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Moving to Channel Islands

Situated in the English Channel, the Channel Islands are an archipelago just off the coast of Normandy, France. The two largest islands are Jersey and Guernsey, while smaller inhabited islands include Alderney and Sark.

The Channel Islands have been a dependency of the UK since the 11th century, but technically they aren't part of the United Kingdom. The islands are governed as two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Each bailiwick sets its own policies for central issues such as healthcare, immigration, homeownership, schooling and more. Britain is responsible only for the islands' defence and foreign affairs. However, in terms of culture, cuisine and history, the Channel Islands have been most influenced by nearby France.

The Channel Islands are well known for being a 'tax haven' and, while the islands are not entirely tax-free, taxes do tend to be lower on the islands than in many other countries. Finance and banking services are the backbone of both Jersey and Guernsey's economies, with tourism being another major industry. Expats with skills and qualifications in these fields and who can prove that they can fill a skills gap are sure to find lucrative employment on the islands.

Accommodation isn't easy to come by on in the Channel Islands, as housing permits are often granted only to expats who will fill skills gaps in the local markets, or bring important revenue to the islands. Added to that, space is obviously at a premium on the islands which means demand for housing is incredibly high, and this makes it even harder for expats to find a place to live in the Channel Islands.

However, those expats who are able to secure employment and housing often report an outstanding quality of life, and often stay far longer than intended. The archipelago's central location between the UK and Europe also makes for easy access and convenient travel.


Fast facts

Population: 175,000

Capital city: Saint Helier (Jersey) and Saint Peter Port (Guernsey)

Neighbouring countries: The English Channel completely surrounds the Channel Islands. The closest countries are England to the north and France to the south and east.

Geography: There are seven permanently inhabited islands, of which Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark are the most populous. There are also a number of uninhabited islets.

Political system: The islands are dependent territories of the British Crown, and defence and international affairs are handled by the UK. However, they have their own legal system, administrative bodies and fiscal policies.

Major religion: Christianity

Main languages: English

Money: The currency of the UK is the British Pound Sterling (GBP), which is subdivided into 100 pence. There are local versions of the British Pound in both Guernsey (GGP) and Jersey (JEP). Notes and coins from the UK can be used in the Channel Islands but currency from the Channel Islands can't be used elsewhere.

Tipping: 10 to 15 percent of the bill in restaurants, hotels and taxis is the norm if a service charge has not already been added.

Time: GMT +1

Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Plugs have either three flat blades or two round pins.

Internet domain: .uk; .je (Jersey); .gg (Guernsey)

International dialling code: +44

Emergency contacts: 999 or 112

Transport and driving: Driving is on the left-hand side. Jersey and Guernsey both have efficient bus systems. Some residents use private cars but on the smaller islands no motorised vehicles are allowed. In this case, travel is either by bicycle or on foot.

Weather in Channel Islands

The Channel Islands have a similar climate to that of the UK, although it tends to be slightly warmer and sunnier. Temperatures remain moderate throughout the year, and rainfall is commonplace. Winters tend to be damp and cloudy, while summers are warm and sunny. With a relatively mild and predictable climate, the Channel Islands are rarely subject to extreme weather or temperature variations.

July and August are the warmest months. Maximum temperatures hover between 66°F (19°C) and 71°F (22°C). Conversely, the coolest and wettest months are January and February. This time of year also brings the highest chance of snow, which is a rare occurrence. Typical maximum temperatures in winter are between 46°F (8°C) and 50°F (10°C).

 

Embassy contacts for Channel Islands

British embassies

  • British Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 588 6500

  • British High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 1530

  • British High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6270 6666

  • British High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 421 7500

  • British Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 205 3700

  • British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 924 2888


Foreign embassies responsible for the Channel Islands 

  • United States Embassy, London: +44 20 7499 9000

  • Canadian High Commission, London: +44 20 7004 6053

  • Australian High Commission, London: +44 20 7379 4334

  • South African High Commission, London: +44 20 7451 7299

  • Irish Embassy, London: +44 20 7235 2171

  • New Zealand High Commission, London: +44 20 7930 8422

Public holidays in Channel Islands

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Good Friday

2 April

15 April

Easter Monday

5 April

18 April

Early May Bank Holiday

3 May

2 May

Liberation Day

9 May

9 May

Spring Bank Holiday

31 May

30 May

Summer Bank Holiday

30 August

29 August

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*Some dates vary between islands. When a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is a public holiday. 

Working in Channel Islands

The Channel Islands have traditionally relied on agriculture, but tourism and offshore banking are now the strongest economic sectors in both Guernsey and Jersey. The banking industry is particularly attractive to expats, as is the fact that the islands boast a very favourable tax environment. But unless expats are British citizens, they will need to prove that they have skills or expertise not found in the local workforce in order to get a job on any of the islands.


Job market in Channel Islands

The good news for job seekers is that the islands have low unemployment rates, with conditions being slightly more favourable in Guernsey. Jersey's unemployment rate is less than five percent, while Guernsey's unemployment rate is typically around two percent.

Still, expats who want to work in the Channel Islands will need to have niche skills that can't be found in the local population in order to qualify for a visa. Having extra qualifications or specialised experience will go a long way toward finding a place in the workforce.


Finding a job in Channel Islands

The governments of both Jersey and Guernsey have online job centres where employers can advertise work opportunities. Recruitment agencies and other online job portals, including social-networking sites such as LinkedIn, are also good resources.

If already in Guernsey or Jersey, expats should take advantage of their situation by putting out word that they're looking for work. Since the islands have such a small population, networking is key and personal recommendations can go a long way.


Work culture in Channel Islands

Expats familiar with the work cultures of the UK or France will notice many similarities in the workplace in both Jersey and Guernsey.

As in the UK, most businesses in the Channel Islands have hierarchical structures, though some companies are moving towards a more egalitarian approach to management, where all employees are invited and encouraged to weigh in during important business discussions. 

Doing business in Channel Islands

Thanks to the favourable tax climate, many expats find that the Channel Islands are an excellent place to open a business. Those who do find that the business culture is heavily influenced by both British and French customs.


Fast facts

Business language

English and, less frequently, French

Business hours

Typically Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, with an hour for lunch. 

Greetings

Expats should avoid addressing colleagues by their first names until asked to do so. Correct use of titles is important too.

Dress

Businesspeople in the Channel Islands tend to dress professionally and conservatively, but the exact dress code differs from company to company.

Gifts

It is considered polite to take a small gift like flowers or chocolates when invited to a colleague’s home.


Business culture in Channel Islands

Expats familiar with business culture in the UK or France will notice many similarities when doing business in the Channel Islands.

Management style

As with many corporations in the United Kingdom, most businesses in the Channel Islands have a hierarchical structure, with the most important decisions being made at the very highest levels. Employees lower down in the hierarchy are expected to carry out orders without giving much input into decision-making. That said, some companies are moving towards a more egalitarian approach to management, where all employees are invited and encouraged to weigh in during important business discussions. 

Communication style

It’s important for expats working in the Channel Islands to be tactful in all their business dealings. Delicacy and finesse are also valuable tools for expats to use when adjusting to their new business culture.

Accommodation in Channel Islands

Expats moving to the Channel Islands may be surprised to learn that finding and arranging accommodation is often a complicated matter involving a lot of red tape.


Types of accommodation in Channel Islands

Housing is restricted in both Guernsey and Jersey and housing permits are often granted only to expats who will fill skills gaps in the local markets, or bring important revenue to the islands.

Expats who can't obtain a government-issued housing permit are limited to living in boarding houses, tourist accommodation or lodging in private homes. Those who have a housing permit are eligible to rent or buy a home in the Channel Islands.


Finding accommodation in Channel Islands

Because accommodation and space are limited on the islands, demand for housing is incredibly high, and this makes it even harder for expats to find a place to live in the Channel Islands.

Laws governing foreigners’ rights to rent or buy property also differ from one island to the next. For this reason, expats are advised to contact an estate agent, immigration specialist or property lawyer based in the Channel Islands to ensure they find a suitable home with minimal hassle.

Healthcare in Channel Islands

While the standard of healthcare in the Channel Islands is good, expats should be aware that costs can be high. For most new arrivals, medical insurance is essential, at least initially.

The two bailiwicks have their own separate healthcare systems. Though the Channel Islands have links to the UK, their healthcare is not part of the NHS. It is also important to note that EU nationals will not be able to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) on either island.


Healthcare in Jersey

While Jersey has reciprocal health agreements with select countries, most expats will have to cover their own medical expenses or take out private health insurance. Emergency treatment is, however, free for everyone.

Once an expat has been resident in the bailiwick of Jersey for six months and has made the required social services contributions, they become eligible for a Social Security Health Card. Holders of this card have access to discounted GP consultations. If the GP prescribes any medication, it's provided free of charge.

Thanks to a reciprocal agreement between Jersey and France, French citizens are eligible for the Social Security Health Card right away and aren't required to observe the six-month waiting period. Jersey also has reciprocal healthcare agreements with a number of other countries, including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, among a few others. However, only short-term visitors can take advantage of these, meaning they aren't of much use to expats moving to Jersey for the long term. 

Emergency medical services

In Jersey, emergency care is provided free to anyone who needs it. Non-residents will need to pay for all non-emergency services and care. This includes any treatments outside the public emergency departments as well as post-emergency evacuation and repatriation costs.


Healthcare in Guernsey

New arrivals in Guernsey will be liable to pay for GP visits as well as hospital care, even in an emergency. In emergencies, a flat fee is charged depending on the time of presentation at the hospital as well as the nature of the emergency. After-hours visits to the hospital are more expensive and consultation charges increase with the severity of the condition, which will be categorised as minor, intermediate, major or critical.

Those who are employed in Guernsey and make social security contributions will have access to a number of benefits. For example, consultations with a registered doctor or nurse are subsidised, and those who are referred to a specialist by their GP receive free specialist treatment. Social security also provides access to certain prescribed medications and medical appliances for only a small fee.

Emergency medical services

St John Emergency Ambulance Service operates Guernsey's only ambulance service, providing accident and emergency cover and paramedic response 24 hours a day. St John is only partially subsidised by the government, though, and ambulance services are expensive. 

Guernsey residents have the option to support St John by purchasing a yearly subscription. This subscription entitles them to use the service free of charge and is generally a good deal, given that one ambulance trip costs approximately 10 times the yearly subscription fee. Health insurance is also accepted as payment for ambulance services. Patients without health insurance or a subscription have to pay the full ambulance fee.


Pharmacies in Channel Islands

Pharmacies are easy to find in both Jersey and Guernsey. Certain pharmacies stay open after hours and on weekends. Most hospitals have pharmacies attached to them.

Education and Schools in Channel Islands

As with many other aspects of living in the Channel Islands, the education system differs from one bailiwick to the next. As such, expats will need to take into account the exact location of their new home before considering schooling options for their children. There are a few common aspects, however.

Compulsory schooling throughout the Channel Islands is from ages 5 to 16, after which most students choose to continue with either A-Levels or the International Baccalaureate, either of which can be obtained through the various post-secondary schools. Public schooling is free of charge from ages 3 to 18. Schools in Jersey and Guernsey generally follow the same curriculum as in England and offer high standards of education.


Public schools in Channel Islands

Public schools in the Channel Islands are either completely free (non-fee-paying) or partly funded by the government (fee-paying). Though fee-paying schools aren't free, the fact that they are partly government-funded means that fees are much lower than at private schools.

There are around 25 non-fee-paying primary and secondary schools in Jersey, with most primary schools also having a pre-school section. Jersey is also home to two primary and two secondary fee-paying government schools.

Guernsey has fewer than 20 non-fee-paying primary and secondary schools. The only alternative option is private schools, since there aren't any fee-paying government schools in Guernsey.


Private schools in Channel Islands

Expats can choose to send their children to one of a handful of independent private schools on the islands, but these are few and far between and are significantly more expensive. They are typically single-sex schools with a religious basis. Jersey has around 10 private schools, most of which are primary schools, while Guernsey has fewer than five private schools.


Special-needs education in Channel Islands

If parents think that their child may need extra assistance in school, they can put in a request for their child to be assessed by the local council. Children with special educational needs will have an individual plan drawn up by the council. This plan will specify a particular school for them to attend, be it a mainstream or special school. The named school is obligated to give the child a place.


Tutors in Channel Islands

Tutors can be helpful for expat families in a number of situations. Children from abroad may need a little help with catching up to the local curriculum or could benefit from extra tutoring for the English language if it isn't their mother tongue. Those parents worried about children losing their mother-tongue language skills while in the Channel Islands should consider hiring a tutor who is a fellow native speaker and who can help maintain fluency.

There's a wide variety of tutoring companies to choose from, with some of the most popular being First Tutors and Allangate Academics.

Transport and Driving in Channel Islands

Getting around the Channel Islands is reasonably straightforward, thanks to a good network of roads and public transport options that include buses and ferries.


Public transport in Channel Islands

Buses

Both Guernsey and Jersey have efficient bus services. In Guernsey, passengers are charged at a flat rate. In Jersey, fares are based on the distance of the journey and tickets can be bought from the driver.

Trains

The smaller isle of Alderney has the only railway service in the Channel Islands group. Mostly a historical attraction, the track is just two miles long and only runs once or twice a day on Saturdays.

Ferries

Ferries are a popular means of getting from island to island. In addition to these inter-island ferry connections, there are regular services to France and the UK. 


Taxis in Channel Islands

Taxis cover both main islands, and can be caught at designated ranks or booked ahead of time by phone.  


Driving in Channel Islands

Driving in the Channel Islands is on the left-hand side of the road. While Guernsey and Jersey have reasonably good road networks, the smaller islands of Sark and Herm are car-free zones.

Expats looking to have their own motor vehicle in the Channel Islands will also need to consider the challenges associated with island driving. For instance, parking is limited and as such it’s strictly controlled by the local authorities; motorists parked in the wrong spot and those who run over their allotted parking times are liable to be fined. On the other hand, fuel is relatively inexpensive compared to the prices common in England, and distances are short.

Once resident in the Channel Islands, expats will need to get a local licence. Some countries have an exchange agreement, allowing expats to simply swap their licence for a local one. If an expat is from a country without such an agreement, they'll have to take practical and written tests to get their licence.


Cycling in Channel Islands

Bicycles are a highly popular mode of transport in the Channel Islands. Guernsey and Jersey both have cycle networks with a number of different routes available for different ability levels. 


Air travel in Channel Islands

Guernsey and Jersey each have a major airport that is accessible by bus and taxi. Parking and car rental facilities are offered at both. Flights between these two islands are about 20 minutes long.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Channel Islands

Banks have played a key role in the development of the Channel Islands as an international financial centre. These institutions represent a range of countries and include a variety of banks with head offices all over the world.


Currency in Channel Islands

The official currency throughout the Channel Islands is the pound sterling, which is divided into 100 pence. Although it’s the same unit as used in the United Kingdom, the bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey produce their own notes and coins. British currency is accepted throughout the Channel Islands, but Guernsey (GGP) and Jersey (JEP) pounds can’t be used outside the islands. 

  • Notes: 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 GGP/JEP

  • Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence, and 2 GGP/JEP


Banking in Channel Islands

The Channel Islands boast a good selection of both local and international banks, including most of the big British banks such as Barclays and Lloyds.

The range of services offered is quite diverse. Some banks provide retail services such as savings and transactional accounts, mortgages, personal loans, and debit and credit cards, while others cater to the affluent expat market with offshore investment opportunities.

ATMs are widely available in Guernsey and Jersey, often located at the branches themselves, but may be harder to find on the smaller islands.


Taxes in Channel Islands

Taxes in the Channel Islands are considered relatively low, and there is no VAT, capital gains tax or inheritance tax. This is one of the biggest attractions to expats and offshore investors. However, the laws governing tax are constantly being changed and made stricter, and it’s best for expats moving to the Channel Islands to get advice from a resident tax expert who will have access to the latest information.