Are you looking for a new adventure? Maybe your career has forced you to relocate? Ireland, with its gorgeous green landscapes, rich history and a growing economy could be the perfect place for you – especially with the uncertainty that Brexit brings for many UK nationals. Here, Universal Partners FX provides a comprehensive guide for anyone thinking about moving to Ireland, what you’ll need to move as well as working and living in Ireland.

For expats considering moving to Ireland, the first thing that should be recognised is that the island is technically home to two nations. The Republic of Ireland, consisting of 26 of the island’s 32 counties, resides in the South. Northern Ireland, made up of the remaining six counties and is part of Great Britain, is found in the north. Despite being part of Great Britain, Northern Ireland does have its very own devolved government and is not governed by the United Kingdom. Generally, when people speak of Ireland, they are often referring to the Republic and not Northern.

A history of Ireland

Shortly after arriving in Ireland, you will quickly become aware of its long and well-documented history, of which its residents are extremely proud. Irish history, from its historic period all the way up to modern times, is one that is characterised by trade with the international community. As you travel around Ireland, the signs and sites can be seen throughout the country, and information of its rich past can be found in museums and tours. However, the most obvious examples of foreign influence across the island are inarguably those of the British Empire. As a result of being under British reign for over eight hundred years, the remnants of colonialism can be seen far and wide, stretching from the architecture all the way to the political and economic structures of the country. An important note to remember for anyone moving to Ireland is that the British Empire and Northern Ireland can be quite a touchy subject for those that live in the south!

Places to move to in Ireland

For most people moving to Ireland, their destination may have already been decided. Whether it’s a result of work or family commitments. However, many expatriates moving to Ireland may be looking for their next job opportunity. Thankfully, Ireland is home to a choice of large cities and centres of industry that stand as excellent places to both live and work.

  • Dublin – Dublin, the capital and largest city in Ireland, is the cultural and economic epicentre of the nation. Home to approximately 1.8 million people, Dublin accounts for nearly 40% of the entire population. As the considerable majority of offers on online job portals are in Dublin, the enticement of moving to Ireland’s heart is unrivalled. In addition, with superb transport links directed to the capital, it is an extremely easy place to travel in and around and to and from.

 

  • Cork – Cork is Ireland’s second-largest city and is ideal for anyone looking to find work within the industry sector. Residing in the southwest of the country, Cork remains the heart of the local industry, in particular, the IT, pharmaceutical and oil sectors. Global brands such as Apple, Amazon and Logitech all have subsidiaries and European headquarters there.

 

  • Galway – If you prefer a smaller city, Galway is a great choice. A small, coastal city in the west of Ireland, Cork is home to a large student population and a growing market for start-up companies, perfect if you’re thinking about setting up your own business. The compact city has good infrastructure and is only around two hours away from the capital along the motorway.

 

  • Limerick – A major economic hub for Ireland, Limerick is found on the west side of Ireland and is home to the Shannon Free Zone, Business and Technology Park. As a result of the appealing tax terms in this free trade zone, many international organisations opted to move to Limerick to set up shop. It is also located adjacent to one of the busiest airports in the country, Shannon Airport. Making the move to Ireland’s heartland a breeze.

 

Visas

Just like most countries, Ireland has a variety of visa options for you to choose from depending on your length and purpose of stay. If you are a citizen of the EEA, Switzerland or any country on this list, you will not need a visa to enter Ireland. Nationals from various countries outside of the EEA will require a visa, however. Even if you are the dependent if an EU citizen, as non-EEA national, you may need a visa to enter and move to Ireland if you do not acquire the respective family member residence card.

Expatriates interested in moving to Ireland will most likely need either the Long Stay Visas or Business Visas. For an overview of all visa types available when entering Ireland, as well as other important information for relocating, visit the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. The cost of applying for an Irish visa is around 60-100 EUR.

Once you move to Ireland, unless you are an EEA or Swiss citizen, you are required to register with the local immigration authority if you plan on staying in Ireland for more than 90 days. To do this, simply visit the local Garda District Headquarters where you will receive a Certificate of Registration, costing 300 EUR, which proves that you are legally residing in Ireland.

Work Permits

Just like visas, there is a choice of work permits to choose from in Ireland depending on the nature of your work and how much you will earn. In total, there are nine different types of work permits, but the most popular are:

  • The General Employment Permit – In order to be eligible for this permit, you must usually have a minimum annual salary of 30,000 EUR or in some exceptional cases 27,000 EUR. You must also have the qualifications, skills and experience required for the job.
  • The Critical Skills Permit – Formerly known as the Green Card, this permit is issued by the Department of Job, Enterprise and Innovation. You may be eligible for this permit if you earn more than 60,000 EUR per year or if your job is on the Highly Skilled Occupations List and you earn more than 30,000 EUR per year.
  • The Dependent/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit - Spouses, recognised partners, civil partners, and dependents of researchers and holders of Critical Skills Employment Permits and former Green Card permits are eligible for this permit. However, you must be a legal resident in Ireland in order to apply for this permit.

 

Living in Ireland

Before moving to Ireland, many people have an image of the ‘Emerald Isle’ that consists of a lot of rain, greenery and moderate pace in a way of life. These expectations are accurate to some extent but once you arrive you will quickly realise that the Republic of Ireland is amazingly similar to many other nations of a similar nature. It does, however, possess a number of ‘rules’ that you will need to be aware of.

The road system

In Ireland, motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road. Road conditions are generally on par with any other industrialised country and will only take a few days or so before you become normalised to the roads and countless roundabouts you are sure to encounter. Outside of the city centres, the roads can become a little trickier as a result of curvier, narrow and rockier roads.

Traffic regulations

If your stay in Ireland exceeds 12-months, you will be required to apply for an Irish driver’s license in order to keep driving your vehicle. If you are from the EEA or one of the residing states, however, you can simply exchange your driver’s license for an Irish one. The Irish driving system works off of a penalty point system, which was introduced in 2002 as a result of the increasingly high number of traffic-related deaths. If a driver receives more than twelve points, they will be suspended from driving for six months and must submit their license to the authorities. You can view the 62 offences that can incur points on your license here.

Healthcare

Ireland provides an exceptional, tax-funded healthcare system. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is responsible for providing extensive healthcare assistance to every Irish resident. The majority of healthcare in Ireland is free, however, some services such as hospital stays and emergency care do come with a charge. A good thing to note is that if your income and assets are below a certain limit, you are able to apply for a medical card or a GP visit card, which makes you exempt from certain or even all healthcare fees. If you earn about the threshold, you will have to pay to some healthcare fees.

If you have decided to move to Ireland to work for more than a year, you will need to contact the HSE as soon as possible to confirm your status as an ordinary resident. Expats coming from within the EEA are also entitled to receive certain medical services free of charge.

How Universal Partners FX can help you

If you’re planning on moving to Ireland, you will need to make a number of transactions at one time or another. Whether it’s to pay for initial accommodation fees, healthcare or to simply exchange money. When doing so, you’ll want to get the most out of your money, which can be a problem when high transaction fees and poor exchange rates are involved. Here at Universal Partner FX, you avoid all that. With zero transactions fees and bank-beating rates, you ensure a safe and secure money transfer, as well as getting the absolute most out of your money.

With our easy-to-use online money platform, you can send your money to Ireland in just a few simple steps. But first, be sure to sign-up for a personal account with us to be assigned your own personal foreign exchange specialist. To learn more about how Universal Partners FX can make moving to Ireland easier and smoother for your finances, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.

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Nowadays, currencies seem to be hitting all-time highs and all-time lows more often than ever before. Exchange rates are constantly fluctuating, causing somewhat of a headache for frequent travellers and international businesses around the world. But why do currencies fluctuate so often? The answer is relatively simple; supply and demand. The definition of supply and demand is ‘the amount of a commodity, product, or service available and the desire of buyers for it, considered as factors regulating its price.’ Simply put, the cost of something depends on how much is available against how many people want to buy it.

The majority of the world’s currencies are bought and sold based on flexible exchange rates, meaning their prices fluctuate based on the supply and demand in the foreign exchange market. Increased demand for a particular currency or a shortage in its availability will result in a price increase. A decreased demand or an influx in supply will lower its price. The supply and demand of currency are connected to several interrelated factors, including monetary policy, inflation rates and the conditions involved with the political and economic environment. So, let’s take a look at these individually.

Monetary Policy

Through monetary policy, a country is able to stimulate its economy. Central banks attempt to control the demand for currencies by increasing or decreasing the money supply and/or benchmark interest rates. The money supply is pretty self-explanatory; this is the amount of money that is in circulation within a country. As money supply increases and the accessibility to a currency rises, the cost of borrowing money decreases. The interest rate is the price at which money can be borrowed. With low-interest rates, people are businesses are more willing and able to borrow money. With more money being borrowed and ultimately spent, the economy begins to grow. However, if the amount of money in the economy is too high and the supply of good and services do not match, prices of these goods and services may begin to inflate.

Inflation Rates

Another factor which has a huge bearing on the fluctuations of currencies is the rate of inflation. The inflation rate is defined as ‘the rate at which the general price of goods and services is increasing.’ A small amount of inflation generally indicates good economic growth, however, too much of an increase can cause the economy to become unstable, leading to depreciation and decline in value of a currency.

The interest and inflation rates of a country have a huge influence on a country’s economy. If the inflation rate gets too high, the central bank may counteract the issue by increasing interest rates. The encourages people to stop spending and save their money instead as well as stimulating foreign investment and increasing the amount of capital entering the marketplace, which results in an increased demand for a currency. Therefore, an increase in interest rates can lead to an increase in the value of a currency. Similarly, a decrease in interest rates can result in a reduction in the value of a currency.

The Political & Economic Environment

The political and economic environment of a country is the final factor that can impact fluctuations of currency. Despite investors enjoy high interest rates, they also appreciate the predictability of an investment. This is why currencies from countries that are politically stable and have a solid economy tend to have a higher demand, which results in higher exchange rates.

Markets are constantly monitoring the current and predicted economic conditions of a country. As well as money supply, interest and inflation rates, other key economic indicators such as GDP, housing, unemployment rates and trade all have an influence on the economy of a country. If these factors show a strong and growing economy, its currency will tend to rise in value as demand increases.

Political conditions also have a resounding impact on the value of a currency. If a country is in the middle of political unrest or global tensions, take Brexit for example, the currencies of that country become less attractive and demand falls. On the other hand, if a market sees the introduction of a new government that shows signs of strong economic growth, a value of the currency may grow as people begin to buy based on the good news. It can be confusing though. Many would assume that the recent resignation of Sajid Javid as Chancellor would have negatively affected the pound. A key figure and supposed close ally of the Prime Minister would surely show the world that the UK is in yet more chaos and would affect confidence. However, the pound was given a boost by this, as the expected result is that Boris Johnson will have more control over spending, and the indications is that the budget will show higher spending than previous years.

 

In the end, there is not one single factor that can answer the question ‘why do currencies fluctuate?’ Instead, a host of factors related to demand and supply affect the values of currency and with more knowledge regarding these factors and their implications for fluctuations, the more accurate the predictions of value become.

With Universal Partners FX, however, you limit the risk of currency fluctuations massively thanks to our innovative online money platform. Here, you are able to select your chosen currency and lock in an exchange rate that suits you, so you never have to worry about losing out on your money further down the line. Simply sign-up to a personal or business account to begin and one of our currency specialists can help you the rest of the way.

Personal Account >         Business Account >

 

For more information on how Universal Partners FX can help you with your online money transfers, be sure to get in touch with us today.

 

The business trade cycle, or simply ‘the trade cycle’ is the cycle that countries experience as all-round economic activity increases and decreases.

The trade cycle is a process that is important for countries to monitor as it has an impact on employment rates, inflation, economic performance and consumer spending. Central Banks also keep tabs on trade cycles as it influences monetary policies as well as short-term interest rates.

 

Stages

Each business trade cycle is made up of four different stages. These are expansion, peak, contraction and trough. These do not occur at regular intervals, however, they do have very recognisable features that help you to define when they do occur.

  • Expansion – This stage occurs between a trough and a peak and is defined through a period of economic growth. Typically during this period, gross domestic product (GDP), which measures economic output, increases at around a 2/3% range. Unemployment levels reach their natural rates of around 4/5% and inflation is around its 2% target. The stock market is also in a state known as a ‘bull market’, where an investment’s price rises over an extended period. A well-managed economy can remain in the expansion stage for many years, this is known as a Goldilocks economy. However, this stage can reach its end when the economy starts to overheat. This is when the GDP growth rate reaches greater than 3%, inflation is higher than 2% and investors are in a state of irrational exuberance.
  • Peak – This is the second stage of the business trade cycle. It is the period when the expansion stage transitions into the contraction phase. Here, the maximum limit of growth is attained, Economic indicators do not grow further as they are at their highest point. This stage marks the reversal point in the trend of economic growth where consumers being to restructure their budgets.
  • Contraction – The third stage of the business trade cycle, contraction starts at the peak and ends at the trough. Here, economic growth weakens as GDP falls below 2%. When it turns negative, this is when a ‘recession’ occurs, resulting in increases in unemployment rates, people selling their homes, income decreases, stocks entering a bear market and investors beginning to sell. Three types of events can trigger the contraction stage. These are a rapid increase in interest rates, a financial crisis or runaway inflation.
  • Trough – The fourth phase of the trade cycle is when the economy is at its lowest point. As a result of further declines in the prices and the demand and supply of both goods and services, the economy eventually reaches its negative saturation point. Here, there is extensive depletion of national income and expenditure. Before the economy can reach a new expansion stage, consumers must regain confidence again, often as a result of intervention with monetary or fiscal policies.

 

Who measures the business trade cycle?

The business trade cycle stages are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research using GDP growth rates. It uses monthly economic indicators such as the sales of goods and services, employment and income levels to analyse the economy and classify which stage of the trade cycle a country is in.

 

Who manages the business trade cycle?

The government manages the business trade cycle and legislators use fiscal policy to influence the economy, using expansionary fiscal policy when they want to end a recession. Contractionary fiscal policy is implemented to keep economies from overheating. Central banks also influence the stages of a business trade cycle through the implementation of various monetary policies that impact the level of interest rates. The goal of economic policy is to keep the economy growing at a sustainable rate. It needs to be strong enough to create jobs for everyone who wants one but slew enough to avoid inflation.

Three factors are responsible for the initiation of each stage of the trade cycle, these are; the forces of supply and demand, the availability of capital and consumer confidence. The most important factor, however, is confidence in the future. Economies grow when there is faith in the future and in policymakers. Without this confidence and faith, economies tend to fail. This not only impacts interest rates but exchange rates also as the value of certain currencies begin to decrease. This, of course, has a massive impact on people who wish to send or transfer funds internationally as they begin to lose out by not getting value for their money.

With Universal Partners FX, you avoid the risk of poor exchange rates and losing out on your money with the ability to select and lock-in desired exchange rates using our online money platform. To learn more about how Universal Partners FX can help you with your international money transfers, be sure to get in touch with one of our currency specialists today!

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Ahead of the Bank of England’s Super Thursday meeting, the first for 2020, some investors are expecting the Bank to cut interest rates, with markets gauging a 50/50 chance of a rate cut.

On Tuesday, the pound dropped, while UK government bonds rose higher, suggesting that some currency strategists are expecting the BoE to cut its benchmark rate to 0.5 percent, from 0.75 percent.

Some economists believe that rates will either be cut this week or at the next meeting of the Bank in late March since currently there are encouraging signs that the country’s private sector is growing.

 In the Financial Times, Andrew Harman, portfolio manager at First State Investments stated that “Data from the second half of 2019 shows the UK economy was soft, although the recent January 2020 PMIs suggests a modest pick-up in economic activity [after] the election.”

 

How is the pound going to respond?

The British Pound has increased against the majority of leading currencies the beginning of the week, but on Tuesday it dropped against the euro and dollar ahead of Thursday's key BoE rate decision.

George Vessey, currency strategist with Western Union said: "The British Pound remains elevated but is lacking upside traction as it failed to hold at multi-week highs against the Euro and U.S. Dollar last week. If the BoE does cut rates, given the slide in inflation and lacklustre GDP growth, we can expect to see the Pound sold off." Vassey has also added: "Leaving rates unchanged may not have such an impact on Sterling as it didn’t weaken much when the probability of a rate cut jumped to 72% at the start of last week. Recent positive CBI and PMI surveys may be enough to prevent a rate cut this month, but the focus will be on sustained positive data for any real advancement in GBP upside."

With the possibility of a rate cut remaining unclear, the pound could initially fall if the Bank chooses to move on with a cut. Whatever the decision is, the pound will possibly be volatile as the result will be unexpected.

As mentioned, there are a few reasons that have driven investors to believe that the Bank might cut interest rates. Earlier in January, speeches from the Monetary Policy Committee members demonstrated their inclination towards a rate cut, with former governor Mark Carney stating that a weakness in the pound and weak economic data could lead the bank to a rate cut decision.  Indeed, economic growth has slowed down towards the end of 2019, while inflation was at 1.3% in December, below the Bank's 2.0% target.

With high volatility predicted on Thursday, all nine members of the monetary policy committee could vote for a rate cut, considering global recession fears, Brexit uncertainty, UK economic slowdown and inflation pressures.

On the other hand, if the majority votes for the rates to remain unchanged, taking into account improved business sentiment, then the pound could possibly stay flat. Ingvild Borgen Gjerde, FI and FX analyst at DNB Bank ASA clarified: "Expectations of a rate cut have fallen somewhat... and the GBP has strengthened as a result. We expect a rate cut this week but see significant risk that the BoE will remain on hold. As markets are only pricing in a 50% probability, the GBP should weaken this week if our projection materialises."

Finally, if only a very small number of members votes for a cut, then the hawkish sentiment could send the pound higher. For some analysts, economic data is not seen from a negative point of view and instead suggests that a rate cut is simply not justified. Marc-André Fongern, Head of FX Research at MAF Global Forex, noted that "The most recent UK economic data does not provide any justification for a rate cut at the end of January. The market may, therefore, be correcting its overblown expectations regarding an easing of monetary policy. Britain's economy is currently torn between the impact of potentially complex EU-UK trade negotiations and a spirit of optimism.”

If you are transferring funds abroad, contact a currency specialist such as Universal Partners FX, whose dedicated brokerage team can offer valuable support when navigating an unpredictable currency market. Give them a call today to discuss your currency transfers and schedule your next currency exchange.

With the pound falling against the Swiss franc in the five years to the end of October, and after a period of decline, the Swiss housing market has seen a rise in prices. Particularly, major cities such as Geneva are now more expensive than other European cities. With some of the priciest homes located along Lake Geneva’s south bank in Cologny and Collonge-Bellerive overseeing the lake and magnificent gardens, it is not hard to see why such properties could fetch high amounts.

For many expats, renting a property is more affordable, and 60 percent of residents rent their properties. However, if you can afford to buy a property in Switzerland, certain rules and regulations might change due to Brexit. While there won’t be any changes if you have already bought your home before Brexit, after Brexit, you will be considered a “person abroad” and you will be subject to the restrictions of Lex Koller.

Here, we will have a quick look at the Swiss property market and then the rules regarding buying property.

The Swiss market

Before 2017, house prices increased by 80.5 percent, forcing the Swiss National Bank to adopt stricter lending criteria and abandon its cap against the euro in order to limit investor demand. In 2017, purchase prices fell by 0.75 percent, while in the second half of 2017, according to Swiss National Bank data, the average asking price per square metre was CHF 11,800 (€10,100) in Zurich, CHF 11,530 (€9,865) in Geneva, and CHF 9,260 (€7,920) in Lausanne.

According to the Financial Times, prices have now risen again due to falling mortgage rates and a shortage of supply, while “imminent corporate tax reforms” are particularly increasing Geneva’s appeal. Alex Koch de Gooreynd, who specialises in the Swiss, Austrian and Portuguese market at Knight Frank, explains that demand from overseas buyers was reduced due to the strong franc, the fall in the pound and euro. An average €23,400 per sq m prime property is, for example, higher than its equivalent of €19,400 in Paris and €13,500 in Frankfurt.

In Collonge-Bellerive, a four-bedroom villa can go for CHF 4.3m (£3.38m) and in Anières a four-bedroom house can go for CHF 3.29m (£2.58m). In Chêne-Bougeries a two-bedroom duplex is CHF 1.595m (£1,25m). With 169 sales this year for properties over €3.6m (£3m), it is obvious that only millionaires can afford a three-bedroom apartment or a four and five-bedroom house.

But, if you cannot afford to buy, renting is a an alternative, with a two-bedroom apartment near Lake Geneva priced at CHF 2,200 (€1,997) per month.  

Purchasing property

Brits’ residence rights have been secured by the Agreement on Acquired Citizens’ Rights (AACR) signed by Switzerland and the UK on 25 February 2019 (new FMOPA). Among other things, the agreement also covers the purchase of real estate by UK citizens in Switzerland and vice versa. The new FMOPA agreement will come into force after the end of the transition period agreed between the EU and the UK. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the AACR shall apply immediately after the UK leaves the EU.

Lex Koller

Lex Koller is the law which limits ownership by foreigners and distinguishes between Swiss residents and non-Swiss residents. The law allocates 1500 permits for non-Swiss residents annually to buy holiday homes not exceeding 200m2 in tourist locations and mountain resorts. However, even those non-EU/EFTA citizens who have a Swiss residency permit are covered by Lex Koller’s restrictions as it applies to their main residence.

According to Lex Koller, “persons abroad” are classified all citizens from the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) who have no legal or actual Swiss residence and citizens of other states with no permanent Swiss residence permit. They are subject to restrictions and, in some cases, may need to acquire Swiss residential property.

Currently, since the UK is still part of the EU, UK citizens are not classified as persons abroad if they have a legal or actual Swiss residence. After Brexit, UK citizens with a legal or actual Swiss residence will need to acquire a permanent Swiss residence permit. However, some of these may not apply with the new FMOPA, as UK citizens will be able to safeguard the rights acquired under the FMOPA.

So, if they already purchased property, this will be respected after Brexit. If at the time of Brexit, UK citizens have already a legal or actual Swiss residence in order to buy Swiss residential property, they won’t require a permanent resident permit.

UK citizens will be able to retain their status as cross-border commuters in Switzerland after Brexit if they purchase Swiss residential property, as a secondary home.

However, after Brexit all those who have no prior Swiss residential property, or legal or actual Swiss residence, and do not qualify as cross-border commuters will be subject to the restrictions of Lex Koller.

Not only does Switzerland have strict rules about purchasing property, but also the process of purchasing a home can be lengthy, lasting more than three months. When you finally decide on your property, keep in mind that you will also need to pay 5% of the purchase price for the notary’s fees (0.2-1 percent) and charges, including a 3 percent property transfer tax and around 1-1.5 percent for registering the deed with the land registry office.

This is why it will be good to plan ahead and get in touch with an expert foreign exchange firm such as Universal Partners FX. UPFX’s specialist currency brokers will make sure that your money is safe by providing you with a range of hedging strategies against the volatility of the currency market.

After over three and a half years of talking, fighting, delays and fearmongering, Brexit is going to happen on 31st January.

This is a cause for celebration for some, but for others it represents the start of great uncertainty – or worse still – the start of decades of decline for the UK. This may come down to the deal that we agree, or if there is a deal at all.

Which way it goes will still be debated and argued over the years to come, but what will happen after 31st January when Brexit is confirmed?

The Brexit deal

Firstly, let’s take a look at the key points of the deal itself. Currently being examined by the House of Lords, the main issues involve travel, money, health, the rights of citizens and of course, trade. The policies set out in the deal will potentially affect currency which can then further impact such things as property prices.

The main focus of the deal is to leave the EU customs union, meaning that the UK will have the freedom to establish their own trade deals with countries around the world.

A significant sticking point was determining how Northern Ireland would be affected, with Boris Johnson eventually replacing the Irish backstop with a new agreement that will begin in December 2020, after the transition period has ended. In summary, this includes a customs declaration system for goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, as well as continued access to the UK market for businesses. Northern Ireland also have the option to vote on their continued membership in this deal four years after the transition period.

Travel

After January 31st, travel plans for UK citizens travelling to EU countries will not be affected.

ABTA, the travel industry’s trade association has said: "If Parliament ratifies the Withdrawal Agreement before 31 January 2020, which it is on track to do, the UK will enter a transition period, meaning everything will remain the same and you can continue to travel as you do now until at least the end of December 2020."

After the transition, a visa similar to the American ESTA will be introduced, expecting to cost around £6 and last for a number of years.

All transport entering the EU, including ferries and cruise ships will not be affected but there may be an additional driving permit if you wish to use your own vehicle within your UK insurance policy in the EU.

Money

Savings are not expected to be affected after Brexit due to all bank trading agreements bought from EU firms being protected by the transition period. There may a short-term gain for savers if interest rates are increased when the Conservative Budget is announced next month.

However, British retirees living abroad may have their pension payments frozen, not benefiting from the EU payment increase, which is based on either inflation, wage increases or 2.5% - whichever is highest. On top of that, those living in the EU and being paid in GBP may lose earnings if the pound falls after Brexit.Property

With house prices showing an increase from November to December last year, estate agents are optimistic that Brexit will finally end the uncertainty that had led to prices stagnating – and falling in some areas - in the UK.

Even with renewed confidence, the February Budget could affect the market, with the potential for reforms for first-time buyers. No-deal is still a slight possibility, so foreign investors will be keeping a close eye on negotiations before parting with their money.

Most estate agents say that surveys have shown that potential buyers generally have overestimated the impact of Brexit so far, and with the political climate much calmer, expect buyers who were holding back to come forward in 2020.

Rental prices are forecasted to rise, due mainly to the lack of rental options on the market.

Currency

The value of the pound can go either way, with a lot of experts claiming the volatility of the past 3 years will calm and the pound will be more stable. Since the start of negotiations, the strength of the pound has been linked to a clean break that protected business, whereas the chaos of a no-deal Brexit has sent the pound down in value. Since the general election result, the pound has rallied due to investors being more comfortable with the prospect of a strong majority Conservative government.

However, with a lot to be done by the end of the transition period – including crucial trade agreements with the EU itself – there could still be choppy waters ahead for GBP. In fact, just this week it was revealed that there are fundamental disagreements between the EU and UK that will almost certainly require more than eight months of negotiations, which formally begin in March.

Trade negotiations

The obvious reason for any difficulties in the negotiations is that the EU believe that the UK should continue to follow some of the EU regulations in order to secure a free-trade agreement. This is mainly due to EU members, including France, asking for a level playing field to be maintained. Trade-offs will likely come into play as the transition period progresses, with a report recently claiming that the UK will allow EU fleets to fish in their waters if bankers and financiers are allowed favourable access to the EU financial markets. The issue with such trade-offs is that invariably they will affect certain demographics unfavourably, which can lead to more stand-offs. With such a tight deadline any significant delays could be disastrous and can bring the no-deal prospect back into the reckoning.

If you require any guidance on your currency exchange during this crucial step of Brexit, reach out to Universal Partners FX; a specialist in delivering expert guidance and the best possible rates for those dealing with foreign currency.

Moving to Spain

Moving to a foreign country is usually a big decision that requires a lot of planning and preparation, whether it’s a long-term commitment or a short-term lifestyle choice.

For many British expats, Spain is the ultimate emigration destination, providing the perfect terminus for those seeking a change of scenery.

Whether you’re seeking a fresh start or a place to retire to, a whole host of Brits have no problem swapping the cold, damp greys for warm, cloudless blues.

If you’re one of those Brits looking to relocate to the land of the siesta, this handy guide for expats in Spain is a must-read.

Do I Need a Visa to Live in Spain?

First things first, as is the case with any international relocation, it’s important to know the legalities of moving to your country of choice and moving to Spain from the UK is no different.

For short-term visits, British expats are allowed to remain in Spain for 90 days over a period of six months; however, if you are planning on residing in Spain for longer than three months, you will need to apply for Spanish residency.

Under the Freedom of Movement Act, citizens of EU countries don’t need a visa to visit, live, work or study in Spain. Instead, EU nationals simply need to register with the authorities and get a national identity number.

However, with Brexit ominously hanging over the UK like the Sword of Damocles, those terms have become somewhat clouded, muddying the Spanish waters for Brits looking to make the journey south.

Expats in Spain After Brexit

If you are or will be an expat in Spain after Brexit, it’s important to become well acquainted with the Brexit process. The results of the negotiations are likely to have a significant impact on expats living in Spain after Brexit, so it’s wise to familiarise yourself with the latest updates.

While the exact details over Brexit and the subsequent implications are murky at best at this stage, there are a few pieces of information that have emerged with regards to Spanish travel.

If the UK severs ties with the EU without a deal, UK nationals that were officially living in Spain prior to the date the UK exits will be considered legal residents for a period of 21 months. According to gov.uk, this ruling will be enforced regardless of whether or not the British national currently holds a Spanish residency document.

Conversely, if the UK does leave the EU with a deal in place, UK nationals will be able to register as a resident in Spain under the current rules, provided they arrive before the end of the implementation period. Such expats will also have their right to Spanish residency protected for as long as they remain living there.

In short, should the UK leave the EU with a deal, travel to the EU will remain unchanged until the end of 2020. On the other hand, if the UK leaves without a deal, rules for travelling and working in Europe will change accordingly.

Good to Know

With the visa/Brexit issue covered, there’s more to life in Spain than admin, paperwork and entry documents.

To prepare you for your Spanish arrival and help you settle in once you touch down on Iberian soil, here are a few facts about life in Spain that are good to know:

Mediterranean Climate

Arguably the biggest draw for would-be expats in Spain, the toasty warmth of the Spanish climate is an attractive proposition for many Brits seeking escape from drab and damp weather of the UK.

The south of Spain is particularly blessed with sunny weather, with the Balearic and Canary Islands boasting a warm climate all-year-round. In the summer months, temperatures in Spain can even break the 40 degrees Celsius barrier.

Even when temperatures drop, the sun is a virtual constant regardless of the season and it’s not unusual for islands like Mallorca to feature sunshine even in December.

According to Spanish travel experts, SeekingTheSpanishSun.com, the five warmest winter destinations in Spain are Marbella, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Costa Tropical and Seville, with temperate highs of 16-22 degrees.

- Property Prices

While growing housing prices in Britain have made it increasingly difficult for many to mount that first rung on the property ladder, the same can’t be said for real estate in Spain.

Low-interest rates – particularly in coastal regions – make Spain an attractive proposition for property buyers.

In fact, national statistics show that there is 78% home ownership in Spain, considerably higher than the UK and notably above the EU average.

For additional help buying a property in Spain, you may want to enlist the aid of a gestor who will be able to guide you through the process smoothly.

Cost of Living

Another huge perk of life in Spain, the cost of living is lower than the UK in almost every measurable metric.

According to statistics website, Numbeo, Spanish prices trump the British equivalent across the board, with an overwhelming majority of goods and services costing less en España.

From groceries and rent to cigarettes and beer, the Spaniards have us Brits well and truly trumped.

Dining out is also cheaper, providing all the more reason to enjoy some tapas and a few sangrias with friends.

However, there are some curious exceptions to the rule, with items like cheese, beef and bananas all costing around 15-20% more.

However, it’s worth noting that the average monthly salary is also less in Spain, which does offset the price differential somewhat.

Easy Does It

Spain is renowned worldwide for its laid-back lifestyle and the slower pace of life can be a huge culture shock for those used to the hectic pace of working life in the UK.

That being said, it’s undoubtedly a welcome change for many and the relaxed approach is the polar opposite to the daily rush many of us Brits have become accustomed to.

A famous part of this calmer approach is, of course, the mid-afternoon siestas. Meanwhile, it’s not unusual for morning routines to run into early afternoon.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the entire month of August is traditionally viewed as a domestic holiday month for most Spanish natives.

While this is great for relaxing and reinforces Spain as a fantastic destination to unwind and enjoy life, it can make things difficult when it comes to errands and admin.

As such, if you need to get something important done, it’s best to arrange your activity outside of these times, where possible.

Transferring Money to Spain

Of course, no UK expat in Spain will be able to survive very long without financial backing. As such, moving money to Spain from the UK is a vital part of the process.

Whether you’re looking to purchase a property or arrange accommodation rental, transferring funds from the UK to Spain is a necessary part of securing a place to stay prior to arrival.

Prior to doing so, it’s important to secure the best exchange rate possible. Doing your due diligence and getting the right exchange rate can provide substantial savings.

In order to ensure you get the best exchange rate for transferring money to Spain, Universal Partners FX is here to do just that.

Our safe, secure transaction process allows you to transfer money to Spain quickly and effectively with no hidden transaction fees or strings attached.

To transfer money to Spain, simply follow our easy three-step process:

  1. Register for free
  2. Secure your exchange rate
  3. We make your payment

With a 5-star rating from independent review site Feefo, we have a proven track record as a top-quality FX partner. Send money to Spain with Universal Partners FX and give your transfer trouble a siesta today.

For more advice for expats in Spain or to find out more about sending money to Spain from the UK, why not drop us a line today? Call 020 7190 9559 now or get in touch online by using the button below.

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IBAN Validation

If you are attempting to conduct international business, payment or money transfer, you may have come across the acronym “IBAN”. If not, it’s well worth getting acquainted.

Luckily, this blog aims to do just that. Read on for a crash course guide to IBAN validation.

What is an IBAN?

IBAN stands for International Bank Account Number, referring to the numerical identifier used to differentiate foreign bank accounts and streamline cross-border transactions.

As of 2019, there are 75 countries in total that officially use the IBAN, 34 of which are SEPA members.

Features of an IBAN

The IBAN itself consists of two letters and two digits followed by up to 30 alphanumerical characters.

IBAN vs SWIFT

Often lumped together as one in the same, IBAN and SWIFT codes are, in actual fact, separate entities used to identify different things.

While the IBAN is used to identify an individual account involved in an international transaction, a SWIFT code is used to identify a specific bank during an international transaction.

Checking an IBAN Number

IBAN validation is an effective method of minimising failed transactions when processing domestic and international payments.

For more information on IBAN numbers and IBAN validation, why not speak with one of our financial experts today? Call now on 020 7190 9559 or get in touch online by clicking the linked button below.

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The pound has dropped to its lowest level since 27 December, after the ONS released its latest GDP estimate for the month of November.

ONS numbers

According to the ONS, the UK GDP grew by 0.1% in the three months to November, while it shrank by 0.3% in November 2019. The contraction in November was worse than expected as uncertainty over the general election and the threat of crashing out of the EU without a deal in October weighed on the economy.

As the ONS figures demonstrate, the services and production sectors grew by 0.1% and 1.1%, respectively in the three months to November 2019, but the production sector fell by 0.6%, its second consecutive rolling three-month decline, while manufacturing output fell by 1.7%.

The ONS stated: “Production fell by 1.2% in the month of November 2019, following growth of 0.4% in October. Within production, manufacturing fell by 1.7%. This was largely driven by large falls in the manufacture of transport equipment, food, and chemicals. These industries were also the main drags on growth in April 2019, just after the UK's original planned date to exit the European Union as shown in Figure 5. This may be indicative of some changes in the timing of activity around the second planned departure in October.”

Today’s figures confirm that the UK economy has slowed for two consecutive months, shrinking in April-June, then showing 0.4% growth in July-September, something which has helped to avoid a recession. It has slowed again to 0.2% in August-October, and 0.1% in September-November.

The Office for National Statistics’ head of GDP, Rob Kent-Smith, said that UK growth was at its lowest level since 2012: “Overall, the economy grew slightly in the latest three months, with growth in construction pulled back by weakening services and another lacklustre performance from manufacturing. The UK economy grew slightly more strongly in September and October than was previously estimated, with later data painting a healthier picture. Long term, the economy continues to slow, with growth in the economy compared with the same time last year at its lowest since the spring of 2012.”

UK economy stagnant

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) noted that the “latest data confirm that UK economic growth had petered out at the end of last year. GDP was virtually flat in the 3m to Nov & latest surveys point to further stagnation in Dec. The short-term economic outlook is for more lacklustre growth.”

More importantly, the idea of the Bank of England having to cut interest rates has resurfaced as investment strategists and traders have mentioned.

Bank of England: Interest rate cut?

The latest GDP data has boosted the chances of UK interest rates being cut soon, possibly at the Bank of England’s meeting at the end of January. Matthew Cady, investment strategist at Brooks Macdonald, said: “UK GDP for November has come in at negative -0.3%. This is quite a bit weaker than had been expected. Consensus had been looking for zero growth month on month. Against this, both September and October were revised up by 0.2% and 0.1% points respectively. The weaker GDP print today puts beyond doubt that the next Bank of England meeting at the end of January is going to be a ‘live’ meeting.”

Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank, said that the possibility of an interest rate cut has risen to 50%: “With a growing chorus on the MPC apparently open to the prospect of a rate cut, if the data points in that direction, today’s release might well tip the balance of one or two members ahead of the meeting on 30 January, where the market probability assigned to a 25 bps cut has risen to 50% versus 5% at the start of last week.”

However, it is also wise to be positive and consider the GDP numbers as indicative of a specific time period rather than of a future trend, as business confidence can return after Boris Johnson’s election. As chief economist at PwC, John Hawksworth, clarified, today’s data relates to a specific “period of heightened economic and political uncertainty” and that “our latest survey of the financial services sector with the CBI does suggest some boost to optimism since the election.”

Transferring funds abroad?

If you are worried about currency volatility and the uncertainty over Brexit, contact Universal Partner’s FX expert foreign exchange team. UPFX’s currency specialists have years of experience in transferring money overseas delivering funds safely and securely. If you want to safeguard your finances, avoid huge bank fees and get competitive rates, UPFX is your choice. Get in touch with them today, to get the best deal on your international money transfers.

Two-Factor Authentication

When signing into a website, the information typically requested consists of a simple combination of a username and password. This is often all that is needed to sign in to a user’s account.

Some websites will also include additional steps, such as security questions and PIN numbers, in order to gain access to your account.

However, perhaps the most secure means of protecting your account is to utilise two-factor authentication as a way of preventing unwanted access.

But how does it work? Our article explores the inner workings.

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Also known as 2FA, two-factor authentication is a supplementary measure applied to the login process in order to protect your account. This provides an additional security measure to help keep your account safe.

Why Use Two-Factor Authentication?

When it comes to dealing with money and financial accounts, access by anyone other than the account holder can pose a huge issue. As such, any actions to prevent such an issue are welcome.

In order to avoid anyone else gaining unwanted access to your account, many sites have implemented two-factor authentication as a means of providing additional protection against hackers and illegal entry.

Naturally, using additional login steps to confirm your identity and grant access to your account provides additional barriers and reduces the likelihood of your account be hacked.

How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

As the name suggests, two-factor authentication involves a two-step process whereby you confirm your identity by using another account personal to you.

Common methods of two-factor authentication include SMS text message and voice call to your mobile phone or landline.

Upon login, you will be prompted to enter a code, which you will be sent via one of the means above. Once received, simply enter the given number to prove you are who you same you are and you will be granted access instantly. 

For more information on two-factor authentication and the benefits of account security measures, why not drop us a line today? Call now on 020 7190 9559 to speak with one of our experts or drop us an email online by clicking the button below.

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