Home » Expat Focus International News Update July 2017

Expat Focus International News Update July 2017

British expats could lose right to move

While Brexit negotiations are ongoing, it appears that British expats currently living in Europe could lose their rights to move to another EU state.

The issue has arisen during technical discussions, with the EU making clear it will not move from its position without a reciprocal proposal for those European nationals who are currently living in the UK.They say these nationals should be allowed to move to another EU country and then be free to return to the UK, if they want to. The restriction would affect 1.2 million British expats living in the European Union and 3.5 million EU citizens currently in the UK.

EU negotiators say they want a guarantee that will enable EU citizens to resettle in the UK after they spend a period living in another EU country.

The other big issue from the first phase of negotiations is the EU’s insistence that the European Court of Justice is used to resolve disputes over EU citizens’ rights while they live in the UK, whereas the UK says that British courts must hold sway since the country will no longer be part of the European Union.

Europe faces influx of expats

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A new report from the Organisation of Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) says that while the US is still the world’s favourite destination for expats, European countries dominate the top 10.

The next most popular country for expats is Germany followed by the UK, Canada and France. The top 10 most popular countries consist of Australia, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Other notable countries include Japan at 14 and South Korea in 15th place, with New Zealand being the 17th most popular and Mexico taking the 20th spot.

In its International Migration Outlook, the organisation says there’s also a trend for businesses in Europe to send workers to other EU states to fulfil a local contract. Their analysis reveals that 1.5 million workers were sent by their employers across EU borders in 2015 and international students also helped to boost numbers of those relocating.

However, the European Union was the destination for 1.6 million families in the same year, which accounts for 40% of the world flow of expats.

The OECD’s secretary general Angel Gurría said: “Improving the integration of immigrants and their children is vital to deliver a prosperous and inclusive future for all.” He also called for better international cooperation and a move to address the negative perceptions about migration.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics has revealed that last year there were 300,000 British citizens living in Spain for 12 months or more, with 116,000 Spaniards living in the UK.

Most of the British expats are living close to the coast and 48% of them are retired – with numbers increasing rapidly in recent years. Also, 22% are employed and 11% are unemployed. However, more than half of Spaniards living in the UK are aged between 20 and 39 with 59% in employment. Just 5% of Spanish citizens living in the UK are currently out of work.

Number one destination for British expats revealed

Over the last 10 years, more than 1.6 million British expats have moved overseas with Australia topping the list of destinations, according to research. The findings from Lloyds Private Banking also place Spain, the US, France and New Zealand in the top five destinations.

74% of expats have a job in place but the number of British people relocating overseas is slowing down. The findings reveal that the level of immigration has dropped by 35% in the 10 years to 2016 when 134,000 Brits moved overseas.

It is now estimated that there are currently 4.9 million British citizens living overseas – or 7.5% of the UK’s population. Of those heading overseas, 65% said they were planning to live abroad for more than four years, 20% said they would live abroad for up to two years and 8% were planning to stay overseas for between two and four years. 7% of expats were unsure about how long they would live overseas.

Proposal to ban expats rejected

A controversial law that would have seen expats over the age of 50 being banned from Bahrain has been rejected by MPs there.

The country’s Labour Regulation Authority, the Chamber of Commerce and the Health Ministry, along with the Unions’ Federation, all criticised the proposed legislation.

The law was submitted by a group of MPs who claim that expats become less efficient as they get older; the move is a similar to one proposed in Kuwait earlier this year. Among the critics was the Migrant Workers’ Protection Society with a spokesperson saying the law’s introduction was a ploy to reduce the number of expat workers in Bahrain.

The spokesperson added: “50 is not considered to be old and 55 is the age for retirement, according to international standards. “Expats can perform efficiently at that age, and no-one can say expats will not be working as they should be.”

Bahrain’s Chamber for Commerce and Industry said the proposal was ‘shocking and unfair’.

Last-minute rush of expats in Saudi amnesty

The amnesty for expats who are living in Saudi Arabia who can leave the kingdom without any sanctions has seen a huge last-minute rush take place. According to news outlets, 300 Yemenis were leaving every day and 60,000 Ethiopian nationals also applied for exit visas.

In addition, more than 75,000 Pakistanis and 46,000 Sudanese have applied for travel documents along with 31,000 Indians who were looking to enjoy the amnesty. Other countries with substantial numbers wanting to leave include 50,000 Bangladeshis and 13,000 people from Indonesia.

The 90-day amnesty was due to end in June but was extended by a month, with the Saudi Passports Department revealing that around 572,000 expats had left the country. Of those, just 12,000 who have left voluntarily will be allowed to return legally with a new work visa.

Meanwhile, a report by Banque Saudi Fransi has revealed that more than 670,000 expats could leave the kingdom by 2020. The reasons include the growing trend for Saudization and the new dependency fees being imposed by the government to boost government coffers by up to $20 billion every year.

With nearly 12 million foreign workers in the country, authorities introduced a new fee on 1 July which must be paid when expats there renew their ID cards. The current fee is 100 riyals (£20.48/$26.66) a month which will rise by 2020 to 400 riyals (£81.90/$106.66).

Expats head to smaller Chinese cities

The Chinese government says expats are increasingly looking to work in smaller cities such as Nanjing, Hangzhou and Ningbo. While the country’s big cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen still remain popular, expats are finding career opportunities outside of these major centres.

Of all the cities, Hangzhou attracted the most expats where the population of foreigners now accounts for 8.9% of those living there.

In addition, China’s State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs says that there is a growing trend for expats to undertake short trips as well as long-term employment with more than 3 million visits being made to the country between 2011 and 2015 – that’s a 30% increase over the previous four years.

In addition, under the country’s new Green Card scheme, 1,576 expats have been approved for permanent residency over the past year, which is nearly double the number for the previous year.

Meanwhile, the Changning District of Shanghai is looking to boost its proportion of expats to 10% within the next five years, from the current level of 8.8%. The district government says it wants to make the area ‘an international quality district’ with 70,000 foreigners currently living in the area and they aim to issue another 20,000 work permits to foreign professionals over the next five years.

A spokesman for the local government said: “The district government wants to develop Changning into an international quality district with fashion, innovation and a comfortable and green environment.” In a bid to help expats, there will be more bilingual signs introduced at the Metro stations, tourist attractions and car parks as well as other venues.

New Zealand is top destination for expats

With immigration reaching record highs, the popularity of New Zealand for expats shows no sign of abating. A report from Movehub, an international relocation specialist firm, says the country is becoming ever more popular with expats.

The firm says that New Zealand has now toppled Australia to become the number one destination of choice for British expats. They say that enquiries about moving to the country have increased by 30% this year, while enquiries about moving to Australia have dropped by 5%.

There’s also a growing interest from Americans wanting to move to New Zealand with enquiries up 71% since Donald Trump was elected president.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “New Zealand’s cheaper cost of living and strong economy has contributed to its popularity. Australia still receives a lot of interest from expats but it’s interesting to see how trends evolve with the way of life, cost of living and general culture now being key.”

The spokesperson added that these considerations have also led to a fall in interest to the former big three destinations of the USA, UK and Australia. Official figures reveal that New Zealand is enjoying its highest ever levels of immigration, particularly from the UK and US with interest from potential expats from the UK increasing by 83% and from the US by 71%.

Meanwhile, in a Global Peace Index report, New Zealand has been rated as the second most peaceful place to live, behind Iceland. The worst countries for peace include Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In other news…

The growing numbers of US expat retirees heading to Mexico have been warned that there may be a crackdown after revelations that 91% of them may not have the proper paperwork to live in the country, according to media reports. Until now, Mexico has tolerated the growing number of illegal US expats living there because of the money they bring, but the increasingly strained political relations between the two countries may change this situation.

Kuwaiti MP Safa al Hashem has hit the headlines again by proposing that expats have a ten-year cap on the length of time they can remain in the country. She is also urging a ban on dependent visas being issued, except to the parents of expats.

The Central Bank of Oman has revealed that more expats were hired in the country’s private sector in the last year than Omanis. The figures show that expats in employment rose by 9.3% in 2016, while Omanis employed in the private sector grew by 6.4%. Also, recruitment agencies in the country say that firms are set to recruit nearly 13,000 expats for new jobs this year after the country leaves a year of austerity behind.

Thailand has revealed that the list of occupations reserved solely for Thais may soon be opened up to expats. The government says the law is outdated and there’s a need for more foreign workers to move to the country. The reserved list of occupations covers 39 jobs that can only be undertaken by Thai nationals.

The number of students from the European Union planning to study in UK universities has dropped by 5%; it’s the first decline since fees were introduced in 2012. The admissions service UCAS says EU students are worried about increasing university fees and Brexit.

Kuwait has unveiled a plan to build a new city to accommodate 20,000 expats, according to news reports. The Southwest Al-Jahra labour city will be built in Northern Al-Jahra and have private and public finance.

Saudi Arabia has revealed it rejected around 63% of all expat visa applications in 2016. The Ministry of Labour and Social Development says that 533,000 applications for work visas were rejected – with 360,000 being accepted.

Indian expats around the world are complaining about a hike in import duties after the Indian government introduced a 41% increase on gifts and personal goods without notification. This means packages sent to families in early June still haven’t been delivered. Various cargo carriers say there are hundreds of tonnes of packages waiting to be processed. Meanwhile, expats looking to send personal items to the Philippines will find restrictions from 1 August will bring extra taxes and duties.

Thai authorities have announced a crackdown on ‘beg-packers’ – travelling expats who take to begging on the streets to help raise money to pay for their travels in the country. According to news reports, expats entering the country may be asked to provide proof they have 20,000 baht (£459/$599) on them before being allowed to enter.

US citizens are to be banned from visiting North Korea – whether it is to work or travel. The ban will take effect from 27 August. Any US national that travels to the country could see their passport being ‘invalidated’.