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Top Destinations for UK Overseas Workers

Children and education, teacher reading book to young students

Availability of employment for skilled workers has steadily increased the number of opportunities for Britons to move overseas over the years. An increasing number of Britain’s residents are choosing to move abroad as it becomes more commonplace to experience an alternative lifestyle, whether it be for the short or longer term. So whether you hanker after a warmer climate, a less crowded space, an exotic landscape or a lower cost of living, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to moving abroad from the UK.

Ever Considered a Move to South Africa?

South Africa is home to more than 200,000 UK expats with its low cost of living, warm climate and stunning scenery. In around 2012, figures from the Department of Work and Pensions showed more than 38,000 UK citizens living in South Africa, and drawing a UK state pension. The most popular destinations are Cape Town and Johannesburg. UK citizens can visit for up to 90 days without a visa subject to proving that they can support themselves financially. If you want to stay longer you then need apply for a visa. Once you have a temporary resident permit and are living there, you can apply for a permanent residency permit. For those wanting to work in South Africa there are four types of permits varying from a general work permit to one aimed at highly skilled workers. To apply for a work permit costs £125. There is a retired person’s visa, eligibility determined for this by taking into account a person’s assets including pension fund and other investments. It’s possible to claim a UK state pension, though this does not increase in line with inflation as it would in the UK. Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest European settlement, is a cultural centre for museums, art galleries, theatres and cinemas. Popular with expats are the Southern Suburbs such as Rondebosch, Claremont and Newlands which are close to the University of Cape Town, and newer areas such as Cape Town Apartments on the west coast or the attractive leafy Northern Suburbs, or Hout Bay – a popular town in the Atlantic Seaboard area.

The South African Rand (ZAR) is made up of 100 cents and 1 British Pound Sterling currently equals  around 17.78 South African Rand. Average salaries for administrative roles are around 8,641 ZAR, hospitality and catering, 12,778 ZAR, teaching 19,548 ZAR and construction 29,176 ZAR. If you are a resident of South Africa earning 120,000 ZAR a year or more you are liable to complete a tax return and pay income tax on earnings irrespective of where your income is from, although there are some exemptions. The tax year begins on 1st March and ends on 28 or 29th February. If your earnings are below 120,000 ZAR as an employee then there is an alternative way to pay the standard income tax. It’s advisable for individuals to do some research on this as tax law can be complex. Johannesburg is the most European city in appearance, and is modern and cosmopolitan by day. It boasts the largest expat population, with a high number of mostly business people from the US. Expats tend to live in northern suburbs of the city, and you can expect to pay between 785,000 and 900,000 ZAR for a one bedroom, one bathroom townhouse in Gauteng, or up to 2,200,000 ZAR for a three bedroom, two bathroom house in Douglasdale, Gauteng.

Relocate to New Zealand

Jobs offering the highest salaries in 2013 according to New Zealand’s government careers website were for IT project managers, doctors and medical specialists at 225,000 NZD (New Zealand Dollars). Lowest paying jobs, comparable with the UK, included receptionists, retail assistants and waiters on 25,000 NZD (currently £1 British pound converts to $1.93 New Zealand dollars).

The New Zealand tax year runs from 1st April to 31st March and there is no tax-free income allowance. Everyone is taxed on their earnings at a starting rate of tax of 10.5%. English is the most widely used language, and quality of life scores highly among expats. The climate is good and there is plenty of space and attractive scenery, plus the locals drive on the same side of the road as the Brits.

It’s possible to enjoy a lower cost of living than in the UK. The majority of immigrants tend to choose Auckland, however according to New Zealanders the cost of living and property prices are higher here – and more attractive lifestyles can be had in Christchurch in Canterbury, the Bay of Plenty and in particular Tauranga, Waikato and Otago – perhaps locations that may not have first sprung to mind without a little research.

There is a shortage of skilled workers in New Zealand for sectors such as agriculture and forestry, construction, education, health and social services, recreation, hospitality and tourism. This means there are incentives for Brits under the age of 30 to apply for a working visa that lasts almost two years. New Zealand is also popular with retired Brits with around 50,000 who have chosen to move there. It’s possible to draw a UK state pension but you aren’t entitled to annual increases.

Emigrate to the USA

One of the most popular countries to emigrate to is the USA despite its long and complicated process. There are two kinds of visa that you can use to become a permanent resident – a work visa, and a family visa. The family visa is easier to get if you have a close relative already living there and is the way the vast majority of immigrants get in to the US. A family member or employer will need to sponsor you to help you obtain one of these visas and then if the petition is accepted you will have to attend interview at a US consulate in your home country to fill out a formal application. It can take months to get a ‘green card’, but this is another option available if you unable to get a work or family visa. It’s a good idea to speak to an immigration lawyer to help with the long drawn out process.

Average salaries in the US vary greatly as they do in the UK depending on your chosen career. You can expect to earn an average monthly salary of 4655 in Education, 5622 in insurance or 5781 USD (US Dollars) in construction. The most popular cities to move to in the USA include New York and San Francisco, or for retirement a move to Florida’s sunnier climate draws us Brits. Living costs are overall lower in the US than the UK with basics such as a litre of milk or a dozen eggs and basic utility bills costing around 50% more in the UK.

Income taxes payable may comprise a range of taxes including Federal Income Tax which increases in line with your income, State Income Tax (excludes seven states including Florida and Washington), Local/City/Municipal Income Tax imposed by some cities including New York and Philadelphia and Payroll Tax and Unemployment Tax. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was passed by Congress on January 1st 2013, imposing higher taxes on the wealthiest. The top rate currently stands at 39.6% for those earning over 400,000 USD. You can get your UK pension if you retire in the US and the good news is, unlike some countries popular with British immigrants, your pension will rise in line with the UK consumer prices index, average earnings or 2.5% – whichever is the higher.

Moving to Canada

Canada is considered a top expat destination to move to according to a survey of British expats, followed by New Zealand, Australia, France then South Africa. With its outstanding natural beauty, sound banking system, a good healthcare system and high education standards, Canada offers a peaceful quality of life with a low crime rate. There are currently more than 600,000 British expats who have chosen to move to Canada, finding it one of the easiest places to integrate with the locals compared with some other countries.

With cuts to its immigration quota, if you are planning to move and work in Canada, things are more competitive than ever before amongst skilled workers. However, if you are a talented technical entrepreneur you may want to investigate the relatively new start up visa for permanent residency, if you can secure financial backing of just £48,000 from an angel investor group. The startup visa programme will run for a five-year trial and 2,750 start-ups will be issued per year.

Canada’s federal skilled work programme re-started last May and favours under-35s and those with strong language skills and Canadian work experience. If your taxable income is 43,953 CAD (Canadian dollars) or less, the federal tax payable is 15%. If your taxable income is more than 136,270 CAD then this climbs to 29%. As well as federal tax there are also provincial/territorial tax rates, so it’s a good idea to research your own tax situation depending on where you choose to live in Canada.
The average wage for Canadian employees has risen since the start of 2013 and is around 48,250 CAD per year (about 26,190 British Pound Sterling). Earnings vary by region with growth being seen in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario, whilst Quebec saw a decline. Top wage increases were enjoyed by those working in the wholesale trade industry, healthcare, business support services and security roles. The highest paid industry is the mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction sectors, followed by utilities, culture and finance. The overall cost of living in Canada is lower than in the UK, other than for some staple food items such as bread and rice which can be around 30% more expensive. Transport costs, property rental and utilities are significantly lower cost – in the UK you can expect to pay around 70% more for electricity, heating and water, for example.

Overseas move to the UAE

With around 170 flights a week, between around seven and eight hours duration, from the UK to the UAE, moving to Dubai or Abu Dhabi will enable you to live relatively close to family and friends back in the UK. The UAE is becoming increasingly popular with the British who mostly choose to move to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The UAE is mostly made up of expats, with foreigners making up around 91% of the population, and an estimated 240,000 Brits living in Dubai, with most tending to work in construction, banking, oil or tourism. People living and working in the UAE tend to work long hours during the working week, savouring the weekends in the sunshine on beautiful beaches, or enjoying a range of modern leisure facilities. There are a high number of well-paid jobs attracting British expats, though the cost of living is higher than in the UK. On the plus side it’s possible to enjoy a better quality of life for less because there is no tax payable on earnings. The average monthly salary for an accountant ranges between 3,000 and 20,000 AED and a bar manager can earn between 5,000 and 25,000 AED (UAE Dirham. 1 British Pound Sterling equals 6.08 UAE Dirham).

Laws are strict in the UAE so it’s advisable to do your research thoroughly before moving there. Whilst accommodation is often included with employment, there is affordable housing in Dubai, and a good healthcare system. Over recent years there has been an increase in schools teaching the English national curriculum and with state-of-the-art facilities for students, these schools help provide a beneficial environment for British expats and their families. It’s worth considering that the culture is very different to the UK as Dubai is an islamic country, and it’s recommended that before deciding to emigrate you visit and experience your chosen destination and take time to learn about the culture first hand. Renting out your property, placing belongings into storage with a removals and storage firm such as Britannia Harrison & Rowley, can offer an ideal solution before you take the plunge to move overseas.


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