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Where Do British Expats Live?

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.


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 a 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.

RankCountryNumber of British expats
3United States678,000
6New Zealand215,000
7South Africa212,000
12United Arab Emirates (UAE)55,000
19China (including Hong Kong)36,000
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 shows the net migration to the UK, the difference between immigration and emigration.

Net migration to the UK, the difference between immigration and emigration

Paying The State Pension To Expats

The British government pays more than £2 billion yearly 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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4 thoughts on “Where Do British Expats Live?”

    • They are called Ex-Pats (shortform of ex-patriots). They can ONLY be called immigrants in the Country to which they EMIGRATE (where from inside the target Countries perspective they are immigrants , so technically, they could be called Emmigrants (from Britain); So unless you actually live in the target Country, they are emigrees. I emmigrated to Germany as a British Citizen for work 22yrs back (in Germany I could be termed an immigrant but unless you ALSO live in Germany, you cannot use the immigrant title.

      Sorry if I bust your bubble but there is more enough evil rhetoric and stigma attached to the term immigrant in the UK, seriously worsened by the Brextremist mentality.

  1. How many of them are white ? They have a problem with people of colour living in the uk… they are very good at making themselves comfortable in other peoples countries. Hi

  2. Why is it that British people living abroad have no political representation anywhere after 15yrs when many other countries have no such restriction ?


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