We studied the prevalence of Helicobacter pylori virulence markers, e.g. cytotoxin associated gene (cagA), cagA promoter, vacuolating associated cytotoxin A (vacA) alleles induced by contact with epithelium (iceA type), and outer membrane protein Q (hopQ) in expatriates and compared them with those in local residents. Gastric biopsies were obtained at endoscopy for culture, histology and PCR for virulence marker and hopQ. Of 309 patients, 236 (76%) were males with a mean age of 45 years. A total of 102 patients were expatriates. hopQ type 1 was present in 98 (47%) local residents compared to 88 (86%) expatriates (P < 0·001), while hopQ type 2 was present in 176 (85%) local residents, compared to 60 (59%) expatriates (P < 0·001). H. pylori virulence marker cagA was positive in 97 (47%) local residents compared to 86 (84%) expatriates (P < 0·001) while cagA-P was positive in 72 (35%) local residents compared to 87 (85%) expatriates (P < 0·001). iceA type 1 was positive in 157 (76%) local residents compared to 45 (44%) expatriates (P < 0·001), while iceA type 2 was positive in 81 (39%) local residents compared to 86 (84%) expatriates (P < 0·001). Distribution of H. pylori cagA, cagA promoter, iceA and hopQ type in local residents and expatriates was different. H. pylori virulence markers were associated with severe pathology in expatriates.