With approximately 1 million British already retired to Spain and its islands and another 1 million predicted to do so over the next 10 years, it is perhaps important to consider some of the consequences of such a move.
Benefits of retiring to Tenerife
I receive many calls from people who are thinking of leaving the UK for Spain upon retirement and there is always confusion as to benefits they can expect.
If you leave the UK at current retiring ages you will immediately be entitled to enter the Spanish National Health Service providing you complete the requisite processes.
Leaving the UK
Step one is to contact the International Services Department for National Insurance Contributions of the Inland Revenue (0845 915 4811 or +44 191 225 4811 from outside the UK) and inform them of your proposed move. This will ensure state pension payments are dealt with correctly and enable them to transfer you to the other country. You will be entitled to any state pension increase by virtue of residence in any EU country.
Moving to Tenerife
When you arrive in Tenerife, you’ll need to do two things:
1. Apply for permanent residence status
2. Visit your local Social Security office with your papers from the Inland Revenue.
You will then be allocated a doctor at your nearest clinic.
Thereafter, if you return on holiday to the UK you will be entitled to emergency treatment without charge and provided you have obtained an E1-11 form from your local Spanish Social Security Office you will receive general medical services.
A semi-permanent move
A more complex situation arises when considering the position of swallows, i.e. people who spend considerable periods in Spain during the winter months and return to the UK for summer. The British Government has recently announced its proposal that free NHS care is to be denied to British pensioners who live in other European countries for more than six months a year. Proposed changes follow a review of the NHS charging, which discovered there was already an obscure legal requirement to make pensioners pay if they stayed out of the UK for more than three months at a time, which did not appear to have been applied. People working abroad would be able to claim if they spent no more than five years away. Free NHS treatment would still be provided if someone fell ill while visiting the UK.
Therefore if you spend more than six months in Spain you should be registering with the authorities and obtaining a Spanish doctor.
Under current rules if you are leaving the UK for more than three months you should return your medical card to your health authority and on return to the UK visit your former doctor and obtain a new medical card. This system seems cumbersome and in fact has not often been complied with in the past. However, the UK Government is endeavouring to limit the abuse of the system by so called health tourists and everyone is being dragged into the net to limit fraud.
As was stated earlier the UK Government is holding further consultations with interested parties so undoubtedly there will be further developments in due course.
If you are retiring early to Spain and are a few years short of the official retirement age, it’s important that you obtain a statement of your likely entitlement upon retirement from the Inland Revenue office mentioned earlier. It may well be that you will need to make annual voluntary contributions to obtain your full pension, and is well worth doing.
If you are younger and switch to the Spanish system you will need to contribute for at least 15 years to obtain a State pension which would be much lower than the equivalent UK pension.