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Top 5 Most Desirable Expat Destinations for 2018

Top 5 Most Desirable Expat Destinations for 2018

Our world is more open and connected than ever before, and with more people than ever choosing to spread their wings and experience a new culture, a new climate, and a new way of life – joining the ranks of the estimated 57 million worldwide expats is a tempting prospect.

People’s reasons for wanting to emigrate are as diverse as there are flavours of coffee! But what’s clear is that whether for economic, sociological, career, or family reasons, the desire for change and new experiences is at an all-time high.

With a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered, being outside (your native land) is so IN right now. If you feel like 2018 could be the year you finally take the plunge and experience pastures new but feel overwhelmed by your options, Currency UK is here to help.

With such a wide range of factors to consider, from employment prospects and affordability of healthcare to educational standards and the perceived friendliness of the locals – one country could not ever hit perfect marks across the board, particularly on subjective factors like quality of life and natural beauty.

If variety is the spice of life, then a country possessing a welcome balance of the salient factors may just prove to be the perfect place to call home. Here are our top five favourite expat destinations for 2018.


First up, Singapore; a veritable melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and European cultures. Asia’s model city-state has it all – a rich multicultural history, 63 diverse islands to explore, and vibrant neighbourhoods lurking around every corner.

This island state in Southeast Asia has grown significantly in the past 50 years to become one of the world’s economic powerhouses. It’s unique combination of Eastern and Western culture and it’s thriving reputation as the financial centre of Asia makes Singapore highly attractive to expats from all over the globe. Indeed, Singapore has this year topped HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey for a third year in succession.

The legal requirements to visit or stay in Singapore depend on your nationality, reason for entry, intended duration of stay and even income. There are different types of permits depending on your salary and skill level, including the ‘employment pass’ for high-earning professionals, the ‘entrepass’ for entrepreneurs and the ‘s-pass’ available to eligible skilled workers. Separate passes for trainees, students and family members are also available to eligible candidates.

Singapore boasts a thriving employment market, thanks to numerous fast-growing industries, such IT and technology – Singapore is already an established IT hub, with big web players including Twitter, Google and Netflix basing their regional hubs in Singapore. Asia’s rising demand for premium healthcare, biotech and medical technology has resulted in a significant demand for suitably skilled expatriates. If your skill lies in the design and creative industries, Singapore may well be for you. The government has gone to great lengths to support the creative economy, with opportunities in design, digital marketing, and computer game development aplenty.

When it comes to accommodation and the cost of living – brace yourself. Buying a property in Singapore is costly, as is education and childcare, but with higher than average incomes to be enjoyed these can be largely offset. In fact, according to InterNations 2017 Expert Insider survey, 62% of expats in Singapore believe they make more than they would in a similar position back home — one-third believe their income is a lot higher. 43% of those surveyed report having a gross annual household income of more than $100,000. Consider that on average, just 21% of global expats have household earnings above six-figures.

With a revered transportation infrastructure, a heady mix of ethnicity and cultures, never-ending food choices and a vibrant social scene; it’s easy to see why Singapore’s popularity as an expat destination of choice has seen an upward trajectory for several years now. With so much to enjoy, it’s difficult to see that abating in 2018.


With year-round sunshine, more than 8,000km of beaches and a ‘must be seen to be believed’ laid-back attitude, why would you not move to Spain? Whether you’re looking for adventure or a life of leisure, the country’s diverse regions offer something to suit all tastes. Let’s face it, a country five times the size of the UK with only two-thirds of its population, Spain has room to spare.

If you’re a British citizen you don’t need a visa to move permanently to Spain, however within three months of arriving you’ll need to secure a foreign identity number known as NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero). The NIE number is your all-purpose identification and tax number in Spain. You’ll need it to buy a property, buy a car, get connected to the utilities and of course, pay your taxes.

For those of working age, consider that salaries in Spain typically aren’t as high as in the UK, but then the cost of living is comparatively low. Some of the industries experiencing shortages of qualified people include IT, engineering, and medicine. It’s useful to know that not all job vacancies are advertised, with many relying instead on word of mouth and referrals, so it’s a good idea to get involved in existing expat communities.

Most expats live in one of three areas: Andalucía in the South, the Balearic island of Mallorca, and the Valencia region. The Spanish property market has a few quirks, so it pays to do your own property research before setting up your life abroad. You don’t need to look far to find horror stories of expats who have unknowingly bought illegally built houses or been let down by their off-plan flights of fancy. There’s good news however, property prices have remained low in Spain for some time and continue to fall, with some having dropped in value by as much as 40 percent. A townhouse will cost on average €200.000. Spain offers a ‘golden visa’ program for property owners. By investing more than €500,000 in Spanish property you become automatically eligible for a residency visa.

The Spanish healthcare system is widely envied across Europe and for good reason; hospitals, clinics and surgeries throughout the country are rated excellent, delivering modern facilities, low waiting times and exceptional service. Its perhaps no coincidence then that Spaniards have one of the longest life expectancies in Europe.

With Spain ranking at number one in HSBC’s 2017 Expat Explorer rankings, for both quality of life, and improvement in physical health, it’s clear there’s much to love about Spain, which is why it features on many an emigration short list. Throw in a low cost of living, fantastic healthcare, and favourable climate – and you may just find it the perfect place to call home.


If you think Switzerland is all about chocolate, clocks, cheese, and yodelling – think again. The stunning Alpine state offers a refreshing change of pace, an improved quality of life, a strong economic footing, and crucially, life-affirming natural beauty. What better way to spend your valuable time than enjoy once-in-a-lifetime journeys, heart-racing Alpine pursuits and a contemporary urban culture.

Switzerland has been seducing travellers since the birth of winter tourism in the 1930s, so it’s no surprise that over 2 million worldwide expats now call this Alpine wonderland home – thanks in part to its political neutrality, low levels of crime, and the possibility of higher than average incomes.

Moving to Switzerland does present some clear hurdles. A residence permit is needed to be allowed to work in Switzerland, as this doubles as a work permit. But you will only get a residence permit if you’ve got a job to go to in Switzerland. If you don’t plan to work, then you will need to show that you have adequate financial resources to live in Switzerland – so the state knows you won’t become dependent on benefits. You will also need a health insurance policy. If you plan to stay more than 90 days, you will have to register with your local migration office too.

Anyone living or working in Switzerland must take out private health insurance. This cover is compulsory and must be taken out within three months of moving to Switzerland. If you are planning to retire to Switzerland, the UK basic state pension is payable. However, you won’t get UK pension credit. If you are working, then you will usually take out a pension with an insurer.

The tenth annual HSBC Expat Explorer survey showed average expat income at £147,000 per year – ranking at number one worldwide for household income. Indeed, 77% of expats in Switzerland believe their income is higher than they would make in a similar position back home. Switzerland also ranks highest for confidence in the local economy and political stability. Most expats move to Switzerland for work. As well as banking, Switzerland attracts highly skilled experts in technology, pharmacology, and biotechnology. It is well-known for its science and technological research. CERN, home of the Hadron Collider, is based in Geneva and attracts top scientists from around the world. The United Nations in Geneva is another focus for career-minded expats.

In contrast, consider that Switzerland is not a budget destination. InterNations latest Expat Insider survey found Switzerland to be one of the most expensive countries in the world to live – ranked 2nd highest for cost of living, behind only Israel. Housing too is predictably expensive in Switzerland, with more than 70 percent of the expat population choosing to rent rather than buy property.

According to InterNations Expat Insider survey, Switzerland ranks in the top ten for quality of life, with expats citing excellent transport systems, healthcare, personal safety and well-being. Contrast that however with the survey’s finding that Switzerland ranks 57th of 65 for feeling welcomed by the Swiss natives.

Switzerland’s balance of solid political status, strong economy, reliable travel network, and opportunity for endless adventures could well make it the perfect expat destination.


On average 200,000 people migrate to Canada every year and it’s easy to see why Canada is the 6th best-ranked country for expats. The world’s second-largest country offers mind-blowing scenery, a diverse and vibrant culture, and a quality of life that few countries can match. As the ninth most sparsely populated nation in the world (just 8.6 people per square mile), Canada has room to spare. If you can’t decide between snowy winters and hot, sunny summers – then don’t. Canada offers both, and so much more.

Canada’s reputation for friendliness appears well founded. According to HSBC, 66% of expats said their quality of living was better than in their home country, and 75% said they could easily integrate into the culture.

Canada’s strong economy means they have one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world, and for people from the UK the legal requirements for living in Canada and gaining acceptance are relatively straightforward compared to other places in the world. However, be warned – it can take up to three years to obtain an immigration visa to live in Canada, so make sure you plan well ahead. When you first arrive in Canada you will need evidence that you have enough money to cover your living costs for at least six months, a detailed list of the items you are bringing you, as well as those due to follow by shipment.

Thankfully, Canada has recognised that skilled immigrants are important to its long-term prosperity. Most expats living in Canada find work in the insurance, catering, or production industries. The Canadian working week, holidays and business etiquette are very similar to the UK, so making the transition should be easy. The UK state pension is payable in Canada, but you won’t get annual increases once you’re no longer a UK resident so your benefit stays at the same rate as when you left.

Whilst Canada covers a vast area, the majority of people live in cities that are within 200 km of the US border, leaving the larger part of the country less inhabited. Most UK expats flock to Vancouver, Toronto (“Tronno” to the locals) or Montreal.

Buying property in Canada is relatively easy for expats and a good option for those planning to live in the country long-term. When it comes to buying or owning property in Canada, non-residents have the same rights of ownership as residents and citizens of Canada. Canada has an open-door policy for foreign property ownership and is relatively affordable as Canadian house prices are lower than in other comparable global destinations.

Make no mistake, Canada is vast. With so much to see, and do, and see (!), it’s practically impossible to become bored. It’s easy to see why Canada is considered the perfect home away from home for thousands of Brits looking for a change of scenery. Canada’s beautiful, modern cities, nestled among stunning scenery make for a refreshing, life-affirming outdoor lifestyle.

And if you still need convincing, then consider this – the average life expectancy in Canada is 81.93 years – one of the highest in the world. Just make sure you enjoy their famous Tim Horton’s doughnuts in moderation, okay?


Portugal’s reputation as a European expats paradise is on the rise. Spain’s westerly neighbour is one of the biggest winners in this years’ InterNations Expat Insider Survey, improving 23 places in its annual rankings. Let’s find out why.

Well, let’s start with a favourable climate, stunning beaches, and more world-class wine than you would ever care to sample. The weather is great – generally March to October is warm, with July and August being really hot, where temperatures can climb to 104°F (40°C). Don’t expect to have it that way all year, however – the winters can be cold and very wet, but apart from the mountainous areas, there is little snow.
Before Portugal makes it onto your emigration short list, be aware that the Portugal of today is no longer the cheap retirement destination it once was. The cost of living in Portugal has risen significantly over the last few years, due to a raft of austerity measures across the country. Consumer goods too are expensive, anywhere between 20 to 50percent more expensive than British expats might be used to. For those planning to live on a healthy pension, this may not be of great concern, but for those needing to work and live on a limited budget, it pays to budget well and plan ahead.

The Portuguese people are incredibly friendly, so expect to become close to your neighbours, where breaking bread and chatting over a glass of wine is par for the course. With that friendliness also comes a sense of calm – the Portuguese are seldom in a rush, so expect to hear “devagar” (slowly) if you ever show impatience.
Bureaucracy and red tape in Portugal are thick and not very fast. Information from public offices can sometimes be inconsistent, though the Portuguese authorities are at least friendly.

Like every expat destination, Portugal has its pros and cons, but it’s difficult to ignore the findings of InterNations recent Expat Insider Survey. The Mediterranean nation ranks in first place in the reports quality of life index, and 4th in the ease of settling in stakes. 93% of those surveyed were satisfied with their lives abroad in Portugal. Portugal is also number one when it comes to friendliness and feeling welcome. In fact, 88% generally agree that it’s easy to settle down in this country.

With kind people, nice weather, wonderful food, and beautiful places to visit – perhaps it’s time to experience it for yourself, and consider emigrating to Portugal in 2018.

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