Expat Focus Financial Update 26 September 2016

Cities favoured by expats are 'most liveable'

Australia and Canada are not just firm expat favourites to enjoy opportunities; they also top the charts for being the world’s most liveable countries, says a survey.

According to rankings published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Melbourne in Australia is the world’s most liveable city, followed by Vienna in Austria.However, Canada also dominates the top 10 with Vancouver in third, Toronto in fourth place and Calgary sharing joint fifth place with Adelaide in Australia. The top four places had little between them in terms of scoring so expats thinking of moving to any of those locations will find they are very similar in their enjoyment levels.

The Australian city of Perth picks up seventh place, followed by Auckland in New Zealand and Helsinki in Finland as the ninth most liveable city. Germany’s Hamburg is in 10th place.

It’s the sixth year running that Melbourne has been the chart topper, though Sydney has dropped out of the top 10 because of terrorism fears.

The rankings consider 30 different factors including healthcare, infrastructure, safety and the environment, with mid-sized cities found in wealthier countries tending to score best.

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The lowest ranked city by the EIU is Damascus in Syria which ranked poorly on every factor, mainly down to civil war; the only European city in the lowest rankings is Kiev.

However, other cities which have ranked well previously have also seen falls including Paris, because of terrorist attacks, with civil unrest in Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco also affecting the rankings.

Other world cities that scored poorly include Tripoli in Libya, Karachi in Pakistan, Harare in Zimbabwe and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The report states: “The year has been marked by terrorism and its spread and frequency, while not a new phenomenon, have increased and become more prominent.

“Those cities that score well are of mid-size in wealthier countries with a relatively low density of population. These can offer recreational activities without the infrastructure being overburdened or higher crime levels.”

British expats may need European visa

While British expats who are currently living and working in Europe may be unaffected, those wanting to live there after Brexit may need a long term residency visa, says the Home Office.

The Daily Telegraph says the change could be part of Brexit negotiations and may see British expat retirees wanting to move to countries such as Spain or France having to prove their income before they are allowed to settle.

The newspaper quotes Home Office sources as saying they expect the new visa system to be similar to the one that is currently in place for non-EU nationals wanting to live and work in the European Union.

The Home Office says it is looking to implement a workable and easy system for expats and those looking to retire to the EU.

Australia reviews expats' pension cap

Expats moving to Australia will no longer be restricted to the country’s planned lifetime pension contributions limit of AU$500,000 which is now being raised to $1.6 million.

When the original pension cap was announced earlier this year it created confusion and criticism from the country’s financial services industry and the new announcement means, for instance, that British expats can transfer a pension pot worth £900,000, rather than the original cap of £280,000.

However, the new cap applies to the pension pot size and not to the amount of contributions. Transfers are restricted for tax relief purposes to £57,000, or $100,000, from the original ceilings of £102,000 or $180,000, every year.

One pensions expert told the Financial Times: “The new rules make more sense but the system is still complicated.”

Expats should also appreciate that not only are they restricted as to how much they can transfer to an Australian superannuation fund but they can only begin making transfers after the age of 55.

New map helps US expat retirees

A new interactive online map that helps US expat retirees find the best communities for low-cost retirement around the world has been published.

It’s the first annual directory of ‘great value communities’ published by International Living and it enables users to pinpoint instantly the towns and cities that will best suit their retirement needs.

The map has been published in response to the rising cost of living in America and growing numbers of citizens looking to retire abroad in response to increasingly uncertain financial and political circumstances.

However, the vast array of options available for lifestyle, landscapes and budget means many will need help in determining the best place for them to retire, and the map analyses locations for their quality of life and affordability.

Israeli expats returning home

Record numbers of Israeli expats are returning home and they are mainly coming from the US and Canada, according to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

In just over two years, the ministry has helped 22,470 Israelis return to Israel.

This is, in part, in response to a campaign launched in 2010 to attract more Israelis back to the country to help boost its economy with their experiences and expertise.

Zurich is world's 'greenest city'

Moving to a sustainable city may be an important element for expats when deciding on where to pursue an overseas career, so the latest ‘Sustainable Cities Index Report’ will help.

Zurich takes the crown of the world’s greenest city in the study, which ranks 32 indicators covering profit, the planet and people.

Other top green cities are Singapore, followed by Stockholm and then Vienna, with London making the fifth spot.

The bottom five are Cape Town, New Delhi, Nairobi and Cairo, with Calcutta in last place of the 100 cities analysed.

Zurich did well because it has invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy policies with a sustainable public transport system in place which, the city claims, is pioneering and a model for other cities to follow.

However, it did less well when it came to work-life balance and affordability, though it does have a high quality of life as well as employment and education opportunities.

Expats reassured by tax amnesty

The government in Indonesia has reassured expats who want to use a tax evasion amnesty that they will not be prosecuted if they do come forward.

The move follows revelations that Singapore’s private banks are sharing details of its wealthy clients with police. The banks have been doing this since last year when police asked them to file suspicious transaction reports as part of the tax amnesty scheme.

The amnesty was launched in June in a bid to boost a shortfall in tax revenue, though one media news outlet is reporting that so far just 18% of the revenue being predicted has actually been delivered.

The government is targeting Indonesian expats living overseas who agree to repatriate their assets for at least three years and they will be offered special rates of low tax for doing so.

Female expats face visa delays

According to several media reports, female expats looking for work in Oman are facing difficulties in gaining a work visa, with some having to wait for more than a year.

Also, it appears that visas for women wanting to work in certain sectors are being denied, particularly in construction.

An adviser from the country’s Ministry of Manpower told one newspaper that female expats are being treated on an individual basis and that approvals for working in some sectors is ‘unlikely’.

The ministry says that the restrictions have been created in order to protect women and protect the visa system from being abused but insists that Oman is welcoming to female expats and work permits are available for working with companies and in big stores.

However, recruitment specialists say that it’s still ‘very difficult’ for many women expats to gain a work visa.

Expat exit tax mulled

The Parliament in Kuwait look set to discuss a proposition to tax expats leaving the country after one MP said the tax would benefit the country’s economy.

The MP says all expats leaving Kuwait International Airport should pay the exit tax and the government should also inspect the bank accounts and income for expats before they leave the country.

Reaction to the proposal has been mixed, with criticism from expats and Kuwaitis alike.

However, the same MP is also proposing that Parliament discuss increasing visa renewal fees as well as driving licences and also increasing the cost of health insurance for the large expat population in Kuwait.

British students will boost outlook and skills with overseas study

Research from the British Council reveals that students who opt to study overseas will not only benefit from more confidence but have empathy for international students.

The report says that British students who study at a foreign university will be more employable and have better experience, including improved communication skills.

The report reveals that most British students are keen to share their worldview and experiences with their peers, with 83% saying their job prospects had been strengthened.

British expats could use UK employment laws for disputes

A law firm has highlighted that UK organisations and companies working overseas could see British expat workers pursuing a claim against them under the UK’s employment laws.

This follows a ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal which could, say lawyers, have far reaching consequences for global companies and their HR departments.

Solicitors at Penningtons Manches say that if the expat has a ‘strong connection’ to the UK then they can override a belief that their place of work will determine which employment law is applicable to them.

This follows the tribunal overturning a decision which prevented a UK citizen with a strong connection with the UK and having a British employer from accessing an employment tribunal.

The firm points out that the general rule is still applicable, in that employment laws covering where the expat is working is still the regime to use, but there are determining features that may see an expat bringing a claim against an employer under the UK’s employment laws.

Expats in Nepal can remit more money

The rules governing how much money expats can send home from Nepal have been altered, so they can now remit 75% of their earnings.

The country’s central bank has simplified the process for expats to access foreign exchange services. Expats now no longer need approval from the bank and can use foreign exchanges provided by any commercial bank in the country.

In addition, the central bank has also made it easier for Indian expats working in Nepal to obtain Indian currency directly from a commercial bank.
All expats except for Indian nationals have a foreign exchange limit of $36,000 per year, or $3000 per month.

In other news…

A survey in Jakarta has revealed that two in three of cases of domestic workers being economically mistreated, including unpaid wages, are by expats from overseas. The National Network for Domestic Workers’ Advocacy says that expats are employing Indonesian maids in their homes but are mistreating them because there are no specific laws protecting domestic workers.

Qatar’s Ministry of Interior has launched a campaign warning expats to park correctly in public spaces and near to shopping malls. The Ministry says cars are blocking roads to create traffic jams and expats are largely responsible.

Australia’s universities are reaching out to their former students to build stronger relationships since many are now expats in other countries. A national strategy has been announced for engaging with alumni with more than 2.5 million graduates who studied in Australia and hundreds of thousands who have enjoyed Australian universities based overseas. The strategy aims to connect with more than a million Australian expats living overseas.

Malaysia’s government has announced it is committed to helping foreign investors establish new international schools for expats in the country. The Education Ministry says it’s particularly wanting schools to be established outside of the Klang Valley area, which is already popular for international schools.


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