Finding Your Feet in Guernsey

Community, Guernsey

Jo Stoddart would have appreciated having someone to ask for advice when she moved to Guernsey 17 years ago. Despite having lived in Paris, London and Jersey, it took time for Yorkshire-born Jo to acclimatise. Luckily for those thinking of making the island their home, Locate Guernsey is here to help.

‘When I first moved to the Channel Islands, some of the basic mistakes I made included cancelling my UK TV licence rather than just changing the address and posting a birthday card using an English stamp, not knowing that the islands each had their own stamps,’ says Jo. In addition to these practicalities, Jo and her family found their first year rather stressful, as it took time to settle in and make new friends. Jo worked for Swoffers when she first came to Guernsey, and met many people who had the same questions she’d had when she arrived. This led Jo to set up a business helping relocators move to the island, and when the position of Director of Locate Guernsey came up a few years later, it was the perfect fit.

Locate Guernsey is a government agency tasked with promoting the island to individuals and businesses as a relocation destination, and helping them to make an informed decision about whether life on the island would be right for them. ‘We seek to help people and make sure they can hit the ground running from the start, and part of that is managing their expectations and helping them to understand some of the differences which they might not be expecting. The cost of off-island travel, slightly higher food costs and other such quirks need to be considered. New residents can buy all different types of Open Market properties, but they’re likely to have a choice of three or four of each type, not 23 or 24.’ Helping people to understand what island life will be like is in everyone’s interests, as Jo explains: ‘Occasionally a relocation can go wrong because people didn’t know what to expect and if that happens it can be unpleasant for everyone involved.’

An important part of helping relocators to settle is to introduce them to like-minded people. ‘We organise quite a few social events each year and these have been really successful,’ says Jo. ‘We want those who have made a conscious decision to come here to integrate into the community if they want to. I’d say for the most part people do want to get involved, which is fantastic because we can benefit so much as a community from the experience they bring.’ Examples abound of the differences that inspirational newcomers have made to the island in areas as diverse as art, hospitality, charity and sport. 

On 3rd October this year, Locate Guernsey will be holding the first ever Relocate to Guernsey Show in London, at 200 Aldersgate, St Paul’s. The purpose of this inaugural event will be to provide potential relocators with information about why they should, and how they can, relocate to Guernsey. Professionals from Guernsey such as advocates, tax advisers and estate agents will be present to provide information and answer questions, and attendees will also be able to enjoy some informative seminars about Guernsey and the relocation process. There will also be some recent relocators on hand throughout the day who will be happy to share their own stories and talk about their personal experiences of relocation to Guernsey to others who are considering making the move.

The pandemic opened many people’s eyes to the fact they could work remotely from anywhere. ‘It made a lot of people realise they no longer had to live in or near a big city, so the option to live in a safe, secure, stable and beautiful environment with a great work-life balance suddenly became more achievable,’ says Jo. A number have relocated from Hong Kong and Singapore, to be nearer to family in the UK. ‘They don’t want to live there for all kinds of reasons, but it’s only a 40-minute flight from Guernsey to London Gatwick if they need to pop over to the UK.’

Recent global events have also encouraged an increase in the number of Guernsey people returning from all over the world. People who always thought they might come home one day have decided to do so, and many of them connect with Locate Guernsey.

The consequences of Brexit have been felt in Guernsey as, due to the new immigration rules, those who are relocating for personal or wealth reasons to live in the Open Market now need to hold either a British passport or settled status in the UK. This does not affect those professionals who have been offered a job in Guernsey which qualifies for an employment permit, as they are still able to relocate for their job irrespective of their nationality. Those who do not hold a UK passport or settled status but who are looking to establish a business in Guernsey can still apply for an Entrepreneur Visa, however the Investor Visa was withdrawn in February 2022.

Jo and the team derive great satisfaction from the many success stories they have played a part in. ‘It’s part of my job to paint a picture in people’s minds of what their life in Guernsey might look like, so when that picture is even brighter than they imagined, and they say to me that life in Guernsey is even better than they thought it would be, it makes it all worthwhile.’ 

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