Where do people emigrate from the UK?
Australia, Canada, the USA and New Zealand are major English-speaking countries where UK citizens emigrate. Britons don’t need a visa to travel to these countries. Besides, all of them, except the US, are members of the Commonwealth Nations.
By now, 1.2 million Britons live in Australia permanently, 1.3 million — in the EU countries, mainly in Spain, Ireland, France and Germany. In 2018, almost 16.2 thousand British citizens acquired citizenship in EU countries, an increase of over 10,000 compared with the previous year.
The number of Brits who have obtained EU citizenship has increased sharply since the country voted to leave the EU in 2016. That year, more than 6,600 British citizens received an EU passport, followed by 15,000 in 2017. In comparison, between 2013—2015, the number of British nationals who received another EU citizenship was 2,400 on average.
In 2020, migration data was uncertain because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some data sources suggested a net out-migration of 94,000 Britons in 2020.
Individuals moving overseas can obtain EU citizenship by naturalisation, but first, they must apply for a residence permit. The path to an EU passport may take several years.
Golden visa programs are the fastest way to get residency in Europe and become an EU country citizen in the future. The most sought-after programs operate in Greece, Portugal, Malta, Сyprus, and Spain.
Reasons why people move abroad from the UK
Brexit. After Brexit, UK citizens no longer have a special status in other EU countries. Now the UK is a nation outside the EU and is defined as a “third country”.
Britons can still stay in one or more EU member states for up to 90 days in any 180 days, but to move to Europe, they need a residence permit. Also, the professional qualifications of UK citizens aren’t automatically accepted anymore.
Cost of living crisis. The rising cost of energy bills, interest rates, council tax, and food and petrol prices push Britons to find cheaper places to live.
Tax policies are constantly changing and increasing costs. For example, from April 2022, the main rate of national insurance contributions pushed up for employees from 12% to 13.25%, and for employers — up to 15.05% from 13.8%.
An opportunity to work remotely. About two-thirds of UK workers are considering moving to other countries to work remotely. Portugal’s Cascais tourism board has introduced a campaign to bring a more significant number of Britons to the country through the Digital Nomad Visa to live in Portugal while working remotely for companies or clients outside the country.
According to a report by GlobeTrends, with a total of 35 million digital nomads worldwide, searches for such a visa have increased by 376% in the last two years.
Competitive job market. Many skilled professionals find that they can earn more outside the UK with better working conditions, fewer working hours, lower taxes, and a private healthcare system.
Most Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy have flexible working hours, and workers often enjoy siesta during the hotter time of the day. Eating out and daily living is usually less expensive in many of these countries than in the UK.
Safety. London has high crime rates compared to other European cities. Between 2015—2016 and 2019—2020, the crime rate in London increased each year. In 2019—2020 the sudden drop was seen due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing a sharp reduction in certain types of crime such as robbery and theft.
Compared with 2013—2014, there were around 211 thousand more crimes in 2019—2020, a total of just over 912 thousand offences overall. Homicide offences accounted for 144 of these crimes in 2019—2020; this is about 1.3 times more than in 2015—2016 and 2016—2017.
The recent rise in crime in the capital has happened alongside a decline in personnel and funding for the London Metropolitan Police. Compared with 2010, there were 3.2 thousand fewer police officers in 2020.
Move to retire. Senior people are hoping for a warmer and relaxing climate to live in. About 20% of Britons living in Europe are retired.
Portugal — a safe country with low costs, a mild climate and a strong passport
Portugal is considered a peaceful country with a high quality of life. It is among the oldest countries in Europe, with rich history and culture, fancy cuisine and gorgeous beaches.
Britons can visit Portugal for 90 days in 6 months without a visa. To stay longer, they need a residence permit. Portugal is notable as the most accessible European country to immigrate to, and one of the fastest ways to move there from the UK is to get a Golden Visa which is quite popular among foreigners.
The Portugal Golden Visa requires an investment of at least €250,000. The most popular options are the purchase of real estate for €280,000+ and buying shares in investment funds for €500,000.
An example of Portugal property for sale
Cost of living. Consumer prices in Portugal are 30% lower than in the UK. And renting a one-bedroom apartment in a city centre in Portugal is about €720, on average, and renting the same object in the UK costs about €1,050 a month.
Safety. Portugal is in the top 10 of the 2022 Global Peace Index, ranking 6th of the safest countries in the world. The locals are amiable and welcoming to expats. Families with kids feel safe and sound in Portugal.
Taxes. The income tax in Portugal is paid on a progressive scale; the rate depends on annual income and reaches 48%. The majority of income from foreign sources, e.g. dividends, are taxable at 28%.
New Portuguese tax residents can obtain a 10-year special status of a Non-Habitual Resident. Its holders:
- don’t pay taxes on global income, e.g. dividends and capital gains;
- pay taxes on pensions from other jurisdictions under the flat rate of 10%;
- pay taxes on income earned in Portugal under the flat rate of 20%.
The UK has a double taxation agreement with Portugal, so you do not pay tax on certain income in both countries.
If you are liable to pay taxes in Portugal, you should apply for a tax number — Número de Identificação Fiscal. You will also need a NIF if you intend to buy or sell property, open a bank account or sign long-term rental agreements.
Spain — the most popular country in Europe for Britons
Moving to Spain is a popular choice among Britons: over 400 thousand UK nationals live there. They choose Spain for an opportunity to live by the sea, its warm Mediterranean climate, safety and high-quality healthcare.
Spain has one of the most important economies in Europe. It is also a full member of the EU and the Eurozone.
Spain's residence by investment program allows foreign nationals to invest €500,000+ in the country's economy and apply for a residence permit. Successful applicants and their families are granted all the resident's benefits, including visa-free access across the Schengen Area.
Cost of living. In Spain, consumer prices, including rent, are 16% lower than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs around €730.
Safety. Spain is truly safe. It is notable due to its friendly inhabitants, especially near the coast. The Spanish lifestyle includes a relaxed mood, delicious cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and world-famous festivals.
Taxes vary across the country and are split between the regional and state government.
Personal income tax is paid according to the progressive scale at the rate of 19—47%. Dividends and other income derived from holding a participation in a company, interest, and other income obtained from assigning capital to third parties are subject to tax rates of 19%, 21% and 23%.
Cyprus — tax incentives and access to the European business market
With its beautiful beaches and Mediterranean climate, Cyprus is considered one of the best places to move from the UK. Also, Cyprus is on the IMF list of developed economies, has high-quality healthcare and offers access to leading medical centres.
Permanent residency in Cyprus may be obtained by the investment of €300,000 or more in real estate or business. The required period for getting a permit is 3+ months. The PR status is life-long, allowing one to live in Cyprus and apply for citizenship after five years of residence.
Cost of living. Consumer prices excluding rent are about 12.8% lower in Cyprus than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs €770 on average.
Safety. Cyprus is generally safe to live in, but geographically, it is close to countries hit by terrorism and wars. Petty crimes do occur, especially during the holidays and summer.
Taxes. There is no tax on global income and inheritance in Cyprus, and property and income tax rates are quite low compared to the UK and some EU countries. The corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in Europe — 12.5%. Cyprus tax residents are taxed on all chargeable income accrued from all sources in Cyprus and abroad. The tax rate depends on income and varies from 0 to 35%.
Tamaz’s family loves to stay in Cyprus on holidays. They decided to get a residence permit in the country with the possibility of obtaining citizenship soon.
In addition, Tamaz and his wife became Cypriot taxpayers and registered their businesses there. It was very profitable due to the Cyprus tax rates.
Turkey — the country with profitable real estate objects
Turkey is situated in Asia and Europe. Its unique location, the well-established tradition of co-operating with the West and its large armed forces makes Turkey a geo-strategic player on the international stage.
Every year Turkey attracts more and more foreign investors. Since 2003, all direct investments have exceeded $225 billion. In 2021 foreigners invested $14.2 billion in the Turkish economy.
Turkey grants citizenship by investment, and purchasing real estate for $400,000+ is the most demanded option. Real estate prices grow by 15 to 25% per year in Turkey. As a result, home sales to investors grew by 43.5% in 2021. Family members as a spouse and children can get second citizenship in Turkey along with the investor.
Cost of living. In Turkey, consumer prices, including rent, are 60% lower than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs €230 on average.
Safety. Turkey is generally considered a safe destination, and many expats relocate without any problems. Turkish people are amiable and hospitable. In most tourist hotspots, local staff of shops and restaurants speak English.
Taxes. Individuals pay the income tax on a progressive scale — from 15 to 40%. Legal entities pay corporate tax at a fixed rate of 23%.
Advantages of the Turkish tax system include:
- double taxation agreements with 85 countries;
- free zones where companies do not pay income tax;
- exemption from VAT when buying housing in new buildings.
Only foreigners who live in the country for more than six months in a year can become tax residents of Turkey. Living in the country for most of the year is possible if you obtain a residence permit or Turkish citizenship by investment.
Malta offers residency and citizenship for investors
Move to Malta and enjoy its Mediterranean climate, friendly people, low crime rate, and superb quality of life. Malta is an attractive place to immigrate to from the UK, where it is easy to find a second home.
The Malta Permanent Residence Programme grants residence rights to foreign nationals seeking an alternative residence in Europe. The investment conditions include:
- renting or buying housing in Malta;
- paying government fees;
- making a charitable donation to one of the Maltese organisations.
Also, investors can obtain Malta citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment. An investor can become a Maltese citizen only 1 or 3 years after receiving a residence permit card, and the minimum investment amount is €690,000.
The Malta Global Residence Programme allows a holder to get a temporary residence permit. It enables one to live in the country, travel across the Schengen Area without visas and optimise taxes. Investors aren't obliged to live in Malta; however, they cannot spend more than 183 days a year in another country.
Participants of the Malta Global Residence Programme enjoy a special tax regime:
- 15% on the income earned abroad and transferred to Malta, at least €15,000 per annum;
- 0% on global income not transferred to Malta;
- 35% on the income earned in Malta.
Cost of living. In Malta, consumer prices, including rent, are 8% lower than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs €820 on average.
Safety. Malta’s travel security risk is considered as low. According to the survey, a country with a low-risk rating was deemed politically and socially stable, with few prominent security concerns and low levels of non-violent crime. Also, Malta has been considered the safest destination for people from the LGBTQI+ community.
Taxes. An individual’s tax rates are progressive, ranging from 0% to 35%. The higher the income, the higher the tax rate. Corporate tax is fixed at 35%. To become a Malta tax resident, one should live there for 183+ days a year or participate in a government program — for example, the GRP.
UAE — one of the richest countries in the world
Move to the UAE and experience modern infrastructure and transport systems. The country is an excellent place to conduct business, with easy global access.
Abu-Dhabi and Dubai are the largest of the seven emirates and rank as the UAE’s most important international and financial centres. The World Bank Estimates that UAE GDP is $421.1 billion. In the last 50 years, the UAE GDP has grown more than 50 times.
For a 5-year UAE residence permit, Britons may purchase real estate for AED 2 million, or nearly £463,400. Also, investors may buy property for AED 750,000, or around £173,800, to obtain a 3-year residence permit.
Cost of living. In Dubai, consumer prices, including rent, are 20% lower than in the UK. The average monthly rent of a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around £1,400, compared to £1,800 in London.
Safety. The government invests vast amounts of money in the police and security services, which maintain impeccable order in the state's territory. Safety will not be an issue if you plan to live in the UAE.
Taxes. The UAE is considered a tax haven because income, capital gains, inheritance, gifts and properties are exempt from taxation. Also, there is still no tax on corporate profit, but from 2023 it will start calculated at 9%.
Investors open companies in the UAE to reduce the tax burden. The most favourable conditions apply to companies operating in Free Zones with a special tax and customs regime. Most of these zones are located in Dubai. Free Zones have no corporate taxes, VAT, or import and export taxes. Another benefit is that a foreign investor can become the sole owner of a company in the UAE Free Zone.
Greece — obtaining EU residency with minimal investment
Move to Greece and get high levels of safety, excellent education opportunities, comprehensive healthcare options, and a dependable rule of democratic law. In 2022, Greece ranked the top EU country with the highest net inflows of foreign millionaires.
The Greece Golden Visa Program is considered one of the most affordable residences by investment programs providing European access. Successful applicants and their families can benefit from visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen Area within two months of applying.
Cost of living. In Greece, consumer prices, including rent, are 30% lower than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs €400 on average.
Safety. Greece is one of the safest European countries and has an easy-going, relaxed feel. However, cities like Athens have a considerable crime rate, and there are areas such as Exarchia and Omonia where you better stay home at night.
Taxes. Income tax on employment and pension income varies from 9 to 44%. Income tax on business and professional income is also paid depending on the amount. Taxes on dividends, interests, and royalties rate 10, 15 and 20%, respectively.
According to the non-dom tax regime, high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) can have some benefits if they move their tax residency to Greece. With this rule, the investors pay a fixed tax of €100,000 per tax year, regardless of their total income earned abroad.
Paul and Viola work remotely for European countries. They travel a lot to the EU for business and personal matters. After Brexit, the couple experienced more trouble visiting neighbouring countries freely, and finally, they decided to emigrate from the UK.
Now they live by the warm Mediterranean sea and look forward to obtaining an EU passport shortly.
Montenegro — the country with beautiful sea views and a citizenship-by-investment program
Montenegro is an official candidate for EU membership and a member state of the European Monetary Union, the NATO Alliance, OSCE, and the WTO.
Montenegro citizenship can be obtained by the investment of €450,000 or more; the entire process takes about six months. You can apply only until the end of 2022, and the program will be shut down.
Cost of living. Montenegro is generally considered one of the cheapest countries to move to from the UK. Consumer prices, including rent in Montenegro, are 63% lower than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre costs €150 on average.
Safety. The crime rate in Montenegro is relatively low, and as a British expat, you should only be worried about petty theft in destinations frequented by tourists. Otherwise, Montenegrin people are warm-hearted and welcoming.
Taxes. Individuals pay income tax in Montenegro at 9%. Corporate tax is rated the same way.
Montenegro tax residents don't pay interest and royalty taxes. Annual property tax rates range from 0.25 to 1% and are based on the market value of the real estate.
Austria — a wealthy and safe country with sound ecology
Austria is one of Europe's wealthiest countries, offering its people a high quality of life. With natural attractions and a stable economy, Austria is a fabulous place for UK expats.
A financially independent person can get an Austrian residence permit if they confirm a monthly income and bank account with a deposit. It allows one to live in Austria and requires spending there 183+ days a year. An expat can't work in Austria with this type of residency.
Cost of living. In Austria, consumer prices, including rent, are 4.72% lower than in the UK. Renting a 1-bedroom apartment in the city centre is about €740 per month.
Safety. Austria is in the top 5 of the most peaceful countries according to the 2022 Global Peace Index. The murder rate in Austria is extremely low — out of a population of 8.9 million, there were 65 murders in Austria in 2020. It means just 0.7 cases per 100,000 population.
The European Environment Agency has listed Austria as the country with the cleanest bathing water. 97.7% of its waters were marked excellent, pointing out that the quality of the bathing sites in Europe was relatively good. The best spots for bathing in Austria included Achensee in Tyrol and Weissensee in Carinthia.
Taxes. Personal income tax in Austria is levied according to a progressive rate of 0‑55%. Companies in Austria pay corporation tax of 25%. Capital gains relating to investments are subject to a 27.5% tax, while capital gains from real estate are subject to a 30% tax.
Switzerland — the safest place in the world
Moving to Switzerland means getting an excellent quality of life. It ranks among the best countries to move to from the UK. It is the residence of international organisations and is known for its multicultural society and its stable political environment.
Switzerland provides the best healthcare system in Europe, the six best bathing water on the continent and one of the lowest pollution levels.
Cost of living. Switzerland is the country with the highest cost of living in Europe. Zurich and Geneva are the most expensive cities. Consumer prices in Switzerland are 86% higher than in the UK, and renting a 1-bedroom apartment in a city centre is about €1,700 a month.
Safety. There is a low rate of serious crime in Switzerland. However, the British Embassy has received increased reports of theft, especially in Geneva airport and on trains to and from Geneva.
Taxes. Switzerland's tax system has been shaped by the country's three levels of government: federal, cantonal and municipal. Average tax rates can't be calculated because of the multi-layered tax system. Taxes are calculated based on specific figures for specific cantons and municipalities.
The maximum overall rate of federal income tax is 11.5%. The various cantonal and municipal taxes are also levied at progressive rates, with a maximum combined cantonal and municipal rate of approximately 36%. In addition, cantonal and municipal net wealth taxes are levied.
How to get residency by investment
Britons can participate in investment programs and apply for temporary or permanent residency in European countries. After a few years of maintaining the status, individuals can apply for citizenship by naturalisation. They will have to pass exams for knowledge of the state’s language, history and culture.
Malta offers investors the opportunity to become a Maltese citizen 1 or 3 years after obtaining a residence permit. Investors can obtain Malta citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment.
Turkey and Montenegro offer to participate in the citizenship by investment programs and apply for a passport immediately.
Where and how can a UK investor obtain a residence permit or citizenship?
|The country||Costs||Term of obtaining||Investment options|
|Malta citizenship||€690,000+||1 or 3 years||Investors fulfil three mandatory investment conditions:
|Turkey citizenship||$400,000+||6—8 months||Purchase of real estate |
Purchase of government bonds
Purchase of units in an investment fund
|Montenegro citizenship||€472,000+||6 months||An investor must fulfil two investment conditions:
|Spain residence permit||€500,000+||2—3 months||Charity contribution|
Investment fund contribution
Buying a property
Buying government bonds
|Portugal residence permit||€250,000+||2—6 months||Buying a property|
Purchase of units of investment funds
Support for culture and artInvestments in scientific projects
|UAE residence permit||AED 2,000,000||2+ months||Buying residential or commercial property|
|Cyprus permanent residence||€300,000+||3 months||Buying a property|
Investment in a Cypriot company
Purchase of securities
|Malta residence permit||€30,000+||3—4 months||Renting real estate|
Purchasing real estate
|Malta permanent residence||€150,000+|
When renting real estate in the south of Malta or on the Gozo island
|4—6 months is the application processing time||Investors fulfil several investment conditions:
|Greece resident permit||€250,000+||6 months||Buying a property|
Buying securities or opening a deposit in a bank
Purchase of land for construction or agriculture
Timeshare for 10 years
Receipt of real estate by inheritance or under a donation agreement
|Austria residence permit||€100,000+ |
The applicant’s expenses
|3+ months||No investment is needed, just proof of sufficient funds and having housing in the country|
|Switzerland residence permit||₣450,000+ per year||6+ months||A lump-sum tax is the main item of the investor's expenses|
Moving abroad from the UK: a checklist
Сollect the documents. The complete list depends on the country, family composition, do you have pets and other personal circumstances.
The basic list of documents:
- Visa, residency card.
- Birth certificate.
- National Insurance Number.
- Biometrics card.
- Medical records, including vaccination.
- Driving licence.
- Qualifications for job or work permit.
- Social security cards.
- Credit cards.
Inform the government. When moving abroad, you need to notify the tax authorities — HMRC in the UK. In other cases, you may have to pay additional taxes, which, as an expat, you are exempt from. Also, you need to contact the International Pension Centre.
Get your P85 form from Revenue and Customs — it notifies the tax authorities that you are leaving the country and helps ensure you'll be taxed appropriately in each country.
Also, you need to contact your local council if you move or retire abroad and provide them with a new address.
Finance. It's always better to ask a bank division to duplicate all your cards. Review your accounts and notify your banks that you are relocating abroad. Also, checking if your credit cards are available for bank operations abroad may be essential.
Discuss with your financial advisor how to handle your assets. Consider registering for a service that makes international bank transfers more affordable.
Medical insurance. Find out which company has a good reputation and buy insurance to cover all the expenses, including hospitalisation.
Documents if moving with pets. Since 1 January 2021, pet passports are no longer valid in Europe for UK nationals pets owners. The European Commission confirmed this after the EU-UK deal was announced. But fear not, you’ll still be able to take your pet on your travels to the EU.
The EU has agreed that the UK will be given a “part 2 listed status“. This allows pets to travel within EU borders, providing the owner obtains an animal health certificate (AHC), which confirms that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies.
Changing driving licence. If you want to drive a car abroad, it's necessary to find out whether you need to apply for new documents. It depends on the country. For example, the Portuguese government recently introduced new legislation regarding driving licences issued by OECD countries.
Britons can continue using the UK driving licence as a resident in Portugal from 1 January 2023 if they meet all these requirements:
- you are under the age of 60;
- your driving licence photocard has not expired;
- your licence was issued or renewed within the last 15 years;
- you are only using your licence to drive vehicle categories A and B;
- you are not disqualified from driving in Portugal or the UK.
If you do not meet all of these requirements, you will need to start the process to exchange your licence by the end of March 2023 to continue driving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada are the top destinations for UK expats. South Africa is also among the popular countries.
After Brexit, the amount of Britons obtaining citizenship in Europe increased. It was 15,000 cases in 2017 compared to 2,400 in 2015—2017.
European countries are the easiest for Britain’s immigrants. 1.3 million Britons live in the EU, mainly in Spain, Ireland, France and Germany.
In 2018, almost 16.2 thousand British citizens acquired citizenship in an EU country, an increase of over 10,000 compared with the previous year.
You can live in any country after obtaining a residence permit or a passport. Before Brexit, you could live and work in EU countries without an additional permit. After 1 January 2021, British citizens can stay in EU member states for up to 90 days in any 180 days. To move abroad to Europe, they need a visa.
Britons can apply for student visas, get residency because of work or get married to EU country citizens. But one of the fastest ways to move abroad legally is to participate in an investment program and get a residence permit or citizenship.
Portugal is considered the most accessible European country to immigrate to. You can get a Portugal golden visa and, just five years later, try to apply for citizenship.
Spain also operates a golden visa program, but obtaining a Spanish passport takes longer.
Malta offers investors the opportunity to become a Maltese citizen 1 or 3 years after obtaining a residence permit. Investors can obtain Malta citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment.
If you leave your pension in the UK, your options for taking the pension will be the same as if you’re living in the UK. However, it’s unlikely that your pension provider will pay your pension money into an overseas bank account, or at least not without charging you a fee.
Collecting documents, finding a place for living, organising finances and other questions you will face when moving abroad from the UK.
If you have children, it’s necessary to find out what kindergarten or school will attend your kids after moving. Leaving the UK with pets requires additional solutions about particular documents and meeting the roles of transportation.