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Claiming Child Benefit Abroad

Claiming child benefit abroad can provide a handy payment to receive, and the benefits can make up for a large part of your required income in Bulgaria.

If you have two children you could get around 320 Leva per month, which in Bulgaria is not to be sniffed at. This payment could be over half your Bulgarian monthly food bill, a months petrol for your car and your monthly electricity and water bill. Unfortunately, not everyone qualifies for this state benefit when they leave the UK. Read on to discover where you stand on this matter.

Who qualifies in the UK?

Child Benefit is a tax-free regular payment available to anyone bringing up a child or young person and it isn't affected by income or savings. Anyone in the UK who is bringing up either a child aged under 16 or a young person under 19 who is either studying in full-time education or an approved training programme, or a 16 or 17 year old who recently left full-time further education or an approved training scheme and has registered for work or training with the Careers or Connexions Service qualifies for this benefit and they do not need to be the parent of the child in question.

How much do you get?

In the UK you can claim £20.30 per week for the eldest child and £13.40 per week for each additional child. The money can be paid into a UK bank account on a four weekly basis.

What if you move abroad?

If you move to Bulgaria, you will not automatically receive benefits from the UK. In fact your entitlement will depend on whether your stay here is temporary or permanent.

Firstly, you must contact the Child Benefit Office and notify them of a change in your circumstances. There are many ways to get in touch with them – you can either contact them online, phone them or text them between 8.00 am to 8.00 pm seven days a week. Their helpline number is 0845 302 1444, textphone 0845 302 1474. Just because you are moving abroad does not mean that you will not qualify for child benefit, although you do need to check.

Civil servants and armed forces personnel

Special rules apply if you or your partner work abroad as a UK civil servant or a member HM Armed Forces and you are working in Bulgaria for the UK Government. If you fall into this category and were posted to Bulgaria, whilst living in the UK, you can also claim Child Benefit. Your child does not have to live with you abroad in this instance.

Temporary stays

If you only spend eight weeks in Bulgaria and then decide it is not for you, you can reclaim your child benefit to cover this period. Likewise, if you expect to be out of the UK for less than 52 weeks on what the state calls a 'temporary absence' you will still qualify.

Permanent moves

If your move is permanent or at least longer than 52 weeks you can only claim Child Benefit if you continue paying UK National Insurance contributions. If your child stays in the UK and is being looked after by someone else, that person can claim the Child Benefit allowance to cover the cost of caring for your child.

Special rules apply if you go to Bulgaria and are employed or self-employed and pay into that country’s social security scheme, or if you qualify for any of the following benefits: unemployment benefit, benefit for orphans, benefit for sickness, old age pension, benefit for an accident that happened when you were at work, benefit because you have an industrial disease on the official list. Usually you will be able to claim Child Benefit from that country you can usually get their children’s allowance and you can qualify even if your child or children stay in the UK, but the cost of living in Bulgaria is so much lower than in the UK and state payments are nominal.

When the tables are turned

If your child goes abroad but you do not, you may still claim benefit if their stay is only temporary i.e. less than 12 weeks. If your child is temporarily abroad for more than 12 weeks, you may still get Child Benefit if they are abroad to receive full time non advanced education or to make an educational or foreign visit that is approved in writing by their UK school or to get medical treatment for an illness that began before they left the UK.

At the end of the day, it is wise to check out your individual situation to comply with the law. For further information about claiming child benefit abroad check out these government websites at www.hmrc.gov.uk/childbenefit/index.htm or www.direct.gov.uk