Expat Focus Financial Update 18 October 2016

British expats sue EU Commission chief

A group of British expats are taking EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to court for his stand that Brexit talks cannot begin before Article 50 is triggered.

The expats are claiming that his stance is ‘wrong, unlawful and unfair’.Mr Juncker says that EU officials cannot engage in any discussions whatsoever with the British government until Article 50 is triggered but the expats say this creates uncertainty for millions of British nationals living in the European Union.

The group, Fair Deal for Expats, say they need to know that they will be allowed to stay in their current country in the future.

One member of the group told Sky News that Brexit had raised issues about citizenship, housing and health treatments and the group is calling for sensible talks to begin about what life for British expats in Europe will mean after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

The Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will trigger Article 50 by March 2017 and has warned the EU against any effort to expel the 1.2 million British expats currently living in the European Union.

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Mrs May has previously hinted that the UK would take action against the 3.6 million EU expats living in the UK should the EU decided to ask the British expats to leave.

Meanwhile, the UK government has decided that it will give British expats around the world a ‘vote for life’ and scrap the 15-year limit rule which sees more than three million expats who live abroad not having a right to vote in Parliamentary elections.

The move is still to become law but will enable expats to vote in the last constituency in the UK where they lived.

Falling pound hits British expats

The falling value of the pound is threatening to spoil the lifestyles of British retirees living abroad.

Since June, the pound has dropped in value against the euro by 15% which means that the popular retirement communities in France and Spain are facing a higher cost of living and an erosion in their pension income.

With hundreds of thousands of expats relying on private, company and government pensions to get by, the payments are in pounds which must be converted to Euros before they can be spent.

When the pound was strong, the expat retirees enjoyed a decent standard of living since a £500 pension would be worth €655 on the European Union referendum polling date of June 23.

However, the crashing pound since then has seen that pension now being worth €555, with currency experts predicting parity with the euro next summer.

Entrepreneur visa launched in New Zealand

A four-year pilot project is being launched next year to attract entrepreneurs to New Zealand.

The scheme is being run by Immigration New Zealand in conjunction with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship to boost investors, start-ups and entrepreneurs creating business opportunities in the country.

It’s called the Global Impact Visa and will be restricted to 400 applicants with the first batch due to arrive in the country late in 2017.

The programme will also see investors and entrepreneurs from New Zealand being accepted into the scheme and supported along with the expats to help create opportunities and success.

Expats miss out on free petrol

In a bid to placate Kuwaitis who are not happy with an increase in petrol prices, the government has announced they will receive free petrol every month and the amount will vary but this will not extend to expats.

The government says it will provide around 30% of the average consumption figure of 220 litres every month, beginning with a free ration of 75 litres for each Kuwaiti driver, but expats will pay the new petrol prices which came in at the beginning of September.

The government says it will raise or lower petrol prices in line with international oil prices so the amount of free petrol will vary as well but it will be worth around £17 or $21 every month for citizens.

100,000 expats leave Italy

Figures just released reveal that more than 100,000 Italians left the country last year, a rise of 6.2% on 2014’s figure.

Of the 107,529 expats, 37% are aged between 18 and 34 with many preferring to head for Germany. 69% emigrated to other European countries, while South America fell in popularity.

The figures revealed that 56% of these expats are men and the country’s president Sergio Mattarella said: “Emigration is sometimes a sign of impoverishment rather than free choice inspired by the circulation of experience and knowledge.”

Expats in Abu Dhabi pay more for health cover

The Abu Dhabi Basic Plan for providing healthcare is being tweaked so that local workers and expats will be paying more for their private health coverage, under plans revealed by the health authority.

The changes to the basic plan, which is issued to expats with their work visas, could see employers paying more since health insurance is often a much valued employment benefit.

However, the change will enable an employer to charge part of the healthcare cover to their employees who are aged 40 and over as well as asking them to pay more for coverage for their spouse and up to three children.

The result will also see the expat paying to ensure full cover for their other dependents such as additional children as well as their parents. There will also be an additional maternity surcharge for married women aged between 18 and 50.

The result sees the Abu Dhabi basic plan having its annual premium hiked to $408 for those aged between 18 and 40 but those aged between 40 and 59 will be paying $817. Employees aged over 60 will pay nearly $1,500.

The health authority says the rule changes are crucial to ensure the healthcare sector remains viable and helps increase efficiencies to benefit the patient.

Expats count as two!

A news report in Saudi Arabia has revealed that under the Nitaqat Saudisation programme, which will replace expats with Saudi citizens, expats aged over 60 will be counted as two expat staff.

However, expats working as academics such as professors and lecturers as well as investors will not be considered to be staff even if they are aged over 60.

The Ministry of Labour has unveiled its long-term project to help Saudis develop and dominate the country’s job market over the coming 25 years.

In addition, the ministry has also unveiled its plan to protect wages and ensure employees get paid on time.

Most expensive countries for expat students revealed

Students heading overseas to continue their university studies will find that the most expensive cities are in the United States, according to real estate consultancy Savills.

The firm has found that Boston is the costliest for international students who will pay on average £4,500 a month to live and study there.

The survey ranks cities for how expensive they are for expat students for their living and tuition expenses as well as accommodation.

The second most expensive destination for students is New York followed by San Francisco and Chicago with London ranking in fifth position – though its purpose-built student accommodation has been ranked as the priciest in the world.

Of the cities where home-grown and international students paid the same tuition fees, just Shanghai, Beijing, Berlin and Munich meet the criteria and offer expat students a good deal.

A spokesman for Savills said: “Many students are still choosing to study in the UK, US and Australia despite the expense because the courses are taught in English and the locations are home to institutions that top the rankings.”

He added that there is a trend with more universities around the world teaching in English with European universities proving particularly popular.

Paris charms its expats and Brits alike

The French financial regulator, the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), has begun a charm offensive to lure French expats back to the country from London along with any city-based firms looking to relocate.

The organisation’s secretary general says they are receiving a steady increase in enquiries from employers looking to relocate ahead of the Brexit countdown.

Now Paris is trying to tempt financial firms to relocate to the city along with tens of thousands of French expats currently working in London.

To help smooth their passage, the French government has promised tax breaks for returnees, more international schools and lower company tax rates.

However, it appears that the French financial industry is also undertaking its own attempt at attracting expats and employers from London and moved to Paris.

Safest countries in the world for travelling revealed

The world’s safest countries for travelling have been revealed by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

According to the survey, the safest country to travel in is Finland, followed closely by Qatar and the UAE.

They are followed by Iceland, Austria, and then Luxemburg and New Zealand. Singapore is ranked in eighth place, followed by Oman, while Portugal takes 10th spot.

Other countries popular with expats see Ireland in 15th place, Germany in 20th and the UK in 63rd position behind Saudi Arabia, Rwanda and Malaysia.

The survey considers how costly violence and crime, including terrorism, is for travellers and how well they can rely on police services to protect them from crime and criminals.

Travellers in the US should be wary since it ranked in 73rd position, below Albania and Kazakhstan. The least safe the country for expat travellers is Nigeria.

In other news…

Swiss expats can now register with their authorities online after the unveiling of a new IT system. The expats living overseas can now enter and modify their personal data and add their name to the Register of the Swiss Abroad. They can also access consular services and pay for registration and citizenship services online.

Expats living and working in Saudi Arabia who might fancy earning money with the likes of Uber and Careem by using their private vehicles will not be allowed to do so. The Kingdom says only Saudis will be entitled to work for the increasingly popular ride hailing services. The Ministry of Transport also points out that expats may be breaching their visa and the country’s labour laws by working for these organisations.

According to a survey, Shanghai is the most expensive place for expats looking for a luxury lifestyle in Asia. A Swiss private bank says the city has now overtaken Hong Kong for the cost of luxury services and goods where, for instance, a Rolex watch can cost nearly $39,000 whereas the same item can be bought in Kuala Lumpur for $28,500.

Expats travelling in America might want to note that the most expensive city for an overnight stay is Nashville, according to a survey. The most populous US cities were analysed and with hotels costing an average of $261, the Tennessee capital leads the rankings. In second place was Boston followed by Washington DC.

Expat teachers in Kuwait will see their accommodation allowance being reduced to KD60 ($199/£160), from the current KD150 ($497/£401). The Kuwait Teachers’ Association says the move will have negative repercussions and create financial instability for the affected teachers.

A law in Saudi Arabia that allows a citizen to deport their expat spouse has been repealed. The Justice Ministry says the law was being abused by scores of spouses during family and marital disputes when the Saudi citizen could easily issue a final exit visa since they are the spouse’s legal sponsor; this is no longer possible.

The first ever Expats Fair Thailand has been hailed as a great success which brought locals and expats together for a day of fun. Along with fun and entertainment, the aim of the fair was to celebrate the country’s expat community and encourage travel within Thailand.

A survey has revealed that the past year has been tough for international schools around the world – and things are likely to get tougher, according to the International School consultancy. They say that schools in the Middle East, Singapore and Malaysia will be the hardest hit as the fallout from low oil prices continues to be felt.


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