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Five considerations for UAE residents making a permanent return to the UK

David Smylie, Private Banker based in our Dubai office, discusses the increase in British expats considering a permanent return to the UK and considerations for others looking to do the same.


13th January 2021


David Smylie


The difficult events of 2020 have given us all pause for thought and led many to take a broader, more evaluative look at their circumstances. For some, it’s been affirmative, but others have decided to make a change. The Middle East team based in Dubai at Arbuthnot Latham have noticed an increase in British expats considering a permanent return to the UK.

Arbuthnot Latham offers a bespoke service for clients looking to return to the UK. We understand the importance of having the right support network around you at what can be a disruptive time, and work with experts across a range of sectors to make sure the transition goes smoothly. Although the considerations of repatriating are manifold, you can group them into certain themes:

Tax considerations for ex-pats returning to the UK

Aside from a small amount of VAT, the UAE is a largely tax-free jurisdiction, even as a UK national living in the country. Returning to the UK therefore brings some important considerations when your tax status changes and you start to incur certain liabilities that you may not have faced for some time. 

Getting the right tax advice and financial structures in place before you leave is crucial and we have a wide network of experts we can introduce you to help that process. Our wealth planners can then work alongside those experts to help you meet your personal goals.

Buying property back in the UK

Simply finding the right place to buy can be difficult enough, but securing finance as a returning expat can also present challenges. You may return to the UK without a job secured which means proving regular income can be difficult. Similarly, having recent payslips in a foreign currency may not suit high street lenders. 

Another consideration if you’re returning from the UAE on the same or similar salary is that your net income will fall due to the application of income tax, and it potentially may be more difficult to demonstrate affordability. All of these factors mean that you may not have access to the broad range of products available to a longer-term UK resident, even though you may possess the same inherent risk as a longer-term UK resident. As a result, you need to be strategic in how you apply. We work with clients across a range of sectors who require a bespoke approach to their lending needs because of their unique financial circumstances. Our relationship-led approach means we’re very often able to provide bespoke finance solutions in these circumstances.

Transferring currency when moving back to the UK 

Those who live in the UAE will be aware of the end of service gratuity. For those who are unfamiliar, this is paid by an employer to their employee after they leave a company. Think of it in similar terms to company pension contributions, but rather than being paid each month of your employment, it’s paid in a lump sum at the end. For potentially large sums of money, deciding when to transfer that money from Dirhams to Sterling is crucial. Our Treasury team offers a range of bespoke forex strategies and services to assist, including forward contracts to lock in agreed rates before the final end of service gratuity is paid. However you chose to convert to sterling, or other currencies, your private banker will help keep an eye on exchange rates and offer support as and when you require it.

Are you applying to the right school?

We have so many conversations with clients about schools; it speaks volumes about the reasons many decide to move home. After all, the quality of education in the UK is world renowned, boasting 18 of the world’s top 100 universities. The time of year is important, but so is the destination; are you moving into a good catchment area? Are you close enough to your chosen school? Are you applying to the schools that are right for you and your children? For those thinking about university and attending as a British resident, it’s important to seek expert advice about timing your move. Again, getting the right advice is important and we work with experts who can advise you on different options to best suit your family’s needs. 

The logistics of moving back to the UK

As with anything else, you need a plan. Shipping your possessions back to the UK can take weeks and you need to have a good idea of your living arrangements for the final few weeks in the UAE, and the first few weeks in the UK. The standard notice period on rented property in Dubai is 90 days, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for what’s to come.

Fortunately, for our clients, it’s a seamless journey back the UK from a banking perspective. You don’t need to change accounts, cards or PINs and our team in Dubai will introduce you to your new relationship manager in the UK if a more locally based relationship is desired. As well as the services we offer to smooth the transition, we can introduce you to experts across a range of sectors: tax to property, education to logistics to help you make the most of your move.

Author -

David Smylie

David Smylie

Private Banker

David Smylie is a Private Banker based in our Dubai office, looking after clients in the UAE and wider Middle East.