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One of the things on everyone’s mind these days is, when can I travel again? When can I go on holiday, go away, get out of the country for a change?
When you think about it, we do like our holidays and travelling, and we have been locked-up, or locked down, technically for over a year! That is a long time to stare at four walls, work from home if you can, and only be able to go to “essential” stores and shops.
So as you can imagine there is a lot of pent-up demand to go abroad, get away and just not see the same places and faces.
As I write this, we are being told we may be able to venture out and dip our toes in the travel pool by mid-May; although this is subject to change due to many factors.
We can speculate as to how moving forward travelling will be.
The airlines and holiday resorts, and all involved in the travel industry have lost a lot of money in the past 12 months. To say they have lost millions of Pounds, would be an understatement. Some companies, agencies, and resorts have gone out of business, gone bust, never to return again. The numbers speak for themselves.
As a nation, and even as a World, we were used to just buying a ticket to go someone, board a train, plane, ship, or our own conveyance, and go there.
That all changed, and is still changing.
Will we need Covid Passports to travel?
Will be required to have had both jabs of the vaccine?
How do we show or prove we have had both jabs?
Will we be required to quarantine when we return?
How much more will we need to pay for vaccine passports, and any other related expenses?
These questions are outside of many questions we get about having debt and travelling.
Can I move to another country, and leave my debts behind?
Will I be stopped or arrested if I return to a country where I left debts behind?
Can I do a “runner” and leave my unpaid bills behind me?
Is leaving debt behind a crime?
Can I get a Visa in another country if I am in debt?
All good questions, and we will address them here.
Holidays and Travelling Abroad If You Are in Debt
Let’s start out with something basic and something we all probably already know.
If you want to go on holiday, you book your flights, the resort, transfers if needed, exchange your spending money, and off you go; well you did in the past. As mentioned some of this may and probably will change.
You then spent a fortnight in some warm, sunny and sandy climate, forgetting all your troubles back home.
One of those troubles may have been you had some bills that needed to be paid, or you were in arrears with some accounts.
You could still book your holiday, travel, and try to relax. No one was going to stop you at the airport for unpaid bills or accounts in arrears.
No one was going to stop you even if you were insolvent, and had filed for Bankruptcy.
There are no travel restrictions just because you have unpaid bills, accounts in arrears or are in debt.
Debt does not equal travel restrictions.
It also should be noted here, that being in debt is not a crime.
Debts can come from a crime, such as fraud, possible fines, court charges, and anything that is a crime, but owing money in itself is not a crime.
So yes, you can holiday and travel, even if you owe money.
Getting a Visa to Travel and Having Debt
For most countries we may wish to travel to and/or live, you can visit for a short period of time, but if you wish to stay there, live there and work there, you are going to be required to get the appropriate Visa.
For some countries, such as the USA, even to go there on holiday you need a special Visa, an ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
The ESTA form asks you various questions such as your name, do you have any criminal convictions, it even may ask about your parents, and other family members, in addition to the purpose of your trip.
The ESTA form does not ask about finances, or if you have any unpaid debts. Finances for this particular Visa is not questioned.
In seeking a Visa to live in another country, it can depend on the type of Visa you are seeking as to if any personal finance questions are asked, and these questions are usually more of the “how will you support yourself” nature. They do not ask about unpaid debts, or who you may owe money to.
If you are seeking a Work Visa, this will show how you will support yourself, as your income will be disclosed.
In the example of a spouse Visa, here in the UK and in other countries, there is a minimum income your sponsoring spouse must earn to show they can support you.
Here in the UK that minimum income is £18,600, more if you have children.
When seeking a Visa to live and work in another country, a criminal background check, or police record check, what is called a DBS/Disclosure and Barring Service here in the UK, is carried out on applicants.
Once again, owing money or being in debt, does not show up on these checks, as being in debt or having unpaid accounts is not a crime.
There can be one caveat to this, what if you have CCJ’s/County Court Judgments or other judgments against you???
These judgments are a Civil matter, and not Criminal.
However, should you have a few judgments against you, it doesn’t look good, and could be considered as a testament to your character.
Which when applying for naturalisation or Citizenship here in the UK, there is a portion on the application about “Good Character”.
Being Bankrupt, having CCJ’s, and being in debt, could be seen as not being of good character. However, to my knowledge, experience, and research, being debt alone or having been bankrupt alone, is not an issue.
If you have debts and are sorting them out, in a repayment plan such as an IVA or Debt Management Plan, you seeking to resolve the issue, and this shows good character.
Leaving Unpaid Bills and Debts Behind
We are a nation, even a planet of people who love to travel, and also move around. We began as nomadic tribes thousands of years ago, and not much in that sense has changed.
One day you are living in the UK, the next you may have a job offer and are off to live in Dubai.
I am going to give two examples here of leaving unpaid debts behind, and both these examples are based on true and factual situations I have seen, and advised on over the many years.
You are a UK resident/Citizen and move to Dubai for your dream job. Your new employer has secured your Visa to live and work there.
You live there in Dubai for a few years, and do as anyone does, you buy a car on finance, get a credit card, and maybe even a loan.
One day your employer states your services are no longer required, what do you do?
If you can find other work that will sponsor you to stay in Dubai, that is one option.
If you cannot find suitable work, you may decide to leave Dubai and move back to the UK.
But what about the car on finance, your credit card and loan?
Just by moving away does not relieve you of the liability of these debts.
You could move back to the UK, get a job, and still pay the accounts, but if for any reason you can no longer afford to repay the accounts when back in the UK, naturally the Dubai banks and your creditors, are going to chase you for payment.
The banks will make threats, harass you, and try to collect what is owed to them. However, the Dubai banks have no authority in the UK to collect an account…..unless….unless the account is sold or assigned to a collection agency here in the UK.
Then, that UK collection agency can collect the account, but they must do so in accord with the laws and rules here in the UK.
The UK collection agency has all UK collection tools at their disposal, such as getting a CCJ, or possibly making you bankrupt.
You as the debtor then also have all the UK’s debt management and insolvency options at your disposal to get out of debt.
You can try to arrange a Token Payment Plan, a Debt Management Plan, or possibly an IVA.
So if an account from another country outside the UK is assigned or sold to a UK collection agency, it can be collected here in the UK.
You are a UK Citizen/resident and decide to move abroad, somewhere warm and sunny, but you have £10,000 of debt here in the UK.
Can you just up and move, leave the debts behind?
Yes, you can, but….and this is a big but…you are still liable for the accounts.
This means, yes you can travel, move abroad, and live your life, but those you owe here in the UK may chase you to that warm and sunny place to try and collect what is owed to them.
As to what authority they have to collect the account(s), will depend on what country you have moved to.
Now to fast forward this scenario, lets say after a few years you tire of the beaches and sun, and decide to move back to the wet and windy climate here in the UK.
Can you move back home?
Yes. You are a UK Citizen and as such you have the right to move back to the UK.
But what about the debts you left in the UK?
Depending on a few factors, you could still owe them, and moving back may start up the collection process again if your creditors are still looking for you.
One thing to keep in mind, if you have had no contact from a creditor for a period of six (6) years, a debt can be Statue Barred, which means it is no longer owed.
There is a caveat to this barring process, you must have had no contact with the creditor for six years, however, if a creditor has still tried to contact you, at either an old address, email account, or phone number, this may be seen as attempted contact.
To summarise, you can leave debts behind in the UK, move to another country, (as long as you meet that country’s requirements), and move back to the UK, having left unpaid debts behind.
Getting Stopped/Detained at The Airport For Leaving Debt Behind
Simply put, just for owing money, debts alone, you will not be stopped at a UK, or most other countries airports while travelling.
There are some countries where debt can be a crime, more on this later, but in those countries unless a Warrant has been issued, you can still travel.
With our travel restrictions slowly being lifted, and hopefully staying lifted, we may see more ex-pats abroad returning home, or us here seeking our fortunes elsewhere in other countries.
Whichever way we go, there will be those leaving debt behind them, or returning to debt still waiting for them.