Expat News Roundup - week 46, 2012

Posted By Gerardo (gerardo@expatistan.com) on 13/11/2012

Once again, the world’s precarious economic situation is a prevailing theme through many expat news stories.

No expat is immune to the knock-on effects of the world of finance. This week, in fact, sees financial services workers themselves experiencing cuts to their expat benefits packages. Meanwhile, UK expats will soon find it harder to source mortgage products in their home countries, and American expats are preparing for the IRS to take more interest in their tax affairs – even if they’ve been expats for many years.

Back in Europe, widespread strikes, another knock-on effect of the global financial situation, threaten to disrupt travel plans for thousands of expats. Based on another of this week’s news reports, workers would do well to spend any time delayed in airports beginning to learn Mandarin!

Flight Disruption for Expats in Europe

Expats and European commuters will face extensive travel disruption this week as a result of a general strike planned to take place simultaneously across multiple countries.

General strikes are planned for 14th November in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain and will inevitably result in flight cancellations and air traffic delays.

Budget airline, Easyjet, has already announced that a large number of journeys will be rescheduled or canceled. At the time of writing, these primarily affect Greece, Spain and the UK. More last-minute delays and cancellations are expected across a host of European airlines.

Expat Benefits Packages at Risk

UK newspaper, The Telegraph, has reported that large companies are beginning to tighten their belts in terms of the benefits they offer to expat workers.

Many big firms have, in the past, offered employees generous incentives to accept a job overseas. Now, as economic difficulties spread across the world, companies are looking to cut costs, and realize they perhaps need not do so much to entice people to move abroad. The Telegraph reports that 88% of employers acknowledge that staff benefits are at risk due to budget constraints.

Expat Mortgages Withdrawn

UK expats planning to return to Britain will find it harder to purchase a property, with the news that the Lloyds Banking Group have withdrawn their range of expat mortgages.

Previously, the Lloyds group offered mortgage products to expats planning to return to the UK within three years. Some expats took advantage of these mortgages to buy a property and rent it out until their return. 

The Lloyds group includes Halifax and Lloyds TSB Scotland, both of which will now be unable to offer these repatriation mortgages.

Time to Learn Mandarin?

Financial services workers who wish to become expats in the Far East would be well advised to learn to speak Mandarin to increase their chances of landing a job.

While, in the past, English speakers have been able to find employment in the financial services industry, The Telegraph now reports that Mandarin language skills are an increasingly common requirement in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

The continuing growth of China as an economic force means that the desirability of this language skill is unlikely to wane.

American Expats Face New Tax Rules

American expats who have settled in their new countries may be tempted to give up their American citizenship to escape new tax laws.

New American tax legislation, being phased in over the next two years, will require all global companies with American account signatories to report on their activities to the American Internal Revenue Service.

The Huffington Post reports that this will make life difficult for American expats, as companies may be inclined to avoid employing them if they do not wish their activities to come under US scrutiny.