Expat Focus International News Update October 2018

UK to recruit Australian doctors

In a bid to beat a chronic shortage of GPs, the NHS in the UK is set to offer a package worth up to £18,500 to entice Australian GPs to the country.

A GP recruitment mission will head ‘down under’ with the aim of targeting British doctors who have left the NHS to work in Australia and also to attract Australian GPs who may be tempted by the opportunity of working in England.The reason for the move is that waiting times are getting longer for GP appointments in the UK and the shortage of family doctors is a serious problem.

Since ministers announced a plan to increase GP numbers by 5,000, the actual number of GPOs employed by the NHS has fallen by 1,000 with GPs saying they are busier than ever dealing with the demands from an ageing population.

So far, hundreds of Indian and European doctors have been recruited to fill the shortfall and now the NHS is looking further afield.

Expats and tourists ordered to hand over phone passwords

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Expats and tourists entering New Zealand have been ordered to hand over their phone password at the border or face fines for refusal.

A new law has been introduced that gives customs officers the power to compel expats and travellers to open their digital device or devices for inspection.

As with many other countries, New Zealand’s customs officers already have the ability to seize mobile phones and digital devices for examination that they believe may contain evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The new law came into effect at the beginning of October and has proved to be controversial, with prosecution and fines of up to NZ$5,000 (£2,500/$3,282) for those who refuse to unlock the device.
However, New Zealand appears to be the first country to impose a penalty for those who do not divulge their passwords.

UK house prices lead to residency rule change

One of the reasons why expats in Dubai look set to get permanent residency should they decide to retire there is down to rising house prices in the UK.

Real estate experts in Dubai say that growing numbers of expats will opt to remain as they come to the end of their careers because of high house prices in the UK making it difficult for them to return and buy a property – and the government has taken this advice on board.

The UAE has approved a law that will give special visa residency privileges for an expat over the age of 55 to retire and remain in the country though there are restrictions which include owning property or having savings of £207,330 ($272,255) or an income higher than £4,150 ($5,445) per month.

The visa will run for five years with the potential of renewal but this will depend on various conditions before it is agreed. Expats who retire in the UAE will also be required to hold a valid health insurance policy.

Immigration ‘wrong turn’ criticised

The UK’s business leaders have attacked the government for taking a ‘wrong turn’ over plans laid out for the country’s post-Brexit immigration system.

The Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that free movement for EU citizens will end after Brexit and there will be fewer low skilled workers entering the UK.

However, the CBI, the employers’ organisation, has criticised the plans and says they risk harming businesses and living standards.

The organisation’s director general, Carolyn Fairburn, said: “The proposals risk worsening labour shortages which are already serious in hospitality, construction and care. By restricting access to the workers the country needs is self-defeating and dismisses the importance of low skilled workers to the economy.”

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said that a new British values test will be introduced for those expats wanting to gain UK citizenship. He says that while immigration has been good for the country, the current test is not enough and should help immigrants understand what binds society together rather than learning about history.

Kuwait to ban expats with poor degrees

Kuwait has unveiled a plan to ban expats who have low degree scores from entering and taking up a job offer.

The move by the Manpower Authority will see permits not being issued unless the expat has a minimum of a ‘good’ grade point average (GPA). The government says it wants to deliver more job opportunities to Kuwaitis and help ensure that employers only take on highly skilled expats.

Kuwait revealed last year that it will begin auditing and checking all university degree certificates when an expat comes to renew their residency visa.

Meanwhile, a government report reveals that ALL educational certificates for citizens and expats wanting to be teachers could be examined after a report was submitted. The Ministry of Higher Education says it will review the certificates and the contracts for 460 expat GCC teachers who will have their qualifications checked before any new employment contracts are signed.

Expats in UAE send home record amounts

Between April and June this year, expats in the UAE remitted Dh44.4 bn (£9.2bn/$12bn) to their home countries, according to figures published by the UAE Central Bank. More than 55% of the cash landed in bank accounts in India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Nearly 40% of transferred funds were made by Indians, followed by Pakistani expats who remitted 8.5% of the total and those from the Philippines who remitted 7.1%.

Remittances to India have been growing since the beginning of 2018 and industry experts predict this trend will increase. One reason for this is the strengthening of the US dollar, so expats in the UAE can send more money out of their dirhams.

Expat public sector engineers face new rules

The Kuwaiti government says that public sector expat engineers looking to work in the country must have an agreement from the Kuwait Engineer Society before doing so.

Kuwait looks set to implement new rules that cover the renewing of residency permits for expats who are employed in the public sector. The Public Authority for Manpower says the move will help rectify a ‘demographic imbalance’ among engineers.

Also, relevant certificates for doctors, lawyers, teachers and pharmacist will also need to be provided in future regulation changes. According to local media reports, one reason for the linking of renewing or issuing residency visas for engineers, along with checking their accreditation certificates by the Kuwait Engineers Society is to help curb the phenomenon of expats using fake certificates, including those from unknown universities.

In coming months, the government says it will agree on protocols with the Kuwait Lawyer Society as well as other pharmaceutical and medical societies when issuing work visas.

The best destinations for expat retirees

The annual survey from International Living on the best places for expats to retire to has just been published. Their retirement index is a comprehensive and in-depth survey which looks at a wide range of criteria with Costa Rica taking top place.

The site calls Costa Rica the ‘world’s best retirement haven’ and praises the low cost of living, excellent beaches and volcanic thermal springs.

There’s already a strong expat community in Costa Rica, particularly from the US and Canada, with many Costa Ricans speaking English. The next most popular destinations are Mexico, Panama, Ecuador and then Malaysia.

In other news…

Cyprus has unveiled plans to hand British expats living there residency rights post-Brexit. British expats will need to have lived continuously in the country for at least five years to be granted permanent residence rights.

Visa applicants from Bahrain have the easiest time when it comes to gaining access to Europe’s 26-strong Schengen zone. According to local media, 98.4% of applicants were approved of the 22,804 Schengen visa applications – one reason for the success rate is that just three countries have consulates processing applications and they are Italy, Germany and France. However, according to the European Tourism Association, the region loses $1 billion (£762 mn) every year because applicants from India find the visa process too complex and many do not complete the application or change their mind during the application process.

Kuwait has announced that it has deported 13,000 expats since the beginning of the year as it continues its efforts to reduce the foreign workforce in the country. The reasons for deportation include breaking the law and labour law violations. Other expats were found to be medically unfit under Kuwait’s health policies which prevent those who have AIDS or hepatitis C from obtaining residency. Local media reports that many of those being deported hold university degrees.

The number of expats working in Saudi Arabia’s public sector fell by 20% in 2017, according to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA). The organisation says that the number of government employees, including expats, stands at 1.23 million people, a fall of 0.8% year-on-year with Saudis making up 95.1% of the public sector’s workforce. The civil service says that the ministry is looking to replace at least 28,000 expat jobs by the end of 2020.

Qatar has clarified a new law that exempts expat workers from obtaining an exit permit before they leave the country. They say it only relates to those workers in the private sector, not those in government agencies or personal sponsorships. The government is carrying out a number of consultations and workshops to explain how the new law will work and how expats will have their entry and exit of the country regulated along with their residency.

Expats heading to Europe for business or to live permanently will need to appreciate how might be affected by living costs. Now Wanderu has put together a list of the most budget-friendly European capitals and the most expensive. The cheapest is Skopje in Macedonia followed by Pristina in Kosovo and Podgorica in Montenegro. The most expensive is Monaco, followed by Reykjavik and Dublin. London is in 44th place out of 48 cities analysed.

Financial help has been extended to 400 expat students in the UAE who could not afford school fees with one foundation stumping up the costs. A fund has now attracted Dh600,000 (£125,000/$163,000) in support in less than one month – with money coming from UAE residents, including expats. The students come from various nationalities but the families cannot afford the school fees this year.

Oman says that the children of expat residents who are working and living in the country are now eligible for their own identity card, regardless of their age. Previously, only children over the age of five could apply for these cards with the government’s move making it easier for expats to use the e-gate system at Muscat International Airport. Also, expats must obtain a residency card for their child once they turn 15, but they can now get one sooner under the new rules.

A survey from a research institute in Switzerland has highlighted that there are big political differences between residents in Switzerland and the Swiss Abroad expat community. Of the six main concerns, the Swiss Abroad put relations with the EU in first place, whereas for citizens it is the fifth most important. Expats also rate worries over climate change and CO2 emissions, followed by the reform of old-age pension schemes and health insurance premiums highly. For 24% of Swiss Abroad, immigration issues are the fifth most important subject with Swiss sovereignty and independence in last place for 19% of expats.

Qatar’s first overseas visa centre has opened in Sri Lanka – the with another seven countries set to join. The initiative will see the procedure for recruiting expats being made simpler. The centre will also collect the data and fingerprints of expat workers applying for visas.

Research from Bloomberg has revealed the cost of housing in 100 cities around the world. They say that the cost for a mortgage or rent on three bedroom apartments in the city centre is the most expensive in Hong Kong ($8,000/£6,100) per month), followed by San Francisco ($6,300 per month) and then New York ($5,700 per month). London is in fourth place, followed by Geneva.


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