Expats’ Special Insurance Needs

Everyone faces risks that require reliable insurance coverage.  Expats face the same risks as well as additional risks caused by their decision to live abroad.  It is important to recognise the risks that you face and to be sure that the coverage does not have terms invalidating the insurance because of your location or because of the fact that you live abroad.

Everybody needs to arrange insurance cover that reflects their unique individual circumstances.  Life as an expat involves issues that are specific to their lifestyle, such as the need for an interpreter if you are in an accident or taken ill, the potential for leaving your home empty for the long term.  It is important to arrange insurance policies that have international coverage and to keep your insurance company informed if you move to a new country as it may impact the rate, level and type of cover may need adjusting. In effect, this could mean changing or updating your policy every time you move.  It is also possible to take out a portable policy that can move with you, wherever you are in the world.

Health insurance is a requirement for expats in many countries, especially where there is no reliable state provision or there are restrictions on access to healthcare.  There are many other types of insurance that expats need to consider.


International life insurance

Most insurance policies are aimed at residents of the countries where the policy is issued and the risk associated with living in different countries makes it impossible for life insurance policies to cover all countries internationally by default.  Some policies will cover you if you only move to one of a certain small number of countries, eg British expats moving to a country in the European Union or to the US you may be covered.

If you are taking up a role abroad in a hazardous occupation or in a country where there are travel warnings in place or where there is conflict or which has been declared a war zone then you are likely to need to approach a specialist insurer. Many policies specifically exclude deaths as a result of war or political unrest and so even if you could persuade your present insurer to extend coverage, it may not be comprehensive enough for your situation.

Although it can be convenient to extend your present cover to take account of your new situation the premiums they offer you or the coverage provided may not be the best you could get and there are likely to be benefits to shopping around.

There may also be restrictions to the period a domestic policy will cover you for such special risks while you are abroad and if you are likely to be an expat for prolonged period it will be advisable to find a firm which specialises in expat coverage or a company offering worldwide insurance policies.


Kidnap insurance

Accurate figures for the number of people kidnapped each year are difficult to find as many are never reported.  Although there are many known hotspots, kidnaps can occur anywhere in the world.  If you are a senior executive of a high-profile company the risks may be higher, but it can impact anyone working in a high-risk area.  It can impact frequent travellers as well as expats.

While kidnap and ransom insurance gives coverage against the financial risks of being abducted, it is also important have access to security experts to advise on how to reduce the risks as well as to specialist response teams able put the necessary resources in place to respond immediately in the event of an incident.


Property insurance

Expats face risk for properties that are their second home abroad as well as the home they have left behind temporarily either left empty or rented out while they are abroad.

When you retain your property there are greater risks if the home is left empty.  You can arrange someone to look after the property while you are away, but if it is empty there will be greater risks of burglary, vandalism or arson.  Domestic policies will often only cover limited periods if the property is left unoccupied.  Specialist expat property insurers are generally the best option to cover the risks if the property is to be left empty for the long term.

If you are renting out your property while you are away standard domestic home insurance does not cover the risks and Overseas Landlord Insurance should be obtained.   Landlord policies should protect you against accidental damage, tenants defaulting on their payments and legal costs associated with contract disputes or repossessing the property. Even with specialist landlord insurance you should check for unoccupancy clauses which can require regular checks of the property as well as other requirements to protect the property.  It can be worth considering using a specialist broker as they will be aware of the issues faced by non-resident landlords as well as being able to assist with claims.

You property abroad can be insured locally or, if you move frequently, you can consider an international property insurance policy, which will ensure your personal belongings are covered whether in transit, in your foreign residence or while travelling.

In addition to these major insurance policies you should always check that your travel insurance is not restricted based on the time you spend abroad.  You should also check the terms of any income protection, permanent disability or other insurance, especially if you are operating in high-risk areas.