Expat Focus International News Update July 2019

Switzerland is the best place for expats to live and work

The best country in the world for expats to live and work in is Switzerland, a global expat survey reveals. The HSBC’s annual league table for the best expat destinations looks at the experiences and opinions of expats living and working overseas.Now Switzerland has returned to the number one spot ahead of Singapore, though the city-state is still considered to be the best destination for expat families.

Last year, Switzerland was in eighth place and along with attractive surroundings and very competitive salaries, it offers expats a highly rated quality of life.

The biggest climber in the survey is Turkey which is in seventh place, a rise of 15 places. Vietnam also makes a debut in the top 10.

The head of wealth and international at HSBC Bank Singapore, Ian Yim, said:

"We point out that countries have begun to up their game in attracting the highest calibre of international talent. Switzerland's quick ascent is an example of this and our study shows that Singapore is attractive for expats who are looking to build a long-term career while they raise a family."

According to expats, the best places to live and work also include Canada, Spain and New Zealand. The top 10 also sees Australia, Turkey, Germany, the UAE and Vietnam make the grade. Bahrain, Sweden and Taiwan have fallen out of the top 10 for the first time since 2014.

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Mr Yim added:

"The research highlights that internationally mobile people are looking for destinations that match their goals, priorities and objectives."

The survey puts the US in 23rd place with the UK in 27th with expats placing the Isle of Man as the best place in the British Isles to live and work – overall, it’s the 12th best place in the world.

The average expat pay around the world is $75,966 (£61,073) while the average Swiss pay packet is 47% higher at $111,587 (£89,711).

Wages have an impact on expat well-being

The biggest impact on an expat’s well-being is how much they get paid, a survey reveals.

The International Workforce Wellbeing Survey from healthcare provider Aetna International questioned 2,000 expats around the world to find out which relocation aspects affected their well-being and health the most.

28% of expats said their wage levels had a positive impact on their well-being. However, 21% of expats said their corporate culture had a negative impact.

There were also issues for 13% of expats over working practices which had a detrimental effect on their health.

The survey also revealed that 32% of expats said the quality of their new country’s healthcare system had had a positive impact on their well-being and 82% had made a trip to the doctor in the first six months of living there.

Among the challenges highlighted by expats working overseas is the issue of settling children into a new country, along with learning the local language.

Gulf-based Brits reluctant to return home

Just one in three British expats who are based in the Gulf say they are planning on returning to the UK, a survey reveals. The findings from Hoxton Capital Management reveal that three quarters say they are worried about the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

The survey of 1,120 British expats found that 41% made the move to the GCC for a better lifestyle, followed by a tax-free salary, for 27%. Also, 10% said they had relocated to the region because they ‘wanted an adventure’ and 9% moved to join family members.

A partner with Hoxton Capital, Chris Ball, said:

"Improving financial prospects remains a key reason in expats moving and there has been a noticeable increase in those moving to the region for an improved lifestyle.”

However, he added that Brexit uncertainty had led to nearly half of the survey’s participants saying they had no plans to return to the UK and 25% said they were ‘not sure’ about returning. The findings also highlight that expats who move to the GCC region change their opinion of the UK, usually for the worst.

British expats to hand back passports

Meanwhile, one in three British expats living in Ireland say they will give up their passport by seeking permanent residency or citizenship in another country.

The findings from CurrencyFair, a foreign exchange broker, also found that 10% of expats are considering cutting ties with their home country should a no deal Brexit go ahead.

The survey also highlights that more than half of British citizens who live overseas worry about their citizenship rights and also their rights in Commonwealth countries.

The expats are also worried about the value of the pound, for 59% of those questioned, while 52% worry about how Brexit will affect their retirement.

Estonia top destination for digital nomads

For expat digital nomads, the best country in the world for ‘being digital’ is Estonia. That’s according to InterNations, the online expat community, who have published a Digital Life Abroad report for the first time. The report highlights the best and worst countries for expats wanting a connected life by analysing the country’s ability for delivering digital needs.

In second place is Finland, followed by Norway, Denmark and New Zealand. The report says 96% of expats praised their access to online services in Estonia and most said it could not be improved. However, 83% of expats working in China say that access to social media is ‘not satisfactory’, while South Korea offers expats the fastest Internet.

UK employers want immigration action

Employers in the UK who hire staff from outside of the country say the new immigration plans unveiled by the government will affect them, according to research by the British Chamber of Commerce. They say that 53% of firms who have migrant employees will be negatively impacted by the new rules which require a skilled migrant worker to earn at least £30,000 to work in the country after the UK leaves the EU.

There are also plans to impose a one-year working residential limit on migrants with low skills which would affect 57% of employers. Among the sectors most affected will be construction and healthcare and businesses say they are also worried about the extension to the immigration skills charge, which is levied for every worker recruited from outside the EU.

Post-Brexit agreement urged

The European Union is being urged to have a reciprocal agreement that will guarantee the rights of British citizens living in the EU in the event of a Brexit no deal.

The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, said the approach would be better than having to negotiate separately with 27 member states.
However, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier says that ring-fencing the rights of citizens is far from straightforward.

He says no British national will ‘be left in the dark’ while departing Prime Minister Theresa May says that EU citizens currently in the UK will be able to stay under a no deal agreement. There are currently 1.3 million British citizens living in the European Union’s member states, while 3.2 million EU nationals live in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Home Office has revealed that nearly 700,000 expats in the UK have been granted leave to remain after Brexit. Since the scheme opened, 788,000 applications have been dealt with and 66% of applicants were granted settled status and 34% granted pre-settled status.

The Home Office says more than 800,000 applications have been made with Polish nationals dominating applications, followed by Romanians and then Italians.

Meanwhile, the UK and Swiss governments have agreed to protect workers’ rights should there be a no deal Brexit. The agreement will ensure that Swiss and British expats will continue working in each country with the agreement running until the end of December 2020.

Student loan warning for Australian expats

Australian expats around the world are being warned that they cannot dodge their student loans with the country’s tax authorities launching a crackdown.

The Australian Tax Office says it will now contact those with a student debt who are planning to leave or are already living overseas in the coming months.

A spokesman said: “While it’s exciting to move overseas, they should not forget about their student loan repayment obligations.”

British expats buy in France

British expats are leading the charge to buy property in France after there was a 6% growth in purchases from non-residents, research by BNP Paribas reveals. Of all property purchases being made by non-residents, Brits accounted for 27%.

The number of transactions from British buyers grew by 3% and the most popular regions are Paris, Cote d’Azur and Nouvelle Aquitaine in the south west.

New Kuwait sponsorship scheme launched

A new family sponsorship law in Kuwait has taken effect for expats.
Both men and women can now sponsor a family member if they earn at least Dhs 4,000 (£875/$1,089) or Dhs 3,000 plus accommodation per month.

Previously, the sponsorship scheme meant a man had to earn at least Dhs 4,000 and women had to earn at least Dhs 10,000 per month. Sponsors must provide proof of health insurance and housing and apply for ID cards for the family members.

US expats want to hand back passports


One in five US expats say they are looking to hand back their passports, a survey reveals.

The research by Greenback Expat Tax Services reveals that the expats do not like citizenship-based taxation, and are fed up with the lack of government representation.

Nearly half of the 3,100 respondents said the most important thing that a US government could do to help them is to overhaul their citizenship-based taxation system.

They also cite issues with FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) which requires that financial institutions around the world report to the Internal Revenue Service any account held by a US expat that is worth more than $50,000. As a result, many financial institutions have refused to deal with American clients.

The survey highlights that 5% of American expats are in the process of renouncing their citizenship, another 21% say they are seriously considering the prospect of doing so and 41% say they would not rule out handing back their passport in the future.

The main reason, for 39% of respondents, for waiving their citizenship is the tax burden being placed on expats with 17% saying they are unhappy with the direction of the US government under President Trump.

In other news…

Since 2013, authorities in Kuwait have deported 148,000 illegal expatriates. Of those, 88,000 were men and 60,000 were women and 29,000, according to the Ministry of Interior were Indian men. Also, more than 20,000 expats have lost their jobs in Kuwait over the last three years after the country began linking the residence permit with their qualifications, the government has revealed.

Saudi Arabia has revealed that expats take up 75% of the jobs in its labour market. The number of workers sees expat men accounting for 66% of employees with non-Saudi women accounting for 9%. There are 12.7 million workers currently in the kingdom and 10 million of them are expats working and living there.

The United Arab Emirate is reducing by up to 94% the work permit fees for expats. The country says the move will help support investors and business owners in the country. The UAE has also revealed that two-year work permits have been modified depending on the worker’s skill category and employers who hire Emiratis or a GCC nationals will be exempt from paying work permit fees.

Growing numbers of apartments in Kuwait are lying empty as expats leave the country. Between 2015 and 2018, 102,280 residency and visas were cancelled which has hit the country’s property sector.

Oman says it is looking to boost expat working conditions for more than 16,000 expatriates working in the country despite a visa ban being extended recently to four more professions. The government says the inspection framework for private establishments will be intensified to ensure labour laws and standards are complied with. Among the jobs now covered by the visa ban are carpentry, aluminium and brick factories.

Growing numbers of expats in Dubai are suing employers over verbal abuse issues in the workplace. Media outlets report that expats are taking bosses to court and winning for psychological damage and picking up substantial sums – one employee was awarded 200,000 dirhams (£43,761/$54,458).


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