2021 could be the year you make the big move and leave your home country, joining the expat community of professionals overseas. Moving abroad means enormous changes and rewards at the same time.
To help you take the leap, we put together a checklist for moving abroad from the UK as an expat in the aftermath of Brexit and COVID-19, based on our experience of working with expats around the world. Read to find out whether you can move during the pandemic, and how to do it.
Can I move abroad during the COVID pandemic?
What are the reasons people move abroad?
The 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 2021, particularly young professionals and families with children and teenagers.
Several factors play in to the desire to experience life in another country in 2021. There is people’s increasing awareness of the importance of fulfilling their dreams, as well as the urge to escape the monotony of lockdown. 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 since the lockdown started.
Moving abroad from UK during the COVID-19 pandemic
A key consideration before you move abroad in 2021 is the changes brought about by the pandemic. With air travel restricted and quarantine regulations in place, it may be more challenging to visit to your home country, or have family visit you if they need to. You may also need to have international health insurance and to have had a Covid test to enter your chosen country. See countries that require international health insurance for entry.
However, many expats are already set up to work from home with the necessary tech – which makes it easy to keep in touch with friends and family via video call and online. The amount of remote jobs has increased since the start of the pandemic, and according to LinkedIn data, a lot of industries are still hiring professionals from around the world. See the full guide on top international jobs here. The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the jobs landscape so understanding what “comes next” is top of mind for employers and job seekers alike as the global labor market begins to recover.
You will also have to think about getting a COVID vaccine – are you better off doing both doses in your country of residence, or when you move? You will need to make a decision and explore the COVID tests you need to do before flying.
Moving country in 2021 – 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 has 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 US, where COVID-19 safety is also a concern – to Hong Kong. Plus there are fears about ostracisation in COVID-secure societies such as South Korea and Taiwan.
However, many of the current challenges will subside, 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. 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.
How to move abroad?
1/ Get on board with finding work abroad.
2/ Make the decision and prepare.
3/ Tell friends and family you’re moving abroad.
4/ Begin the visa process & figure out housing.
5/ Learn about the logistics of life as a foreigner.
6/ Prepare yourself financially.
Can I move abroad from the UK during COVID?
Short answer is yes, you can. However, there is a lot of preparation you will need to do before. Here is our checklist:
- Research the entry requirements including any COVID-19 restrictions. Check what restrictions are in place if you need to get back to your home country quickly. Read here about how to get a COVID vaccine as an expat.
- 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. Availability of experts may be limited post-Brexit and COVID-19 so make initial enquiries as early as possible.
- Make sure you have found accommodation; during Covid restrictions, you should be able to have online viewings to secure the property before you move. However, 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.
Are there any changes to employment for expats in 2021?
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 expats in 2021?
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).
If you’re not eligible for state-funded healthcare, or would like additional peace of mind you may want to consider international healthcare insurance.
What are the best countries and cities for expats in 2021?
Several countries are capitalising on the moving abroad trend in 2021, supporting expats and digital nomads. Dubai, for example, has launched a one-year virtual working programme, specifically aimed at attracting working professionals. It’s also offering free coronavirus vaccinations to some expats. Barbados has a similar programme – the Welcome Stamp – aimed at remote workers.
In Europe, Finland has 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.
Forbes lists Portugal, Spain and France among its top 10 places to move to in 2021. Switzerland, Singapore and New Zealand are popular too.