2021 could be the year you make the big move and leave your home country, joining the expat community of professionals overseas. Moving abroad always means enormous changes, and this year is likely to present more challenges than ever.
To help you take the leap, we round up the best tips for moving abroad in the aftermath of Brexit and COVID-19.
Why become an expat in 2021?
The pandemic has affected expats worldwide with many finding that their priorities shifted, both in terms of finances and quality of life. Estate agent Knight Frank found that 19% of expats were considering moving back home permanently. Missing family is a key factor in this decision, with quality of local healthcare also being cited as a factor.
Brexit has also had a considerable effect on the expat community in Europe, with significant numbers returning to their country of origin. Reasons given include wanting to avoid the paperwork required for residency, taxes, employment and healthcare. It’s estimated that as many as 1.3 million EU citizens have left the UK, while some 10,000 pensioner expats have returned.
But many people made the leap before Brexit. 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.
Several countries are capitalising on this trend. 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.
What are the most popular destinations for 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.
Find out more about where expats are going.
What is expat life like now?
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.
As always, the best advice is to do your research before you move abroad and talk to other expats.
Are there changes to freedom of movement, healthcare and employment?
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.
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.
Are there any changes to employment?
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?
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.
5 tips for moving abroad in 2021
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Healthcare can vary across the world, both in terms of quality and access. International health insurance can give you access to private healthcare, wherever you make your new home.