British Citizens Living Abroad & Migrants in the UK: Key Insights

Explore the fascinating world of British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK, as we delve into key statistics, reasons for migration, challenges faced, and support services available. Understanding migration trends is vital for individuals and governments alike, as it sheds light on the potential impacts on society and the economy. Stay informed and engaged on this important topic by learning about the experiences of British expats and migrants in the UK.

British Citizens Living Abroad and Migrants in the UK
British Citizens Living Abroad 2020: Expert Guidance

1. Introduction

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, the movement of people across borders has become a significant aspect of global society. British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK are part of this ever-evolving landscape. This blog post aims to shed light on the dynamics of these two groups, exploring key statistics, reasons behind their decisions to move, and the challenges they face along the way.

Understanding migration trends is crucial for both the UK and other countries, as it impacts economic growth, cultural exchange, and the social fabric of societies. By exploring these trends, we can better comprehend the motivations behind migration and its implications, enabling policymakers to make informed decisions that benefit both the migrants and their host countries. So, let’s dive into the world of British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK.

2. British Citizens Living Abroad: Key Statistics

In recent years, the number of British citizens living abroad has been steadily increasing. According to the United Nations, there are approximately 5.5 million British citizens living in other countries, making the UK one of the top countries in terms of emigration.

Top destinations for British expats include:


With its similar culture, language, and high standard of living, Australia has long been a popular choice for British expats. Around 1.3 million British citizens currently reside in the country.


The warm climate, relatively low cost of living, and strong expat community makes Spain an attractive option for British citizens. Approximately 761,000 Brits currently call Spain home.

United States:

The US remains a popular destination for British citizens, with around 678,000 UK expats living across the country.


Sharing a common language and cultural ties, Canada is home to around 603,000 British citizens.

In terms of age and demographics, British citizens living abroad tend to be relatively diverse. However, certain trends can be observed. For instance, a significant proportion of British expats are retirees seeking a warmer climate and better quality of life in countries such as Spain and Portugal. Additionally, younger British citizens often move abroad for work opportunities or to study, with destinations like the United States, Canada, and Australia being popular choices. Overall, the age and demographic breakdown of British citizens overseas reflect a wide range of motivations for leaving the UK and settling in different parts of the world.

3. Reasons for British Citizens Moving Abroad

There are various reasons why British citizens choose to move abroad, some of the most common include:

Employment and career opportunities:

Many British citizens move abroad to pursue better job prospects and advance their careers. This can involve transferring within an international company or seeking opportunities with new employers in countries with thriving job markets.

Retirement and quality of life:

A significant number of British citizens choose to retire abroad, often seeking warmer climates, lower costs of living, and a more relaxed lifestyle. Countries like Spain, Portugal, and France are popular retirement destinations for British expats, offering a comfortable quality of life and access to affordable healthcare.

Education and family reasons:

British citizens may move abroad to study at international universities or to support family members who are pursuing educational or career opportunities overseas. This can lead to long-term settlement in the host country, as families build connections and establish roots in their new community.

Adventure and lifestyle choices:

Some British citizens are attracted to the idea of living abroad for the adventure and the chance to experience new cultures and lifestyles. These individuals may opt for destinations that offer unique experiences and opportunities, such as New Zealand for outdoor enthusiasts or Japan for those interested in experiencing a completely different culture.

Each individual’s reasons for moving abroad may be unique, but these common factors often play a significant role in the decision-making process for British citizens seeking a life beyond the UK’s borders.

4. Migrants in the UK: Key Statistics

Migrants in the UK make up a significant portion of the population and contribute to the country’s cultural diversity and workforce. Here are some key statistics related to migrants in the UK:

Number of migrants living in the UK:

As of 2020, there were approximately 9.5 million foreign-born people living in the UK, representing around 14% of the total population. This number includes both long-term residents and more recent arrivals.

Top countries of origin for migrants in the UK:

The largest groups of migrants in the UK come from India, Poland, and Pakistan. Other significant countries of origin include Romania, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Bangladesh, Nigeria, South Africa, and China. These migrants bring a wide range of skills, languages, and cultural backgrounds to the UK, enriching its society and economy.

Age and demographic breakdown of migrants in the UK:

Migrants in the UK are generally younger than the native-born population, with a median age of around 35 years, compared to 42 years for the UK-born population. This younger demographic can have positive implications for the UK’s workforce and economy, as younger workers are often more adaptable and willing to take on new challenges. Additionally, migrant populations in the UK are diverse in terms of their education, skills, and occupational backgrounds, contributing to various sectors of the economy.

Understanding the makeup of the migrant population in the UK is essential for policymakers and community leaders, as it allows them to better address the needs and challenges faced by these individuals, while also maximizing the potential benefits of migration to the UK as a whole.

5. Reasons for Migrants Moving to the UK

There are several reasons why migrants choose to move to the UK, which include:

Economic opportunities and skilled worker visas:

Many migrants come to the UK in search of better job opportunities and higher wages. The UK’s strong economy and diverse job market attract skilled workers from around the world. The Skilled Worker Visa, which replaced the Tier 2 General Visa, allows eligible skilled workers to live and work in the UK, providing a pathway for those seeking employment in the country.

Education and student visas:

The UK is home to some of the world’s top universities and educational institutions, attracting students from across the globe. The Tier 4 Student Visa allows international students to study in the UK and, in some cases, work part-time during their studies. This can lead to long-term career opportunities and personal growth for many students.

Family reunification and spouse visas:

Some migrants move to the UK to join family members already living in the country. The UK offers various visa options for family members of British citizens, settled persons, or those with refugee status, including spouse/partner visas, child visas, and parent visas. These visas allow families to live together in the UK and build a life in their new home.

Asylum and humanitarian reasons:

The UK also provides refuge for those fleeing persecution, war, or humanitarian crises in their home countries. Asylum seekers and refugees can apply for protection in the UK, which may lead to temporary or permanent residency, depending on individual circumstances.

Understanding the various reasons migrants come to the UK can help inform policies and support services aimed at integrating these individuals into society and maximizing the positive impact of migration on the country’s economy and cultural diversity.

6. Visa-Free Living Abroad for British Citizens

As British citizens enjoy one of the strongest passports globally, they have the advantage of traveling to many countries without the need for a visa. This section will provide an overview of some popular destinations where British citizens can live without a visa, though it is essential to note that restrictions and limitations may apply.

Overview of countries where British citizens can live without a visa:

British passport holders can travel to a significant number of countries visa-free or with visa-on-arrival options. These countries span across various continents, including Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. Some popular destinations for visa-free travel include the European Schengen Area, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore.

Length of stay and other restrictions for visa-free living:

While British citizens can travel to many countries without a visa, there are limitations on the length of stay and activities permitted during their visit. For instance, in the Schengen Area, British citizens can stay for up to 90 days within any 180-day period for tourism, business, or family visits. Similarly, in countries like Australia and New Zealand, British citizens can stay for up to three months without a visa for tourism purposes. It is essential to understand the specific rules and restrictions for each destination before planning an extended stay or considering living abroad.

Popular destinations for visa-free living:

Some popular destinations for British citizens seeking to live abroad without a visa include Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy within Europe, as well as further afield destinations like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. These countries attract British expats for various reasons, such as their climate, culture, quality of life, and job opportunities. However, it is crucial to understand that visa-free entry is typically limited to short-term stays, and those looking to reside long-term in these countries may need to apply for a residence permit or appropriate visa.

It’s important for British citizens to research and understand the specific visa requirements and restrictions for their chosen destination, as well as the steps necessary to obtain the appropriate documentation for a long-term stay.

7. Challenges Faced by British Citizens Living Abroad and Migrants in the UK

Both British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK can face a variety of challenges as they adapt to their new environment. This section will discuss some common difficulties that individuals may encounter when moving to a new country.

Cultural adaptation and language barriers:

Adapting to a new culture can be challenging, particularly if there is a significant difference between the home country and the destination. Understanding local customs, etiquette, and traditions can take time and effort. Language barriers can also be a significant hurdle for both British citizens abroad and migrants in the UK, as communicating effectively and navigating daily life can be more difficult without a good grasp of the local language.

Access to healthcare and social services:

Access to healthcare and social services can be a concern for those living in a foreign country. While some countries have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK, British citizens living abroad may need to arrange private health insurance or pay for medical care out of pocket. Similarly, migrants in the UK may face challenges accessing the National Health Service (NHS) and other social services due to eligibility requirements, language barriers, or a lack of familiarity with the system.

Employment and housing challenges:

Finding suitable employment can be challenging for both British citizens abroad and migrants in the UK. In some cases, qualifications and work experience from their home country may not be recognized, or there may be a lack of job opportunities in their chosen field. Housing can also be a challenge, particularly in countries or cities with high living costs, limited availability, or strict rental regulations.

Legal and administrative hurdles:

Navigating legal and administrative processes can be complex and time-consuming for both British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK. Obtaining visas, work permits, residence permits, or dealing with immigration authorities may require extensive documentation and patience. Additionally, understanding local laws, tax regulations, and other administrative matters can be challenging without professional guidance or assistance.

It is essential for individuals considering living abroad or migrating to the UK to research and prepare for the challenges they may face, and to seek support from local organizations, expat communities, or professionals when needed.

8. Support Services for British Citizens Abroad and Migrants in the UK

There are various support services available to help British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK navigate the challenges they may face. This section will discuss some of the key resources and organizations that can provide assistance and guidance.

British consulates and embassies:

British citizens living abroad can access support services through their local British consulate or embassy. These diplomatic missions can provide assistance with various issues, including lost or stolen passports, legal matters, emergencies, and other consular services. They can also offer general advice and information about living in the host country.

UK-based organizations and charities supporting migrants in the UK:

Numerous organizations and charities in the UK are dedicated to supporting migrants and helping them integrate into British society. These organizations can provide assistance with a range of issues, including housing, employment, education, and legal matters. Some well-known organizations include the Migrants’ Rights Network, Refugee Action, and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Online resources and communities for British expats and migrants in the UK:

Online resources can be a valuable source of information and support for both British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK. Websites and forums, such as, Internations, and, offer advice, networking opportunities, and a platform for individuals to share their experiences and insights. Social media groups and local meetup events can also be a great way to connect with others in similar situations.

By making use of these support services, British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK can better navigate the challenges they may face, access useful information and advice, and connect with others who share their experiences. This support can significantly ease the transition and adaptation process for individuals living in a new country.

In this section, we will explore some of the key factors that may influence future trends in the number of British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK. Understanding these trends can help both individuals and governments better prepare for the potential impacts of migration on society and the economy.

Impact of Brexit on migration patterns:

The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union has had a significant impact on migration patterns. Brexit has led to changes in the rights and status of British citizens living in EU countries, as well as EU citizens living in the UK. This may result in a shift in the preferred destinations for British expats, as well as a potential decrease in the number of EU migrants coming to the UK.

Changing global economy and job market:

As the global economy and job market continue to evolve, the opportunities and challenges faced by both British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK will change as well. Economic shifts, such as the rise of emerging markets and the increasing importance of sectors like technology and renewable energy, will likely influence where people choose to live and work. Additionally, as remote work becomes more common, British citizens may find it easier to work abroad without needing to relocate.

The role of technology in shaping migration trends:

Technological advancements are transforming the way people live, work, and communicate, and these changes are also impacting migration trends. For example, advances in communication technology make it easier for individuals to maintain connections with their home country while living abroad. This can help alleviate some of the challenges associated with cultural adaptation and language barriers. Furthermore, technology can also play a role in streamlining the visa application and immigration processes, making it easier for people to move between countries.

In conclusion, various factors, including Brexit, the changing global economy, and advancements in technology, are shaping the future trends in the number of British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK. Understanding these trends can help both individuals and governments anticipate and adapt to the potential impacts of migration on society and the economy.

10. Conclusion

In this blog post, we have explored the topic of British citizens living abroad and migrants in the UK, discussing key statistics, reasons for migration, challenges faced, and support services available. We have also touched upon visa-free living options for British citizens and examined the future trends that may impact migration patterns, such as Brexit, the changing global economy, and advancements in technology.

Understanding the complexities and trends surrounding migration is crucial for individuals and governments alike, as it allows them to better anticipate and adapt to the potential impacts on society and the economy. By staying informed and engaged on this topic, readers can contribute to a more thoughtful and inclusive conversation around migration and its effects on the UK and other countries.

For further details on international migration to and from the UK, please refer to International Migration Statistics.