CFDs are leveraged products. CFD trading may not be suitable for everyone and can result in losses that exceed your deposits, so please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. CFDs are leveraged products. CFD trading may not be suitable for everyone and can result in losses that exceed your deposits, so please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved.

How to buy international and foreign shares in the UK

Some of the biggest stocks in the world are listed overseas, but that doesn’t mean that they’re out of the reach of the average UK investor. Read on to find out how to buy international shares and stocks from the UK.

Choose how you want to buy international and foreign stocks

There are two ways to buy international stocks – by investing or trading derivatives.

When you are investing in foreign stocks, you are buying shares outright at their full value with the intention of holding onto these shares for a period of time. Trading international shares involves the use of derivative products such as contracts for difference (CFDs). These products are traded using leverage, which means you only need a percentage of the value of the position to get started. However, your profits and losses will be calculated on the full position size, so you can lose much more than your initial deposit. Be sure to have an appropriate risk management strategy in place before opening position.

Why would I invest?

  • You could receive dividends or income from your interest
  • You want to diversify your investment portfolio
  • You want to access investment opportunities in another market
  • You plan to invest over a fixed period of time (eg 20 years)
  • You want to own shares outright in a particular company
  • You want voting rights in the companies you invest in

Why would I trade?

  • You can open a position with a small initial deposit, called margin
  • You’ll use leverage – which can magnify both profits and losses
  • You could make a profit against the stock value, whether it goes up or down
  • You generally don’t pay tax on spread bets
  • CFD profits can be offset against losses as a tax deduction

Understand the charges to buy international shares

Many of the international shares we offer can be bought and traded with no commission fees. However, some standard costs may be applied when you trade derivatives, and a small commission may be paid on CFDs. There may be other charges, like custody fees, to consider.

All US stocks must be paid for in US dollars. We charge a 0.5% forex conversion fee on US dollar transactions.

View the full range of fees and commission charges on foreign stocks

Open an account

You can choose between opening a trading account. You can apply for an account on our website or via the IG app.

You’ll be asked a few questions to see whether you qualify for the account you’re applying for. If approved, you’ll have access to a wide range of trading tools, as well as our award-winning web platform.1

Choose the international shares you want to buy

Choosing your international share portfolio is similar to how you would choose your UK stocks and shares portfolio.

You could choose a diversified mix of companies from different sectors and with different objectives. Or, you may simply want to trade the stocks of a specific company that is based overseas.

Some of the largest companies and most exciting start-ups are listed on foreign markets. The famous FAANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – which trades as Alphabet) are all listed in the US, while high-growth companies such as Shopify are listed in Canada.

Europe is home to major global brands such as Germany’s Volkswagen, the Netherlands’ Royal Dutch Shell, and French oil and gas giant Total.

Meanwhile, Asia-based companies such as HSBC, Singapore Airlines, and Sony can be accessed via the Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo stock exchanges, respectively.

Buy international stocks

The process of buying international shares may vary slightly depending on which market you are interested in. Discover the details of buying foreign stocks below.

Buying US shares: what you need to know

Before buying US shares, you have to fill out a W-8BEN form to confirm that you are not a resident of the US. This can all be completed on our online platform.

Once you have opened and funded your account, you can search the name of the US shares you want to buy. Some of the most popular US shares include:

Buying Hong Kong shares: what you need to know

Hong Kong is a major global hub that offers access to a huge range of gaming, technology and fintech stocks, among others.

Some companies – like the BAT stocks (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent Holdings) are dual listed, which means that they can easily be traded on our platform. It is also possible to trade dual-listed Chinese stocks and shares, however, due to stringent regulations in China, some state-backed companies are still out of reach for international investors, at least for now.

Buying European shares: what you need to know

Europe is home to many well-known brands, including:

  • German software multinational SAP
  • French international healthcare provider Sanofi
  • Dutch consumer goods business Unilever

You can access all of these markets via our platform, by trading and investing shares listed on European exchanges such as the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Xetra), the Euronext Paris, and the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange. When you have opened and funded your account, you can choose your shares and start trading.

Buying Canadian shares: what you need to know

If Canadian shares have a dual listing on a US stock exchange, you can invest in them directly via our platform. Alternatively, you can speculate on the prices of a wide variety of Canadian shares with CFDs.

There are a lot of blue chips that are listed on both the Toronto Stock Exchange and the NYSE, such as:

Buying international and foreign shares summed up

  • International shares can help add diversity to your portfolio
  • Many foreign markets can be accessed via our platform
  • You can choose to either trade or invest in foreign shares
  • Some of the larger international companies are dual-listed, which makes it easier to trade and invest
  • However, Chinese regulation means that not all of China’s blue chips can be accessed by overseas investors
  • You can open an account with us to start trading on international shares


1 As awarded at the ADVFN International Financial Awards 2020 and Professional Trader Awards 2019.

Publication date : 2021-06-16T14:35:14+0100

IGA, may distribute information/research produced by its respective foreign affiliates within the IG Group of companies pursuant to an arrangement under Regulation 32C of the Financial Advisers Regulations. Where the research is distributed in Singapore to a person who is not an Accredited Investor, Expert Investor or an Institutional Investor, IGA accepts legal responsibility for the contents of the report to such persons only to the extent required by law. Singapore recipients should contact IGA at 6390 5118 for matters arising from, or in connection with the information distributed.

The information/research herein is prepared by IG Asia Pte Ltd (IGA) and its foreign affiliated companies (collectively known as the IG Group) and is intended for general circulation only. It does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation, or particular needs of any particular person. You should take into account your specific investment objectives, financial situation, and particular needs before making a commitment to trade, including seeking advice from an independent financial adviser regarding the suitability of the investment, under a separate engagement, as you deem fit.

Please see important Research Disclaimer.

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