With 195 countries in the world, moving abroad and becoming an expat is an enchanting idea. Nearly 785,000 British citizens were living in other European countries before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics. Moving overseas is an enormous decision though and it means changes and rewards at the same time.
It raises a lot of questions before you move: how do I find a job? How do I plan to move overseas? Do I need a visa? Where will I live? What will it be like there? How much does it cost to move overseas? Moving abroad these days requires even more careful research, and we are here to help.
To help you answer all these questions, we’ve prepared our guide on moving abroad for expats in 2023. Find out how to move abroad from the UK and how to prepare for a move overseas and make the most of it. Get our helpful step-by-step checklist to help you move.
You have decided you want to move overseas, and you’re looking for a truly new start. You’re hoping to break the bonds of your current living situation, and take flight for pastures new.
Congratulations – that’s a brave step. Moving abroad is a glorious adventure, but it also comes with more than its fair share of stress, fear, and bureaucracy.
To help you take the leap, we put together this complete guide with all steps you need to consider before and after moving abroad, and a checklist on how to move abroad. We have also spoken with expats who have made a move overseas recently.
Based on our experience of working with expats around the world, 2023 could be the year you make the big move, joining the expat community overseas. We’re going to lead you through each step of moving abroad, so you can start your new life as quickly and calmly as possible.
What are the reasons people move abroad?
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected expats worldwide with many finding that their priorities shifted, both in terms of finances and quality of life. But many people made the leap before. And others are planning to follow, with many considering moving abroad in 2023, particularly young professionals and families with children.
Several factors play in to the desire to experience life in another country in 2023. There is people’s increasing awareness of the importance of fulfilling their dreams, as well as the urge to escape after unpleasant memories of the monotony of lockdown. Not to mention the global cost of living crisis. The huge rise in remote working has also made it possible for many professionals to work from anywhere – including another country.
And why wouldn’t you? 74% of expats increase their income in their new country, according to HSBC’s latest Expat Explorer study. As well as the financial benefits, moving abroad can open your eyes to different ways of living – and satisfy the wanderlust that’s been growing in you.
Here is a map with data showing migration flows in the world:
Moving country in 2023 – what is it like?
Moving abroad is stressful enough at the best of times, and this is certainly closer to the worst of times. Expat life has always varied according to your reasons for moving abroad, where you choose to live and whether you move alone or with family. The pandemic caused additional challenges for many expats with the severity of lockdowns in European countries, and xenophobia on the rise in some destinations.
Civil unrest and political uncertainty is also affecting some countries – from the USA to Hong Kong and Russia. Whilst the challenges of COVID were of great concern, these are subsiding, and there are tens of thousands of expats who would not consider returning home as they enjoy the climate and quality of life in their adopted countries, among other factors.
Josh and Kalie, expats and content creators for ExpatsEverywhere.com
Moving abroad or to a different country during the pandemic: how was your experience?
Honestly, it wasn’t bad. A few extra steps with COVID tests and needing to show various proofs meant that we had to organise a little more on the front end, but the flight itself was great.
Once arriving in Portugal, the restrictions at the time were a bit less than what they were in the US although that’s now flipped. Overall, it was a fine experience and we think that it was so smooth because of our amount of experience moving from country to country. We kind of knew to expect the unexpected. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and know anything is possible.
According to our mental health survey, a lot of expats were happy being in their country of residence during the pandemic. As always, the best advice is to do your research before you move abroad and talk to other expats. Read more about expats and their experiences.
Will COVID affect me moving abroad or returning to my home country?
The COVID-19 global pandemic affected almost every person in the world in some way. Many people had to contend with themselves or their loved ones contracting the virus, others had to deal with indefinite periods of self-isolation, while some had to deal with devastating loss. National and global travel restrictions left a lot of people living in limbo. Dreams of a new start abroad were suddenly put on hold.
As things start to return to a ‘new normal’, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Dreams of leaving the country are no longer on hold and it’s likely many more of us will again be looking at moving abroad from the UK.
How did your return to your home country go during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Because of the travel restrictions, we couldn’t leave Italy to go back to Brazil, our home country. It was a tough year to be an expat in Italy, and as much as we love the country, it was hard to be locked in one place.
Only by the end of 2020, when restrictions were softened, that we managed to get back to Brazil. After 14 hours journey and three airport connections, we were back at Itajaí, our hometown in Southern Brazil. It’s good to be back, we are still facing restrictions, but nothing beats the feeling of being close to our loved ones.
We do miss Italy, but we are waiting for the world to heal then we can go back to international traveling.
What are the best cities to move abroad in 2023?
To begin with, if you’re planning on relocating, pay close attention to the countries that dealt better with the spread of COVID-19.
The Global Liveability Index 2021, a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, puts Auckland, in New Zealand, at the top of the cities to consider in that respect, owing to the city’s ability to contain the coronavirus pandemic faster and thus lift restrictions earlier, unlike others around the world.
The city largely remained open and it scored strongly on a number of metrics including education, culture and environment.
10 of the most liveable cities in the world in 2023
|City||Location||Rank||Healthcare||Culture & Environment|
*Source: The Liveability Index 2022 by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
What are the best countries and cities for expats in 2023?
Several countries were capitalising on the moving abroad trend in 2021, supporting expats and digital nomads. Dubai, for example, launched a one-year virtual working programme, specifically aimed at attracting working professionals. It also offered free coronavirus vaccinations to some expats. Barbados has a similar programme – the Welcome Stamp – aimed at remote workers.
In Europe, Finland introduced the ’90-day Finn’ scheme, which gives foreign tech professionals the chance to move to the country for 90 days to see if they want to live there permanently. And Greece is offering tax breaks to attract expats.
Nearly 785,000 British citizens were living in other European countries before the pandemic, according to latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics. The three most popular EU countries, comprising 69% of that number, were Spain, France and Germany.
Want to find out how much it would cost you to relocate abroad? Try our relocation calculator to discover the average cost of moving to your dream destination:
How much money should I have before moving to another country?
If you’re serious about moving overseas, it’s important to have enough savings. Ideally, you should have enough savings to cover eight to ten months of living costs before you make your move, although the exact amount will depend on whether you will be employed if you are moving with your family/dependants and your lifestyle.
At a minimum, you will need enough money to cover your initial housing costs, including security deposits and other costs of settling in, as well as enough to cover any emergency healthcare costs and the costs of moving back to the UK if you decide that the expat life is not for you.
Charlie Clissitt, Editor of MoveHub, global relocations company.
How much does it cost to move overseas?
This is always a tricky one to answer because it just depends on so many factors; how much stuff you’re bringing, how valuable it is, whether you insure it, what kind of visa you need, how many family members you’re bringing, what size property you move into, how long you’re planning on living there for.
One person’s move to Australia could easily be cheaper than another person’s move to Spain. In terms of living costs, it’s all the usual culprits (Switzerland, Scandinavia, Japan, Singapore etc.) – these are best avoided if you’re on a tight budget.
Are there any changes to employment for British expats in 2023?
More than 11% of expats say they moved abroad because they were recruited internationally. These job opportunities may now be on the decline, in part due to the pandemic but also Brexit, with companies looking to recruit locally rather than internationally. However, many expats-to-be are able to work remotely for their current employer – check whether you need to register to pay tax locally.
What about changes to healthcare for British expats in 2023?
Post-Brexit, some of the reciprocal agreements around healthcare in Europe have changed, so many expats now need to apply for residence to access state-funded healthcare. For anyone not permanently living in the new country, it’s important to have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Find out more on how Brexit impacted expats.
If you’re not eligible for state-funded healthcare, or would like additional peace of mind you may want to consider international health insurance.
To help you plan your move overseas, we have listed below the most important stages of moving abroad and becoming an expats, together with some tips from people who have already moved abroad.
There are dozens of different aspects to consider – so here are some of the main factors that’ll help you make your mind up.
- Decide on the country and documents you need
- Get on board with finding work abroad
- Check the costs and find accommodation abroad
- Think about healthcare and expat health insurance
- Learn about the logistics of life as a foreigner
- Tie up loose ends at home
- Move your belongings abroad
1/ Decide on the country, language and documents you need
Above we have covered countries that might be best for relocation, depending on your individual situation. Now let’s talk more about the specifics of becoming an expat.
Visa and staying legally in the new country
Brits are lucky than many other nations in the sense that British passport gives you access to living in a lot of countries around the world.
When you start your relocation process and start to check for the document requirements, you will visit a government website that lays out the different visa options, and how you can qualify for them.
Every government has it, but sometimes you might have to use the online translator function (there is one in Google Chrome, for example). You can also call the country’s UK embassy and ask the representatives all the questions. Most likely, there will be relevant information on the embassy’s and consulate will be able to answer all your questions.
Read carefully, follow the instructions to the letter, and work out how much you’ll have to pay ahead of time, so you can budget it in.
There’s no point in choosing a country, only to be refused entry. Ascertain how easy it is to move to the destination you have in mind, and check whether it’s possible to test drive your potential new home.
Us lucky Brits can spend large chunks of visa-less time in many foreign countries – usually 90 days, but often longer.
If you speak multiple foreign languages, the world is your oyster. If you don’t know any, you may want to limit your search to countries that are English-speaking, like Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Barbados. And of course, there are plenty of nations which are exceptionally good at teaching their populace English as a foreign language, like Sweden, Singapore, and the Netherlands.
But how can you learn the language as a new expat? Thanks to the abundance of digital technology we can access while sitting at home, you can learn a new language from the comfort of your own sofa. For example:
- Look into virtual language classes. Online classes are becoming a part of everyday life. Companies such as SkyEng offer online classes that support you in learning a new language.
- Use language apps. There is an app for everything these days, including ones to help you learn a language. We recommend dipping into Duolingo or Memrise to get yourself more familiar with another language. Both apps are free, and make learning a language feel like less of a chore.
- Immerse yourself in the language digitally. Well, since you can’t necessarily do that face-to-face for now, why not switch that film you’re watching to your chosen language?
Meg Jerrard, expat blogger, content creator for Mappingmegan.com
How to be expat in the country where you are based now? What was the biggest challenge?
From America to Australia, funnily enough the biggest challenge was the language barrier – which may sound surprising considering both countries speak English.
However there are many slang terms, as well as different words, phrases and ways of describing everyday things, which we’re still working through 8 years later!
2/ Get on board with finding work abroad
Becoming an employed, contributing member of society is generally the best way to convince the authorities that you deserve a temporary visa, never mind permanent residence.
We recommend getting a job before you make your move. If you’re taking a brave step into the unknown without paid work, be sure to get well-acquainted with job sites, and hit the ground running when you arrive to find a role as soon as you can.
3/ Check the costs and find accommodation abroad
Check living costs around the world before you make your decision, or you may not be able to enjoy your new life to its fullest. On the other hand, a wise financial choice can lead to you living in comfort for the rest of your years.
Expats around the world are already experiencing the worst cost of living crisis in a generation, with budgets squeezed by tax rises and everyday purchases going up in price. Before you make your move abroad, you might want to brush up on the latest news from your new country to see how it’s been affected.
Take a look at the main financial aspects you need to organise before you leave the country, such as:
- Bank accounts – If you don’t have any assets in the UK, such as property, it’s best for you to close your UK bank account. Before you get settled into your new home, you should also set up an international account. Many UK banks will offer these, so it shouldn’t be a stressful process.
- Pensions – You can either leave your pension in the UK, or transfer it to an approved arrangement in your new country of residence. But before you move, you must inform your current pension holder.
- Individual Savings Account (ISA) – You can keep your ISA open and still get UK tax relief on money and investments held in it. However, you cannot put money into it after the tax year following your move.
- Expat taxes – Whether or not you have to pay expat taxes will depend on your own personal circumstances. You should test whether you’re liable for tax by completing the Statutory Residence Test.
If you decide to purchase a property when you move abroad, we have a full guide on how to buy a house abroad as a British expat.
4/ Think about healthcare and expat health insurance
A foreign adventure is always exciting, but every adventure should come with a safety net. Make sure you’ll be able to afford healthcare in your new home country and have a look at whether it’s any good.
If you want to protect yourself and your family with international health insurance, get a free quote from William Russell today. Start building a customised plan today, with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family. Find out what we cover in our plans – they are fully customisable for you.
Looking for expat health insurance?Get a Quote
5/ Learn about the logistics of life as a foreigner
Don’t worry, there’ll still be plenty to sort out after you’ve moved abroad.
You’ll need to purchase plans for the following:
- Mobile phone contract
- Electricity and/or gas
And of course, you’ll have to find your local supermarket or butcher, baker, and fruit and veg maker. In all of these decisions, the key is research – so prepare as much as possible, and ask locals for their opinions after you’ve arrived.
When it comes to Netflix, you’ll continue to pay the same amount, in pounds, when you move countries. If you’d rather pay the local price, just cancel your account the day before the end of your month, then restart it the next day.
And don’t worry: Netflix is available in 190 countries.
Likewise, if you’re signed up to Amazon Prime Video, it’s available everywhere apart from mainland China, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
However, if you’re moving outside the European Union (EU) – or if you’re reading this after 2020 has ended – you’ll be limited to watching Amazon Originals.
If there’s one thing we can be sure of right now, it’s that everyone is in the same boat when they move abroad. Joining an online expat community can support you in the months ahead, and can help you connect with people in similar situations.
Self isolation doesn’t have to stunt your move abroad. You can learn the ins and out of your new town or city through online expat communities: ask questions, connect with expats in your area-to-be, take a look at other people’s queries, and who knows – you might even meet people going through the same thing.
There are global expat websites which divide into area-specific communities.
This is where a 90-day test drive will be particularly useful, but there are quicker ways to work out whether another country’s culture meshes with your approach to life.
Check out the United Nations’ World Happiness Report and the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, and research which nations are most tolerant of racial minorities and LGBT+ people.
Then look into which country excites you with its entertainment offerings, its approach to food and drink, and its national pastimes – and check out the working culture, too.
After all, there’s a big difference between France’s two-hour lunches, 35-hour weeks, and 30 holiday days, and the US’s mere 10 days of holiday.
Find out more about culture shock and how it affects expats here.
6/ Tie up loose ends at home
Finding a new home, a new job, and new friends is stressful, but at least it’s exciting. Tying up loose ends is not exciting, but it’s necessary. Once you’re done cancelling your subscriptions and saying goodbye to your friends, here are the steps the UK government requires you to take.
If you receive any benefits from the government, you need to tell the offices responsible for them that you’re moving to a different country.
They’ll tell you whether you can keep getting them while you’re overseas.
Let your local council know if you move overseas, so they can cancel your council tax payments, and make sure to provide a forwarding address.
If you’ve made enough UK National Insurance payments, you’ll qualify for a state pension, regardless of whether you’re retiring here or abroad.
Nevertheless, you should contact the International Pension Centre, where staff will tell you how to claim your pension from a different country. Read our guide on retiring abroad as a British expat.
Tell the Student Loans Company that you’re moving to a new country, so you can continue paying what you owe.
The government has prosecuted some former students for failing to repay their loans, and though it’s unlikely that you’ll be tracked down in your new country, you should keep up repayments if you harbour thoughts of ever returning to the UK.
You’ll need to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about your move. Here’s how you can do that:
- Fill in form P85
- Fill in a Self Assessment tax return if you usually do
- If you’re leaving your company, ask your employer for a P45 form
- If you’ll be working for a UK-based company for at least one full tax year (April 6th to April 5th the following year), prepare a tax return
- Send all of the above documents that you’ve filled in to the HMRC, either by post, commercial software, or by using the services of a tax professional
- The HMRC does not accept these documents if you send them online, for whatever reason.
If you’re planning on spending less than half of each year in the UK for the foreseeable future, you’ll likely be a non-resident, and therefore will only be taxed by the HMRC on any UK income you receive, and not on your income in your new country.
Voting and citizenship
There’s good news in both these areas.
You’ll almost certainly be able to vote in UK elections while living abroad, and you’ll remain a citizen too. If you want to vote by post or proxy, all you need to do is fill in the relevant document – just make sure to print it off first, as it can only be completed in paper form.
Then send it back to your local council’s electoral services team. Check whether they’d prefer it by post, or whether you can send them a scanned copy via email.
Getting your security deposit back
If you are renting, you may want to think about ways of getting your security deposit back before you move out.
Matt Woodley, Founder of Moverfocus.com
When planning an international relocation it’s crucial that you start early and secure your moving dates with your preferred mover as early as possible. By booking early you have a better chance of securing your required moving dates and also of course a shipping container and vessel for your shipment.
When comparing moving quotes you will also want to closely review the service inclusions and exclusions to ensure that you’re comparing ‘apples to apples’. Also, it’s worthwhile asking the movers what freight rate they’ve quoted you in the event of a potential freight rate increase at the actual time of shipment.
7/ Move your belongings abroad
At this point, you’ll be ready to physically move yourself and all your most important belongings to your new home.
Shipping is by far the most efficient, least expensive way of making sure all your prized possessions follow you across the ocean in a safe and timely fashion.
Air freight is 12-16 times more expensive than sea freight, according to the World Bank, which makes it much less attractive.
Plus, from 2014 to 2016, ships transported an average of £9.3 trillion worth of cargo across the world – and 99.99% of containers travelled safely to their destination.
We created our moving abroad checklist primarily for people who are considering leaving the UK covering everything that you need to do before you move and also important factors to consider in your first few months once you’ve moved abroad.
- ☐ Research the entry requirements including any COVID-19 restrictions.
- ☐ Make sure you have your documents in place. If you are moving with a job offer in place, be ready to research corporate culture and customs in the new country.
- ☐ Consider using a relocation agent to help you navigate the move abroad.
- ☐ Make sure you have found accommodation. You need to find out about your deposit and rent – sometimes you will have to commit to paying the full 6 months or even 1 year rent to secure the property, so it might be easier to get a hotel or Airbnb to explore the area before you get a property contract signed.
- ☐ If you’re moving abroad with family and/or pets, there are additional considerations such as schooling and pet passports.
- ☐ Be proactive about making connections, both with other expats and locals. It helps to know some of the language too.
- ☐ Figure out your tax in the new country, so you are prepared. Research helps!
- ☐ Prioritise your health, including mental health, as moving abroad – like any big change – can present challenges. Make sure all your medical appointments are up to date before you go, and that you have sufficient medication. Make sure you have researched the healthcare system in the new country.
On top of it, you will need to tell the relevant government offices in the UK that deal with your benefits, pension and tax that you’re moving or retiring abroad.
You can usually vote in UK elections if you move or retire abroad.
Your UK citizenship will not be affected if you move or retire abroad.
Thinking of moving abroad in 2023?
There has never been a better time to think about starting a new life. In 2023, we have created a guide with a list of best places to live and move abroad for expats, and we have considered healthcare as one of the biggest factors when you make a move.
Wherever you decide to move, just make sure you have the confidence of international health insurance. At William Russell, we have been providing worldwide health cover for 30 years, helping expats like you and their families to settle into their new homes. Speak to us today to find out more about how global health insurance could support you.