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Expat Focus International News Update November 2022

Indonesia introduces ‘second home’ visa

Expats in Indonesia have been cautiously enthusiastic about the new ‘second home’ visa, which will allow you to remain in the country for 10 years. However, according to the Jakarta Post, they do have some reservations.

If you have an existing visa, and either an investment in a luxury property or proof of funds of Rp 2 billion (US$128,559), you could be eligible for the new permit. However, some expats have raised concerns about whether this visa will be open to elderly expats in the country, currently resident under the temporary stay permit (KITAS) or permanent stay permit (KITAP), as they may not have the required funds. As some have pointed out, they’re already spending their retirement money, and the minimum funds required for KITAS are $18K.

Calls have been made for the government to extend the new scheme to older KITAS/KITAP holders. Questions have also been raised about the legal status of the new scheme, which did not take the form of a ministerial decree, and some expats are concerned about the extent to which those who apply for it will be taxed.

The highs and lows of living in Thailand

Post-pandemic, Thailand remains a popular option with Western expats – with the cost of living a particularly appealing factor, given the financial crises besetting countries such as the UK, and property is affordable and easy to find. However, expats living in Thailand told the Daily Express in late October about a number of concerns. Thailand is not so attractive when it comes to its environmental policies, for example. Nearly half of expats canvassed told the newspaper that air quality was a particular concern, and 30% expressed worries over the level of pollution.

However, the country is taking steps to address these concerns. Khao Yai National Park says that it will post litter back to offending tourists, via the forms they use for hiring camping equipment, for example. In addition, Maya Bay beach has been closed to allow for the local ecosystem to recover.

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Expats were also critical of the country’s bureaucracy and said that their dealings with local red tape were often stressful, more so than the global average. But they praised Thai healthcare and the friendliness of local people.

Brits in Spain suffer from the fall of the pound

Global fintech firm Ebury reports that British expats in Spain have been suffering a drop in their standards of living, as a result of the weakened pound. Pensioners have seen a drop in purchasing power of 17% since 2015. The regional director of Ebury, Duarte Líbano Monteiro, has commented that:

“British expatriate pensioners are vulnerable to movements in the currency markets, and have been suffering for a long time already from the weakness of the pound. Unfortunately, those who have chosen a country such as Spain to spend their retirement are finding that the fall in the value of the pound is significantly reducing their living standards.”

He believes that British pensioners should be given more extensive information by the authorities (presumably in both countries) on the financial risks of moving abroad.

Fresh Portugal offers tax advice

The Portuguese desk of an international law group, Fresh Portugal, already offers a tax-based chat bot (Joana the tax bot) to help expats navigate Portugal’s complex taxation services, but now it’s offering a new product to help you file your taxes, if you’re signed up with the NHR scheme. Certain kinds of foreign sourced income are exempted by NHR, but it can be unclear as to which types fall under exemption and which do not. FreshReturn is a product which will assist you in working out your exemptions and filing your return.

Updates on Australian pensions

Along with everyone else, British pensioners resident in Australia are unlikely to be happy about the latest financial crisis in the UK – but there is a faint trace of a silver lining. If you’re claiming an Australian pension, you can now also claim 50c in the dollar for every reduction of payment from the UK. In addition, past blunders at the DWP may mean that you’ve missed out on some of your pension or your benefits.

If you have been claiming Child Benefits in your own name for a child under age 16 (for the whole of the year) and not been paying a Married Women’s (or reduced) Stamp, then you may need to check your National Insurance record to find out whether you’ve been receiving all the money to which you are entitled. Contact the National Insurance Contributions helpline (00 11 44 191 203 7010) and ask to be put through to ‘National Insurance record or payments’ to receive your record.

“Why Australia sucks”

This was the (somewhat provocative) headline in sections of the UK press last month, sparked by a Reddit thread in which Australia was negatively compared to Asia, in terms of eating out, safety and ease of finding accommodation. There were also complaints about early closing hours and the lack of nightlife.

‘In Australia, we have access to good jobs and high incomes, but it feels like we traded everything else that makes life enjoyable for it. We live in golden handcuffs in suburbia spending most of our time in our houses looking forward to the next time we can afford to do something outside.’

As is customary with Reddit, disagreement was robust, with other expats pointing out that there are many free things to do outside, such as taking advantage of beaches and national parks, and decent worker rights, minimum wage and quality standards were not to be sniffed at, either.

Americans ‘underserved’ by wealth management companies

Experts say that Americans resident in the UK are currently ‘underserved’ by wealth management companies, and that this market sector represents huge opportunities for wealth firms, in areas such as succession planning and taxation, or in dealing with trusts and family LLCs and, of course, with FATCA. Wealth firms in this niche area find themselves mainly dealing with American expats, or ‘accidental Americans.’ If you’re American and based in the UK, it might be worth looking into this area of expertise if you have not done so already.

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