Do I still have to repay my debt if I move abroad?

Summary: This article reviews the implications of moving abroad to avoid repaying outstanding debt.

With an increasing debt burden for many, a solution to clear the debt in one go will be appealing. In the past, individuals have moved abroad in order to escape their debt, and before developments in communications and technology, this often worked. However, for anyone considering such a solution today, they should be aware that it is not the solution they had hoped.

Can a creditor chase me for payments after emigration?

The UK has agreements with a number of countries around the world which allows the UK courts to enforce a County Court Judgement (CCJ) in another country. Examples of such agreements are with Canada and Germany. If there is no agreement in place, then the creditor may sell the debt to a collection agency based in the country the debtor has moved to, meaning that they have not escaped the debt at all.

How can my creditors find out where I am?

Nowadays, it can be very difficult to completely disappear without changing identity, which is a step far for the majority. If the creditor has an idea of where an individual has emigrated to, they will generally be able to find where they are. It is also possible they have international offices to chase the debtor. Creditors may also contact family and friends of the debtor to try to gain information as to their whereabouts.

I have lived abroad for 7 years, will my creditors still chase me if I return to the UK?

Creditors have a period of 6 years from the debtor’s last payment, or from when they last acknowledged the debt, to start legal proceedings. If they have not done so in this period, then they cannot chase the debtor. If legal action has been taken however, then this can still be followed up indefinitely (e.g. an outstanding CCJ).

I am moving abroad and I don't want my creditors to continue chasing me, what can I do?

If it is possible for the debt to be cleared, this is the ideal situation. There are other options available, however, and an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or Debt Management Plan (DMP) may be suitable options. For either of these options to be appropriate, the individual must be able to demonstrate a regular income in order set up a repayment schedule. For anyone in debt who is facing difficulties in the repayments, they should seek advice from a licensed money advisor or from one of the free advice services available, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) or Step Change.