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Emigration from the UK – which are the most popular countries amongst British expats?

While United Kingdom is one of the most desired emigration destinations in Europe, a substantial number of Britons - over 5 million - themselves have chosen to relocate to other countries.

Work and better life prospects are the prime reason for younger generations to move abroad, accounting for over 50% of the outbound migration from the UK (approx. 320,000 in 2014). Retirement in a sunnier climate and preferably in a country with a lower cost of living attracts more and more elderly Brits, who flock to  southern Europe.

The numbers of UK citizens living abroad, by country (see below), however, suggest that the pattern of the British migration may not be so obvious.

Top destinations for emigration from UK, by the number of expats:

  1. Australia – 1.277 mln
  2. United States – 758 919 expats
  3. Canada – 674 371 expats
  4. Spain – 381 025 expats
  5. New Zeland – 313 850 expats
  6. South Africa – 305 660
  7. Ireland – 253 605 expats
  8. France – 172 806
  9. Germany 96 938
  10. Channel Islands – 73 030
  11. Italy – 72 234 British expats
  12. Netherlands – 49 977
  13. Switzerland – 47 327 expats
  14. Singapore – 45 000
  15. United Arab Emirates – 33 865 expats from UK
  16. Japan – 20 812
  17. Portugal – 18 989 expats

English speaking countries – most popular amongst UK expats
As to be expected, the largest numbers of British expats chose to settled in English speaking countries. While one might think that the United States would be the prime destination due to the diversity of job opportunities, the costly healthcare and tax system drive many retirees away.

With over 1.2 mln of UK expats, Australia is in the lead as an emigration destination amongst the British. High quality of life and stable economy are the most important factors attracting the British to the former colony. Canada, famous for its pro-immigration policies and effective social security system rank third.

New Zealand and South Africa, both hosting ca. 300 000 of British expats are appreciated mostly for their great nature, outdoors and wildlife, having economic situation a lesser impact.

British emigration in Europe
For the sun-seeking UK expats, Spain is the most chosen destination. The British communities favour Spanish southern coast, yet many choose also the countryside, for the relaxed pace of life. Although the nearby Portugal offers just as good climate and even lower better value for money than Spain, there is a large disproportion between the number of British expats in both countries: 380 000 and nearly 19 000, respectively.

France and Italy get a fair share of British residents, being France considerably more popular (over 170 thousands UK expats to 70 thousands), which can be explained not only by the country’s geographical dimensions but also to the facility of access from UK via the Channel Tunnel.

Ireland and the Channel Islands are the closest ad popular destinations for British to move to, the latter, mostly due to the tax benefits (the Crown Dependencies, islands of Guernsey and Jersey are tax havens).

Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland, despite the less favourable climate, rank high in popularity amongst the British expats, mainly due to their stable economies or/and multiple job opportunities.

Eastern Europe on the rise
Although not listed amongst the to destinations for emigration, it is worth mentioning that the countries of central and eastern Europe, such as Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Croatia in the Balkans are attracting growing numbers of migrants from the UK.

“Exotic” destinations for expats from UK
Cultural differences, language barrier and unstable economic or political situation are the main reason to dissuade British citizens form moving into the more remote parts of the world. Nevertheless, amongst the overseas destinations with a considerable slice of UK expats are the countries with booming businesses: Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Japan, counting with 47, 45 and 20 thousands of resident British citizens, respectively.


Emigration from the UK – which are the most popular countries amongst British expats?
Article: Emigration from the UK – which are the most popular countries amongst British expats?
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Published: Monday, September 14 2015
Latest revision: Monday, September 14 2015

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