Sep 07

UK State Pensions for Expat’s Aboard

Graffiti by French Artist Tilt on a wall in Shoreditch London

Are you eligible for a full UK State Pension?

Retirement Jar copyright media nprWhilst doing some long term planning for UK State Pensions etc, I ended up scrolling through a plethora of UK government websites to track down the information about UK State Pension for Expat’s Living Abroad.

I wanted to find out how much Pension I would be entitled too based on the NI payments I made before I left the UK, and then look into my options for making voluntary National Insurance make-up contributions for the years I’ve been absent from the UK.

The relevant information was spread across the gov.uk website and the HM Revenue and Customs website, and below I’ve listed out the relevant information links:


  • You need 30 years of NI contributions to get a full State Pension. If you fewer years when you retire, you’ll get less State Pension.
  • The most you can currently get is £113.10 per week (updated 8/8/14)
  • The government will be replacing the current complex assortment of state pensions and top-ups with a single payment worth around £144 a week in today’s money. This new flat-rate “single-tier pension” will take effect in April 2016, and will affect those who reach state pension age from that date onwards.

State Pension Estimate

You can get an estimate of how much State Pension you may receive either online or in the post.

You can also use the State Pension calculator to find out when you’ll reach State Pension age, or for a quick estimate of the basic State Pension you may get.

State Pension Calculator

Check your National Insurance record

HM Revenue NI Statement UK Retirement for the State

  • The State Pension calculator estimates your qualifying years and likely pension.


Getting a copy of your STATE PENSION STATEMENT

By post

You can do this up to 30 days before you reach State Pension age by calling the Future Pension Centre, or by sending an application form (the address is on the form):Application for State Pension Statement

  1. State Pension statement application – interactive
  2. State Pension statement application – print and fill in

You’ll usually get your statement within 10 working days.


You can only request a statement online if:

  • you live in the UK
  • you’re more than 4 months away from State Pension age

State Pension Statement UK State

Women over 60 need to re-register each time they use the online service.

You can’t save a copy of your State Pension statement if you get it online, but you can print it out.


If you’re very near or over State Pension age:

  • You can’t get a State Pension statement if you’re over State Pension age or less than 30 days away from it.
  • You’ll need to contact the Pension Service to get an estimate.

Contact the Pension Services UK Government

Voluntary National Insurance contributions

  • You need 30 years of National Insurance contributions to get a full State Pension when you retire. But you can pay voluntary contributions to fill or avoid gaps in your National Insurance record.

The basic State Pension

  • You may have gaps because you lived abroad and don’t have to pay National Insurance

1. Do you want to pay voluntary contributions?

You may want to pay voluntary contributions because:

  • you’re close to State Pension age and don’t have 30 years of contributions
  • you have gaps in your National Insurance record and want to fill them
  • you know you won’t be able to pay 30 years of contributions during your working life and want to avoid gaps (more years for bereavement benefits…. but that’s another blog post!)

However, you have to be eligible to pay voluntary contributions.

Voluntary National Insurance for UK Pension

HMRC has more information on deciding if you want to pay voluntary contributions.

UK Pension National Insurance Contributions

2. Who can pay voluntary contributions?

The table excerpt below explains the two different classes of voluntary National Insurance contributions people living abroad can apply for.


Group Eligible to pay voluntary contributions Current rates
People living abroad – employed, self employed, unemployed immediately before leaving the UK Only if at some point you’ve lived in the UK continuously for 3 years or paid 3 years worth of contributions Class 2: £2.70 a week
People living abroad and not working in the country they moved to Only if at some point you’ve lived in the UK continuously for 3 years or paid 3 years worth of contributions Class 3: £13.55 a week

* Voluntary National Insurance contributions paid from abroad don’t cover your health insurance in the country you live.

3. How to pay Contributions

Find out how to pay Class 2 and Class 3 contributions.

  • You can pay voluntary contributions up to 6 years in arrears. The deadline is 5 April.
    • Example: You have until 5 April 2014 to make up gaps for the tax year 2007 to 2008.
  • There are exceptions to the 6 year rule which can be found on the Class 2 and Class 3 pages

How to apply to make voluntary contributions if you live abroad

  • You can apply using form CF83 ‘Application to make National Insurance Contributions abroad’.
  • You can find this form and accompanying guidance notes on the back of leaflet NI38. (Go to NI38)
  • Fill it in and return it to National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office – International Caseworker.


NI38 (PDF 260K) Social Security abroad – National Insurance contributions, Social Security benefits, Health care in certain overseas countries
September 2009


How to pay your NI contributions

Historically, when you applied to pay National Insurance contributions from abroad you could pay them via Direct Debit. But that all changed in April this year, and now the HMRC office will send you a bill at the end of the tax year with a summary of the amount you owe.

Contact an International Case Worker

  • Telephone Number:  44-191-203-7010



If all this talk about retirement planning is depressing you, here’s something to look forward too ….. cost savings:

Retired Campers Cartoon copyright Caravan Parks dot com



Disclaimer:  All of this information was gathered from the UK pension website in 2013, as part of my research into NI contributions and the UK Penison.  Laws change frequently, so before you make any life changing decisions based on any of this information, please be sure to check back at the source to confirm if any of this information has changed. UK Pension Government website logo


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  1. BacktoBodrum

    I’ve given up trying to work out my pension – apart from knowing that I have 16 and half years left till I collect it. There is a bill up before parliament to raise the qualifying period from 30 to 35 years. Having found out that the holiday companies I worked for in the 80s didn’t pay our contributions, I am way short of the final figure. I need to back pay the years I missed, not the past 6 years which I have paid – any ideas?
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  2. Roving Jay

    Hi Annie… it’s been a long time since I left the UK, and I didn’t keep up the payments, but I applied for a state pension statement to see if I met the minimum qualification of 10 years of Payments, and I did. The hardest part of the process for me was remembering my last paying job and my address. But I sent the form off, and received my statement a couple of weeks later .. and I was pleasantly surprised by the pension I’m entitled too, (based on the 11 years of payments I’ve already made).

    So it was a simple process, and that’s really the first step you should do.
    Second step is to request to make voluntary payments .. and there’s a form for that, and there’s more information on this webpage.


    To be honest I couldn’t really figure it all out, but I’m assuming that if you apply to make voluntary payments for the years you missed and fill in the form, they’ll let you know whether you’re eligible to or not.

    There’s different factors … e.g. which class of payments you want to make, and also the year you want to make voluntary payments for is relevant too, because the rate fluctuates each year.

    I’d recommend doing the two step process and seeing what they come back with.
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  3. Joe

    Great resource for expats! I always have people asking me about this and I will definitely point them to your site!

    1. Roving Jay

      Thanks Joe .. I did a lot of research into this and have educated a lot of my expat friends about what they’re entitled too.

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