Part I. Why we left the UK and why we came back
“Never say never. In your life you never know what`s going to happen next.” -Gwen Stefani
I have decided to share my experiences how it is being back in England after we left it few years ago. Maybe you left the UK like us, before the country exited from the EU and now you are even thinking about coming back? This post is for you then!
About me: when not blogging or traveling, I work as a contractor (freelancer) IT software engineer. My main clients are large, international organizations, mainly in the financial industry. My profession led us back to England.
I remember for the 23th-24th of June 2016 well, when the referendum took place about leaving the EU. We were exercising in our local gym in Northwich (Cheshire) when heard in the radio, the European Union membership referendum is closed and 51.89% of the population voted on Leave. It was shocking news to consume and uncertainty straight away took over in our mind. We had a mortgage, two cars, two businesses and life on a solid foundation. The image of this foundation all became loose suddenly (in our head). In the next two years we stayed in the UK but we were planning our leaving before Brexit happens. We did not want to wait whether house prices will fall, mortgage interest rates will rise, our freedom of movement in Europe will be restricted – in a worst case scenario. Also, deeply inside us we were hurt by the leave vote; we did not feel welcomed here any more. I was like a little boy, who was told, not wanted any more on the playground.
Finally, in the end of 2019 we sold our house and moved our belongings abroad. Until the end of 2021 I was certain, we made the right decision back that time and we may will never return. Well, never say never, writing this post from Kent county…
One of the main reason I did not want to come back is because of the new tax rules (IR35). I was certain, I do not want to work as a freelancer in the UK any more. Part of me agree with HMRC that they want self-employed people to pay the same amount of tax as permanent employee colleagues – they often have the same managers, working from the same office, working the same 8 hours daily, have to complete the same trainings and they all must obey all company rules. Working conditions are the same so why would we pay 50% less tax? But! A freelancer has a fixed contract, often after 6 months or 12 months they must find a new contract – imagine being in a continuous job hunting circle every year, that is never ending. Sounds stressful, isn`t it? It is! We do not get company benefits and pension, we are often treated as an „external”, who do not belong to the team, even working in the team – excluded from meetings, team gatherings. So I did not feel bad before for paying less tax and earning more; this compensated me for the inconveniences of the always reoccurring job hunting and gave me a budget to pay my private pension, insurances etc. Now those who have to work inside IR35 (basically, if your working condition is the same like a permanent employee`s, likely you must work inside IR35 – on payroll), have to pay the same amount of tax as their permanently employed colleagues. We do not get benefits and private pension but the umbrella who employs us, do our payroll and deduct NI and taxes, we have an option to opt in into a private pension. Easy enough, I do not have to take care any more of tax returns myself and deal with accountancy.
Why did I come back with this condition then? Because the gross salary is higher than for a „permie”, so the net salary is double what I would get for the same position in a permanent employment. Ok, paying 40% – 45% of tax is still a lot but if your gross salary is high enough and you net salary is double or triple what you would get as a “permie”, that`s something I would consider. The other reason behind I gave up my plan no to come back, is the quality of service I get here. British do really care and provide (generally) an excellent customer service in whatever they do. After dealing with recruiters from some well-known Indian multinational IT companies, it was a relief dealing with a British recruiter agency. I got daily follow-up calls, e-mails about every stages of the recruitment, patient and care. My on-boarding went really smoothly, even I managed it from abroad. From those Indian companies I struggled even getting my interviews booked or when it was booked, nobody showed up. There was no communication if something was rescheduled, no feedback after my interviews…when I got hired, they „forgot” sharing the news the customer changed their mind and I am no longer needed to on-board. Recruiters of these huge, international companies often behave unprofessional; starting the conversation with negotiating on my daily rate and trying to justify, actually 50% less is still a „good money” – without seeing my CV and hearing about my experiences. I think these companies make the mistake with preferring cheap labor against skilled and experienced professionals. If I can choose, I would never work for any of them.
Worth to know, if you have lived in the UK minimum 5 years until December 2016, you might be eligible to get your residency back. I did not know this! The deadline for sending the settlement status applications were the summer of 2021, so I thought this was it, we need a UK Visa from now on. You can still apply on the government site: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status . Approval can take from anything from 2 days to 6-8 months. I applied in the beginning of December of 2021 and only got a temporary status (application approval is pending). My wife sent her application two weeks later and got the full „Settled” state only in 2 days. We entered and left the UK the same day, both of us worked here without any pause. Who knows how the approval process work.
What you can do in the UK while waiting for the Settled status:
- live in the UK
- work – once your employer has verified your certificate of application with the Home Office. For this you need to generate a share code on the government site. Using this share code, your new employer can this verification.
- rent a place to live in England – once your landlord has verified your certificate of application with the Home Office
- use the National Health Service (NHS) in a similar way to permanent UK residents
- access public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you are eligible for them
- access a current account with a bank or building society in the UK
Note: Temporary, you can enter to the country and can work but bare in mind, if the decision is „no”, you may need to leave the country. There is an option to challenge the decision.
What you can do in the UK with a Settled status:
- work and live in the UK
- use the NHS
- study in the UK
- access public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you are eligible for them
- travel in and out of the UK
This means that you have a secure status under UK law and there is no time limit on how long you can stay in the UK.
Note: If you leave the UK and return within five years, you can enter the UK and continue to live here as a person with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. If you leave the UK for more than five consecutive years, your settled status will lapse, and you will need to make a new application under one of the routes which may be available to you to return to the UK.
Luckily, I kept my bank accounts in the UK, so I could provide a temporary proof of address. For any employment in the UK, you have to be UK based, live here minimum 183 days. I did not find an option to work remotely abroad but inside IR35 (please message me if you know any legal way).
After the new contract was signed, we were ready to start our road trip to England. For more info about traveling cross Europe by car, read my previous post.
Closing Part I of the post with mentioning, we really missed our life in England. Worked and lived a bit everywhere in Central – and East Europe, South- and Central America in the last few years but somehow never had such easy and comfortable life like here. We missed the amount of (quality) roads and motorways, roundabouts and clear road signs, variety of shops, having Amazon and Ebay, Sunday`s carboot sale, the nation`s honor towards legacy and history, welcoming, caring and smiling people, the love of coffee & tea, fine dining and antiques, green landscapes, safe dog walking without having tick and flee in summer, not so cold in winter and not so hot in summer, cottages and historic buildings, a local ale in a few hundred years old pub, the relaxed driving style, cheap second hand cars, the easy switch to any service provider, Quidco and so on…so nice to be back! We see this country now differently and value it more. We are very grateful we could come back this easy and could continue our life exactly how we left it here.
In Part II. I am coming with a post about first impressions after being back again in the UK.