Thursday, 30 August 2012


UK expats living in other European countries can now claim the Winter Fuel Payment. To qualify this winter 2014/15 they must have been born on 5 July 1952 or earlier and have 'a genuine and sufficient link to the UK'. They must also live in an EU country, the three EEA countries or Switzerland - they are listed below. Some countries where expats can now claim the payment are a lot warmer than the UK. And from Winter 2015 it will no longer paid in seven warmer countries.

Until 2012 people who lived outside the UK could not claim the Winter Fuel Payment. If they had already qualified and claimed it in the UK they could keep it if they moved, but they could not claim it for the first time from outside the UK.

The change was brought about by a judgement of the European Court of Justice in a case about disability benefits. The court ruled that it was wrong to prevent people from claiming the benefit just because they did not live in the UK at the time of the claim. As long as they had what is called 'a genuine and sufficient link to the social security system of the UK' they can claim from another European country. The DWP interprets that as meaning that the person worked and paid National Insurance in the UK for a long period of time, certainly enough time to qualify for a state pension. The new rule began on 16 September 2013.

The Winter Fuel Payment is £200 per household where a qualifying person lives. So a couple will normally get £100 each. If someone is over 80 (born 21 September 1934 or earlier) the payment is £300. Payments cannot be claimed for earlier winters. A loophole which allowed some payments from the late 1990s to be claimed was closed from 1 April 2014.

The countries
Claims for this winter 2014 can be made from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

France includes its overseas territories Martinique and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, French Guiana on the equatorial coast of South America and even RĂ©union which is south of the Equator in the Indian Ocean tropics. Mean winter temperatures in these places range from 20.5C to 25.8C. It can also be claimed in Spain’s Canary Islands, Ibiza and Majorca with temperatures up to 15C as well as the Portuguese Azores and Madeira islands which are 12C-13C in winter.

Winter 2014 is the last winter when payments will be made to people living in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal, and Spain. A new rule prevents payments to people living in those countries from winter 2015/16. 

The seven countries were chosen because the average temperature of the whole country in the months November to March were warmer than the average temperature in the warmest region of the UK - South West England where it is 5.6C. However, the Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that the average temperature for France was calculated including those tropical overseas territories. Excluding them the average temperature in France would have been 4.9C, which is below the cut off point for the payment. But including the four territories with temperatures in the 20s raises the average to 7.0C thus enabling the Government to exclude tens of thousands of expats living anywhere in France. In fact only six regions in mainland France have a mean winter temperature higher than that in SW England. The DWP claims that it did not choose to include the overseas territories - it had no choice as it had to use the definition of France which the French government uses which includes them. 

Click here for the Met Office report on temperatures in 34 European countries by region which will enable the new law to be applied if other countries such as Turkey join the EU. No other country in the 34 would be excluded.

The payments are not made to people living in the Channel Islands nor the chilly Isle of Man because they are outside the EU.

Find out more about winter fuel payment and how to claim. People living abroad will normally have to make a claim. And so do men in the UK aged under 65 in the first year they qualify.  If you want to get advice call +44 191 218 7777 if you live abroad. If you live in the UK call 03459 15 15 15.

If you do not qualify this year find your qualifying date in future here - assuming the rules do not change which they might.


  1. The important thing is that it corrects an anomoly. Why should there be a distinction between anyone that left the UK before they were 60 and those older than 60? They have all paid UK taxes and probably continue to do so.

  2. I am 64 and live 30 miles above Alicante in the mountains at 480 meters above sea level. Here it has been minus 8/9 c in Jan/Feb and is normally only just warmer than UK in most winter months.
    I have paid my taxes etc for 39 years so why should I not get the WFA ? About time the EU did something right for us Brits. If we go back to UK we have to waits months before we can claim a penny !!

  3. Hi, Everybody is interested in this. What about the commonwealth countries whoall seem to be forgotten about. We don't get cola or anythingelse for that matter, we are no drain on th UK government, we paid our Nat Insurance for years,we paid taxes but no heating allowances for us. Do I smell a rat here if we all decided to return to the UK what would happen? We would automatically be on various types of benefits we would need publicly funded housing, etc need I carry on so how about a little for us. If we all decided to come home from Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and any other Commonwealth Country we could litterally break the Bank of England so think on that. LILY

  4. Is it worth pointing out that some pensioners living abroad may continue to pay income tax in the UK? Seems only fair they might continue to benefit from those taxes.

  5. Ok, so they want to find whatever way they can to cut their deficit : sounds to me like a petition coming up as we here in Portugal have temps below freezing, northern France has temps the same as the UK and part of Greece see temps below freezing too.....mmmm. It's not about where we live, it's about receiving the same benefits from the tax payments we make no matter where we live.

  6. Hi need help. Short version Mum and Dad, now in their their late to mid 80's, worked in Scotland, Dad from 1953 to retirement and Mum back and forward when we were at school. Began receiving the winter fuel payment in 1997,then lived between myself in Derry/Londonderry and my sister in Belfast. My sister died last year and Mum and Dad moved to Ireland in May of this year. Two letters arrived from Newcastle last and this week in quick succession (almost 3 weeks after dated) demanding £1,675 and the £1,725 respectively back, (included a £50 fine for non-payment) of the WFP as they were not entitled to it as they did not satisfy the normal residency criteria. No one will speak to me as I am not Mum or Dad, but Dad had a breakdown after my sister died and is on heart medication and my Mum is deaf, so neither are able to hold a sustained conversation over the telephone. I thought that working and living in the UK for those years would satisfy the criteria? They're now looking for proof of having worked etc. but if they receive a pension they had to, to qualify for that. Any advice?

  7. I bet they had no trouble in spending it.

  8. I would never crave to lose out any chance to look throughout your contents.
    payment protection insurance

  9. I went on pension in 2003 with a pension of 120 pound a month and 11 years later 2004 I am still getting 120 pounds ,NO rises or extras allowed here in South Africa ,But if I return to the UK I will get full pension ,Housing, Medical and all the Extra's .So how many will be thinking of returning from South Africa , Australia ,New Zealand and Canada maybe 1 million + in the next few years ,,Could be nice tax rises for the British th keep us all OR pay us our full pension to keep us away,,

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