If dreams were to become reality Britain would lose more than half its population. A survey by YouGov discovered that 54% of Britons would like to go and live abroad. Already 5.5 million UK citizens have taken this step. Many have settled in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA - countries which have been attracting immigrants for centuries. In the past poverty, deprivation and persecution impelled people to seek out better lives for themselves. Today times are less desperate, and if we decide to uproot ourselves these days, it is from choice rather than necessity.
Other things have changed as well. These countries no longer operate an open door policy; instead their governments impose immigration quotas. This year Australia offers up to 152,800 residence visas, Canada 265,000 and New Zealand 50,000, while the USA restricts the number of employment based migration visas to 140,000. Basically, these countries no longer accept all comers; they have become somewhat choosy about whom they let in. So before you plan your move you really need to find whether you qualify for entry.
The Commonwealth countries cited above have a points system for determining eligibility for an immigration permit. This is based on a person's qualifications, years of work experience, language ability, age, whether you have relations already in the country and whether you have a job already arranged. Another consideration is whether you have the skills which are in high demand. A few years back Canada accorded priority status to cooks but not to doctors, since it has plenty of the latter. The number of points required to qualify for residence varies from year to year.
Living in America
The American system is different as it has a wide range of visa categories. If you want full residence status you will need a coveted Green Card. However, these are not easy to obtain and it may be better to aim for a temporary work visa, valid initially for two years, in order to get your foot in the door. It makes sense to work out which kind of visa is most appropriate for you before you embark on the application process.
To find out the latest immigration rules and regulations have a look at the various high commission and embassy websites available such as this one, some of which help you to assess your chances of getting a visa.
The Importance of Doing Research
You also need to familiarise yourself with the country or countries you are keen to settle down in before you uproot yourself. First of all you need to investigate the job opportunities in the country. You also need to find out what living conditions are like. Will it be sunshine and blue skies all the year round? Probably not. You should therefore steer away from glossy tourist brochures and look at books which focus on living and working in these countries, such as the Culture Shock and Culture Smart series.
Bear in mind that information can go out of date, so we recommend you subscribe to some of the monthly publications designed with prospective migrants in mind. Outbound Newspapers, for instance, publishes Emigrate America, Emigrate Australia, Emigrate Canada, Emigrate New Zealand and Emigrate South Africa (www.emigrate2.co.uk). Consyl Publishing specialises in the Antipodes with Australia Outlook and New Zealand Outlook.
If you feel the need to have face to face contact with experts, don't overlook the specialist emigration fairs held up and down the country in the spring and autumn. The long established Emigrate Fair, for instance, takes place in Edinburgh (February 23/24), Sandown Racecourse (March 1/2), and Belfast (March 8/9). Here you can meet people who can advise you on everything - from how to get a visa and find a job to how to ship out your belongings and open a bank account. (See www.emigrate2.co.uk again).
Finding a Job
Finding jobs in other countries has become much easier now thanks to the internet which allows you to access the websites of employers and recruitment agencies all round the world - have a look at our own international vacancies on www.jobs.ac.uk. Vacancies also appear in specialist newspapers, such as those mentioned above and Overseas Jobs Express. Every so often there are international recruitment fairs, usually in London. One example is the Australia Needs Skills recruitment fair on 15/16 March. (See the Australian High Commission website for details).
Don't assume that the Old Commonwealth and the USA are the only places worth considering for long-term settlement. Many have made their home in Europe - which has certain advantages, one of them being that there are no visa restrictions on working in European Union countries if you are a European native. Whatever you decide, going to live abroad involves serious planning, and the more research you do before you go the happier your landing is likely to be.