Expat Focus International News Update February 2019

Taiwan best for expats' quality of life

In a survey of expats around the world, Taiwan has been voted the best place for offering expats a better quality of life.

In a population of 23.5 million people there are 750,000 expats. The island republic scored highly in six categories, including affordable healthcare for 96% of respondents, the quality of medical care for 92% of expats and personal safety for 98%.The findings from expat organisation InterNations placed Portugal in second place, followed by Spain, Singapore, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Australia and Switzerland, with Israel in 10th place.

A spokeswoman for InterNations said:

"The multifaceted, affordable healthcare system impresses expats and in the past 45 years, Taiwan has made the change to a single-payer system."

At the bottom of the list of 66 countries were Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar. However, the biggest drop in the rankings was seen by Malta, which fell 19 places to 38th position.

Most liveable cities for European expats revealed

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A survey of the world’s most liveable cities for European expats has been revealed by ECA International.

The expat relocation experts looked at a range of factors to determine its rankings, including the availability of health services, the climate, utilities and housing as well as leisure facilities and expats having access to social networks. The results saw 480 cities around the world being analysed; the top locations were found in Scandinavia and northern Europe.

Neil Ashman, a senior locations analyst with the firm, said:

"Cities in Switzerland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands offer good liveability, with excellent infrastructure, a high level of health care that consistently contributes to their excellent liveability score."

Outside of Europe, the most liveable country for European expats is Canada with Toronto in first place, followed by Vancouver.

Mr Ashman added: “Canadian cities feature high with European expats, thanks to good public facilities, low crime levels and little air pollution.” The only Asian country in the top 100 is Singapore.

The top 10 most liveable cities around the world for European expats are Copenhagen, Bern, The Hague, Geneva, Stavanger in Norway, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Basel, Luxembourg, Gothenburg and Dublin. Edinburgh is the top-rated UK city in 20th place.

Meanwhile, ECA International says that the most liveable city in Asia for Asian expats is Singapore, a plaudit it has won for 14 consecutive years. The city-state has beaten its main rival, Hong Kong, and various Australian cities to the prize.

A spokesman for the firm said Singapore has an ideal location, good quality healthcare, low crime rates and access to great facilities that help the large expat population enjoy their stays.

British expats may need to re-sit driving test

It has been revealed that nearly 500,000 British expats living in the European Union may have to retake a driving test should there be a no-deal Brexit.

The Department for Transport says that expats living in EU member states holding a British driving licence may have to trade them in for one that’s issued by their current country before the end of March, or pass a new driving test.

The AA says that most of the expats being affected are likely to be retirees who have moved to France and Spain many decades after they first sat their UK driving tests.

The disclosure has been made in guidance that has been issued by the government to motorists in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal covering their driving rights. The guidance also warns that British people heading to the EU and wanting to drive as a visitor while there may need to buy an International Driving Permit for £5.50 in order to do so.

Banning expats led to job creation surge

After Oman introduced its expat employment ban the country created 64,000 jobs for Omanis, says the country’s National Centre for Statistics and Information. The data highlights that 60,807 expats left the country last year after the visa ban came into effect and numbers fell by 3.4%.

At the end of November last year, there were 1.7 million expats working in the country.

Under the Omanisation programme, jobs were created for Omanis last year in both the public and private sectors. That’s because the Ministry of Manpower brought in a visa ban for the employment of expat workers covering 87 professions including sales, marketing, accounting, finance and information systems.

The actual figures reveal that 64,386 Omanis were hired in the private sector, while 4,125 were taken on by government agencies. Omar’s Ministry of Manpower has recently announced that its ban on recruiting expats will be extended by another six months.

Europe tops democracy chart

The annual democracy index, which measures countries around the world on a number of democratic issues, sees European countries dominating the list.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) publishes its findings every year and looks at issues such as political participation and the functioning of government to determine whether a country is fully democratic, a hybrid regime, or authoritarian.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the EIU findings highlight that Australia and New Zealand are the only ones that could be described as full democracies. Also, the EIU says the United States has not been able to find its way into its top democracy category.

For expats heading overseas who want to live in a democratic country, the top of the list is taken up by Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada, Ireland, Finland, Australia and Switzerland. Germany is in 13th place, the UK is 14th and the US is 25th.

The least democratic countries are North Korea, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

Saudis offer financial help to expat employers

Saudi Arabia has announced financial help for expat employers who are struggling to pay the rising fees for work permits.

The kingdom’s Labour Ministry says that the fee hikes in 2017 and 2018 has led to some employers struggling to pay. Now, the government says it is allocating SAR 11.5 billion (£2.34bn/$3bn) for reimbursement purposes.

A Labour Ministry spokesman said:

"The initiative will help private sector firms in overcoming obstacles and encourage them to expand the employment of Saudi citizens."

Only those employers with an equal or higher number of Saudi employees, compared with expat numbers, will be eligible for the waiver or reimbursement fees.

Employers told not to hire illegal expat workers

Meanwhile, the Saudi government has warned employers in the kingdom about not hiring illegal workers as they will now face imprisonment should they do so. The government says employers should not breach Saudi’s employment, residence and border security laws.

Employees have also been told that they face being jailed for up to six months and fined up to SAR 100,000 (£20,648/$26,668) for any breaches. The expats will also be deported.

Another new initiative has been unveiled in Saudi Arabia which will see expat workers being allowed to challenge employers if they’ve been falsely reported as absent from work. They can appeal if they were present at work but their employer has marked them as absent in a bid to prevent the misuse of the visa scheme.

Saudi authorities say employers will not be allowed to use the Labour Ministry’s services against an employee being absent if that employee has filed a case against them.

Expat jobs cut from Kuwait's government

Kuwait has announced ambitious plans to reduce the number of expats working in government jobs. The government says that the rate of recruitment of Kuwaitis must increase and more than 90% of employees will need to be citizens by the end of the 2020 financial year. The government says there will be no exceptions to their new resolution.

The latest data from the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics reveals that the average expat salary in government work is KD 1,500 (£3,822/$4,936) per month and the next financial year will see pay rises of 5% for government employees.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior has also informed 50 expat employees who work in the Ministry that their contracts will be terminated due to Kuwaitisation. The expats have been given three months’ notice.

Kuwait has also announced that it will impose a new KWD300 (£764/$987) fee on expats who work in non-government agencies as the country pushes forward on Kuwaitisation. The fee is for dependents wanting to join their expat family members in Kuwait and will be imposed from June.

Kuwait to banish all expats from public sector jobs

One expat agency says that Kuwait’s ambitions for promoting Kuwaitis will see all expats being banished from working in its public sector by 2028. That’s the verdict from Moody’s, who say that the country also wants to see between 30% and 60% of jobs in the private sector being held by Kuwaitis over that time too.

Executive travellers and expats need to check passports

Employers who have executive travellers who visit the European Union for work purposes or expats heading there to live, must check their passports in case there’s a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

This warning comes from the Health Insurance Group, a provider of health solutions, who say that passports will need to be renewed in time should this scenario occur. They say that travellers with a UK passport that has less than six months left when they arrive in the Schengen area after March may have difficulties travelling between countries.

The firm is also warning that anyone wanting to renew a passport in the next few months should expect lengthy delays for the renewal process to be completed as applications are set to soar.

In other expat news…

Fears that Canada’s move to allow its expats to vote in federal elections is unconstitutional and may lead to a surge of new voters have been dismissed by officials. Canada recently repealed voting restrictions after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a complaint from two Canadians living in the US that they were prevented from voting in federal elections. One former election official told media that the effect ‘will be minimal’ because so few Canadians living overseas register to vote in the country’s elections.

The number of British schools available to expats and other international employees in China looks set to double by the end of this year, to 46. There’s a fast growing demand for international schools in the country, but particularly for British-run education establishments – many Chinese families want their children to attend well-known Western universities and see the schools and campuses as helping them on this path.

The UAE has begun issuing long-term residence permits for expats with ‘exceptional talents’ including students and investors. Entrepreneurs are also eligible for a five-year visa and can invest a minimum of Dh500,000 (£105,393/$136,147) to get one.

The number of registered British expats who are living in Marbella, Spain, has risen to 3,866, which is the first rise in five years. Marbella City Council says numbers have risen by 48 since the start of the year and the British Consulate says British citizens should register as residents to secure their residency status before the Brexit deadline at the end of March.

The Sri Lankan government has announced it is considering a policy covering the employment of expats in foreign and local banks there. The government says they will publish guidelines for employing expat staff in licensed banks shortly.

The first batch of expats who have lived in Qatar for more than 20 years and are considered to have special skills are now receiving permanent residency visas. The country will offer 100 expats every year visas which will give access to the country’s health care system and will allow them to enjoy commercial rights that are normally only available to Qataris.

Switzerland says it will set up a separate quota of 3,500 work permits for British citizens who want to live and work in the country after March 30 should there be a no-deal Brexit. The permits are for those heading to the country for the first time and another 1,400 short stay visas will also be offered to replace the current free movement agreement that exists between the UK and Switzerland.


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