Home » Expat Focus International News Update April 2019

Expat Focus International News Update April 2019

Spanish government advises British expats not to panic

British expats living in Spain have been told by the government not to panic over their Brexit fears. Officials say that regardless of what happens between the UK and the EU, there will still be a 21-month grace period to deal with any residency issues.Now that the original Brexit deadline has passed, the uncertainty of what might happen next is leading many Britons who do not have a residency certificate to live in Spain to worry about what they should do.

The Spanish government says it will consider a British expat living in the country during the 21-month grace period as being a legal resident, whether they have a certificate or not. More information about the announcement is on the government website, which also urges British expats to register with their nearest Town Hall.

Cyprus offers Brexit residency deal

Cyprus has revealed that plans are in hand to enable British expats living there up to one year to obtain residency status after Brexit is implemented should there be a ‘no deal’. Around 70,000 British expats live on the island, though a large number do so for just part of the year.

Germany has also unveiled plans that would enable 100,000 British expats living there to remain should there be a no deal Brexit. The new laws would allow for a transition period that makes it easier for low earners and pensioners to meet the country’s residency permit requirements.

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The most expat-friendly countries revealed

According to a survey, the friendliest nation in the world towards expats is Mexico, followed by Bahrain. The findings from InterNations come from data collated from 18,000 expats in 68 countries.

The report writers say: “For people moving abroad, finding friends is often a challenge.” 57% of expats around the world say they find it easy making new friends while living and working overseas.

The three countries where expats say are the most difficult to make friends are Kuwait, followed by Sweden and then Denmark.

The world’s happiest countries revealed

The United Nations’ annual happiness report points to those countries where its citizens perceive themselves to be happiest. The researchers consider six factors, including freedom, life expectancy and social support to highlight that Scandinavian countries dominate the list. Finland is the happiest country, followed by Denmark and Norway with Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden all making the list. New Zealand is in eighth place, followed by Canada and Austria.

Expats in Kuwait can sponsor family members

Kuwait has revealed that expats who earn enough to support their family will be able to sponsor them in future. Previously, only expats who worked in selected professions could sponsor their family members.

In a statement, the government said:

"The decision is aimed at enhancing the social and family stability of foreign workers and attracting highly skilled workers while maintaining a healthy balance between personal and professional life."

Men who are employed can sponsor their immediate family members, such as their wives and children, if they earn at least Dh4,000 (£10,090/$13,154) and have a job in certain categories. Some women will also be able to sponsor family members but they need to be health professionals, teachers or engineers; be earning at least Dh4,000; and have special approval to sponsor their family member.

Expats in the UK worry about Brexit

The ongoing Brexit drama has led to 31% of expats living in the UK becoming concerned over domestic policies, research from AXA reveals.

The global healthcare firm says more expats in the UK are worried about domestic politics than in any other country they surveyed. In France, 22% of expats are worried about domestic issues there; in Canada, it’s 11% and in Hong Kong, it is 7%.

Researchers also found that expats in the UK are the most likely to return to their home country for political reasons than in any other country. In the UK, 14% of expats say they have considered leaving, in France it is 12% and in Hong Kong it is 6%.

In another survey, researchers found that 23% of Britons have been turned off from moving to Europe because of Brexit which means most Brits would still move to the EU. The survey also highlights that 54% of Brits say they would not move to the US because of gun crime fears and 46% said they wouldn’t move because of President Trump.

The study by Crown Relocations found that Brits consider Europe to be the world’s safest destination for them.

‘Golden Visa’ schemes must end

The European Parliament says that ‘Golden Visa’ schemes being run by EU member states should be brought to an end. The schemes enable someone from outside of the European Union to invest in a country running such a scheme to obtain residency.

The call comes as Parliament is urging member states to take up new measures for tackling financial crimes, including the creation of an anti-money laundering watchdog and a financial police force. The European Parliament has published a report that accuses seven countries of acting as tax havens including Ireland, Belgium and Malta.

Expat families can rent apartments

A government committee in Kuwait has confirmed that there are no issues when citizens rent their apartments to expat families in licensed private residential buildings. The announcement follows the growing issue of single expat men increasingly living in these private residential areas – though the committee is still to announce its verdict on that situation. The single expat male issue is part of a proposed ban for renting out of all private homes to expatriates in the country.

Essentially, the move will see expats not being allowed to live among Kuwaiti families without having marriage certificates, with the proof of marriage being provided by the expat’s respective embassy.

Rents decline as expats leave

Oman’s rental sector has seen a steady decline with the exodus of expats from the country.

In 2018 rents fell by between 10% and 15%, with one real estate firm saying that property owners are adjusting rents downwards and offering maintenance services to enjoy higher occupancy rates. The organisation is predicting a further decline in rent and occupancy rates as more white-collar expat are increasingly replaced in their jobs by Omanis – who prefer to live in their own homes.

Swiss expats want a say in elections

Candidates for this autumn’s elections to the Swiss Parliament are coming under closer scrutiny by the Council of the Swiss Abroad, an organisation for expats.

The council says it is important to defend the interests of Swiss expats and to remind politicians that the expat community is going to have a say in the run-up to voting. It’s the first time that a vetting procedure of candidates has been launched in the OSA’s 103-year history.

Candidates are to be questioned about topics relevant to expats, including international mobility and their right to vote.

The latest figures reveal that there are 760,000 Swiss expats around the world with most living in neighbouring countries, with the United States being the largest host country. The Swiss expat population accounts for nearly 11% of all Swiss nationals.

Kuwait backtracks on 35 days’ leave

The move by Kuwait’s government to increase the annual leave for expats from 30 to 35 days looks set to be rejected after the government backtracked in the face of growing criticism. MPs said that amendments to the country’s labour laws would be harmful to the country’s economy and businessmen, particularly those with small businesses.

The government has also announced that from the end of the year, expats applying for driving licences will be blocked if they have changed their profession, have unpaid fines or have left the country.
Kuwait is also set to introduce e-driving licences which can be picked up from automated machines.

More Americans want to become expats

A record number of Americans say they want to become expats, a new Gallup poll reveals. Whether it’s because of the political climate or high medical costs, growing numbers of Americans are looking to live overseas and 16% say they would like to move – up from a poll in 2000 which revealed that 10% wanted to live abroad. The figures mean around 46 million US citizens wish they could be expats.

The poll highlights that the sharpest rise has been recorded in women, with 20% saying they want to move, compared with 13% of men. The research also points to finance being an important issue, with those on a lower income more likely to want to become expats.

In other news…

According to expats in China, the most popular city to live and work in is Shanghai. It’s the seventh year running that the city has topped the poll of 10,000 expats, with Beijing coming second.

A plan by Kuwait’s government to introduce a five-year limit on expat visas has run into trouble from the business community who say the only ones to benefit from the move will be ‘visa traders’ and not Kuwait. One organisation also highlights that experienced expatriates will reject a potential move to Kuwait under the plan to improve the number of Kuwaitis employed by government departments.

A portal launched by Pakistan for its expats has seen 80,753 registrations. The portal is aimed at ensuring good governance and addressing public grievances from expats while they are working overseas.

Saudi Arabia has deported more than 730,000 illegal expats over the last 17 months. Most of those were deported for violating labour and residency rules in the kingdom, which is part of a crackdown on expats to boost the employment prospects of Saudi citizens. Meanwhile, Kuwait has unveiled a campaign to arrest and deport illegal expats whose numbers have, the government says, increased to 120,000.

In a bid to become one of the most dynamic and innovative countries, the United Arab Emirates has revealed that it will offer long-term visas for the top Arab start-ups moving there. Those interested in the scheme could receive a five-year visa along with funding and a supportive environment to help the start-up succeed.

Bahrain has announced that it’s looking to limit expat contracts being handed out in the public sector as they review a change in the law. They say that work contracts for expats will be limited to a maximum of two years. The country’s Parliament has already opposed a move to replace all expat civil servants within four years with Bahrainis.

Oman has revealed that it has deported more than 2,000 expats in March and nearly 3,000 more were arrested for violating labour laws by the Ministry of Manpower and the Royal Oman Police. Of the expats arrested, 1,234 have left their jobs, 1,404 were freelancers and 231 were referred by other agencies. Most arrests took place in the capital Muscat and more expat visa crackdowns are being planned.

The number of expats being employed in Kuwait’s oil sector fell by nearly 50% last year, news outlets report. The numbers employed fell from 2017/18’s figure of 345 to 190 for 2018/19. Despite moves to employ more Kuwaitis, leaders in the oil sector say they need experienced expats for specialised operations and to operate specific equipment in complicated projects.

A survey by IHG Hotels & Resorts has found that the average business traveller is losing 58 minutes of sleep every night when they are staying away from home. Among the causes for the lack of sleep are being in a different environment, for 44% of those surveyed, unfamiliar noises led to sleeplessness for 35% and issues with working late are a worry for 34%.

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