Home » Expat Focus International News Update August 2023

Expat Focus International News Update August 2023

InterNations 2022 Survey 

The InterNations Expat Insider survey, now a decade old, has recently released its 2023 edition, canvassing insights from 12,000 expats worldwide. Last year, Mexico came top of the list, and it has successfully retained its position for 2023, with 90% of expats saying that they’re enjoying life in the Central American nation. Praised for its welcoming friendly atmosphere and low cost of living, Mexico’s charm is evident, although concerns about personal safety remain. As reported in Expat Focus recently, the country has a significant drug and crime problem. Second comes Spain, scoring high when it comes to providing expats with a rewarding social life and low crime rate. InterNations states that the country in third place has taken them by surprise: it’s Panama, possessing numerous benefits found in Mexico.

The USA has fallen from 14th place this year to 30th, which according to InterNations is due to a range of factors, such as the decline in employment, the rise in the cost of living, difficulties with transportation and a decrease in friendliness. 

The survey has also commented on the so-called ‘Nordic Paradox’: Scandinavian nations and Finland score highly on the World Happiness Index, but not so highly on the Expat Insider Survey. This is because both surveys use different metrics. Whereas expats might enjoy local culture and high wages, for instance, ease of settling in can be a factor which brings down ratings in some surveys. InterNations says that according to their results, Panama, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil and the Philippines are the friendliest countries in the world, whereas Denmark, Austria, Kuwait, Norway and Germany score lowest. 

Bottom of the list in pretty much every category is Kuwait, which is a repeat of previous years. InterNations describes it as the ‘polar opposite’ of Mexico, and expats resident in the country report a low level of satisfaction: only 43% of expats surveyed are content with Kuwait, as opposed to a 72% global average.  

The World’s Most Powerful Passport

Singapore has surpassed Japan to claim the title of possessing the world’s most powerful passport. The latest Henley Global Mobility Report, generated by the Henley Passport Index, based on IATA data, assigns rankings based on how many countries your passport allows you to visit without a visa. If you have a Singaporean passport, for instance, you can now visit 192 nations out of 227 without a visa. 

In second place come Germany, Italy and Spain. Japan is now in third place, sharing the spot with South Korea, Austria, Sweden, Finland, France and Luxembourg. If you have a passport from these countries, you will be able to visit 189 nations visa-free. US-passport holders can access 184 countries. However, they do not fare as well as their British counterparts – a UK passport facilitates entry into 188 countries. The UK and USA, who held the top position in 2014, have been going down in the rankings. 

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At the bottom of the list, for obvious reasons, comes Afghanistan, followed by Iraq and Syria. However, some countries are significantly improving their rating. The UAE, for example, has added 107 countries to its list since 2013. 

Henley Passport Index states: 

“The general trend over the history of the 18-year-old ranking has been towards greater travel freedom, with the average number of destinations travellers are able to access visa-free nearly doubling from 58 in 2006 to 109 in 2023. However, the global mobility gap between those at the top and bottom of the index is now wider than it has ever been, with top-ranked Singapore able to access 165 more destinations visa-free than Afghanistan.”

You can check out your own passport’s access power here. The index will also give you access to 18 years’ worth of historical data, allowing you to analyse how visa entry has changed over nearly two decades.

VoiceBiz Comes to Tokyo

With an increase in the number of foreign visitors to Japan post-pandemic, the nation’s train services have responded by installing an automatic translation window in one of Tokyo’s busiest stations, Seibu-Shinjuku. The system has been trialled at Kansai International Airport and allows passengers to communicate directly with an operator: the screen automatically translates Japanese into 11 other languages. 

As anyone who has used an online translation device, such as Google Translate, will be aware, the results of these systems can be somewhat mixed, but machine translation is becoming increasingly commonplace and sophisticated. The market size is estimated to have been around US$1,060 million in 2022, and Forbes estimates that it will reach USD$325 billion in 2025. Look out for an increase in systems like the machine at Seibu-Shinjuku in transportation throughout the world. 

Thailand Revises ‘Elite’ Visa 

Thailand’s Elite visa, which permits multiple-entry stays between five and 20 years, is undergoing substantial revision from October of this year. If you intend to apply for the visa, you will need to do so before September 15th, 2023; applications after this date will be rejected. The Elite visa has been one of the most contentious government projects and ran into trouble with losses of over 1 million baht, probably due to the large number of perks for members which fell under the scheme. For example, the Elite personal assistants at the airport and golf green fees. It also failed to attract the desired number of applicants, with visa holders numbering significantly less than the 1 million initially estimated. However, it has proved curiously enduring, having survived a number of regime changes, but it seems that now its time has finally come. 

More stringent checks for visa holders will almost certainly be introduced after some Elite holders were found to be engaging in fraudulent activities. Agents in Chinese cities were discovered to be handing out visas in exchange for enormous bribes (a third of the estimated 21,000 Elite visa holders are Chinese). 

Spain Proves Popular with American Expats

The General Council of Notaries in Spain has released a report indicating that the number of Americans living in Spain has risen by 13% in the last couple of years. There has also been an increase in Americans buying property in Spain, at the high end of the market and in large cities such as Madrid. 

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