Home » Expat Focus International News Update June 2019

Expat Focus International News Update June 2019

Bahrain bans expats from its public sector

Following in the steps of other GCC countries, Bahrain is the latest to announce it is banning expat recruitment in the public sector. MPs there have now voted to approve plans to replace all expats working in the public sector within the next four years.The expat ban also looks set to include the country’s private healthcare sector. Also, the no hiring rule for the private sector will extend to 35 job categories, including education, accounting, currency exchange and marketing.

In addition to not hiring expats, the government says it wants to increase the minimum wage being paid to all Bahrainis. While the full list of expat jobs that would be reserved for Bahrainis is still to be officially announced, it is already clear that fines of between BD5,000 and BD20,000 (£42,366/$53,191) will be levied on those firms that hire expats in some sectors.

MPs also want to close down those employers that persistently recruit expats, despite the fines. The MP behind the move told media some of the professions that are being targeted and insists a blanket ban on expats will not be introduced because there are some sectors that Bahrainis ‘have no interest in working in’.

Omanisation is ‘delivering results’

Oman says its Omanisation project to replace expats with locals is delivering results with 55,000 expats in engineering leaving the country in the last two years. In the year up to March, government data shows that 6,000 Omanis have been recruited for these posts and more will be hired in the near future.

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The latest figures show there are 758,900 expats working in engineering professions, down from 838,800 in 2017. The government highlights that the term engineer is an umbrella description to describe any worker who operates, designs, maintains or undertakes technical work in the country.

Meanwhile, the Omani government has reiterated that expats arriving to work in the country, or who are renewing employment contracts, can request a no objection certificate (NOC) at any time.

They say there’s no obligation under the law for an expat to wait until their service ends or is terminated to request the document.

The certificate enables an expat to move to another employer in the Sultanate. Under current rules, should an expat employee fail to secure a certificate and has to leave Oman, they cannot return within two years.

Expat numbers tumble in Oman

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that expat numbers in Oman have, for the first time in two years, dropped below 2 million. The data has been published by the National Centre for Statistics and Information and show there are now 1.998 million expats living in the Sultanate who now account for 43% of Oman’s population. It’s the lowest proportion recorded since April 2016.

The main reason for the decline in numbers is down to the government’s Omanisation policy, which has seen a steady flow of expats leaving the country. Part of the policy has seen a visa ban for expats in 87 job categories being extended for another six months.

Kuwait deports 10,000 expats

Kuwait has revealed that it has deported more than 10,000 expats since the beginning of the year. The Ministry of Interior says the expats are from various nationalities and have been deported for ‘various reasons’. However, the ministry also says that the government has taken ‘tremendous efforts to obtain travel documents’ for those who have been deported.

Meanwhile, controversial Kuwaiti MP Safa Al Hashim has reignited her demands that 2 million expats be expelled from the country over the next five years. She says that Kuwaitis should make up most of the population and the move is ‘an urgent necessity’. Currently, Kuwaitis account for less than 30% of the country’s 4.7 million population.

The news comes as Kuwait reveals that 3,100 expats were laid off from the public sector last year and 2,500 have lost their job so far in 2019. The government says that the number of expats working in the public sector has fallen by 28% since 2012 to 81,917.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Education Ministry has denied that it is delaying the replacement of expat employees after cancelling 400 termination notices of employees there.

Kenya to vet expats

Kenya has announced that any expats wanting to work in the country’s tourism sector will need to be vetted first by a special committee before taking up their post.

The 11 member committee will focus on an expat’s competencies and skills that are not otherwise available in the country. Hotels must also submit regular returns on the number of expats they are employing and the vetting of expats is a strategic area targeted by the government as it revamps its tourism sector.

Best countries for expats to get connected

The best countries for expats wanting to enjoy a ‘connected life’ according to the InterNation’s expat community, is Estonia. Expats say the country delivers the best digital needs in their Digital Life Abroad report. Estonia is followed by Finland, Norway, Denmark and New Zealand.

The report identifies where the best and worst countries are to live for those who want a connected life, according to the 18,000 expats who took part.

The expats were questioned on access to online services, paying for goods without cash and having high-speed Internet installed at home.

Expats in the GCC region are among the most dissatisfied with restricted access to online services, though access to government-run services are rated highly. The best country in Africa for high-speed Internet is Kenya.

British expats want to hand back passports

One in three British expats who are living in Ireland are said to be ready to give back their UK passports so they can take up citizenship in another country. According to a new poll, they say the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit has influenced their decision.

10% say that if there is a no-deal Brexit then they will cut their ties with the UK permanently, says a report from CurrencyFair, a foreign exchange broker. The firm also says that 54% of expats are expecting an economic downturn for the UK after Brexit and 42% of expats say they’ve not made any financial plans for a no-deal departure.

Just 17% of respondents said they had managed to save money and were planning to move it outside of Britain.

Portugal to help British expats

Portugal has unveiled that it has put together a task force with the aim of securing the rights of British expats who live there. The government says it will introduce various measures to help ensure that Brexit does not upset the alliance between Portugal and the UK.

The task force, known as Portugal IN, will help UK businesses deal with the changes that will occur after the country leaves the European Union.

British tourists are the second largest number to visit the country and Portugal says it will give guarantees of visa exemptions as well as dedicated passport control lanes and recognise UK driving licences. Brits will also be able to access Portugal’s health service.

Italy woos expats with lucrative scheme

The Italian government has unveiled a lucrative incentive for expats to move there with a special tax regime that could see the tax exemption raising from 50% to 70%.

Expats will enjoy the income tax exemption for the first five years after relocating to the country, but they must not have lived there in the previous two years.

The tax exemption for income sourced in Italy was restricted to qualified executives and professionals as well as entrepreneurs, but now any worker who commits to living in Italy for a least two years will be eligible for the exemption.

US expats demonstrate in Paris

American expats have been demonstrating on the streets of Paris to highlight their anger about having to pay US taxes, even though many have little or no connection to the United States.

The protesters are American citizens who were born in America but left as children and now a French parliamentary report says the French government must do more to protect dual nationals from a tax law that is ‘unfair’.

The issue at stake is the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, better known as FATCA, which compels a bank with operations in the US to report all the assets being held by their American customers. France signed its agreement in 2013 to help those with dual nationality and American expats in France from being rejected by retail banks in the country who wanted to avoid any risk or hassle dealing with US taxpayers. It is estimated there are around 300,000 ‘accidental Americans’ living in Europe, according to the European Banking Federation.

Now MPs are calling for France to renegotiate the tax treaty with the US under FATCA regulations and to even unilaterally pulling out of it if there are no concessions to protect its dual nationals.

The move comes despite several European delegations discussing the issue with the US State Department and the Internal Revenue Service – and there has been little enthusiasm to renegotiate any element of FATCA to help accidental Americans.

In other expat news…

According to Saudi Arabia’s General Organisation of Social Security, 75.6% of jobs in the kingdom are occupied by expatriates. There are around 12.7 6 million expats, of which 82% are men and 18% are women.

Expats wanting a long term residency in the UAE with a ten-year visa can access them as little as Dh 1,150 (£250/$313). The new visas were rolled out earlier this year and a five-year visa will cost Dh650 (£141/$177), the government has announced. The eligibility criteria for the visas will be restricted to senior professionals and ‘exceptionally talented’ applicants as well as researchers and investors in public investment projects.

Qatar has unveiled a new centre for expats wanting to access work visas easily in Kathmandu, Nepal. The aim is to streamline the procedures for expats to deal with paperwork and it now joins 20 other centres that have been established in eight countries, including India, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Australian expats in Africa’s Sahel region are being warned of a growing kidnapping threat. Most of the expats are working for mining firms in West Africa, but there is a growing threat from terror organisations, including growing incidents of kidnapping.

The number of EU expats who have applied for ‘settled status’ in the UK after Brexit has reached 750,000. The Home Office says the most enthusiastic of the expat applicants are Polish, Romanian and Italian nationals who want to secure their legal rights. There are currently 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK with those who have lived in the country for five continuous years able to access the scheme.

Hong Kong’s highest court has ruled in favour of a gay couple who applied for spousal and tax benefits from an employer. Immigration officer Angus Leung legally married Scott Adams in 2014 in New Zealand. However, after returning to Hong Kong, Mr Adams, a Brit, was not able to access the benefits that civil servant spouses are entitled to. This led to a four-year long lawsuit against the government and which has led to the court’s decision even though same-sex marriages are not recognised in Hong Kong.

Saudi Arabia’s new permanent residency permit fee has attracted lots of attention, but applicants will need at least $200,000 (£42,514/$53,333) to apply, a report reveals. The Saudi cabinet has now approved the special residency scheme which is aimed at attracting highly skilled and wealthy expats to the kingdom. Meanwhile, the kingdom’s general authority for statistics has revealed that more than 390,000 work visas have been issued in the first quarter of 2019.

Ireland’s expats returning home are being made to wait for up to six months to exchange their foreign driving licence for an Irish one. Usually, returning motorists are told that it can take between two weeks and three months before they can obtain an Irish driver’s license provided by the National Driver License Service but, in some cases, applicants are waiting up to six months and others are being left ‘in limbo’. Expats say they fear losing jobs if they require a car for work purposes.

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