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What is an Expat? A guide to living abroad

Are you planning to live in a different country? If you are, that means you’re set to become an expat. There are many reasons why people decide to reside abroad, from retiring somewhere sunny to moving for a job. It’s an exciting prospect, whatever the cause of your move, but it also raises many practical and logistical challenges.

At Intasure, we’ve been helping expats with their insurance needs for nearly 20 years. We’ve learned a lot about the pleasures and pitfalls of having your abode abroad in that time, so we’ve put our specialism to good use. Here’s the Intasure guide to help making that big move overseas as smooth as possible, in which we’ll cover:

  • What does expat mean?
  • How many UK expats are there, and where do they live?
  • How has Brexit changed things for expats?
  • What should be on your “ready to move” checklist?

What is an Expat?

Expat, short for expatriate, is a person who no longer lives in their native country.
The term comes from two Latin words, “ex” meaning “out of”, and “patria”, meaning “country”. An expatriate is exactly that, someone who is living in a different country from the one they were born and brought up in.

Becoming an expat

Now that we’ve established what it means to be an expat, it’s time to explore the process of becoming one, and how recent events are changing things.

How has Brexit affected expats?

Since Brexit came into effect, UK citizens without residency permits are restricted to stays of no more than 90 days at any one time during a 180-day period. Bearing this change in mind, the UK government advises expats who live in the EU to register as residents where they live1.

Brits abroad in the EU are also advised to take out health insurance in line with the new country’s rules. For most people, the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) replaces the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)2.

The UK government has issued country by country guidance on healthcare for UK nationals living abroad, which you can access here3.

Information and documentation you may you need before becoming an expat

A lot depends on where you’re moving to and how you expect to live there. Some people mix mainly with folks from “back home” and carry on speaking English. Others go native and immerse themselves in the local community, learning the new language. Most expats sit happily somewhere in the middle, but they all have one thing in common: the need for careful preparation when planning the big move.

Rules and document requirements vary significantly from country to country. That’s why it’s always advisable to check with the relevant embassy or consulate for a list of the rules for foreign residents. And allow as much time as possible because documents can take a while to be issued or checked.

Things you may need on your checklist, whether you’re moving to an EU country or elsewhere, are likely to include:

  • Visas and residence permits
  • Vaccines for family members
  • Restrictions and taxes on items you wish to ship out to your new home
  • Import taxes for high-value items
  • Vaccines and quarantines for pets

It’s also vital to check that your existing documents are valid and aren’t close to expiration. Rules on this vary, but if you’re planning to travel to an EU or other Schengen area country (except Ireland), your passport must have an expiry date at least three months away from the date you travel4.

Documents you will typically require include:

  • Passports for everyone
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Proof of citizenship
  • Vaccination, medical, and dental records
  • Driving license
  • Insurance policies
  • Academic records and diplomas
  • Employment records
  • Proof of residence
  • Proof of your new job if moving for work

What else do you need to consider before becoming an expat?


You’ll probably want to review all your bank and savings accounts, and notify each bank that you’re relocating. Current debit and credit cards may also need double-checking to see if they’re fit for your new country.


You’ll need to make sure you can drive legally. You may need to renew your driving licence if it expires soon, and get an International Driving Permit before you go. This will allow you to drive while you apply for your new nation’s driving licence. Carry both your IDP and your current licence with you at all times.


For your own peace of mind, you’ll probably want to know where you’re going to live before arriving. If you need to sell your current home first, it’s sensible to allow plenty of time, as property sales can drag on unexpectedly. Renting out your UK home is an alternative that may be quicker to arrange. It also gives you the option of moving back if necessary.

Buying property in your new country? Check out our Guide to Buying a Holiday Home Abroad for lots of tips that are also relevant when buying a permanent home in a new place.
You may decide that renting is a simpler option, especially while settling in. You’ll be able to explore the local property market much more thoroughly while on the spot, rather than having to do everything remotely.

Living costs

Moving to a place with lower living costs is one of the strongest reasons for becoming an expat. If that’s your situation, it makes sense to discover what your precise living costs are going to be, rather than just working on vague impressions from previous short visits. You may want to check average food and rent or mortgage costs, local taxes plus fuel and utility bills. Comparing your findings with current outgoings will help to give you a clearer picture of the cost of living you need to budget for.


Perhaps you’re being sent overseas by your current employer, moving to a ready-made job or retiring. If not, you may wish to find work in your new home. Researching the local job market and unemployment level will help you see how easy it will be to find work. It may also be best to check if you’re employable as an English speaker or will need to learn the local language first.


You may need Expat insurance, but what kind? This is where the specialist team at Intasure can help. If you’re buying a property abroad, it’s good to know that we have nearly 20 years’ experience in dealing with property insurance policies in overseas markets. Using our knowledge of many country’s regulations, we can offer Expat Insurance policy specifically designed to help protect UK citizens and EU passport holders with properties overseas.

As you plan your move overseas, you’re sure to have important questions about what insurance to meet your requirements. Feel free to talk to our dedicated UK-based, English-speaking customer service team. Just contact us or click the link below to get a quote.

Get an Expat home insurance quote

  1. www.gov.uk/visit-eu-switzerland-norway-iceland-liechtenstein
  2. www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-residents-visiting-the-eueea-and-switzerland-healthcare
  3. www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-residents-visiting-the-eueea-and-switzerland-healthcare
  4. www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/holiday-cancellations-and-compensation/travelling-in-europe

The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Intasure accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.