Despite Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, many Brits are considering moving abroad from UK in 2021 for a better life. There are around 5 million Brits living abroad already. This leaves the question, where exactly in the world do most British expats abroad live? Spain is one of the best countries for Brits starting a new life abroad – but where are the others?
If you’re considering moving abroad from the UK post-Brexit, this article can help you understand the best countries in the world for Brits to immigrate to. We have put together a list of top places for UK citizens, based on our almost 30 years of working with British expats all over the world. We’ve considered such factors as healthcare, retiring options, education, costs and culture. This guide will help you decide what is needed to make your next life-changing move as a British expat as smooth as possible.
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Commonwealth countries are strong options with Australia and New Zealand among the most popular destinations for moving abroad after Brexit. It’s estimated that there are around 1.2 million British expats living in Australia. In the top ten is also South Africa. With its sunny weather and reasonable house prices, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular option for moving abroad. Canada is also one of the best countries in the world for UK expats with over 531,000 Brits living there. Favourite cities include Vancouver and Ottawa.
Source: movehub.com (2019 data)
What makes these places the best countries in the world for Brits to move abroad to from UK?
Following the Brexit referendum results in 2016, there has been an enormous rise in British citizens moving abroad from the UK. Number of Brits emigrating to other countries has risen by 30% since Brexit vote. At the same time, more and more UK citizens are concerned about the implications of moving abroad after Brexit.
The reasons why Britons consider moving abroad to another country include:
- Better standard of living
- Employment opportunities
- Family reasons (for example, education)
- Lifestyle benefits
British citizens naturally want to live in a country with economic stability, job security and opportunities for the future, particularly for their children. For families, education is another important factor – many schools in the UK are overcrowded or families can’t get their children into their chosen schools. There is also the appeal of the outdoor-based lifestyle and how this could transform British expats’ family’s quality of life.
Every city, state, or country has its own benefits to offer to its new residents, but whatever the reason, there has never been a better time to start a new challenge or adventure of your own.
Can you still move abroad after Brexit as a British citizen?
With the pandemic finally coming to an end, you may be starting to think about beginning a new life overseas as a British citizen.
After Brexit, the UK no longer has special status with other European countries. It’s now defined as a “third country” – that is, a nation outside of the EU.
You can still stay in one or more EU member states for up to 90 days of any 180-day period without much trouble, but if you want to move abroad to Europe, you may need a visa. To secure a visa, you’ll have to comply with the specific requirements of the country you’ve chosen to call your new home.
It’s also worth noting that your professional qualifications aren’t automatically recognised on the continent anymore. If you’re an architect, dentist, doctor, engineer, nurse, pharmacist, or vet, you must have your qualifications recognised by each country you practice in. So before you make any move, check with the country’s UK embassy that you’ll be allowed to do your job when you get there. Read our full guide on what Brexit means for expats.
However, nothing stops you from getting an international job abroad.
Also, if you move or retire abroad, you’ll need to tell the relevant government offices that deal with your benefits, pension and tax:
- Tell your council
- Benefits office
- International Pension Centre
- Student Loans Company
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.
There are hundreds of thousands of Brits jetting off around the world in pursuit of bigger and better things, but where precisely are they going? We have put together the best countries that British nationals choose to emigrate to and give details as to what make us UK residents pack our bags! So, most popular post Brexit destinations for moving abroad include:
This list doesn’t take COVID-19 restrictions into account, so bear in mind you’ll need to do your own research about local restrictions.
As the most popular country in Europe for British expats moving abroad, Spain is well accustomed to the British way of life, meaning you’ll find it super-easy to settle in. Around 750,000 British expatriates already live in Spain, with people traveling to the southern sun for all sorts of reasons.
Culture in Spain
Spain is known for having a relaxed, easy-going way of life. Expect plenty of wine, relaxing on the beach and, depending where you are in the country, traditional activities such as dancing and festivals.
If you’re working, you can look forward to partaking in siestas (like a lunch-break, except lasting about 3 or 4 hours, so that workers can avoid working in the intense mid-day heat). On the other hand, you may be expected to work until later in the evening, sometimes until around 7 or 8pm. Consequently, Spaniards tend to eat and socialise late into the night.
Retiring in Spain
Spain is hugely popular with British retirees. There are around 120,000 retired Brits already living among the 10 million people aged 65 and over in Spain. It’s one of the best countries in the world for Brits looking to retire abroad.
While coastal regions in the south are popular with some, retirees in Spain tend to flock to the rural northern regions – Asturias is particularly popular with retired people.
To retire in Spain, you will need permiso de residencia which shows you have enough money to support yourself in retirement. Remember that your UK state pension can still be paid to you while you live overseas, and this can help towards a successful application.
Jobs in Spain
Spain is a great country to work in. The reasonable price of property, especially in rural areas, makes it a great place to start a tourism enterprise such as a bed & breakfast. There are also a growing number of professional services and management jobs available in the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Banking, teaching and digital services are some of the most popular industries with professionals.
While you may not expect to get rich in Spain (the country is still battling back from an unemployment crisis), GDP is projected to grow by at least 6% while the cost of living is almost 20% cheaper than in the UK.
Education in Spain
Spain ranks quite low for education compared to other developed countries. However, successive governments have rapidly increased education spending. Naturally, schools in Spain teach in Spanish, but don’t worry if you’re moving with children who aren’t already fluent – the country has a great range of international schools, especially in the major cities.
Healthcare in Spain
Health insurance is a prerequisite for moving to Spain. Once you have arranged health cover, however, you can rest assured you’ll receive great quality treatment – Spain has a fantastic healthcare system and has been rapidly adding to its healthcare spending in recent years.
What are the pros of moving abroad to Spain as a British expat?
- Lower cost of living. Spain is mainly considered cheaper compared to the UK. Beer and wine is also a lot cheaper compared to UK!
- There is plenty to see. If you are a fan of history and nature, Spain has a lot of offer.
- Easy to make friends with fellow British expats. You’re sure to meet Brits as Spain has been a very popular expat destination for UK citizens.
- Good healthcare system. Though general healthcare is guaranteed to those living in Spain, many also opt to have additional international health insurance coverage and to find doctors that speak their language. Private healthcare is actually very affordable.
What are the cons of moving abroad to Spain as a British expat?
- Language barrier. If you’re moving abroad to Spain, it’s 100% advised that you learn Spanish. If you don’t, you’ll find it more difficult to feel accepted and at home here. Plus, if you’re not living in a city like Barcelona or Madrid, most locals probably won’t know English well enough so you’ll really need to learn Spanish to do day-to-day tasks.
- Red tape. Spain is known for complex bureaucracy.
- Overcrowded destinations. Beaches are overcrowded with locals and tourists during the summer months, there are numerous long queues for attractions.
- Customer service. You’ll find yourself waiting much longer to get served in Spain.
The land of freedom, opportunity and, above all, fun and excitement is already home to 600,000 British expats (not counting the many American families who trace their ancestry back to Great Britain).
Whether you yearn for the familiar green pastures of New England, the sunny beaches of Florida, the snowy mountains of Colorado, the rugged deserts of Arizona or the bustling metropolises of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, you’ll find something to suit every taste in the US of A.
Culture in the USA
As it’s made of 50 states, the USA is a blend of many different types of culture. California, for instance, has lots of Hispanic influence, while New York has strong Jewish and Italian communities.
As a Brit moving abroad from the UK, you may not notice too much difference – English is the official language, the working day is still 9–5 and the calendar still revolves around Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas (although you may want to keep your head down around 4th July).
Retiring in the USA
This can be a little tricky, but not impossible. The most popular way to retire in the United States is by working in the country beforehand in order to earn a Green Card. This can also be obtained by marrying a US citizen. However, if these aren’t options, you can apply via the EB-5 program. This requires you to make a minimum investment of $500,000 in a US enterprise. It is not a retirement visa per se, but it is a popular route for many retirees.
Jobs in the USA
The most popular route to emigrating to the States is by obtaining a working visa. These are only available to expats who can prove they are moving to obtain a full-time, permanent job, so you will need to apply for and receive a job offer before beginning the immigration process. You may also need to prove certain skills and qualifications in order to be considered for a working visa. Once you’ve lived and work in America for a certain amount of time (usually at least 5 years) you may be entitled to apply for a Green Card, which will entitle you to become a nationalised resident.
Education in the USA
The USA is not very high in the world rankings for education. The quality of state elementary and high schools can vary quite dramatically according to state and township, so you’ll need to do your research ahead of time if you’re moving with children. The USA has plenty of private and international schools, but as in the UK, these can be very expensive.
Also, while the USA is blessed with some of the world’s best higher learning institutes, remember that if you are planning to send your kids to university (AKA college) in the US, this can be extremely expensive – some families save their whole lives in order to send their kids to college!
Healthcare in the USA
It’s no secret that the USA operates an entirely private healthcare model, and healthcare is one of the biggest expenses for an average American.
For that reason, many companies offer a sponsored healthcare program, but you may also be expected to take out your own personal health insurance. Fortunately, as an expat, you can take advantage of global health insurance while living in America – and the up-side is that America has some of the finest medical facilities in the world.
What are the pros of moving abroad to USA as a UK national?
- Education. If you are moving to the USA with children, ensuring they get the best education will be a top priority. Rest assured, the standard of schooling is high.
- Career opportunities. There are a lot of jobs opportunities you can apply for and make a successful career.
- No language barrier. You will feel confident (everyone loves British accent in the USA!).
- Natural beauty. America’s wide-open spaces are not just abundant, they’re also spectacularly beautiful. There are vast lakes the size of a small country, rugged mountain ranges to ski and climb and coastlines spanning two oceans.
What are the cons of moving abroad to USA as a British expat?
- Corporate culture. Many jobs for large corporations require long-hours, grueling environments, and might be low-paying.
- Tax. Tax system in the USA is pretty complex, especially when you just move in the country. You will have to spend a lot of time doing research.
- Healthcare. Healthcare costs are so high, they could easily bankrupt you if you don’t have insurance.
- Cost of moving. When it is an international moving, bringing your belongings can be really expensive.
You’ll notice that French culture has a notable north-south divide. The north of France shares many similarities with England (not surprising, given their shared Norman ancestry), with its big cities, Protestant roots and love of modern business. The south, meanwhile, is more easy-going, with more rural, Catholic and Mediterranean influences.
Retiring in France
France is a hugely popular country for retirees moving abroad from the UK, including over 50,000 British retirees. Now that Britain has left the EU, you will have to apply for French residency before beginning your retirement in France – but don’t worry, it’s a fairly straightforward process.
You only need to prove two things: that you have a certain level of income (for many people, a UK state pension should suffice) and a basic level of French language proficiency. Once you’ve got that sorted, you should be able to apply for a retirement visa, which will be valid for 10 years.
Jobs in France
France has one of the world’s strongest economies, and nowhere is this more evident than its burgeoning job market. Whether you want to start a vineyard business in the rural south or join a big multinational in Paris, you’ll find a wealth of opportunity.
Since Britain has left the EU, you’ll need to apply for a working visa if you intend to live and work in France. Worry not, however – your new employers will usually fill in the necessary paperwork to help you apply for a long-stay work visa.
Education in France
France has a fairly good track record when it comes to education, although its position in the world rankings has been slipping recently. Do remember that lessons will, naturally, be taught in French, so if your children aren’t already fluent, you may want to look into one of the top-quality international schools found throughout the country.
That said, when it comes to university, there are many colleges that teach courses either in English or both French and English.
Healthcare in France
France has a state-funded healthcare system, widely renowned as one of the best in the world. Even so, healthcare in France is not free so, as an expat, you will be expected to have global health insurance. Even if you are entitled to state support, you will need to pay for many treatments up front, then claim the cost back from the state insurance fund, Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie.
What are the pros of moving to France as a Brit?
- Proven property market. France is known for its stable property market and many of its regions are investment savvy. Now, more than ever before, is the time to buy property in France as the combination of lower property prices, reduced interest rates and vendors willing to negotiate deals means that dream properties can be snapped up at dream prices.
- Fascinating food and wine. Wherever you live in France, the food – from regional specialities both savoury and sweet, to fresh market produce and restaurant menus – is second to none.
- Fantastic healthcare. French healthcare service is efficient, accessible and thorough, and recognised as being one of the best public healthcare systems in the world.
- Business friendly. It is a great time to be an entrepreneur in France with an improved focus on start-ups and accelerator funding.
What are the cons of moving to France as a UK national?
- Language barrier. If living in France is your goal, life will be far easier if you can speak the language.
- French bureaucracy. France is known for paperwork and red tape. It’s part of life here.
- Cost of childcare. If you are moving to France with your children, nurseries across France normally have long waiting lists and tend to be expensive.
- Tax. France has a progressive income tax system and then on top of income taxes, a hefty chunk of your paycheck goes toward social charges on the back end.
Dubai is both the city and the Emirate, although in this instance we’re referring mainly to the city.
Having sprung up rapidly over the last 50 years, fuelled by profits from the oil trade, Dubai is one of the most impressive, luxurious and hyper-modern cities on earth. Better yet, it’s tax-free (yes, you read that right!) making it a great place to live and work – especially with its high salaries and excellent standards of living.
Culture in Dubai
Dubai is one of the seven United Arab Emirates, so the culture is predominantly Arabian and the official language is Arabic. Islam is the official state religion, so Muslim traditions such as Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr play a large role in the cultural life of Dubai.
That said, Dubai has one of the highest proportions of expatriates of any state in the world, at around 80% of the total population. Thus, expatriate life is a key part of the culture, and you can expect to find an environment integrating cultures from all over the world – Indians, Pakistanis and Egyptians, Iranians and Filipinos make up some of the largest groups. There are also around half a million Westerners, of whom half are British. English has therefore become the lingua franca of Dubai, and you can expect to hear it spoken in most business and leisure environments.
Speaking of leisure, look forward to splashing your new cash. Indulgence is a way of life in Dubai (however, it is still possible to stay healthy in Dubai), and you can expect to spend plenty of time hanging around the pool – just make sure you’re not breaking any of the local alcohol laws!
Retiring in Dubai
Retiring in Dubai is simple thanks to a local government called – unsurprisingly – Retire in Dubai. The scheme is open to retirees aged 55 and over who can meet one of three criteria: having a monthly income of 20,000AED (£4,000); savings of 1 million AED (£200,000); or owning a property in Dubai worth 2 million AED (£400,000). Successful applicants will receive a special retirement visa which can be renewed every five years.
Jobs in Dubai
Dubai’s tax-free status is a huge draw, and has encouraged many global businesses to move their offices to the Emirate in order to benefit. This means the most popular job opportunities for expats in Dubai looks almost the same as the one in London: finance, technology, advertising, consultancy, and so on. That said, the biggest industry in Dubai is still oil and petrochemicals, plus the shipping industry that supports it.
As an employee in Dubai, you too can benefit from no income tax on your earnings. However, you can expect to find a slightly higher cost of living to compensate.
Education in Dubai
Dubai does have a public education system, but it’s not exactly world renowned – that’s one of the consequences of having a tax-free state. As a parent, you will want to do what 90% of other Dubai residents do and send your child to one of the myriad private and international schools in the city.
Healthcare in Dubai
Dubai is renowned for having one of the best public healthcare systems in the world. Top-quality doctors move from all over the world to practice their trade in Dubai, and most speak English, so you’ll never be far away from excellent treatment. But wait. How is that possible, you ask, in a tax-free state?
Well, as you may have guessed, it’s because private health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Dubai. Many expatriates choose to invest in global health insurance which not only covers the cost of their contributions to the state health system, but also gives them the option of private healthcare – which allows them to upgrade to an even higher standard of care.
What are the pros of moving abroad to Dubai as a British expat?
- No income tax. Any income you earn in Dubai is not subject to tax.
- Vibrant social life. Many British expats join a beach club and spend a lot of their non-working hours enjoying all the amenities Dubai have to offer.
- English is widely spoken. While Arabic is the official language, English is very popular in Dubai, as there are a lot of international businesses and expats from all over the world.
- Good education. The educational standards for international schools in Dubai are quite high. Many of the schools adhere to the British education system, with the National Curriculum of England taught in the primary schools and IGCSE and A-Level qualifications offered at the senior level.
What are the pros of moving abroad to Dubai as a UK citizen?
- Intense heat during summer. The weather from June through September can be extremely hot, and many expats schedule their holidays during those months and head for a more temperate climate.
- Expensive lifestyle. Dubai is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world and if you are financially week, living here won’t be easy for you.
- Unchallenged laws. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may experience hardship and unfair treatment. This reality is generally not talked about, and certainly not challenged – and for some it is unpalatable.
- Dealing with real estate agencies and landlords can be tricky. Rents on apartments must be paid in full and up-front. Some companies will cover this for their employees and then deduct amounts monthly from their wages.
It’s the country that gave the world Ferraris and more fashion brands than you could shake a designer handbag at. And it’s also one of the world’s most popular destinations with British expats.
Italy’s economy is growing. And, with its beautiful beaches and Mediterranean climate, it’s a great place to retire too. No wonder it’s already home to around 66,000 British expats.
Culture in Italy
Like France, Italy has a strong north-south divide. Its northern region, which includes cities like Milan, Turin and Bologna, is known for its strong industry and commerce, making it the de facto working heart of Italy. The south, meanwhile, which includes Rome, Naples and the island of Sicily, has a more traditional, laid-back Mediterranean culture, with a strong focus on tourism. It’s the perfect place for retirees, too.
Wherever you go in Italy, you’ll never be too far away from great food. For fans of pasta, pizza and fine wine, nowhere else in the world compares. Just make sure you’re ready to experience life in a devoutly Catholic and family-oriented part of the world, not to mention one where English comprehension is fairly low compared to the rest of Europe – yes, it’s a good idea to start looking into Italian lessons!
Retiring in Italy
People hoping to retire in Italy must apply via the Italian Embassy or Consulate for an elective residence visa before moving to the country. In order to get one, you will need to demonstrate you meet the minimum income criteria. These are:
- €31,000 for a single person
- €38,000 for a married couple
- Plus an additional €20,000 for each dependent/child moving with you
These visas must be renewed every 5 years but, after living in Italy for at least 10 years, you will be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Jobs in Italy
Working in Italy is a rewarding experience, but not easy to achieve. The country is grappling with high unemployment at the moment and English is not widely spoken in working environments. But, if you can find a job that suits you, Italy is great country to work in thanks to its strong employment laws, which limit the working week to no more than 40 hours.
Italy is known for its car and fashion industries, which is why it should come as no surprise that engineering and design are two of the most popular career options. Food and wine are also high up the agenda, as are petrochemicals and shipping. However, the biggest industry in Italy by far is tourism. With historic destinations like Venice, Pompeii and the Vatican, it’s no wonder 1 in 8 Italians works in the tourism sector – and as an English-speaker, your language skills may be just what a tourism director is looking for.
Education in Italy
Although the country gave birth to great minds like Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, modern Italy is unfortunately not known for the quality of its education. As a resident and tax-payer, your children will be entitled to a state education, which is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. However, with lessons taught in Italian, most expatriates choose to send their children to one of Italy’s excellent international schools.
Healthcare in Italy
Italy’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world, and that’s not an exaggeration, as Italy constantly vies for the top spot along with France.
Italy uses a mixed private-public healthcare model, with social healthcare provided by the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), which delegates certain services to local and regional providers.
While basic medical care is free, more complicated procedures and long-term care will need to be paid for. You may also want to seek private healthcare to avoid the notoriously long waiting lists for certain services.
Bear in mind that these private services can be extraordinarily expensive. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential you have comprehensive health insurance before moving to Italy.
What are the pros of moving abroad to Italy as a British citizen?
- Great food. You won’t find a better grocery store or supermarket in the world than the ones that are in Italy. It is both affordable and tasty.
- Excellent public transport system. Public transportation is safe, reliable, and cheap when you’re living in the cities. It also connects the entire country from the north to the south, making it possible to commute long distances if you would like to take advantage of the best of both worlds.
- Healthcare. The World Health Organization rates Italian healthcare system as one of the best in the world. Almost all of your medical expenses are covered when you’re living here, so out-of-pocket costs are somewhat rare.
- Weather. The weather in Italy is pretty amazing. The consistency of the weather almost makes it feel like you are on a vacation or holiday every day when living in Italy.
What are the pros of moving abroad to Italy as a UK national?
- Language barrier. English is surprisingly rare to find in this country, although you will hear it spoken more often in urban environments.
- Bureaucracy and red tape. Italy can be a bureaucratic nightmare.
- Job opportunities. Unemployment is high in Italy, and the cost of living can be outrageous if you live in Rome, Venice, or Milan.
- Education. High schools in Italy do not provide a holistic curriculum.
Looking to move abroad from the UK in 2021?
With the end of the pandemic in sight, there has never been a better time to think about starting a new life. Wherever you decide to move, make sure you go with confidence. At William Russell, we’ve been providing international health insurance for expats just like you for 29 years. Our international health insurance package is tailor-made for expats and their families looking to begin a new life overseas. It includes treatments for high-value procedures, cancer care, maternity cover and medical evacuations, plus more, in 187 countries. Find out more – speak to us today.
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.