FCO Guidance – Financial Assistance Abroad
What to do, who to contact, if you require financial assistance when abroad.
Before you go
There are some simple steps you can take to avoid financial difficulties overseas.
- Get comprehensive travel insurance. Check that any policy you buy provides cover for all of your pre-existing physical or mental health conditions and covers any activities or sports that you may be undertaking. Check your policy for exclusions, for example, most travel insurance policies exclude cover for events that happen after excessive alcohol consumption. Follow the information on what your travel insurance policy should cover. If you do not take out comprehensive insurance, or the policy does not cover your circumstances, you will have to pay the costs of any emergency yourself. This could include an expensive medical bill or additional flights if your travel plans have to change. Keep a physical or electronic copy of your policy with you, and the details of the emergency assistance number.
- Take enough money for your trip and some backup funds, credit cards, travellers’ cheques, or prepaid cash cards.
- Before you leave, let your bank know you will be travelling abroad. Ensure you know how to replace your credit cards and travellers’ cheques if you lose them or they are stolen, and how to contact your bank from abroad. Keep a separate note of their numbers.
- Make sure you have the contact details of family and friends in case your phone is lost or stolen.
- Read the Travel Advice for the country or territory you are visiting and sign up for email alerts to get the latest updates.
- Read the Foreign Travel Checklist to help you prepare for foreign travel and stay safe abroad.
If you need financial help abroad
If you need financial help abroad, some potential options to consider include:
|Insurance company||Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to confirm what costs your policy covers. Most insurers have a 24/7 emergency phone number. If you need medical care, your insurance policy may only cover specific medical providers in your location. Similarly, insurance companies can specify legal, funeral and translation providers.|
|Credit card company||If you booked your travel with a credit card, check whether your credit card offers insurance for the trip.|
|Travel provider or tour operator||These companies may be able to help you rearrange your travel plans. If you have special circumstances, ask if they can reduce or waive any fees for rearranging your plans. If your UK travel provider has gone into administration, look for information on ABTA or ATOL protection.|
|Bank or building society||If your bank or credit card is lost or stolen, check if your bank offers an emergency cash facility. This allows you, or family or friends in the UK, to access the account using an emergency code at a cash machine. If you have your bank card but have run out of funds, contact your bank to discuss your options.|
|Family or friends||Contact any family and friends. They may be able to transfer funds to you through a commercial transfer service, deposit money in your bank account, or buy you a ticket home.|
|Employer||Some employers may be able to arrange an advance of your salary or may have an employee assistance scheme or hardship fund. Consider if you can access pension funds.|
|Employment-based charities||Some employment-based or professional charities offer financial assistance. See the Employment-based charities section below for examples.|
|Other charities with benevolent funds||Contact other charities that may be able to provide financial assistance, such as those with benevolent funds. Several websites exist to help signpost such charities including Turn2Us.|
|Authorities and charities abroad||If you are planning to stay abroad, check what support you are eligible for from the local authorities or charities where you are.|
|Fundraising||Depending on circumstances, you may wish to explore fundraising. There are a number of websites that can help you set up an online fundraising page and give you information on raising funds.|
How the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) can help
If you run out of money abroad, the FCO can:
- give you advice on your options;
- give you general information on how to transfer money through commercial providers;
- help you to contact family and friends who can transfer money to you or buy you a ticket home, if you need help to do this;
- help you to contact your insurance company or bank, if you are unable to do this;
- provide you with information about charities in the UK or overseas that may be able to help you, where these exist.
The FCO cannot:
- pay your bills, including legal fees, medical bills, translation services, travel or accommodation costs;
- pay for friends or family to visit you overseas, for example, if you are hospitalised;
- pay for funerals, cremations or the repatriation of remains following a death;
- pay for costs associated with a deportation or medical repatriations.
Depositing money with the FCO
In exceptional circumstances, family or friends can deposit money with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This is discretionary and will only be considered if no other transfer service is available. If eligible, please note the process is usually slower than commercial options and you will be required to visit the nearest embassy or consulate in person. If the FCO agrees to transfer money on your behalf, you will be charged a fee.
Emergency loans for repatriation
In very exceptional circumstances, and as a last resort, the FCO may be able to provide an emergency loan from public funds to help you return home. This is discretionary and will only be considered if you have exhausted all other methods of getting funds, including those listed above.
An emergency loan for repatriation will only usually be considered in cases of destitution, where someone has no assets, and support from friends, families and charities is not available.
It is up to the FCO to decide whether it grants any emergency loans – a lack of other ways for you to return home does not mean that the FCO will automatically agree to it.
If you are eligible, you will have to sign an ‘undertaking to repay’ agreement, where you agree to repay the loan within six months. Only basic costs can be included in a loan, usually the cheapest one-way ticket to the UK. A loan cannot cover medical, legal or other bills. The FCO does not fund medical repatriations.
You will usually have to secure an emergency loan by agreeing to give up your passport to the FCO. The FCO will then issue you with an emergency travel document valid for a single journey to your country of residence. The cost of the emergency travel document will be added to the loan. Your passport will not be returned to you, and Her Majesty’s Passport Office will not issue you with a replacement passport, until you have repaid the loan in full.
If you are under 18, you may be eligible for additional support if there are no adults available to sign an ‘undertaking to repay’ on your behalf. Contact the FCO for advice.
Returning to the UK
You generally must have lived in the UK for a specific amount of time to be entitled to income related UK benefits, usually five years. If you have been living abroad, or travelling abroad for more than three months, it may affect your eligibility for benefits in the UK that are subject to the ‘habitual residence test’. You can find more information about the habitual residence test and claiming benefits from Citizens Advice.
Contact the FCO
You can contact the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate, or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London 24 hours a day on 020 7008 1500.
Further information from the FCO
There are organisations in the UK than can offer advice, support and information to those affected by financial difficulties.
Some of these organisations are listed below. Please note, those with helplines may only be accessible from the UK. As they are independent organisations, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot be held responsible in any way for their advice and/or any decisions and outcomes that result from this.
Depending on your circumstances, employment or family history, you may be eligible for support from an employment-based charity. Examples include: