Expat Focus Financial Update 08 August 2016

UK pensions 'triple lock' under threat

There are 1.2million British pensioners living in the European Union who have no idea of how the UK’s leaving the EU will affect their pension payment.

Their fears have been made worse after a Sunday Times report that the ‘triple lock’ may be scrapped.Essentially, the UK’s state pension can be paid to recipients wherever they live in the world though many, including those living in the EU, also qualify for annual increases under the ‘triple lock agreement’.

The agreement was introduced in 2010 to guarantee that state pensions for recipients in the UK increase with average earnings, the rate of inflation or 2.5% – whichever is highest.

However, under the triple lock agreement British pensioners living in the EU, Gibraltar and Switzerland also qualify for the increase. Brit pensioners in the USA and Barbados also qualify under separate social security agreements.

Now fears are growing that British pensioners could be faced with frozen pensions, as UK retirees living in New Zealand and Canada have.

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The former pensions minister, Baroness Altmann, says the government should now phase out the triple lock.

There’s no doubt the move would be controversial and it is credited with helping the Conservatives win the last general election. It also appears that the government is keen to avoid reducing any cuts to tax credits that help working families.

While acknowledging that the triple lock was a manifesto pledge, the government says its commitment to the lock still stands – but they would not be drawn on whether the triple lock would still be in place when the 2020 election is held.

Tom Selby, of AJ Bell, says that British pensioners living in the EU need reassurances about their future as soon as possible.

He added: “It should be noted that since 1981 no reciprocal agreement has been made. The government may decide to allocate resources on those in the UK rather than on those who have retired overseas.”

Mr Selby also pointed out that pensioners who missed out on the pension increase would lose around £50,000 over 20 years of retirement.

British expats organise in Spain

A forum for worried British expats in Spain has been created and they have already held a public meeting to outline their aims. Brexpats in Spain started originally as a Facebook group but demand for a group that can share advice and air worries led to the group being launched offline in Mijas.

In three weeks, more than 1,400 people have signed up to the expats’ group.

Top city for US expats revealed

The best city in the world for jobs and opportunity for US expats is London, according to a LinkedIn survey.

The social media site questioned 25,000 of its members who have spent spells abroad since 2010 on a professional engagement but not summer jobs or internships.

The study found that the ‘indisputable leader of the pack’ is London with 18% of all overseas assignments being in the capital.

The US cities which are producing the most expats are Washington DC and New York City.

Most popular jobs for US citizens working overseas

The most popular jobs for US citizens working overseas are teachers, language instructors or translators. Marketers and sales managers are also popular expat jobs.

A spokesman for the firm explained that business cycles often meant that when there was a downturn in the States, opportunities abroad were booming.

London has 80,000 jobs on the site, followed by Paris with 45,000 and Tokyo with 40,000 jobs.

The second best city for US expats is Sydney, followed by Toronto, Paris and Shanghai.

Brexit insurance launched by AIG

Executives based in Europe and the UK are being offered peace of mind with AIG’s latest offering which they are dubbing ‘Brexit insurance’.

The insurance offering is to directors and employees to cover the additional costs that may be associated with an overseas assignment and include covering the terms for EU nationals who want to become UK permanent residents before Brexit occurs. The insurance will also cover the application for residency being rejected, with the cover paying for a legal challenge.

The insurance cover will pay for the costs of a repatriation order, and the same cover applies to Brits living in Europe too.

A spokesman for the insurer said: “The cover will give clients peace of mind as the outcome of discussions are unknown between the UK and EU.”

AIG says growing numbers of European expats are looking to take up UK residency to continue living in the country.

Safety fears for expats in Costa Rica raised

Crime in Costa Rica has been flagged up as a ‘significant concern’ for expats who are vulnerable to fraud, robbery and theft.

The warning comes from the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), which is a branch of the United States diplomatic service, who have published a report on the country. It highlights that crime has been steadily increasing over the last few years.

While most expats and visitors do not become victims of crime, they are increasingly potential targets for Costa Rican criminals, and petty theft is a major problem.

The most common crimes faced by expats and visitors are fraud and credit card theft. There is also a big issue with American citizens having their passports stolen.

OSAC is warning American citizens to avoid San Jose after dark and the centre of El Pueblo at all times – American government officials are not allowed to stay in hotels located in downtown San Jose because of fears over their safety.

European expat students could be stopped at the border

A report from a think tank is calling for a tougher approach on European Union students who have studied at British universities to repay their loans before leaving.

Those who fail to do so should be stopped at the border to face arrest – a similar scheme works effectively in New Zealand and the UK should implement it as well, the report states.

European Union students owe £1.3 billion in student loans for their studies in England, a rise of 36% in the last 12 months. This is now a record amount outstanding.

The report states that the UK’s approach to collecting student loans that are owed is not ‘robust enough’ and stronger steps should be taken.

The report also suggests that the UK should open its higher education institutions to overseas students to boost international student recruitment.

Indians in Saudi Arabia face 'food crisis'

India says that more than 10,000 of their citizens have been laid off in Saudi Arabia and are now facing a ‘food crisis’.

The government says most of those who been laid off cannot afford to buy food.

Food is being distributed to the needy in Jeddah and the government is appealing for the country’s three million fellow Indians in the kingdom to help their ‘brothers and sisters’.

The economic downturn is because of the drop in oil prices which has seen huge numbers being laid off and now India is talking about airlifting its poverty-stricken workers out of Saudi Arabia.

India says there is also a problem with growing numbers of Indians being laid off in Kuwait but the situation is ‘more manageable’. Saudi Arabia has declined to comment on the situation.

Expat earnings in Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, a survey has revealed that around 5 million expats working in Saudi Arabia are earning less than SR1,000 (£202/$266) a month.

Official records also reveal that 2.5 million expats are earning SR500 or less every month while 2.3 million earn SR1,000 or less.

Around 230,000 expats are earning SR10,000 (£2,020/$2,666) or more per month.

Expats in the UAE get richer

In the UAE a survey has also revealed that expats living there are not only getting richer but are also increasing in number.

According to the government, in 2009 there were 325,000 wealthy households and by 2014 that had risen to 335,000 – this segment is rising more quickly than the number of ultra- and high-net-worth people living in the UAE.

One investment expert told a news outlet that expats are increasingly investing in the country to buy property, shares and businesses.

Saudi plans to curb illegal income

Government officials in Saudi Arabia have been revealing more details of their plans to limit the amount expats can send home in cash.

In what’s been described as a ground-breaking project, the Saudi Finance Ministry says it will compare an expat’s transfers with their income to see who is sending home more than they earn.

The Ministry says the transfers may be the source of criminal activity, with the new regulations due to begin shortly.

Filipino expats want exit permits scrapped

Filipino expats have to gain an exit permit before returning home to prove they were employed legally and they now want the permits scrapped.

The expats say the paperwork is ‘too cumbersome’ and costly since they already have contracts and work visas proving their status.

The new Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte has already urged a streamlining of agencies to help expats more effectively.

Qatar considers expat retirement age

The government in Qatar has announced it is considering a move to bring in mandatory retirement at 60 for all expats.

The Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs says it is responding to the growing chorus of complaints from young graduates who say they cannot find a job in the country.

By having a mandatory age for retirement, the Ministry says it could open the door for ‘young and fresh talent’ to begin work on the country’s development projects.

Qatar’s public sector already has a mandatory retirement age of 60 but there is currently no requirement in the private sector.

Expats dodge retirement limit in the UAE

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that a growing number of expats are using a loophole to dodge the mandatory retirement limit in the UAE by creating a free zone company or investing in a business.

Expat workers must retire at 60 and have 30 days to leave the country when their employment visa is cancelled.

However, there is a growing trend for expats wanting to remain in the country. They can gain an investor visa to remain for up to three years and can also use it to sponsor their family members.

In other news…

The families of Chinese expats are being encouraged to send their children back to the country in a bid to rediscover their heritage. The idea from the government is to bring expat youngsters back to their Chinese roots and the government will pay all expenses, excluding airfare.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will implement an election manifesto commitment to end the 15-year rule on British expats voting in elections. However, there is no timescale for the ban being lifted.

A new online system for expats in Oman to lodge complaints about employers has been deluged by reports from hundreds of workers. Expats and Omanis alike have used the facility for an average of a dozen complaints every day, ranging from on-site working conditions to abuse of the country’s mid-day break rules.

Rents are falling in Abu Dhabi for the first time in three years, led by the economic downturn and the loss of thousands of jobs. Property firm JLL says the trend appeared in the second quarter of 2016, with rents on two bed apartments falling by 2%.

Germany’s Green Party is urging the government to create a fast track route to citizenship for British nationals living and working in the country. There are apparently 100,000 British expats in Germany and the country is keen to retain them since many are entrepreneurs, key workers and researchers.

It was one of the most contentious points in the EU referendum debate and now the UK government is being warned that under freedom of movement rules, the UK should expect a migrant surge before leaving the EU.


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