Top 5 countries Brits emigrate to—and why

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONC) emigration from United Kingdom (UK) has remained at a static level since 2010, but that doesn’t mean that no-one is leaving UK shores; far from it. ONC figures also suggest that approximately 323,000 people emigrated from the UK in the year ending June 2014.

Aircraft on world mapIt’s difficult to be completely accurate as to the numbers of British people living in other countries, as large numbers of expats are not registered in the country where they reside. However, official United Nations (UN) statistics suggest that over five million British citizens in total live elsewhere. UN figures also suggest that the top five countries of residence for these expats are Australia, the United States of America (USA), Canada, Spain and New Zealand.

The most prevailing reason for British relocation is employment. According to a Home Office Emigration Research report, published in November 2012, 44% of those people emigrating who gave a reason stated that they had a definite job to go to, with another 28% saying they were moving to look for work. That being said, there are obviously reasons why people chose a specific country to go and work in, which can be connected with anything from lifestyle to weather. Let’s take a look at the top five British emigration destinations, as suggested by the UN, and see what their attraction is.


This country has always been a popular destination for British emigration. The one major factor that is often seen as a positive for emigration to Australia is the weather, which is a lot more temperate than it is in Britain; Tasmania is the coolest Australian state, but it still has an average annual temperature of 16°C (compared with an average for England & Wales of about 10°C, and just 8°C in Scotland). The weather allows for a far more outdoor-friendly lifestyle, with barbecues, sporting activities and trips to the beach making for popular recreational activities. The process of relocating to Australia is by no means simple, but there are opportunities, with many people choosing to apply for a visa based on the Skilled Occupations List. Of course there are other means of applying for a visa such as nomination by related Australian citizens or at state level. It’s highly likely that emigration to Australia will continue and that the over one million expats who already live there will be joined by many more, especially with TV shows such as Wanted Down Under displaying the attractive lifestyle and surroundings on offer.


According to UN figures the USA is the country with the highest number of immigrants in the world, a total of over 45.8 million people, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s a popular destination for Brits. After all the ‘land of the free’ often seems to offer the promise of opportunity for everyone. No matter that there has been a little tarnishing of US reputation through the global financial crisis, the American Dream is still alive and well to a lot of people. Add to that the allure of the weather in states such as Florida, and the extra acreage you get for your money in many places, and the USA can have tremendous appeal. Anyone who wants to relocate to the USA from the UK has to have an immigrant visa, issued by the US embassy, although this is no guarantee of being granted a Permanent Resident Card (more commonly known as a Green Card).


Of all Western countries Canada’s economy probably survived the global financial crisis in the best health. This economic strength in itself makes the country a popular emigration destination. Canada also has a reputation as a civilised and liberal country; some Britons feel that some of the manners and civility that Britain had have diminished, thus many feel that Canada presents an opportunity to experience a society with similar traditions amidst a more civil environment. Canada also has a reputation for excellent healthcare and banking provisions.


According to UN figures, Spain is the most popular European destination for British emigration, and it isn’t difficult to see why. This is a country where you can emigrate to, and experience a more temperate climate, whilst still being close enough to the UK to travel home quickly, and often, if required. For those people who want to escape the gloom of the British weather, without committing to long-distance relocation in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, it offers the ideal solution. An expat living in Spain can be back in the UK within 2-4 hours should there be a family emergency. Of course, with the current strength of the pound in the still-recovering Spanish housing market, it’s also a good place to buy property.

New Zealand

Probably the main attraction New Zealand offers is space. That may not seem a big deal, but if you’re a British urbanite looking for a more relaxed lifestyle it’s a huge positive. Wherever you are in New Zealand, even in the middle of the largest cities, you are only a few minutes away from the beach or the countryside. Although there is much reference to the native Maori culture in New Zealand, there is also much similarity with British culture, so for expats it’s almost as though the UK has been transferred to a more sedate and tranquil universe. Of course there’s also one other very simple but quite useful advantage of New Zealand as a country of abode: they drive on the left-hand side of the road. As with many countries, it’s not easy to gain entry to New Zealand to live, but there are opportunities for people who work in the industries from which skilled workers are required, and for people who have exceptional talent in the arts or sports. There are also situations where those relocating can be sponsored by New Zealand nationals.

Although numbers of emigrants from the UK aren’t rising, they are keeping at a steady pace, so it looks as though the five million expats who live in these top five destinations, and many others, will be joined by many more British settlers in years to come.