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Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 70% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

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.

Trader Source: Bloomberg

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 spread bets and 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 share dealing account or a trading account (or both). 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 US shares: what you need to know

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 Hong Kong shares: what you need to know

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 European shares: what you need to know

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 and spread bets.

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 and investing in international shares


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

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. See full non-independent research disclaimer and quarterly summary.

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