Thursday, 30 August 2012


UK expats living in other European countries can now claim the Winter Fuel Payment. To qualify this winter 2013/14 they must have been born on 5 January 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 are a lot warmer than the UK. And from Winter 2015 the Government intends that they 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. Guidance from the Department of Work and Pensions sets out the judgement and its effect on Winter Fuel Payment The rules have now been set down in the law which comes into effect 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 22/9/1933 or earlier) the payment is £300. People born before 20/9/1939 may also qualify for one of more payments from earlier years if they were living in a country which qualified in 1999/2000, 1998/99 or 1997/98 when the EU was much smaller. Payments were also smaller then - £20 in 1997/98 and 1998/99 and £100 in 1999/2000. Those payments must be claimed by 31 March 2014 when the law will change to stop them. Payments for years from 2000/01 to 2012/13 cannot be claimed now.

The countries
Claims can be made from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia (from 1 July), 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. Winter temperatures in these countries are typically 25-30C. It can also be claimed in Spain’s Canary Islands, Ibiza and Majorca as well as the Portuguese Azores and Madeira islands.

However, the Government intends to stop payments to people in Cyprus, France, Gibraltar, Greece, Malta, Portugal, and Spain. It says the average winter temperature there is warmer than the average winter temperature in the UK's warmest region, south west England. No payment will be made to people living in those countries from winter 2015/16. 

It is possible that the new rule - announced on 26 June 2013 - will be challenged in the European Court. It is not completely clear why our next door neighbour France is on the excluded list but Italy - on the face of it a warmer country - is not. I am told there are cold winters in parts of Spain too. It is likely that the average temperature in France, Spain and Portugal are boosted by their warmer territories. Mainland winter temperatures in France are not a lot above freezing.

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 download the forms here Remember men in the UK aged under 65 normally have to claim it too 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 08459 15 15 15 or 0191 218 7610.

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.
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  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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