Sponsored post: The Other Side of the Coin: Expats Relocating to the UK

When the topic is "expats", most UK media focus on Brits living abroad. But the UK is also home to a sizeable expat community. Plenty of well-qualified foreign nationals come to live and work in Britain every year – often lacking support during their relo

Demographic Growth through Migration

The government’s immigration figures for 2012 show a net migration of more than 176,000 people increasing the UK population. While over 300,000 residents left the UK behind – some British expats among them – almost 500,000 new arrivals planned to stay for a longer period. In addition to overseas students enrolling at boarding schools or universities, it’s particularly adults looking for further career opportunities who make up a considerable part of these newcomers.

The UK Border Agency reports that most visas for non-EU immigrants were issued to international students and to top-tier applicants for work visas: skilled workers, qualified professionals, employees on intra-company transfers, investors, entrepreneurs, etc. Between April 2012 and March 2013, hundreds of thousands of overseas residents registered for a National Insurance number.

Breaking down that data reveals that the largest contingent of expats relocated from Continental Europe, roughly in equal numbers from the EU15 member states and the relatively recent additions in Eastern Europe. Among the rest of the world, nationalities from Asia and the Middle East formed the largest group, with Africa, the Americas, and Australia & Oceania trailing behind.

Coping without Company Support

Regardless of their origin, expats often have one thing in common: they need to muddle through and sort out their relocation for themselves. Global mobility providers suggest that, even for many foreign assignees, the era of the full-service expat package is over. High-ranking executives, or transferees to “hardship” locations, still benefit from generous allowances and company support. Others are frequently left to their own devices – especially if they switch employers and start a new job in the UK.

If these new arrivals move for work-related reasons for the first time, they may underestimate the effort involved. After all, they speak the language, and they are familiar with Britain’s cultural exports, from award-winning novels to popular television shows. Or they have fond memories of their days as a visiting student or tourist exploring the British Isles.

But moving your household across borders and settling in another country just isn’t the same as hiking through Scotland or shopping in London’s trendy boutiques. Overseas students usually have a dedicated contact to turn to when they hit an emotional low or need practical help. Adult professionals are on their own.

In Need of Information on…

The urgent need for advice starts before the expats-to-be actually relocate to the UK. For new arrivals from the EU, it’s thankfully fairly easy to move between member states. Other nationals, however, have to cut through a bit of red tape and gather substantial visa and administration information on the UK.

Visa and Customs Regulations

General applicants for tier 2 work visa need to familiarize themselves with annual quota limits and the points system that may decide the success of their application. They’ll have to produce official paperwork to prove passing a labour market test, English language proficiency, their UK salary, academic qualifications, and financial solvency.

Once they are granted a visa, they have to figure out customs and import restrictions. No matter if they’d like to ship household goods from a non-EU country, bring along a beloved family pet, or pack a supply of prescription meds to tide them over till they find a GP – it’s more rules and regulations to tick off. Fortunately, the UK authorities, like the Border Agency or HMRC, provide very detailed guidelines online, but it’s a lot to take in.

Housing

Then there’s the one problem that affects all expats, from the EU or not. Since plenty of them look to the UK capital for their career options, it can be hard to find an affordable flat in the real estate bubble of the Greater London Area. This applies particularly to young professionals in entrance-level positions or skilled employees with lower salaries.

A quick Google search will result in websites like the popular Moveflat for flatmates, or the London Rents Map for accommodation costs. But do expats know which rights and responsibilities they have in case of a joint tenancy? Or are they aware how council tax bands might influence their cost of living?

Transport

If they work outside Greater London or similar urban areas, like Manchester, they might live somewhere quieter and cheaper – and more remote. Suddenly, a car is a must. It’s easy enough to get UK driving tips if you aren’t used to traffic on the “wrong” side of the road, or take a couple of lessons.

But if you’re tempted to bring your car, you will run into problems with local regulations. Even used cars from the EU must comply with technical requirements that might lead to extra repairs, while non-EU cars have to go through another complicated import procedure. Under the circumstances, it’s less of a hassle to lease a car or buy a used one in the UK.

That’s not even touching upon issues like finding the ideal childcare facility or school for expat kids, paying taxes in the UK, or getting the best deal from your utility provider. That’s why sharing tips and networking with other expats is essential, e.g. via the InterNations Communities in major destinations like London, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, or Brighton.

InterNations (www.internations.org) is the largest expatriate network worldwide, with over 1 million members in 390 cities around the globe. Members meet up at regular local events and activities; they exchange tips in forums and discussion groups, and online country and city guides offer valuable information about their new place of residence.

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A year on from the Spending Review, the coalition's soothsayer has emerged to offer another gloomy economic prognosis. Asked by ITV News whether he could promise that there wouldn't be a double-dip recession, Vince Cable replied: "I can't do that.

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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR