Expat News Round-Up February 2017

Happiest countries for expats

The countries where expats are happiest has been revealed, and the best locations are not necessarily where expats earn the most money.

The survey is the latest from the expats’ networking organisation InterNations which asked more than 14,000 expats in 191 countries about their personal happiness in their current home countries.The results reveal that some of the best countries for expats are not those that are paying the most or even have the best infrastructure, but instead offer expats happiness.

In top spot is Costa Rica which is described by expats as a dream destination and of the expat population, 19% are entrepreneurs or own a business, 20% have part-time work and 14% are expat retirees.

In second place is Malta which is particularly popular with European expats for its low cost of living and sunny year-round weather, with Mexico in third spot.

The Philippines has been ranked in fourth place, mainly down to the country’s friendly attitude towards expats and their children, and Ecuador is in fifth place for personal happiness.

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The top 10 is made up with New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Panama and Spain.

In a separate report, the organisation also highlights the best countries for expats to find romance, with the Philippines in first place followed by Greece and Brazil.

UK offers expat job opportunities

The number of jobs available in the UK is rising because fewer migrants are moving there to take up the positions, says one organisation.

The UK has nearly 750,000 jobs to fill which are mainly in hotels, hospitals, retail stores and restaurants but the number of expats from the EU has fallen following the Brexit vote.

There are also jobs available in manufacturing, food services and health which account for nearly 45% of all vacancies.

Now the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) is warning that the country’s skills shortage could worsen in the coming months with growing evidence that many expats working in the UK from the European Union are contemplating leaving the country and returning home.

The CIPD says: “With so many vacancies left unfilled it will act as a brake on UK output growth. Employers will also need to work harder to attract candidates and improve job attractiveness.”

Kuwait accused of breaking the law over expats

Legal experts and politicians are criticising a law that compels expats who work in Kuwait’s private sector to use just three hospitals as being a violation of the country’s constitution.

The chairman of Kuwait’s Society for the Development of Democracy said it was unacceptable that expats who paid their health insurance fees to the state were then restricted to using three hospitals.

The chairman says it is up to expats which hospital they want to use.

In addition, lawyers say that differentiating between public and private sector employers is in breach of Article 29 of Kuwait’s constitution, which says that all people are equal before the law.

Another organisation which looks to protect human rights said that the three hospitals must be monitored closely so expats and their rights are not abused in any way.

Myanmar's bid to control expats

Efforts by Myanmar to attract more expats to the country could be jeopardised with two new bills which would restrict where expats can travel and relocate to.

In addition, the government is also proposing that expats undergo a medical examination within a week of arriving in the country.

The moves would also, say critics, prevent would-be investors from investing into the country.

The new law would require all non-citizens over the age of 10, and who will be living in the country for more than 90 days, to carry at all times a foreigner registration certificate and failure to do so could see the expat being imprisoned for up to five years.

Saudi Arabia expels thousands of expats

Newspapers in Saudi Arabia are reporting the government has expelled more than 39,000 Pakistani expats from the country in the last four months in what is being described as a ‘terrorism crackdown’.

While most of the deportations are for visa violations, one newspaper reports that the government is reacting to growing concerns over potential terrorism.

The government has also announced that the political and religious affiliations of Pakistani expats will be checked in future before they are allowed to enter the kingdom.

Courts for non-Muslims are planned in UAE

Expats who are not Muslims and are living and working in the UAE will be able to access their own courts to ‘speed up proceedings’.

The move means the courts there will hear cases involving custody, divorce and inheritance with the possibility of complying with the laws relevant to the expat’s home country to make the proceedings clearer and quicker.

Expats also have the choice to have their case heard under UAE law or choose to have it heard under their religious laws.

Should expats choose to have their case heard under their own laws, they must provide a copy of the applicable law that has been verified by embassy staff with a sealed legal brief.

Law chiefs in Abu Dhabi say the number of cases being filed by non-Muslins has grown rapidly since 2014.

Expats must take driving test

Expats from Europe and Australia working in Qatar are being warned that the driving licence they hold from their home country may no longer be valid for use in Qatar.

The rules changed on 1 January though the government did not announce the tightening of requirements so many expats will be unaware of the change.

The rule change now means that expats new to the country must take a driver’s test and driving theory classes before obtaining a licence, though any expat who does hold a licence should check whether they need to comply with the new rules.

Previously, expats from Europe and Australia had to present their current valid licence from their home country and take an eye test before being granted a driving licence valid for Qatar.

US expats have had to take a mandatory driving test since 2009.

Expat debate postponed

A bid by MPs in Kuwait to debate the role of expats in the country has had to be postponed after a large contingent of MPs failed to show up.

With more than two-thirds of the country’s population being expatriate workers, many are unskilled from Asia, has led to growing criticism from lawmakers.

Now a group in the Parliament is urging the government to tackle the growing numbers of expats and they want the immigration numbers to be restricted and to boost employment prospects for unemployed Kuwaitis.

UK expats leave because of the weather

More than half of British expats leaving the UK name the weather as the big factor for doing so.

According to a Movehub report, 54.4% of expats said the weather was their reason for leaving while just 25.3% said that low job prospects made them head overseas.

The reflection on the UK’s weather may also explain why the top destinations for British expats are moving to sunnier climates with Australia in top spot, followed by the USA, Spain and France.

The report also highlights that the trend for British expats to leave for work-related reasons is now in decline and they are leaving for other factors – unlike expats leaving most other countries.

Among the reasons for leaving the UK are high house prices while growing numbers of expats heading to Britain are doing so in larger numbers.

Many of the expats moving to the UK move for job purposes and 58% of them have a job offer in place while 41% are looking for a job when they’ve landed in the UK.

For US expats, the most popular overseas destinations are the UK, followed by Australia, Canada, Germany and France.

Movehub says that most US expats are looking to move to countries where English is the main language with the leading states that people are leaving being New York, California, New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

However, Australian expats are mainly heading to the UK, New Zealand and the US and the report highlights that for every one expat heading to Australia, three Australians are leaving the country.

The most expensive rents paid by expats

A survey of properties around the world has revealed which are the priciest countries for expats to rent a property.

The EuroCost International survey puts Hong Kong in first place, up from second position last year.

In second place is Tokyo, followed by London – which has fallen from last year’s top spot – New York and Luanda in Angola.

The top 10 is made up with San Francisco, Juba in South Sudan, Geneva, Moscow and Singapore.

The firm says it is the first time in four years that London no longer occupies the number one position and that is down to the devaluation of the pound against the euro.

However, Hong Kong is now the world’s most expensive city for expats to rent a flat though rent prices have been stable for the past year – it also been propelled into the number one position because of exchange rate fluctuations.

Expats in Tokyo have seen rent rises to push their city up the rankings and there are three other US cities in the top 20 including Washington, Los Angeles and Miami where, according to the survey, rents have increased rapidly for expats living there.

In other news…

Portugal’s government has announced that it is working on plans for expats to vote online in its elections. Currently, expats must travel to a consulate to vote in person for European and presidential elections but they can vote by post for general elections.

Oman has confirmed that the country’s visitor visa rules for the relatives of expats have not been changed despite media reports that shorter visas can be obtained. The government says the visitor’s visa is valid for three months and can be extended by an extra month.

Firoz Merchant, an Indian businessman based in Dubai, has announced that he will spend around $1 million this year to help free expats who have overstayed their visas and been jailed but who remain behind bars because they do not have the cash to return home. Since 2011, the businessman says he has helped around 4,000 prisoners return home.

Bangladeshi expats living and working in Oman are being warned by their embassy to be more careful when crossing roads after it was revealed that more than 100 Bangladeshis have been killed in traffic accidents last year. In total, 223 expats died in Oman road traffic accidents.

Expats in Qatar no longer need an employer’s permission for a leave certificate which will now be issued for free by the country’s new paperless system.

The Netherlands government has revealed that more than 60,000 Dutch expats have signed up to vote in the country’s general election on March 15. With more than 500,000 Dutch nationals living overseas, the total number of expat voters eligible to vote will be more than 100,000 people when the election is held.

Expats who take to the streets in Kuwait to celebrate a sporting win are facing the prospect of deportation for either committing ‘immoral conduct’ or for obstructing traffic, warns the government.

Lebanese expats could have six MPs to represent them at the country’s next elections, according to Minister Gebran Bassil. He says the numbers of Lebanese expats should be properly represented in Parliament.

The most toxic country in the European Union is Bulgaria, according to the Eco Experts. The survey looked at air quality around the world as well as energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

China has announced a crackdown on expats live-streaming on Chinese mobile phone apps and the platforms must now register their expat users with the country’s Ministry of Culture. Critics say when the regulations come into effect, most platforms will have to remove their expat members to comply.

The Indian Consul in Saudi Arabia has issued a statement to remind Indian expats there to follow customs rules following several arrests for gold smuggling. Expats have been stopped at Indian airports in breach of regulations which, the Consul General said, are widely publicised on the government website and in airports.

Expats in Shanghai have discovered that China’s most popular ride-hailing service Didi, which is similar to Uber, has begun testing its app with an English language option. The move will attract lots of expats to the service and it also underlines the firm’s intention to become an international operation.


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