Insurance and expats: what do you really need?

No matter how much you plan ahead, you can never predict the future. This is a concept often understood and accepted by expats who regularly spend their working life moving from place to place. However, even the most seasoned expat should have insurance policies in place to make sure they are covered if anything unexpected should happen.

When deciding what type of insurance cover is right for you, there are many different factors to consider. We have taken a look at some of the main forms of insurance available to expats, including expat health insurance and travel insurance, to help you determine what type of cover is best suited to your current and future plans as an expatriate.

Health insurance for expats

Expat health insurance is a medical insurance product designed to cover any medical expenses incurred by expats while working or living abroad. While the UK has a health care system in place that covers the vast majority of medical costs we incur, this is not the case for most other countries. In fact, medical expenses can be some of the largest costs associated with living and working overseas.

As with all types of insurance, there are many different types of expat health insurance available and cover should be chosen based on your personal circumstances – as well as any changes you are expecting in the near future. For example, some health insurance for expats is designed to cover the whole family, so you can pay for a single policy that protects every family member who is travelling or living with you. There are also medical insurance policies that can be adapted to include pre-existing conditions, so you can obtain care related to a diagnosed condition while living overseas. This is a particularly attractive benefit to many expats retiring abroad, some of whom already have medical issues in place that require ongoing care.

Critical illness cover

Similar to health insurance for expats, critical illness cover will provide you with financial aid if you are hit by an unexpected disease or a severe illness that has a significant impact on your lifestyle. Unlike medical insurance, critical illness cover provides financial security in a number of areas including accommodation costs, utility bills and other outgoings, all of which could be impacted by the discovery of a serious medical condition that may prevent you from working. Many policies will also cover expenses such as any changes required in your home or vehicle as a result of injury.

There are many conditions that are covered by critical illness cover, and each policy will have its own stipulations, but some of the common conditions and diseases included are:

  • traumatic head injuries
  • significant physical injury such as a loss of limbs
  • cancer
  • heart attacks
  • strokes
  • organ transplants
  • deafness
  • blindness

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is common for many people who choose to travel abroad, even if their trip is purely for leisure purposes. For most of us, it is an insurance policy that provides peace of mind in case we injure ourselves or have our holiday unexpectedly cancelled, but we rarely expect to make use of it. However, travel insurance for expats can provide crucial cover during periods of travel that are uncertain, short or sporadic. For example, travel insurance can cover you during an outward journey to your new home abroad, as well as for any travel you take on public transport during this time.

Typically, travel insurance covers a range of potential costs during your coverage period, including:

  • medical expenses
  • hospital benefits
  • personal accident cover
  • belongings and baggage
  • legal costs
  • accommodation costs

While each of these products is included in most policies, it is important to remember that travel insurance is a temporary form of cover so you should upgrade your policies as soon as you arrive at your destination to ensure you are adequately protected. This is particularly important when it comes to medical cover, as many countries require you to have comprehensive expat health insurance in place by law. In fact, you may be expected to travel to your destination with both travel and medical insurance in place, so check the regulations associated with your destination before you set off.

Car insurance

A very familiar concept, car insurance is an important policy for any driver to have in place regardless of location. Whether you have chosen to take your car abroad with you, you have purchased a new vehicle abroad or you plan to rent a car while living overseas, you should seek out suitable car insurance before you get behind the wheel. Car insurance is often easy to adapt to your needs, with many providers offering flexible coverage that can be tailored to include multi-country cover, roadside assistance and cover for specialist vehicles.

Regardless of the type of cover you need, now that Britain has left the EU the law states that drivers are required to carry a green card to prove they have insurance in place before driving in the bloc. Some countries also require you to have health insurance for expats, which will cover your medical expenses if you suffer an injury as a result of a road traffic accident.

Income protection cover

No matter where in the world you live, your lifestyle is largely dictated by your income. Should you fall on hard times while living in the UK, there are many government provisions in place to help you get back on your feet. However, the same help is not always true in other countries, particularly in the case of expats who are not considered residents. To ensure that you can maintain or continue to plan for the lifestyle you want, you can choose to take up income protection cover.

Income protection cover is just as described, offering protection for your income should anything happen that affects the amount you are earning. This can include anything from illness and injury to redundancy and loss of your job. While the cover varies, most will provide income support while you look for a new job or recover enough from illness or injury to be able to return to work.

As with all insurance, there is often a limit in place that will dictate the maximum amount you are able to claim. Additional insurance, such as expat health insurance, can be put in place to help cover your expenses where your income protection insurance is unable to help.

Finding the right cover for you

There are many different types of insurance on offer but that does not mean you will require each and every policy that is available to you. When considering what insurance is worth your financial investment, take some time to consider your current and future plans. What cover will you need in the foreseeable future? What unexpected changes could impact your ability to stick to your plans? Do you have the financial stability to keep yourself afloat if something goes wrong? These are all questions you should ask yourself before deciding on insurance. We also recommend that you speak to an independent financial advisor, who can use their expertise to help guide you as you seek out the right balance of insurance policies based on your personal circumstances.

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