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. Ordinarily, 35 qualifying years are required to receive the full state pension (£179.60 per week or £9,337.20 per 52 weeks in 2021-2022). Those with fewer qualifying years will receive a pro rated amount.
Qualifying years are tax years where every week is accounted for 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 here.
Your state pension age can be confirmed here. It is subject to future change. Those born in 1978 or later currently have a state pension age of 68; those 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.
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 some other countries will have their pension uprated annually ('unfrozen'), whereas those in other countries ('frozen') will not have their pension uprated annually. Japan falls into the 'frozen' category. The pension only becomes 'frozen' once it is claimed; in the interim, its value will continue to rise.
There is a 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 contribute to one system at any one time. People contributing 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.
Making voluntary National Insurance Contributions from abroad
People with National Insurance records can apply (the form is at the back of the pamphlet) to make voluntary National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from abroad in order to accumulate qualifying years towards the UK state pension from abroad, provided they meet eligibility criteria. 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.
There are two classes of voluntary contributions with differing eligibility criteria: Class 2 and Class 3. The weekly rates for 2021-2022 are £3.05 for Class 2 and £15.40 for Class 3. (52-week rates are £158.60 for Class 2 and £800.80 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:
- You’re employed or self-employed outside the UK, and
- 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
- 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:
- 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, or
- You've paid Class 1 contributions for the first 52 weeks of your employment abroad
The application requires an NI number, 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.
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.
|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
- The new State Pension
- State pension if you retire abroad
- The official guide and application form for voluntary national insurance contributions from abroad
- Relevant section of the National Insurance Manual
- If you lived and worked in an EU, EEA country, Switzerland or Turkey, time spent there may help you to meet this condition.
UK nationals and former residents may have accumulated funds in personal pensions during their time in the UK. These can be managed whilst in Japan, but it may not be possible to add new funds as most providers only accept contributions eligible for tax relief, and most non-residents are not eligible for tax relief.
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.
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.
Savings and investments
UK-based savings and investment options are limited for Japan-resident individuals.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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 do so here. Passports will be issued from Her Majesty’s 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).
There is a different process if you wish to apply for a British passport as an overseas resident while visiting the UK.
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!
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.
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, eg by the Japanese spouse, or the English original with an official translation.
It is no longer possible to register the marriage with the UK consular service.
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.
UK Consular Birth Registration
A baby born in Japan must have the birth registered with the Japanese authorities. If the baby has British nationality 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, and a consular birth registration certificate can be obtained for a fee. This 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.
It is not necessary to do any of the above, and the name confirmation can be done when issuing the British citizen’s British passport. (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!)
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.
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 record the death with the UK authorities, but it is possible to do so here.
Renunciation 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.
The process for so doing can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/renounce-british-nationality
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. Further instances are at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
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
|Loan type||Exchange Rate||Earnings threshold (GBP)||Earnings threshold (JPY)||Fixed monthly repayments (GBP)||Fixed monthly repayments (JPY)|
- 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
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:
- 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 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 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
Applying for a British passport while visiting the UK
UK Government UK help and services in Japan portal.
Information to add
- Private UK pensions: tax relief + lifetime allowances + tax treatment in Japan
- UK-based savings and investments: further info
- British nationality law, and applicability to Japan residents
- UK property - points relevant to Japan residents (eg some discussion on the RJ forum about obtaining mortgages for UK rental properties whilst Japan resident)
- Moving back to the UK - considerations, such as tax residency, social security, family visas, eligibility for education, NHS, etc.
- Voluntary NICs - potentially reinstate the following, somewhere, sometime: Approximate annuity rates are 170% for Class 2 (~£270 benefit per year for a cost of ~£160) and 34% for Class 3 (~£270 benefit per year for a cost of ~£800). For comparison, the annuity rate of kokumin nenkin is approximately 10%.
- Social Security Agreement: forms from JPS here: https://www.nenkin.go.jp/service/shaho-kyotei/shikumi/shinseisho/uk/uk.html
- Government Gateway / HMRC app / NINO etc
- Personal allowances as British citizen abroad: https://www.gov.uk/tax-uk-income-live-abroad/personal-allowance