Considering contracting overseas? The hot and not-so-hot countries

25 August 2023

We always like to write about the countries that offer global contractors working overseas the best prospects.

One of the big benefits of contracting is that it offers the possibility for those with the right in demand skills to ply their trade in another land and enjoy the wealth of job opportunities that present themselves.

But while this is a reason to be cheerful, contactors must remain tax compliant in whichever country they decide to settle and work. Here we look at some of those alluring locations and expat hotspots…

The findings from the tenth Expad Insider report as always make for fascinating reading. Before the big reveal, it is worth highlighting the five major factors at play that determine the reasons why expats chose the countries they did. These were quality of lifeease of settling inworking abroadpersonal finance and expat essentials. There was an equal split of men and women surveyed across different age groups with the vast majority – over 8 in 10 – possessing a university degree. More than one third (35%) also said that they would consider staying in these places ‘possibly forever’.

So, what did we learn? Interestingly, the top three and indeed four of the top 10 on the list were all Spanish-speaking countries. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly given political instability and violence, Mexico, which has consistently featured in the top five since 2014, takes the spoils in 2023! Yet despite some of the negatives, the expats surveyed voted it top in terms of ease of settling in, the friendliness of locals as well as its welcoming culture. The North American nation also ticks the boxes in terms of affordable accommodation, low cost of living and a great work-life balance.

Spain and Panama, the two next highest-ranking countries, also score highly for many of the same factors as Mexico. As you would expect, all three are favourites because of their idyllic climate and warmth of the people but for personal finance reasons too. But what all three have in common is that they all excel when it comes to ‘expat essentials. This category not only covers affordability of housing and accommodation but also all things administrative. Ensuring that all visa and tax compliance forms are in order is a vital requirement for any contractor working overseas.

The southeast Asian country of Malaysia takes fourth spot thanks to a strong performance in expat essentials, especially in housing, achieving the second best score. But the country renowned for its tropical rainforests also did well in the personal finance, language and friendliness categories. The economic powerhouse of Taiwan grabbed fifth place not least thanks to its healthcare system and availability of medical care for which it received the highest accolade. It was also highly commended for its excellent transport infrastructure with expats also feeling incredibly safe.

Contractor compliance critical when working overseas

With a population of around a half a million inhabitants, the Kingdom of Bahrain, which came ninth overall, tops the charts for ‘expat essentials. The Middle East country, situated on the Persian Gulf, attained the top score for ease of opening a bank account and fourth for bureaucracy in general. Almost three in four (73%) respondents found it easy to obtain a visa with language and the need to speak Arabic not an issue. Expats were also happy with digital government and administrative services, as they were in the UAE, which came in second place thanks also to its high-speed internet.

These are all clearly important factors for expats and digital nomads when choosing which country to move to. You might be surprised to learn that Malta, one of the first countries to offer a digital nomad visa in 2021, enabling workers to stay for a year, languishes in 46th place due to a poor ranking in administration. High levels of bureaucracy are also having a huge negative impact on foreign workers in Italy (47th) with almost three in four (72%) saying that they are unhappy dealing with local authorities. Others bemoan difficulties getting visas and accessing online services.

By the way, the other Spanish-speaking country was seventh-placed Costa Rica, which ranked third in the environment and climate category and seventh for the friendliness of its people. Other honourable mentions go to Finland, which although 16th overall, came first and third in the urban and natural environment categories respectively. The same could not be said for the last three of TurkeyNorway and Kuwait. But there were some other notable surprises in the bottom 10, which included GermanySouth KoreaItalyMaltaNew Zealand, Japan and South Africa.

So there you have it, the best and worst countries to work overseas as voted by 12,000 or so expats. Whatever the destination, global contractors making the move will need to ensure they are both visa and tax compliant. If you require more in-depth advice on any compliance matter, our 6CATS International experts work across 70+ global territories. Time perhaps to dust off your Spanish?

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