Expat Focus Financial Update 03 November 2016

London is top for opportunities

Expats looking for the world’s top city for opportunity should head to London, according to a new study.

Research from PwC reveals that the city is the best for opportunity and is well placed to withstand the rigours of life outside of the European Union.

The accountancy firm points to the city’s international strengths, the ease of doing business and its quality of life for underlining its future success.In second place on the Opportunity Index is Singapore, with Toronto in third followed by Paris and Amsterdam. New York is in sixth place, with Stockholm and Beijing following close behind.

The report makes clear it’s a benchmark for the economic and social health of the world’s 30 leading business cities and ranks them against various indicators including infrastructure, demographics, technology readiness and transportation.

British expats must wait until Brexit the negotiations conclude

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France’s ambassador to the UK has suggested that no decision will be taken over the future of British expats living in the country until Brexit negotiations have concluded.

Sylvie Bermann said that France, along with the other EU member states, will look at the status of UK nationals living in those countries as part of the overall Brexit negotiations.

This means British nationals living in the European Union may not know what their fate is until 2019, at the earliest.

However, the French ambassador hinted that the question of expats would be based ‘on reciprocity’ and said it was up to the UK in making the first move.

Indeed, the British Prime Minister Theresa May has regularly stated that she is expecting that the legal rights of EU nationals who are working and living in the UK will be guaranteed and, in return, British expats in EU states receiving the same treatment.

Brexit will boost expat demand

One firm of HR experts says that the falling pound is offering US employers a chance to snap up top UK talent for a 20% discount because of the falling value of the pound.

The firm says this is a ‘silver lining’ to the Brexit vote but, the firm points out, there are still several years yet before any real movement takes place in attracting talent though many UK companies may become acquisition targets by American rivals.

In a briefing, the firm says that US companies are looking for British firms with lots of experience in STEM markets and there’s a likelihood of well-educated and experienced expats returning from EU member states looking for fresh opportunities.

Expats in public sector jobs to be banned

Kuwait has announced that it is looking to ban expats from working in its public sector after unveiling a plan to give more jobs to its own citizens.

One newspaper is reporting that expats will only be able to work in Kuwait in those jobs that employers cannot fill with nationals.

In addition, the plan also includes a recommendation for the building of ‘labour cities’ so that the number of expats who enter and leave Kuwait can be more easily monitored.

Other issues involve deporting those expats who have lost their jobs immediately and introducing travel bans.

The result of this, according to one media outlet, is that around 1 million expats currently working in Kuwait will not be working there by 2026.

Indeed, the ambitious plan will see the current number of expats being halved by 2020.

Part of Kuwait’s thinking is that the impact of low oil prices is seeing its economy struggle and with expats now accounting for two in three of the country’s population more nationals should be employed, particularly with 80% of government jobs being taken by expats.

The latest news will be a worry for expats coming after revelations earlier this year that expats aged over 50 are being prevented from finding employment and a law in 2014 which prevents many expats from bringing the family into the country.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that rents are falling drastically in Kuwait and set to continue falling until 2018.

In addition to the number of expats leaving the country, there’s also a greater supply of homes which is also forcing down rents.

Medical expats laid off in Saudi Arabia

With the government under pressure to give more employment opportunities to postgraduate nationals, it has been reported that 478 medical professionals have now been laid off at one hospital in Saudi Arabia.

The authorities at King Saud University Hospital have now begun a crackdown on expat contracts.

The Riyadh-based hospital has asked the country’s Ministry of Civil Service to renew the contracts for 516 expats who have racked up more than 10 years in their jobs.

However, the ministry refused to renew 478 contracts and cited civil servants rules that expats should not serve more than a decade on a contract.

Instead, just seven consultants and 31 doctors have had their contracts renewed.

The best country for doing business is…

A survey of the world’s countries which has ranked them in terms of business efficiency has given the top spot to New Zealand.

The World Bank report places Singapore in second, Denmark third followed by Hong Kong and then China. The top 10 consists of Korea, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States followed by Sweden in 10th spot.

The countries considered to be the best improvers feature Brunei Darussalam, Kazakhstan and Kenya. Belarus and Indonesia make up the top five best improvers followed by Serbia, Georgia, Pakistan, the UAE and Bahrain.

The World Bank’s chief economist, Paul Romer, said: “These countries have rules that are easy to follow, a government that treats its citizens with respect and which yield benefits including more market opportunities for women, more entrepreneurship and adherence to the rule of law.”

The report also highlights that growing numbers of governments are looking to take up key business reforms that make it easier to start run small and medium-sized businesses in their countries.

Get a job and land

One Canadian employer is advertising for someone to take up a job with them and they are willing to throw in two acres of land for those who will move there.

The employer is Farmers Daughter Country Market located on Cape Brenton Island in Nova Scotia.

On their Facebook page, the firm says it is an established business with lots of jobs, land potential but with no people to employ though they’ve now had more than 3,000 inquiries.

Anyone thinking of signing up will get the land after five years of employment with the firm.

Belgian city announces expats’ welcome centre

The Belgian city of Leuven has unveiled plans for creating a welcome centre for expats that will provide all the help they need when settling in to the region.

They will also be information about educational opportunities for children and the expats’ financial obligations while living in Belgium.

The move is part of the city’s economic platform to develop the area as a hotspot for innovation and they are targeting expats to help them succeed.

However, with 1,600 expats already working in the city, a survey of them has revealed there’s a lack of English-language information on schools, employment opportunities and housing.

In response, the city says it will look to the Danish capital of Copenhagen for inspiration which provides all of its official forms in 18 languages in a bid to attract international talent there.

The new centre, which will help expats overcome relocation challenges, will open next year.

US immigration fees rocket

It’s just become more expensive for immigration visas to the United States after the Citizenship and Immigration Services hiked their fees by an average of 21%.

The fee structure starts in December and covers all immigration visas and naturalisation applications.

It’s the first time in six years that the fees have increased but they have done so to cover their full service costs.

In addition to the cost of administration, the fees also pay for fraud detection as well as national security and customer service.

The increases do vary; for example the US entrepreneur visa is increasing to $3,675 from $1,500 while the investor visa rises to nearly $18,000 from $6,230.

A spokesman for USCIS said: “These are our first fee increases since November 2010 and we are mindful of the effect the increases have on many of our customers.

“However, these changes are necessary now to ensure we continue serving our customers effectively and we are as an agency on these fees to operate.”

The new visa fees come into effect from 23 December and expats should appreciate that any application that is filed or is postmarked on or after that date without the correct fee will not be processed.

In other news…

It has been revealed that growing numbers of American expats living in the UK are buying property and making other financial investments thanks to the pound’s 31-year-low against the dollar. With around 200,000 US expats living in the country, one accountancy firm says the expats are buying real estate thanks to the EU referendum vote with 54% of transactions taking place in Manchester and the North West of England.

The pound’s poor performance is also, according to media outlets, leading to expats in Qatar and the Gulf region rushing to buy UK properties. One mortgage firm says there’s been a 55% increase in mortgage enquiries since the Brexit vote.

Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority Board has now approved a move for expats to trade in real estate investment traded funds (REITs) on the country’s bourse, the Tadawul.

Kuwait’s Social Affairs Minister has insisted that the country’s decision in cutting the expat teachers rent allowance should be ‘respected’. From the middle of October, the rent allowance for expat teachers fell from $500 to $200 per month as Kuwait struggles to reduce its state expenditure though growing numbers of the teachers in the country are urging their embassies to get involved and reinstate the allowance.

A member of Bahrain’s Parliament is calling for the allowances and bonuses of expats who work in the public sector to be reduced by 50%. The MP points to a recent move in Kuwait which has been successful and it should prove beneficial for Bahrain’s economy. He added that the bonuses received by expats in the public sector are not available to Bahrainis.

Authorities in Oman last week arrested 700 expats accused of violating local labour laws with most of these having been fired by a previous employer or who have absconded. Most were arrested in Muscat and North Al Batinah.

A meeting between the UAE and Oman governments may lead to a relaxation on the rules governing the movement of people and goods across their borders which will have effect on expats and citizens alike. The countries agreed to form a committee to find the mechanisms to enable the move and to highlight areas of concern when it is easier for people to move across the border.


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