My husband has just qualified for his UK State Pension. Unlike most of his friends and acquaintances of the same age, he has a small part-time job, pays his social contributions to the French state and completes his French tax declaration,all of which means it's not quite so straightforward to receive the pension!
My first thought was - I'll go on a Francophile forum and ask if anyone has already gone through the process. Well, let me just say that most of the people who responded were not being totally honest! The only reasonably helpful answer was from a lady who does not yet qualify for her state pension - she's just making plans well ahead!
So, here is what you should do, if you live and work in France and will qualify for a UK State Pension.
For starters, you should know the difference between NRD (Normal Retirement Date) which is the State Retirement Age for you, and CRD (Chosen Retirement Date) where you may have elected to retire after your normal retirement date (NRD).
For the purposes of this article, we will just talk about NRD but the same principles apply to CRD.
Up to one year before NRD, ask the DWP at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, tel 0044 191 2183600, for a Form BR19 which must be completed and returned to them for a pension forecast to be calculated. Nothing can be done until they have received this completed form.
Do be prepared to listen to piped music - we timed one call at 10 minutes before we actually got to speak to someone - but the staff at the DWP are extremely helpful, so it's not worth losing your rag with them.
4-5 months before NRD and not less than 4 months before, you should advise the DWP on tel 0044 191 2187777 that you wish to claim your State Pension with effect from your NRD (or CRD).
If you have never worked in France, the DWP will deal with you direct and tell you what you have to do.
If you work or have worked in France and are therefore in the French system, you are subject to an EU Directive which rules that foreign nationals working in another EU country must apply for their own State Pension via the country in which they work or have worked in - in our case France.
The DWP will advise you to contact their counterparts in France, but they won't tell you who they are, as it depends on the area in which you live in France. More about this later!*
After much research, my husband discovered he needed to contact URSSAF. He found it easier to visit their offices rather than discuss over the telephone, for two reasons:
1. so that you can speak to a real person
2. because he found a superb booklet in English which, amongst all the explanations which were needed, gave the addresses which he needed to contact in respect of the process of claiming his pension.
As mentioned before, these addresses and, in some cases, the name of the organisation dealing with the matter can differ, depending in which *French department you live.
You should also be aware that, at this stage, because you live and work in France, you are expected to communicate in French, all the forms are in French and must be completed in French. My husband found that everyone he spoke to was very helpful, patient and made allowances where his vocabulary was inaccurate!
You make an initial application in France by writing to the organisation and address relevant to where you live, quoting your French Social Security Number and UK National Insurance Number, heading the letter 'Demande de Retraite Personnelle'. In this letter, you should advise of your normal or chosen retirement date and request a form for 'Demande de Releve de Carriere Demande de Retraite Personnelle'. This letter must be written in French.
You will then be sent the appropriate forms to complete and return them. Further information will be requested from you, if required.
At the same time, as you are approaching your NRD, it is worth speaking to the DWP again to ascertain what your final pension will be.
When you have completed the forms, it is suggested that you visit the local URSAAF office (in our case Niort) and ask them to check that all the documentation is in order before it is sent off to the relevant organisation (in our case) CARSAT at Limoges. URSAAF will then send the dossier by internal courrier.
Then the fun begins!
Once the processing commences, you will be asked all sorts of information. In our case, in February, a request came from CARSAT for all my husband's Bulletins de Salaires for the current year up to the month end in which his birthday fell - in his case May! Remember - he was asked for this in February! Obviously it was impossible to supply pay slips which have not yet arrived!
If you have this problem, just send photocopies of all the wage slips with a covering letter, asking if they require the monthly salary slips as you receive them. My husband received no reply, so assumed he would have to send a photocopy of each salary slip at the end of each month.
This he did, didn't hear anything back from CARSAT, and so we assume this was dealt with correctly.
About 2 months before my husband's NRD, he received a letter from CARSAT requesting full details of all his employment history from 1st January of the year in which he left school to 31st December of the year in which he ceased working in England and moved to live permanently in France. If you have worked in the private sector all your working life, it's not so easy! This is apparently legally required in France, but all the relevant information is available from the DWP in Newcastle. You need to apply to the DWP for the information, allow 6-8 weeks to produce. Unfortunately in our case, when it arrived, it was not in the form which France had requested. All my husband could do was, from memory, record his employment history.
You will be advised by the DWP when your pension has been approved and then await the first payment.
Applying for your UK State Pension if you live in France does not need to be complicated, but you do need to know the procedure to follow - which is explained above - and you should plan well ahead and allow plenty of time.
URSSAF Niort office details
British Embassy, Paris