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Expat Focus International News Update October 2023

US Expats Continue to Flock to Portugal

A new report shows that tax breaks, the low cost of living and high quality of life continue to entice US expats to Portugal. The allure of a 0% tax rate on non-Portuguese passive income, such as pensions, dividends, and rental earnings, is appealing to Americans contemplating relocation abroad. Coupled with the convenience and accessibility provided by the Golden Visa and D7 Visa programs for those with the requisite financial resources, a growing number of U.S. citizens are setting their sights on Europe’s picturesque coastal haven.

The Portugal Property Hotspots Survey Report 2023-25, published by Property Market-Index, states:

“The Portuguese luxury real estate market shows no signs of slowing down, with one of the main drivers being high interest from international investors and affluent expats buying property in Portugal for both lifestyle, pleasure and investment. The Algarve and Lisbon regions have been particularly strong, especially with investors capitalising on a thriving Portuguese real estate market and US citizens taking advantage of the D7 visa – often referred to as the passive income or retirement visa – in conjunction with the Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) tax regime.”

We spoke to one soon-to-be expat who is planning to make this move:

“Here are the concerns. Worry about the stability of the [USA]. Worry about the safety of the country. Worry about the MAGAts. Worry about children being shot. Worry about health care. Education. Feeling the stress of the world on us and worried that we will at best survive. Worry college for the kids will be unaffordable and poor when the time comes. So much stress and worry, will I have to refuse treatment for my pain and COPD because we can’t afford it? What to do…[My wife] came up with the solution. Her job is allowing and in some ways encouraging her to emigrate. And we are. To where? Portugal. It rates safer than the US. Its health care ranks higher. Its educational system rates higher. We should be permitted to enter Portugal because she is bringing her well-paying job with her. I could get better care, cheaper. Portugal expects to be all renewable energy in 10 years. The health care [costs] 20% of what it does here. The school lunches are amazing. The internet is on average, faster. It’s a beautiful country. Within a year we expect to be there. And when there we plan to stay there.”

However, there have been reports recently that local Portuguese residents are losing patience with digital nomads, whom they blame for rising rents in cities like Lisbon.

Expats in Thailand Seek Clarity on New Tax Laws

The Prime Ministerial nominee (current Minister of Finance) Srettha Thavisin implied that the move would go towards the ฿10,000 digital wallet proposal, due to be rolled out to over 55 million people over the age of 16 years. The blockchain-backed move is intended as an economic stimulus and is currently planned to be more than a one-off initiative, but has proved highly controversial, particularly among opposition parties, who have criticised it as a vote-buying stunt. Expats are now worried that the proposed tax raid will go towards funding the digital wallet. 

Expat residents, who make up an estimated 0.75% of the population, hold 3.52% of funds in local banks. Yet many expat residents of Thailand are retirees, and therefore dependent upon a passive income. The tax situation is particularly pertinent to US citizens, who still need to file taxes in the USA but who are not exempt from Thai taxation unless they relinquish their US citizenship, which many are understandably reluctant to do. 


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Further Transport Links in the UAE

The UAE is on the brink of a number of transformative transport projects set to simplify life for many expats. A notable initiative is the expansive Middle East/South Asia corridor, which includes extensive rail links, as highlighted at the G20 summit in Delhi. Progress is being made in connecting major cities across the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, with updates anticipated regarding the 2,117km GCC Railway. The Ras Al Khair-Damman route through Jubail, spanning 200 km, is now operational, and since February of this year, Etihad Rail has been offering commercial freight services. The King Fahad Causeway Authority is working on the connecting bridge between Bahrain and the GCC rail network. Meanwhile, there are plans for a passenger ship service to run between the UAE and Kerala in India, providing a cheaper alternative to air travel, a venture led by Sharjah Indian Association and Ananthapuri Shipping and Logistics Private Limited.

Further Setbacks Acquiring Spanish Driving Licenses

We had hoped to see the back of the Spanish driving licence crisis after an agreement was reached between the UK and Spain this year, but apparently it is not going to be that simple. The British Embassy has confirmed that the DGT (Directorate-General for Traffic) should recognize paper licenses. However, reports from expats in Mallorca and other regions indicate that local offices are rejecting them. Individuals attempting to exchange their paper licenses for biometric ones, without a current UK address, are also facing challenges. As a result, now the September 15th deadline has passed, some British expats will be legally prevented from driving, although they are still allowed to hire a car. Hopefully, those impacted by the DGT’s reluctance to accept paper licenses won’t be subjected to the expensive and stressful ordeal of retaking their driving test in Spain – a situation the British Embassy is reportedly monitoring. Watch this space for further updates!


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