Global Mobility Update: Life post Covid-19

Global Mobility Update:
Life post Covid-19

By John Marcarian

The first quarter of 2023 has seen many expats moving back to Expatland.

With Covid-19 restrictions being lifted in many locations I thought it would be useful to share some information as to what has been happening in a number of key expat countries.

While China has lifted many of its COVID rules for the domestic population, expats are not rushing back into the country. The residual hangover from the harsh lockdowns has left a lasting impression in the minds of many. Although companies are trying to lure back their expat employees by offering higher remuneration packages – the process is as yet not gaining real traction.

The situation is similar in Hong Kong. Due to Hong Kong’s strict COVID regulations and recent changes in its political environment, its attractiveness as a location to live, as noted in recent expat rankings, fell to the lowest position among all East-Asian countries. Many foreigners chose to move to the locations with more relaxed COVID rules and are not rushing back since there are still many limitations.

Hong Kong’s regional neighbour Singapore is much more attractive in the eyes of the expats and though the living costs are on the rise – it is still one of the most popular expat cities in which to live. Singapore’s unique multicultural environment which warmly welcomes people from around the world, provides them with excellent educational opportunities, a great lifestyle and high level of personal security.

Indonesia is trying not to be left behind. Since the end of COVID the flow of international visitors has increased and while it does not attract many expats business-wise, it’s making a bet on tourism. The Indonesian government recently introduced new rules allowing foreigners to apply for a tourist visa online. The expectations are that it will double the number of visitors who will come to the country in 2023.

Tourists are a target group for the South Korean government as well. However, the government is aiming its immigration changes mostly at the teenagers, offering them a unique opportunity to get acquainted with Korean culture under a “K-culture training visa”. Another area of focus is the rapidly growing community of “digital nomads”. In this respect a special visa type for mobile entrepreneurs is to be introduced later this year.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries that has taken off post COVID. Indeed, during COVID it was a very popular location in which to live. Restrictions were not as tough as many other countries and the climate and outdoor lifestyle made it a favourite with global expats. In order to understand the genuine expat spirit of the UAE one only needs to check out the list of the 50 Most Influential Expats – you would never see such a diverse list of successful and talented individuals anywhere else in the world. In fact, the UAE is moving towards a corporate tax system comparable to Singapore and Ireland and recently has introduced a new tax regime which follows globally accepted tax practices and seeks to cements its position as a leading jurisdiction for business and investment.

Saudi Arabia follows the overall tendency of easing the regulations for the expats and though employee-related changes in regulations were implemented back in 2021, last year they introduced visa-on-arrival for certain passport holders. Now if you travel to Saudi Arabia as a tourist from these countries you can simply apply for a visa online without going through a local Embassy.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are focused on attracting more expats in the coming years and most likely will take further steps on easing immigration rules in order to diversify their economies in the post-oil world.

Seeing all these positive changes worldwide in attitudes towards foreigners it should be noted that Bahrain and Kuwait seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

In February 2023 Kuwait terminated more than 1800 expat teachers as a part of “Kuwatization” policy and Bahrain plans to replace all medical workers with Bahranis.

The world of global mobility is constantly evolving.

If the first quarter of 2023 is anything to go by many more evolutions in global economies will soon be upon us.

Enjoy the journey to Expatland!