Where Do British Expats Live?

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA
By

More than 5.5 million people from Britain live overseas and leave the country at a rate of around 2,000 a week.

That’s about 1 in 10 of the population, according to in-depth analysis by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which carried out the research as part of their Brits Abroad project.

Besides the expats who have made a home in another country, another 500,000 Brits live abroad for part of the year, either due to work commitments or owning a second home.

LOOKING FOR A BETTER LIFESTYLE IN RETIREMENT

Surprisingly, a dive into the statistics reveals two out of three expats leave the UK to pursue their careers, while most of the rest are looking for a better lifestyle in retirement.

Top Destinations For British Expats

Australia and North America are the favoured places for British expats to move to – both with expat populations of 1.3 million.

Sunshine, a laid-back lifestyle, and cheaper cost of living make retiring in Spain very popular and the next most popular place for UK expats, with a population of 761,000 Brits.

The expat population spreads over 158 countries, with 40 having more than 10,000 Brits living within their borders. Many UK are based in other countries for employment and may return once their contract is over, a popular destination for UK expats to live and work is Dubai, UAE.

The 25 most popular countries for Brits abroad

RankCountryNumber of British expats
1Australia1,300,000
2Spain761,000
3United States678,000
4Canada603,000
5Ireland291,000
6New Zealand215,000
7South Africa212,000
8France200,000
9Germany115,000
10Portugal60,000
11Cyprus59,000
12United Arab Emirates (UAE)55,000
13Pakistan47,000
14Singapore45,000
15Switzerland45,000
16Israel44,000
17Netherlands44,000
18Thailand41,000
19China (including Hong Kong)36,000
20Turkey34,000
21India32,000
22Kenya29,000
23Belgium28,000
24Barbados27,000
25Saudi Arabia26,000

Who Are All These Brits Abroad?

Brits emigrate for four main reasons, according to the IPPR research.

  • Family ties are important for many who have spent a long time in the UK but want to reunite with their relatives and friends in their country of origin
  • Lifestyle improvements attract young families and retired expats looking for better weather and a cheaper cost of living for example the Philippines.
  • Adventure lures younger expats who decide to live and work abroad for a time to learn new skills and to take part in sports and activities they cannot access in the UK
  • Career opportunities and earning more money is the big factor in emigrating for many Brits abroad

The research also concludes many of the expats leaving the UK for abroad are highly skilled workers whose place in the economy is taken by equally skilled expats from other countries.

Two thirds of British expats leave the country to find work.

List of all countries where British expats live

British Expats – Facts And Figures

  • One in four British expats in the USA and Canada are pensioners
  • 2,500 British expats in North America spend part of the year in Mexico
  • Only six British expat pensioners live in Cuba
  • Dubai is the most popular expat destination in the Middle East
  • Although 26,000 Brits live in Saudi Arabia, most are oil workers and just 142 are pensioners
  • Two British pensioners live in Mongolia
  • No Brits are listed as living in North Korea
  • Three British pensioners have homes on the Pacific island of Tahiti
  • More Brits live in Argentina (8,300) than the Falkland Islands (930)
  • Mental health laws bar British expats standing as ‘nearest relatives’ for someone living in the UK

Is The Number Of Brits Moving Abroad Growing?

Official figures from the government’s Office for National Statistics lists 407,000 people leaving the UK for overseas.

The ONS says the statistics have broadly stayed the same in recent years after a large jump around 2005.

British emigration since 1991

Table below showing the net migration to the UK, the difference between immigration and emigration.

Net migration to the UK, the difference between immigration and emigration
source: migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk

Paying The State Pension To Expats

The British government pays more than £2 billion a year in UK State Pension payments to more than a million British expats.

Most State Pensions paid overseas are frozen. That means the government does not uprate the pensions in line with the cost of living each year.

Instead, the pension payments stick at the amount of the first payment for life.

Some expat pensioners do enjoy uprated pensions. They live in the European Economic Area (EEA) or a country with a social security agreement with the UK.

Where the State Pension isn’t frozen

Austria (E)Greece (E)Netherlands (E)
Barbados (R)Hungary (E)New Zealand (R)
Belgium (E)Iceland (E)North Macedonia (R)
Bermuda (R)Ireland (E)Norway (E)
Bosnia-Herzegovina (R)Isle of Man (R)Philippines (R)
Bulgaria (E)Israel (R)Poland (E)
Canada (R)Italy (E)Portugal (E)
Chile (R)Jamaica (R)Romania (E)
Croatia (E)Japan (R)Serbia (R)
Cyprus (E)Jersey (R)Slovakia (E)
Czech Republic (E)Kosovo (R)Slovenia (E)
Denmark (E)Latvia (E)South Korea (R)
Estonia (E)Liechtenstein (E)Spain (E)
Finland (E)Lithuania (E)Sweden (E)
France (E)Luxembourg (E)Switzerland (E)
Germany (E)Malta (E)Turkey (R)
Guernsey (R)Mauritius (R)USA (R)
Gibraltar (E)Montenegro (R)
E = European Economic Area (EEA) countries
R = Countries with reciprocal social security agreements with the UK

Common Questions about UK Expats

A collection of some of the frequently asked questions relating to where British expats live.

✅ How many British people live overseas?

5.5 million people from Britain live overseas and 2,000 a week leave the UK,

✅ What country is the most popular for UK expats to emigrate to?

Australia is the most popular with 1,300,000 brits living there

✅ How many UK expats live in Saudi?

26,000 Brits live in Saudi Arabia, most are oil workers and just 142 are pensioners

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