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Which countries are luring expats with visas?

While many countries are playing it safe regarding their border closures, others are currently introducing new visas to attract visitors and expats, skilled professionals in particular. The United Kingdom has just announced a new visa for healthcare professionals from August 2020. Canada is also coming up with a new bill along the same lines.

The UK wants to attract more foreign professionals and students
With the new Health and Care Visa, the British government is looking to improve its healthcare system. This visa mainly aims at attracting the best health professionals from around the world and allowing them to join the National Health Service (NHS) network rapidly, including in social healthcare. Fees applicable to this new visa are lower compared to Tier 3 visas intended for highly qualified professionals. Also, applicants are exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge. The government points out that Health and Care Visa applications will be processed within 3 weeks following receipt of biometric data from applicants. Those who are not eligible can still request the refund of the Immigration Health Surcharge provided that payment has been made by March 31st, 2020. The UK government has granted an additional fund of £ 1.5 billion to the healthcare sector to address the labour shortage.

The UK immigration and visa policy are also subject to changes that will take effect at the end of the Brexit transition period, that is, from January 1st, 2021. This point system applies to healthcare workers, skilled workers, young graduates as well as international students coming from the European Union and third countries. To qualify and benefit from the same rights as Britons, foreign professionals must obtain at least 50 points after securing a job offer that is on the eligible professions list. Qualified professionals should have level RQF3 or higher skills, have a good command of English and earn a salary of at least £ 25,600. However, there are exceptions for those earning less but more than £ 20,480.

Besides, the Global Talent Scheme will be accessible to nationals of the EU, the European Economic Area, the Swiss, as well as highly qualified scientists and researchers even if they haven’t secured a job yet. A new pathway will also be available to students graduating in the UK from summer 2021. They will be authorised to work in the UK or to look for a job for 2 years or 3 if they have a PhD.

Canada: strengthening the health sector
Although Canada is not likely to reach its target of welcoming more than 340,000 expatriates this year – owing the sharp drop in immigration rate to the COVID-19 crisis – the country still has wants to attract more foreign professionals. The Canadian government is looking to grant permanent residence to asylum seekers who are currently working in the health sector. This bill will soon be brought to parliament as a sign of recognition for the contribution of asylum seekers to the fight against the pandemic and to the Canadian economy.

The world’s first digital nomad visa
With the evolution of technology, digital nomadism is becoming increasingly popular around the world. The COVID-19 crisis has also forced thousands of employees in most countries to work from home during the lockdown. According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, nearly 30% of the global workforce could have to work remotely several days a week by 2021. What if you could also work remotely?

Estonia took a revolutionary step by launching the world’s first digital nomad visa. This visa is valid for one year and should allow employees and freelancers to work remotely while taking advantage of the country’s mild climate and pleasant environment. With this new visa, Estonia aims at attracting at least 2,000 digital nomads, especially those from non-EU countries. It’s worth noting that Estonia has been facing a brain drain for the past few years and is now focusing on young entrepreneurs.

If you have always dreamed of living and working on a remote island, Barbados, located in the Caribbean Sea, is another interesting option. The Barbados Welcome Stamp, which will soon be launched, is a 1-year visa intended for digital nomads. Holders of this visa will also be allowed to work in Barbados from abroad for 12 months.

Russia: relaunching tourism in 2021
While Russia plans to keep its borders closed until further notice, the government is currently reviewing its visa policy, especially regarding tourism. As of January 1st, 2021, nationals of 53 countries will be eligible for a single-entry tourist visa with a 16-days duration. This electronic visa will be free of charge for children and comes with a fee of around $ 50 per adult. The application can be made online, on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, and will be processed within 4 days.

Egypt has also introduced an electronic visa system for visitors. Applicants from eligible countries no longer have to go to an embassy to apply for a visa. Egypt reopened its borders on July 1st, 2020, taking all necessary measures to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

Article translated from Quels pays proposent de nouveaux visas pendant la crise ?


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The Key To A Stress Free Life As An Expat

Jerry Nelson is an American expat writing his way through life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This week, he tells us a little about the challenges he has faced as an expat and how he has dealt with them. Transport, shopping, language… Argentinian punctuality (or lack thereof!). Here are his keys to living a stress-free expat life!

My editor gave me a challenge. Write a piece about the 5 greatest challenges I’ve faced as an Expat in Argentina.

Simple enough assignment, right? Then why did it take me 4 days, 3 rewrites, and multiple cups of coffee to come up with a post with which I was happy?

Easy. There is a key to leading a stress-free life as an Expat — anywhere. A person doesn’t even need to be an Expat. The solution works even on the Crosstown Express when it’s crowded and running late.

The rebuttal to stress, anxiety and frayed nerves works in every aspect of life, but in keeping with the assignment, let’s look at 3 areas:

Shopping, and
Just how do you get from here to there? A bicycle is always an option, but only for relatively short distances. In Buenos Aires, where traffic lights and white lines are only a suggestion, bike riding can be a contact sport making it hazardous.

Not speaking the language makes taking public transportation challenging. If you can’t read the signs, it’s hard to tell exactly where to get off. Maps are available and the ones here are written well and in such a way that figuring out what bus line to take is made easier.

For me, taxis are the easiest solution anytime I leave the barrio. I just have to make sure to write the address down before I leave home. The cab drivers can read my writing, but they can’t understand my ‘foreign’ dialect.

There are shortcuts though, it just took a while to figure them all out.

The subway is my favorite though. The ‘subte’ can only go two directions — back and forth. The choices are easy and with a light-encoded map which displays the next stop, everything is a piece of cake.

But when you get off the subway at the destination, it’s back to trying to figure out which way to turn next.

Life in Buenos Aires in 2020 is kind of like living in the 1960s Brooklyn. Everything is a specialty store and there isn’t a ‘big box’ store near.

If you want meat, go to the butcher. Looking for fresh bread? The baker is just around the corner. Looking for men’s shoes? The men’s shoe store has a wonderful selection, but if you want a pair of women’s shoes as a gift, the lady’s shoe store is around the corner. No challenge here.

I still don’t speak Spanish. I know enough words to be able to ask where the bathroom is, but not enough to find the ketchup in the “mercado”.. Yes, there are limits to this manner, but between polishing my pantomime skills and blending them with the few words I know, I can get by.

But even pantomime only goes so far and it can get embarrassing to pantomime “where’s the bathroom”, especially if it’s an emergency.

But still, Argentines are friendly and understand and appreciate even the smallest, weakest attempt to learn the language.

When it’s time to start missing the home country, 2020 is the best year to do it. Between relatively inexpensive long distance, Skype, Zoom and tk, it’s easy to stay in touch with the folks ‘back home’.

Weekly phone calls to talk with parents or children are cheap and most kioskas, or small convenience store type outlets sell compatible SIM cards.

Don’t expect magazine subscriptions from home to make it through customs on a regular basis. The men and women in the dark blue sports jackets grab those as soon as the periodicals hit the city.

Give up the need to control
Stress and anxiety in addition to frustration and anger tend to stem from unresolved control issues. Someone, or something, doesn’t behave the way you want. The result is more frustration, stress and anxiety.

As a 30+ year member of Alcoholics Anonymous, a line from the Serenity Prayer sums it up for me. “Accept the things I cannot change…”.

The short version? Screw it.

If you can’t change it, screw it. The world doesn’t march to the beat of my drum. No amount of foot-stomping will change that.

Need to… ? Mañana
Okay. Maybe there is this one thing that it is difficult to deal with!

“mañana”. It seems to be Argentina’s answer to everything.

Need the WIFI connection fixed? mañana.

Need tickets to America? mañana.

The laid back atmosphere of Latin America helps to make sure that nothing gets done on time. But that may be a good thing.

Unlike America, where everything is ‘rush and do it now,’ Latin America has not angered every single decent country on the planet.

Close kin
A close cousin of “Mañana”, is punctuality. There is none. Anywhere.

Invited to a party at a friend’s house to begin at 8pm? Don’t even bother showing up before 9:15. If you do, you’ll be the only guest there and will need entertain yourself, in the living room, looking for something to do.

Either that or ask your host if you can help. And then ask every ten minutes because it’s better to be a nuisance than a lump sitting on the love seat, taking up space, until the party starts — maybe mañana.

Shopping? Ignore the hours posted on the door. If the sign says the store will open at 9am, that’s not for you. That’s for the employees. The workers are expected to be there at nine and begin preparing for that day’s work. Basically, you won’t get in until 9:45. Deal with it and welcome to Argentina Time.

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The post-COVID-19 cost of living on the rise around the world

While the health crisis and the subsequent economic crisis have caused prices across the world to rise, different countries have found different ways to deal with this phenomenon. In Abu Dhabi, for example, authorities are investing massively in the agro-industry to boost local food production. Sweden and the Netherlands have also been the least affected by the rise in prices while in Saudi Arabia, the VAT has been increased to 15%.

The UAE wants to cut down the cost of living
Abu Dhabi will mostly rely on foreign talent to boost its economy after the crisis. Today, the expat exodus affecting Middle East countries is having a direct impact on their economy. The United Arab Emirates have therefore decided to bet on an affordable cost of living to attract more professionals in the near future. Local authorities are considering the slashing down of prices relating to education, accommodation and entertainment. In addition, they are planning to inject funds into research and innovation in the agro-industry. A budget of $ 100 million has already been earmarked for companies looking to build vertical farms.

It’s worth noting that expensive cities, such as Dubaï and Abu Dhabi, drop down to the 23rd and 39th places respectively in the latest Mercer Cost of Living Ranking.

Hong Kong is the world’s most expensive city in 2020
According to the Mercer report, Hong Kong is now the world’s most expensive city for expats. Surprisingly this year, Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, comes in second, followed by the legendary Tokyo, Zurich, Singapore, New York, Shanghai, Bern, Geneva and Beijing. Note that the ranking takes into account the prices of more than 200 products and services, including rent, transport, leisure and food, in 400 cities around the world. On the other hand, Tashkent, Bishkek, Windhoek and Tunis are some of the world’s cheapest cities.

Cairo, ranked 126th, is cheaper than Tel Aviv, for example. In Africa, meanwhile, Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, retains attention, while Tunis remains cheaper compared to other major cities.

Europe looks more affordable for expats, mainly because of the eurozone crisis that Italy and France have been facing since the end of 2019. Paris, Milan, as well as Frankfurt, are also much cheaper, according to the report. London, ranking 19th, remains in the top 20 most expensive cities despite the Brexit.

In the Americas, New York remains the most expensive city, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver became more affordable in the past year, like San Juan, San José and Montevideo in South America.

Sweden and the Netherlands the least affected by price changes
According to a recent survey by Ipsos, the prices of food, products and services increased significantly in more than 20 countries during the COVID-19 crisis. Argentina, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey, Chile and Belgium are the countries with the highest rises. Overall, more than half of the respondents believe that the prices of food, groceries and household supplies have increased in recent months.

Most respondents in Turkey, Chile and Malaysia also agree that the utility bills, including water, electricity, heating, air conditioning and telecommunication services, have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 crisis. An increase in the prices of hygiene, health care and leisure products and services was also noted in these countries. On the other hand, one in four respondents in Hungary and South Korea has seen a price drop since the beginning of the crisis. Many respondents in Japan and Russia also feel this way.

In Sweden and the Netherlands, however, nearly half of the respondents believe that prices have remained unchanged — which suggests that the economic impact of the crisis was mitigated.

Rising prices in Saudi Arabia with a 15% VAT
Various factors account for the rising prices in many countries. However, most people agree that they were compelled to buy more expensive products due to a shortage in the supply of products they are used to. Add to that the cost of delivery during the lockdown when businesses were closed, and people weren’t allowed to move around. It’s also worth noting that isolation and remote work during the lockdown resulted in higher electricity bills.

In Saudi Arabia, the value-added tax (VAT) on all products and services rises from 5% to 15%. This came as a blow for the whole population, including expats who are currently facing a salary cut.

What you should expect after the crisis
The COVID-19 crisis will obviously have a long-term impact on the global real estate market. Taking into account current border and travel restrictions and the slowdown of immigration, property prices are dropping quickly, even in countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. Since the supply looks greater than the demand, governments are providing property investment incentives. Some of these measures are low-interest rates on bank loans, cutting down of service fees, etc. The UK, for its part, is slashing down stamp duty so that young people get the chance to become homeowners. However, the situation is likely to change soon, taking into account the gradual lifting of border restrictions. In many countries, property prices have started rising.

The Netherlands seems to be the only country with a profitable real estate market during the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, an 8.8% price increase in prices was noted during the past few months. The Netherlands has one of Europe’s most in-demand real estate markets. In 2019, the Dutch government implemented measures to increase the number of constructions in major cities in order to meet the growing demand. Currently, a property in the Netherlands costs $ 380,000 on average. In France also, the prices of new homes in big cities like Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse remained stable during the crisis. On average, prices range from 361,400 euros for a studio to 785,600 euros for a 3-room apartment.


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Post-crisis: Study finds expats now prioritise health and well-being

A study by Allianz Care found that financial priorities of 52% of expats interviewed had changed as a result of the crisis. More than half of them stated that health and well-being was now a priority for them. Family also weighs more in the balance these days, expats say.

The COVID-19 and its resulting health and economic crisis has sure changed the way we see life. The unprecedented lockdown, closure of borders and halt to almost all economic activity will definitely cause shifts in our way of life for the years to come. How will this crisis impact expat choices? Already, an survey found that 38% of expats were planning to head home after the crisis. Another study by Allianz Care has only just found that expat financial priorities had also changed following the crisis. Indeed, 52% reported having seen a shift in their priorities because of the crisis and 53% of these explained that they would be spending more on health and well-being now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis. The news was reported by the news outlet, International Investment.

“2020 has been a life-changing year for many of us across the world as we deal with the implications of COVID-19. Massive lifestyle changes have forced on us almost overnight, which in turn have forced us to re-assess how we live our lives and re-evaluate what’s truly important. The same is absolutely true for expats who are living and working across the globe. This comes across strongly in the increasing prioritisation of health and family”, said Paula Covey, chief marketing officer for health at Allianz Partners to International Investment.

Other than that, the survey also found that the profile of the “expat” is slowly changing. While in past surveys, Allianz Care tended to find that most expats moved abroad temporarily on work assignments and for high pay positions, it seems to be changing. Indeed, expats seem to have a higher interest in finding long term work abroad. Paula Covey mentioned that 76% of expats mentioned having changed jobs since living abroad and 58% were planning to remain in their country long-term. A study by had also found last year that only 35% of 3, 500 expats had plans to return home at the time of their expatriation.

Expats mainly living in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore were surveyed. Most of them, 49%, mentioned they had initially moved abroad in search of better pay and financial benefits. For others, it was the search for a better quality of life that led them to move abroad. 71% of respondents had moved abroad with their families.