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Returning to the UK

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

About this guide

This guide is for British citizens over State Pension age who moved to Spain and who are

now considering moving back to live permanently in the UK. It gives information

specifically about things to consider if you might need help with accessing benefits and

housing assistance.

Habitual Residence Test

The Habitual Residence Test is a series of conditions you will need to fulfill in the process of applying for a benefit or social care in the UK. Anybody returning to the UK after living abroad for two years or more (including UK state pensioners) will have to satisfy the decision-making authorities that they have the right to reside and are habitually resident in the Common Travel Area (U.K., Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man) before making an application for certain benefits including State Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support and Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. The same rule applies for local authority housing Applications.

Those wishing to claim benefits upon their return will have to establish:

  • They are voluntarily in the UK

  • They are resident in the UK

  • They have settled intentions to remain in the UK

  • They have been in the UK for an appreciable amount of time. This period could be anything from a few days up to six months, but there are no hard and fast rules. Benefits case law suggests that the period lies between one and three months (CIS/4474/2003 paras 18-19).

Factors which could be taken into account by the decision-makers include:

  • Length and continuity of residence

  • Reasons for coming to the UK

  • Whether the claimant has brought their possessions to the UK

  • Whether the claimant established residence before arrival

  • If the claimant has strong ties with the UK

  • If the claimant has registered for services and with a doctor, etc.

The objective of the test is to prevent people who are not UK residents (such as

visitors/tourists who reside elsewhere) from accessing state funded help with

accommodation and living expenses which are only available for UK residents. The

adjudication officer’s decision is based on the situation at the time of the claim and will be

reached after considering the overall circumstances of each claimant’s personal


Full details can be found at you have been unwell, before finalising arrangements for returning to the UK, it is essential that you obtain confirmation from your doctor that you are not only fit to travel but fit to fly on a commercial flight. The cost of an air ambulance is high and it is not possible to fund the cost from UK charitable sources.

*If you are seeking social care or funding, you will not be able to obtain confirmation of

any available assistance or entitlement until you are in the UK and in the offices of the

local council area in which you hope to become resident.

Legislation and benefits/allowances may vary in the constituent parts of the UK. It is

wise to plan in advance and to obtain the relevant information before your return.*

Help with housing in the UK

Finding and selecting suitable housing or care is a personal responsibility that could be

shared with family or friends. There are no charitable organisations in Spain or the UK that

will undertake this on your behalf.

There are many businesses, housing associations, and charitable organisations which

provide offering housing and care. Waiting lists for housing and care for older people are

often long. Therefore, if this is an option you are considering for the future, it is good idea

to make contact with the appropriate person/organisation well in advance of a proposed

move. It is not possible to list them all here. Below is a sample of organisations which

provide housing support for older people.

Abbeyfield Society -​ ​

This organisation provides care and support for older people.Its mission to provide the

best service of care and housing for all their residents, and to be a champion for older

people. It has been a charitable housing organisation for nearly 60 years.

Elderly Accommodation Council (EAC) - ​

This organisation is a national charity that aims to help older people make informed

choices about meeting their housing and care needs. It provides an information and advice

service directly to older people and their relatives and carers.

Housing and Care 21 - ​

This organisation is a leading national provider of retirement housing and care services for

people aged 65 and above. It delivers affordable, contemporary, person-centred care and

housing that meets individual needs, improves wellbeing and promotes independent living.

Useful tips

In the busy weeks leading up to a move back to the UK it is easy to forget to do the things

needed to de-register with the Spanish authorities, so make time to return residency

papers, advise your local council to remove you from the Padrón, sort out your tax

arrangements with the Spanish tax authorities (Hacienda), return your Spanish medical

card and sort out matters relating to your Spanish bank account.

If you are planning to buy a car in the UK, you will need to have proof of any no-claims

bonus from your Spanish car insurer. Be prepared to hunt around for a UK car insurer that

will recognise your Spanish no-claims bonus and waive the requirement for you to have

been resident in the UK for more than a year.

Advise the Department of Work and Pensions, HMRC, private pension providers and other

UK organisations you deal with at your new UK address.

Opening a UK bank account can take time and identification and proof of residency, e.g.

utility bills to your new address may be required.

Useful contacts

Recommended reading

For more information about finances and housing, eligibility for health and social care

services for people returning to the UK from abroad see the following:


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The content displayed on this blog is the intellectual property of Age in Spain. You may not reuse, republish, or reprint such content without our written consent. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information on this blog, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this blog has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors. We reserve the right to change this policy at any given time, of which you will be promptly updated. If you want to make sure that you are up to date with the latest changes, we advise you to frequently visit our website disclaimer notice.

Age in Spain provides information about service providers for information only. This list is not exhaustive, and is subject to change at any time. None of the service providers are endorsed or recommended by Age in Spain. You should research whether a service provider will be suitable. Age in Spain does not accept any liability arising to any person for any loss or damage suffered through using these service providers or this information.

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