Why are expat Brits losing their UK bank accounts

Published:  21 Aug at 6 PM
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Literally millions of British expats overseas are losing their UK bank accounts, leaving their finances and pension payments in chaos.

In Spain alone, over 300,000 Britons are living, working or retiring in the sun after deciding to give the UK a permanent miss for a number of valid reasons. In the rest of the world, some five million UK citizens are currently living away from home, with the majority expat professionals or entrepreneurs with their own businesses. All are facing problems with reduced access to UK bank accounts, even although they are still British citizens.

The problem is a change in international law brought in a few years ago and supposedly related to international money laundering regulations. Rather than finding a way to continue to service existing accounts, especially those acting as a depository for pension payments, British banks are simply sticking to the letter of the law and depriving expats of access to their funds simply because they cannot provide a British residence address. It’s created massive problems in UK expat communities, as a huge number of expats have sold their former homes, using part of the capital to emigrate permanently.

Just over two years ago, Barclays Bank sent a shocking letter to its British customers living in Cyprus, some of whom had held accounts for several decades. The latter stated unless a sum of £100,000 was deposited into recipient’s accounts, said accounts would immediately be closed. Objections poured in, to be met with an equally shocking reply from the bank stating that other countries’ UK expats would be treated in the same manner. Restrictions also apply to expat clients who want to move their savings to another account with the same bank as it pays better interest. A few took their complaints to the Competition and Markets Authority, with little response.

One of the major problems down to the banks’ unreasonable stance is that a number of company pensions will only pay into UK-based banks, with recipients being forced to negotiate deals allowing overseas transfers of their pensions to foreign banks. Another is the difficulty of keeping cash in overseas banks whose regulations aren’t easily understood and whose employees are unable to communicate in English. This last is especially unfair to expats over the age of 65, as many find learning a new language trying at best and impossible at worst. A considerable number have been resident outside the UK for up to several decades and have been caused a great deal of stress by the banks’ attitudes.
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