,375 ¥3,807,773 £201 ¥30,162
Postgraduate 0.006664 £21,000 ¥3,151,260 £201 ¥30,162

Plan 1

  • 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

Plan 2

  • 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

Plan 4

  • 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

Postgraduate Loan

Visiting the UK

Driving in GB as a resident of Japan

Holders of Japanese driving licences who are visiting the UK are permitted to drive in GB (there may be different rules for 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.

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 spouses and children) who meet eligibility criteria, summarised as:

  1. currently working abroad
  2. lived legally in the UK for 10+ years in the past
  3. EITHER left the UK less than five years ago OR return to visit the UK at least once every two years (or meet other criteria as detailed in the official guidance)

Discounts for non-UK residents

Non-UK residents are eligible for special deals including:

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)[12]. 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[13] 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.

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.

Record-keeping

Records of visits to the UK might be useful for a number of purposes, including:

Boarding passes represent better evidence than travel tickets, as tickets could be bought but the journey not made.

See Also

UK Government UK help and services in Japan portal.

Credits

Many thanks to the following RetireWiki.jp users for writing this article:

Kuma, Adamu, HeadofBean.

Footnotes