Do changes in politics affect expat relocation?

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Published 2019-06-13 11:24

The right to abortion seemed set in stone in the United States of America until very recently. In just a few weeks, several states have passed abortion bans. Will the new legislation push some expatriates to move to a different state or leave altogether? How do such radical political changes affect expat decisions? What consideration do expats give to a country’s politics when deciding where to settle down?

Natallia Slimani

Natallia is a tech and travel writer with a vast experience of living outside her comfort zone. Having spent 7 years in South China and traveled across Asia, Eastern and Western Europe and Africa, she is eager to help other expats get adjusted to a new way of life and make the most out of the expat experience.

A series of abortion bans in the American states of Alabama, Georgia and several others has led to a lot of controversy and debate across the country. The unexpected character of the change has also left people wondering if more similar restrictions could be underway.

For the expatriates we have sought, although these changes do come in as a shock, they would not think about leaving just yet. Julia Nosik, a Belarus national who has been working and living in San Diego, California for over five years, finds sudden legislation change of this kind worrying but she will not be changing her living arrangements in the near future. "I came to San Diego on a work contract and I have really enjoyed my stay here so far. To be frank, I don't really follow political news here as closely as I did back home – but I have definitely felt more tension in the air recently, even here in California”.

It is the radicalness of the change that worries other expats. Kate Fischer, who lives in Austin, Texas, admits she is anxious over the political situation in the state. “I’ve lived and worked in several Asian countries before — and there we were kind of used to a certain level of unpredictability. When I moved to the States with my family, I certainly never thought that I would be starting my day with new legislation debates”.

While changes in policy, whatever those may be, firstly affect those currently living in the country, they may also influence the decision of some expats to go back. Daniel Chang, an American expat living in Shenzhen, China notes: “I feel like my country is divided over so many issues. As a father of two small children who just started school, I am not sure I would want to go back just now — too many things are happening and I’d rather wait it out.”

It’s not surprising that policy changes and orientation affect expats’ decisions whether to stay in their place of current residence or to relocate. If changes regarding abortion legislations seem to only weigh moderately on expat decision, are there any specific issues that one does consider extensively when making a decision to settle abroad or to relocate in one’s home country.

Taxes

Most note that they would always monitor changes in the country’s taxation system. A lot of expats who move to other countries for work prefer to avoid double taxation and would thus research the country’s policy on income and business taxes for foreign residents.

Visas

Another important factor is the country's visa policy. How difficult would it be to get a long term visa? Is the procedure complicated? Do visa regulations change often? Is there a selection process and what is it based on? The answers to all of these questions are at the top of the list when it comes to relocation.

Healthcare

Medical care policies come in a close third for a lot of expats. Knowing whether you will be able to get adequate and affordable healthcare will surely influence one’s decision to relocate or, instead, reconsider relocation.

Access to information

As Patrick Burke, an Irish expat in living in Bangkok, Thailand notes: “You have no idea how much Facebook is important until you lose access to it.” After having lived in mainland China for close to four years (*access to certain international social media networks and websites is restricted in China) he had to call it quits and move to neighbouring Thailand.  "In the end, I just got tired of having to download yet another new app to stay in touch with friends and family. It was getting frustrating”, he concludes.

Personal freedom

There are a lot of things that can fit into this category but most travelers cite freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of expression as the key factors they would look at when relocating.

 

But, going back to the beginning of this article, it seems that “sudden change” or any form of political, social or economic instability is what affects relocation the most. As Daniel Chang sums it up: “I think what most of us are looking for is a level of certainty. We want to be sure that we will still wake up in the same place tomorrow; and that's why so many people prefer to live and work in developed countries. But these days, it seems like you actually never know ".

What is your take on the issue? Would controversial legislation make you reconsider your stay in or relocation to a new country — even if it did not affect you personally?