An ever growing number of UK construction professionals are trying to escape the gloom by heading to foreign climes. But unfortunately, remembering your toothbrush is the least of it - for a move to be successful, it pays to plan carefully and keep on top of the paperwork…


For the UK construction sector, it has been a case of one blow after another since 2008. Following the private sector crash and the public sector cuts, it is now the deepening eurozone crisis that is hitting the bruised and battered industry hard. The figures speak for themselves: construction output figures plummeted 8.5% in April this year and, according to research by property agent Savills, commercial activity in London fell by over 15% between April and May.

The eurozone crisis is expected to delay recovery in the UK, and subsequently within the country’s construction sector, for at least a year, if not two, according to the Construction Products Association (CPA). It is little surprise that overseas growth areas are increasingly being seen as the lifelines that UK firms need to cling to.

For some time now, the Middle East and east Asia have been the main construction boom areas. The Gulf states appear to be slowly recovering after the downturn in 2009, and there are a vast number of infrastructure and development opportunities springing up in China and India, as well as from a number of developing Asian economies, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

Then there are countries like Australia and Canada - two emerging hotspots, buoyed by comparatively strong economies and booming mining sectors.

David Cash, the new chairman of the UK’s biggest architect Building Design Partnership, says that the firm’s strategy for the next three years is to grow by over 20% overseas. And consultant Turner & Townsend has counterbalanced a 15% drop in domestic revenue with 22% international growth, focusing primarily on South America, eastern Europe and Russia.

But moving to another country isn’t just about the work that UK companies can win. On a personal level, it will lead to major upheavals for UK professionals and their families. Emigrating is a huge undertaking and one that needs careful consideration and planning. Whether you are being relocated by your company, or making the move on your own, here are the most important things to put on your to-do list before making the move.

And in case things get really bad

If you find yourself in trouble overseas, the local British embassy, high commission or consulate will be able to offer the following services to help:

  • Arrange a replacement travel document
  • Provide information about transferring funds
  • Provide appropriate help if you are the victim of a serious assault or other crime, or are ill or in hospital
  • Provide details of local lawyers, interpreters, doctors and funeral directors
  • Contact you within 24 hours of being told that you have been detained by the local authorities
  • Make special arrangements in cases of terrorism, civil disturbances or natural disaster

Here are our top tips:

  1. Visit the location first if at all possible. This will be crucial in familiarising yourself with the region, working out where you might want to live and what you can afford in terms of property, as well as giving you the chance to check out amenities such as schools and healthcare.
  2. Check your passport is valid! This may sound obvious but some countries require at least six months validity, so it is worth double-checking.
  3. Sort out your visa and a health plan. If you are not being supported by an employer, you will need to look into work visa options, and you will probably need an immigration lawyer. Get good references and be prepared to pay and wait a considerable amount of time for the application to be processed. As for health, be aware that the European Health Insurance Card is no longer valid once you move abroad from the UK.
  4. Manage your finances. You will need to find out about tax liability in the UK, social security benefits and National Insurance contributions, and you should get a pension forecast. If you are moving within a company, you should discuss all of this with your employer. For more information, go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for Work and Pension or Citizen’s Advice.
  5. Register as an overseas voter with the Electoral Commission. UK citizens living abroad can vote in UK and European parliamentary elections but cannot vote in local elections or elections to devolved bodies.
  6. Look into accommodation options. The Foreign Office can offer lists of lawyers to help buy a property overseas but will not offer any legal advice directly. So finding a property lawyer is a sensible option. It is advised that you should add 10% on to the cost of buying or renting a house overseas to cover the additional legal costs.
  7. Remember you need to let more than just family and friends know your new address. You will need to contact HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions with this information too.
  8. Register with local authorities as soon as possible. Different countries have different laws regarding ex-pats and benefits offered. Within the European Economic Area, you can be eligible for benefits after three months.
  9. Set up a local bank account. A local account can make it easier and quicker to do business and get on with life in your new home, as well as cutting down transfer times and bank charges.