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Dealing with debts from abroad

If you have debts which were taken out in a different country to the one you’re living in now it may not be clear how to deal with them.

If you have any debts from another country, in most cases you’ll still need to deal with them.

Can creditors chase me for debts abroad?

Overseas creditors can still take action to collect a debt, including:

  • Using a debt collection agency in your home country to contact you
  • Starting court action in your home country. This can be complicated and the process depends on which countries are involved. In some cases it may not be possible
  • Taking action in their country, for example against assets or bank accounts you hold in that country

It’s possible that some creditors may decide not to pursue you for a debt in another country, but there’s no guarantee of this.

A creditor may be able to bankrupt you in their country. Bankruptcy is recognised across borders in most European countries and many other countries across the world are signed up to international agreements where their courts or insolvency services will cooperate. This means you could be bankrupted in another country, but assets or property you own in your current home country could still be at risk.

What can I do about debts abroad?

The best way to deal with overseas debts depends on your current situation and the money you have available after you’ve covered your essential living costs.

In most cases, you should be able to continue making payments to debts abroad, either at the full amount, or at a reduced amount if you can’t manage the regular payments.

Making the payments can be more difficult, and you may need to do this by transferring money from your bank account. This is done across borders using an IBAN transaction. There’s usually a fee to pay for this, and your bank will be able to give you more details.

In rare cases, you may find it difficult to make payments to some countries, for example because of international sanctions forbidding the transfer of cash.

If you can’t repay your debts in a reasonable time and you decide to go bankrupt, this may also cover debts abroad depending on the countries involved.

For example, if you go bankrupt in the UK it will be recognised in most European countries, so creditors in those countries would not take any further action to collect the debt. This can be complicated, so contact us if you need any advice on which countries this applies to.

It might be tempting to stop paying a debt from overseas. Think very carefully about the possible consequences before you do this, and bear in mind that the creditor may still be able to take action to recover the money from you.

Getting help with debts abroad

If you have debts from another country we can help. But as we can only advise you on the law in the UK or Ireland, the help we can give you might be limited:

  • I live in the UK or Ireland but I have debts from other countries. We can advise about the actions that your creditors can take to collect debts within the UK or Ireland. We can’t advise you about the actions creditors from other countries could take outside the UK or Ireland.
  • I have some debts from the UK or Ireland, but I live in a different country. We can advise you on the actions your creditors could take to collect debts within the UK or Ireland, but not on the actions they can take in the country you’re now living.
  • I don’t live in the UK or Ireland, and none of my debts are from the UK or Ireland. In this situation, you need to contact an advice agency in the country you’re currently living. Unfortunately we can’t recommend any agencies outside the UK or Ireland.

If you live in Ireland, we recommend contacting StepChange Debt Charity Ireland for help.

If you live in the UK, or if you have UK debts but you live elsewhere, call our Helpline (free from all landlines and mobiles). We'll give you expert tailored advice on how to get your situation back on track.