Over the past few months, there have been growing reports about the number of expatriates returning to the UK, as a direct result of the pandemic. Stuart McCulloch, our Market Head Middle East, considers the changing landscape for Britons living overseas.
Despite many years overseas, some expatriates are calling time on their life abroad. The core issue driving the decision is of course the impact of the global pandemic, which has prompted many to re-evaluate their priorities. In some areas other local pressures, including the cost of living and high price of medical care and schooling, are having an effect too. The other factor is that, for some regions, the lack of opportunities for citizenship or permanent residency mean there is little support when times are tough. The result is that some expatriates are making the decision to return to the UK where there may be family ties and more financial support available, not least free health care and education.
Major expat centres around the world, including Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, are experiencing similar trends. Indeed, with the reduced ability for travel, many expats are feeling the strain of not being able to visit and support loved ones, whether that be elderly parents, other relatives or children studying at university and boarding school. Added to this is of course the uncertainty in the job market, with some major companies already announcing restructuring plans. The result of all of this is that many expats are reconsidering their long-term plans to stay overseas.
Recent research shows that there are currently 4.9 million British expatriates around the world. The fallout of the pandemic could mean that a proportion will return home, putting additional pressure on already stretched economies. For example, in Dubai the impact of high earners leaving could take its toll on the region’s success as an international business hub and travel destination.
Recovery will, of course, take time. Thankfully, the very nature of the pandemic means that the decision to move back home may not be easier, so for those who can manage, it may be sensible to remain overseas. Some countries are providing support to expats including automatic extensions for expiring residence permits and better banking support including interest-free loans and repayment holidays. During this period it’s important to make informed, sensible decisions, which take into account your personal circumstances. If you are planning an unforeseen or accelerated return to the UK, due to career or personal circumstances, it’s vital to seek the right advice to help with the transition back. Our repatriation and tax planning reports can help ensure you are in the best possible position if you are considering a return home.
If you are in a sector that is surviving through the pandemic, and have retained your position, it’s certainly been a thought-provoking time which may prompt you to re-assess your finances and long term goals.
For more information, whatever your circumstances, please do get in touch.
Stuart McCulloch, Market Head Middle East