Expat Focus International News Update September 2018

Expats vote Bahrain as the best place to live

For the second year running, expat workers in Bahrain have placed it as the best place to live and work. The findings from the Expat Insider survey rate the Gulf state’s friendliness and they say that making a good life there is easy to do. The remainder of the top five places are Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico and Singapore.However, Hong Kong’s long working hours, high living costs and lack of childcare have seen it fall in popularity and it is now in 56th place – out of 68 worldwide economies.

The survey is carried out every year by expat networking organisation InterNations using feedback from 18,000 expats around the world.

US is becoming an unpopular destination for expats

The survey also highlights that the US is becoming an unpopular destination for expats as it continues its slide down the rankings for the fifth consecutive year.

The US is now in 47th place with expats pointing to the lack of affordable health care and issues over safety as being their main concerns. Just five years ago, expats placed the US in fifth place of best places to live.

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The least popular country for expats, in 68th place, is Kuwait – last year it was second to last and between 2014 in 2016 the country was also ranked in bottom place. This year’s survey also puts Saudi Arabia in 67th place, with India, one place behind.

Europeans are allowed to remain in UK post-Brexit

While there is confusion over Brexit negotiations, the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May says she has made a unilateral offer to Brussels for expats from EU countries to remain in the UK, even if there’s no deal agreed.

The move will also allow EU migrants to claim benefits and access the NHS because one element of the government’s contingency plan for a no deal scenario includes having the availability of existing labour.

Mrs May says the offer has been made regardless of whether the EU extends the same rights to British expats in EU countries.

European citizens rush for British passports

Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that European citizens are rushing to gain a British passport. Also, the net migration of EU citizens into the UK has dropped to its lowest level for six years, official figures reveal.

In the year to March, net migration into the UK was 270,000 and the number of EU citizens who have been given British citizenship doubled to 31,464 between 2016 and 2017.

The Office for National Statistics also reveal that applications for British citizenship from EU citizens rocketed by 47% to 42,000 in the year to June.

Qatar offers expats residency

Qatar is the first of the Gulf states to offer expats living there the opportunity of permanent residency. The proposal will see up to 100 expats being offered permanent residency every year.

This will mean they gain full access to a generous social security system. Only citizens have previously enjoyed these benefits but the country is keen to encourage expats to remain for longer as the country faces an ongoing boycott from neighbouring countries, including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Currently, expats account for 90% of Qatar’s 2.7 million population.
Meanwhile, Qatar has announced that it is lifting the rules preventing expats from leaving the country without an exit permit.

The government says that for expats covered by the Labour Law, they can now leave for good or temporarily without an exit permit during their contract, though an employer can apply for some employees to have their pre-approval before leaving the country.

Saudi Arabia struggles to replace expats

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development has unveiled plans to restrict the employment of expats in 12 sectors to just Saudi nationals. The plan is to introduce restrictions in three phases, which begin this month.

The Kingdom says it will replace 60,000 expats with citizens but there are already issues over the recruiting of skilled Saudi labour. The first phase of expats employment restrictions begins in the kingdom’s retail and wholesale sectors.

However, one economic newspaper has interviewed shop owners to reveal that the new restrictions have already led to stores being closed or their numbers being reduced by the owners because employers are struggling to find skilled employees and they also face higher costs.

The government says that 1 million expats could be leaving their jobs over the next three months – and around 425,000 of them will be deported. This means that 3.5 million expats will have left Saudi Arabia in the last two years.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s campaign ‘Nation Free of Violators’ has caught 1.6 million expats who have violated the kingdom’s residency, border and work laws.

Kuwait axes 3,000 expat jobs

Kuwait’s Civil Service Commission has revealed that in the first year of its Kuwaitisation programme it has ended 3,000 expat job contracts in government agencies. The official figures reveal that 3,140 jobs across all government ministries have been lost.

However, some MPs have said that the government’s replacement plan is not ambitious enough and more jobs need to be handed to Kuwaitis.
Kuwait has also unveiled plans to stop the employment of expats who are aged over 60.

Under the proposals, the age limit for recruiting expat employees will fall from 65 to 60 and a work contract will not be renewed for any expat who turns 60.

The moves look set to be resisted by the business community who say they need experienced employees and the move will upset the market.
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that 70% of expat workers in the private sector are not qualified.

The government says these workers do not have university degrees or intermediate qualifications and recent inspections of employers has uncovered a large number of violations in employment procedures.
In contrast, around 60% of expats in the public sector have an intermediate qualification or a degree, while less than 11% of expats in the private sector can claim to have a university degree.

Pilot visa scheme for expat farmworkers in the UK

The UK government has unveiled a new pilot scheme that will see visas being offered to non-EU migrants to take up seasonal worker jobs post-Brexit. The initiative begins from next year and is aimed at dealing with labour shortages during periods of peak production.

The 2,500 visas will be issued every year and will last for six months. The move follows a slowdown in recruiting EU migrants since the EU referendum took place and the new scheme will run during the transitional period after the UK leaves the EU.

International students needed in the UK

Universities in the UK say the government should allow international students to remain in the country and work for two years after their graduation.

Universities UK says that overseas students, who generate £26 billion for the UK economy, will choose other countries such as the US, Australia and Canada rather than the UK in future.

They say that students are moving to countries that offer a good university education and the chance to explore employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, research from University College London says that Australia will overtake the UK to become the world’s second largest destination for international students. They say the UK will be pushed into third place behind the United States and Australia.

The British Council says the UK should review its policies for overseas students with news that Australia is expanding rapidly it’s number of international students.

Countries with the most culture for expats

One of the issues for expats working overseas is to move to a country that delivers interesting culture. Now one survey has revealed which countries offer the most cultural influence and Italy has taken top spot.

The findings from US News looked at entertainment, art and fashion and their findings place France in second place. The US is third, followed by Spain and the UK.

Bottom of the list are countries that are not always as attractive to expats and they include Iran, Algeria and Angola. The survey also looked at other issues, including the best countries for education, with the top three being the UK, the US and Canada.

Expat numbers heading to New Zealand are still high

Migration to New Zealand is still at historically high levels but it’s falling back to the levels seen over the last two years, the Government has revealed.

Statistics NZ says that 63,779 residents joined the country’s population in the year to July, that’s down nearly 12% compared to the same period a year ago.

The biggest source for countries sees China in first place, followed by India, the UK and the Philippines.

British ambassador writes to Brit expats

The British ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, has written to expats there warning them to get themselves registered ahead of the deadline in March when the UK will leave the EU. While he says he is optimistic for a Brexit deal, the ambassador says expats must prepare now for all eventualities.

He says that expats should be correctly registered while living in Spain and also offers a link on how they can prepare for a potential ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario.

Mr Manley also refers to the technical papers published by the UK government to help citizens and businesses prepare for a no deal situation. He also refers to ongoing outreach events by embassy staff that are planned throughout Spain to help expats prepare and understand what the latest situation is.

He ends the letter by saying: “Ensure you are registered correctly in Spain and stay up-to-date with news.”

British expats win award from Spaniards

Meanwhile, the British expat community in Torremolinos on the Costa del sol in Spain have been honoured for contributing to local life.
The Medal of Honour recognises their impact on the city’s cultural, economic and social life with the city’s mayor praising the efforts and input from the British expat community.

In other news…

Pakistani expats will be able to vote in elections through their home country’s i-voting website for the first time. Expats will have to register first.

Expats in the Maldives, as well as foreign visitors, have been threatened with deportation if they become involved in political activities. Maldives Immigration says their visas will be cancelled if they take part in any political rallies and activities.

Nearly 5,000 expats have been deported from Jordan this year, it has been revealed. Most of them have been to find to violate the country’s labour laws and follows more than 56,000 labour inspections to check employers are not breaking rules.

Expat engineers are being refused working visas in Nigeria in a bid to free up more job opportunities for Nigerians. The president’s executive order has already come into effect.

Forbes has published its list of influential women in the Middle East with 100 female businesswomen and executives, along with those heading government departments being recognised. The list is topped by the chief executive of Olayan Financing, Lubna Al Olayan, followed by the managing director of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, Raja Easa Al Gurg. In third place is Landmark’s chief executive Renuka Jagtiani.

A bid to stall the introduction of electronic voting has been thrown out by the Swiss parliament in a move welcomed by the Organisation of Swiss Abroad. Swiss expats have been pushing for the introduction of e-voting to make voting in elections easier from overseas.

The Estonia Institute has unveiled a programme of events to help the growing numbers of expats living and working in the country to integrate more effectively. The programme will help expats with the language and understand Estonia’s culture with lectures and trips to popular places.

Start-up visas are increasingly luring expats to Shanghai after 25 pilot visa policies were unveiled – four of which are linked to expats starting a business in the city. Another visa is aimed at helping international students to start a business during their studies.


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