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Specifically, I'm interested in the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF. I actually live in China and don't plan on returning to the UK for the foreseeable future. Although I have some UK investments, I'd like to spread my risk out a bit more globally.

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Vanguard has just recently started listing its funds in London but it doesn't look like the High Dividend Yield ETF is available yet.

You'll need to either get a broker who can trade on the U.S. markets (there might be tax and exchange rate complications), or wait until Vanguard lists this stock on the London exchange.

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Aren't there brokerage companies based in the U.K. that can trade on U.S. stock markets on behalf of their U.K.-based clients? As a Canadian, I can buy U.S.-listed stocks through my Canadian broker. The only complication there is in my purchasing U.S.-listed securities is the exchange rate (which my broker takes care of, for a fee) and U.S. withholding taxes on dividends. – Chris W. Rea Aug 31 '12 at 17:53
@ChrisW.Rea: You may be right. I've updated the answer to reflect this. – Bruce Alderman Aug 31 '12 at 18:57

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