Moving to the UK
April 22, 2004 9:29 PM   Subscribe

I am a dual Canadian-UK citizen who has not resided in Britain for more than fifteen years. This autumn, I will be returning to live in the UK. What should I do for travel insurance, and are there any other bureaucratic hoops I should be jumping through? [more inside]

Some cogent details:

* I've already picked up a new British passport.

* I do not know where I will be settling. My plan is to fly over at the end of September and travel the E.U. for a few months, returning in January to wherever it is I liked best. What is certain, however, is that I will be remaining in Europe (and almost definitely the UK).

* I want to ensure that my flight, as well as my health, are insured.

* I'm thinking that while in the UK I'll be ok - my passport should entitle me to emergency health stuff, especially if I register with a random doctor when I arrive. But when I'm elsewhere in Europe, I'm not sure if I need insurance, or whether my E.U. citizenship is good enough.

* The stickler is what I need to do to be understood as a "resident," according to different peoples' definitions.

* I have yet to find a travel insurance company that will insure me, given that I'm only buying a one-way ticket to London.

If there's anyone out there who has made a similar transition, are there any further potholes I should be watching out for? Any further bureaucratic finagling I should be aware of? The British Consulate in Ottawa isn't being very forthcoming.

posted by Marquis to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I can't help you with travel insurance issues, I've never used it. As for residency, seems in the UK that residency for the government is rather easy. You're here, you are a British subject, you get NHS.

The banks are a major pain, and if you can't show you've lived in the UK for the past 3 years, most won't issue a credit card, no matter how good your credit is where you moved from.

My partner and I moved here after 5 years in Germany. His company moved us to European headquarters in the UK. The banks don't care he's been with the same extremely highly-rated company since grad school, and has an unblemished credit history, or how much he makes, or the size of my portfolio. Most won't even let us open an ordinary checking account. Their loss.

MAYBE it would be different if he was a British subject, rather than an EU citizen from Belgium. As far as I'm concerned, this makes something of a lie of the EU right to move between countries without discrimination, but you know, they have to work out the bugs, and that's slow.
posted by Goofyy at 1:09 AM on April 23, 2004

Remember an fill out form E111 before travelling to continental Europe.

Buying your plane ticket by credit card should cover that insurance wise. It has done for me in the past.
posted by the cuban at 1:27 AM on April 23, 2004

Definitely get the E111 but still consider travel insurance alongside it as what it entitles you is limited.
posted by biffa at 2:08 AM on April 23, 2004

Are you not covered by the NHS, Marquis? Or is there a waiting period first?

A friend of mine in the same situation had NHS covereage immediately, but he is also a student (and apparently all international students are covered - what a nice country). Yet normally Canadians moving back to Canada will have health care, though there may be a waiting period (Ontario requires a certain residency period.

You might also want to find out if your provincial health care has any reciprocal arrangements - I think I read that B.C. does. This might cover you in Britain for a time.

I'm sorry I can't help you with the European side - perhaps a British company would be more flexible with their supplementary health insurance?

Regarding flight insurance - I was offered it by the travel agent (and I took it, considering I was flying from Toronto at the height of SARS). For $35 I was covered for cancellations due to medical emergency, including quarentine. I thought it was a good deal.
posted by jb at 2:55 AM on April 23, 2004

What the E111 offers you may be limited - but in most European hospitals you'll get far better service than in the UK, so the comparison is moot!
posted by skylar at 5:41 AM on April 23, 2004

Maybe you should open an account now, in a Canadian branch of a bank that also has branches throughout the UK/EU, or is based there? (if you don't already have that?) Like NatWest or something?
posted by amberglow at 5:52 AM on April 23, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I hadn't yet thought about banking... Your tip, amberglow, sounds like a good one, in light of Goofyy's experiences.

I am indeed covered by NHS, and from what I understand, without a waiting period, but I'm not sure how useful that will be outside of the UK proper. It will be difficult to prove that I'm a resident, if (heaven forbid), an Italian hospital is reluctant to believe me. Essentially, I think, it will depend on whether I can convincingly fill out an E111...

Thanks again for the suggestions. Perhaps the thing to do will be to rely on my credit card for flight insurance, and then to rely on the NHS + E111 for medical insurance. Perhaps once in the UK I could look into travel insurance, as well...
posted by Marquis at 7:34 AM on April 23, 2004

my experience with banks (citibank uk and chile, also using other uk accounts from chile) is that different countries are pretty much different companies, and that all banks work with each other anyway.

my chilean partner had nhs cover in the uk on a temporary (and then permanent) visa, so if you have a passport there should be no problems. we also travelled in europe with e111s, although never used them (she had to get a national insurance number at some point in the uk, but it was a simple process).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:45 AM on April 23, 2004

also, several friends of ours on visas had children in uk hospitals, under the nhs. and in my experience (indirectly - possible breast cancer and care of my parents and grandparents) the nhs has been excellent.

is your new british passport machine readable? mine, issued outside the uk, is not, which will mean problems entering the usa soon (but maybe that's easy for canadians anyway).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:52 AM on April 23, 2004

This is a long answer. Sorry if it rambles, but travel insurance coverage is not clear cut in the instance you describe.

Anyone in the UK is eligible for emergency treatment in there under the NHS. Unbelievable, I know, but perfectly true.

In Europe, an E111 covers you for emergency medical cover to the level of a national of the country in which you are hospitalised. It works for the EEA countries below:

Austria, Italy, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland, Netherlands, France, Norway, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Ireland and the UK, but that's largely irrelevant for the purposes of this answer).

From 1 May 2004 the following countries are also included:

Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovenia.

One thing to be clear of here. It is not even health insurance, let alone travel insurance. It won't get you home and it won't compensate you for diddly squat should something happen. It may not even cover use of ambulances or any other manner of things that residents of, say, Lithuania (a hypothetical example) wouldn't get either if they were sick and needed to go to hospital in Lithuania.

By all means, fill out an E111. It's just worth getting some travel insurance too. Travel insurance is a funny old business. I sold it for years and its still difficult to get some of the concepts across. Basically, most companies don't like paying out. If you know where you stand though, they will. Grudgingly sometimes, and with lots of hoop jumping, but they will. The idea of residence is important, but the key thing is to have a constant address somewhere. All insurance companies require that you correspond with them from your “home” address. This will be where you are repatriated to if things go really tits up. It’ll also be where your body will be returned to should you die.

In order to get insurance for a trip, you must setting out from and then "returning" somewhere. Your insurance covers you from when you leave your front door to when you return to through that same door. If you are emigrating, you can get insurance, but you must have a destination. The insurance will cover you from when you set off out the door to the moment you arrive in the country that is your destination (ie, leave customs).

Essentially, in your case you have no destination and nowhere you are returning to. In theory then, you can't get insurance. There are ways round this though. You have, to my mind, two (imperfect) choices.

1. If you are maintaining an address in Canada or have close family there, buy a cover that starts in Canada and runs until January and use that address as your home. Wherever you “arrive” at in January is your destination. Your covered until the moment you set foot in the destination country. You need to be repatriated? Back to Canada you go. This is pretty dodgy though and a monumental pain in the arse if you actually have to claim since you’ll need to claim through your Canadian address.

2 If you are pretty sure you are going to return to the UK, buy at least two policies. Buy the shortest possible cover, (4 days usually) to cover from Canada to the UK (STA travel will let you do this. They have many clients who are students returning home). The policy will cover you til you arrive (or 4 days, whichever is sooner). In the UK, you have NHS coverage. Fall ill, you’re covered. Once you know when you’ll be leaving the UK, buy cover for a trip to mainland Europe and give yourself a putative return date (January, for example). All you need is an address in the UK to make a claim from. Do not to use a hostel address, use that of a relative or trustworthy friend. It’ll cover you for everything while you are out of the UK and even if you are not returning there, if you need to make a claim, the place you need to correspond from and the company you have to deal with aren’t 3000 miles away and there’ll be someone there you trust to be an intermediate for any claims. Its worth bearing in mind that in the event of your death, this would be the furthest that you body would travel. If you want to be buried in Canada, it’ll cost someone a lot of money to get your body back there.

One more thing of note. If you buy a single trip policy, but return to the UK for anymore than 24 hrs, it’ll invalidate itself. You’ll have to buy another for the next bit (Remember this if you are going to Ireland and transiting the UK, it catches loads of people out)

I hope this is clear. If it isn’t email me and I'll try and answer any further questions you might have.
posted by davehat at 10:20 AM on April 23, 2004

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