An escape guide for Americans

There are a lot of reasons you might want to leave the US. Moving to another country isn’t as easy as some people assume it is, but it isn’t impossible. There are plenty of other options to live abroad – as an immigrant, expat, or nomad.

First, do you have a passport? If the answer is no, you can’t get started on any of these options. Getting your passport is the very first step.

Second, if you have a criminal record, most of these options will be closed to you. You’ll want to consult an immigration attorney to discuss your options.

Before we get started: I’m not an immigration attorney, I’m someone who’s interested in living abroad who obsessively researches things. You should verify things yourself before making major life decisions or showing up at a border with all your worldly possessions.

I’ll be updating this post and adding to it as I continue to research. If I’m missing something, feel free to mention it in the comments and I’ll add it in.

For more information about your options, check out Mark Ehrman’s excellent book, Getting Out or visit Just Landed.

 

Permanent Options

Lots of people talk about wanting to apply for citizenship in another country as their first step for a move abroad. That’s rarely how it works. Most people begin as temporary residents, then permanent residents, and eventually become citizens. Some countries will allow you to skip directly to permanent resident status if you meet certain qualifications, like family sponsorship and some skilled worker programs. Typically citizenship by descent or making significant investments are the ways you can skip all that and go straight to citizenship.

If you want to settle in another country for the long-term, you probably want to have permanent resident status or citizenship. This ensures that your ability to stay in your new home is not dependent on renewing your paperwork or making periodic visa runs. These options all provide a pathway to permanent resident status or citizenship. Typically, the process starts off the same as that for temporary residents. You’ll want to make sure that you’ll eventually become eligible for permanent residency or citizenship and understand the process before you get started.

Family Sponsorship

Most countries will allow family members to sponsor you for resident status. They’ll typically have to show that they can support you for a certain amount of time and may need to meet other requirements. I’m going to assume that you, like me, don’t have any family members who can sponsor you and you aren’t married to a foreign national.

Citizenship through descent

If either of your parents was a citizen of another country when you were born, some countries consider you a citizen even if you were born abroad. You simply have to apply for proof of citizenship. 

Other countries allow your parents to sponsor you for citizenship or apply using proof of your parents citizenship.

Your Grandparents

Some countries allow you to apply for citizenship based on the nationality of a grandparent. These include Argentina, Armenia, Belize, Cape Verde, Chile, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK. 

A few countries go back beyond grandparents, as long as you can provide documents backing up your ancestry.

Jewish diaspora

You’ve probably heard of Jews living abroad moving to Israel. Immigration to Israel through the Law of Return is referred to as making Aliyah. People immigrating to Israel using this program have access to support to help them settle.

If you can demonstrate your Sephardic ancestry, you qualify to become a citizen in Portugal. You’ll need to convince the relevant Jewish community organization in Portugal, who will issue a certificate of ancestry. Then you can apply with the Portuguese government.

Sephardic ancestry also makes you eligible for citizenship in Spain, although they have more stringent requirements and require you demonstrate the ability to speak ladino or haketia.

If your ancestors were stripped of German citizenship during the Nazi era, you can apply for citizenship.

African diaspora

If you’re a member of the African diaspora you can apply for citizenship in Ghana and Sierra Leone

Some African countries previously didn’t allow for dual citizenship, meaning that those who became citizens abroad lost their status in their home country. Several countries have recently changed these laws, allowing people who lost their citizenship to regain it. It’s unclear if a parent or grandparent regaining their citizenship would make you eligible for citizenship.

Skilled worker immigration programs

Canada isn’t the only country with a program designed to bring skilled immigrants into the country. Here are some programs similar to Canada’s express entry immigration system.

The Europe Economic Area

If you’ve worked temporarily within the European Economic Area (EEA), you may qualify for the Blue Card. This program allows temporary workers in any EEA country to work in any other EEA country, as well as eventually become permanent residents. There’s also the Czech Green Card.

Australia

You can apply for a Skilled Migration Visa and become a permanent resident using Skill Select. You can apply for a Skilled Independent Visa, Skilled Nominated Visa, or Skilled Regional Visa

If you meet the requirements for a Skilled Independent Visa, you can become a permanent resident without a job offer or family sponsorship. They use a points system.

New Zealand

If you’re under 55, you may qualify for New Zealand’s Skilled Migrant Category. You can take a quiz to see if you’re eligible or calculate your points yourself.

Retiring or working remotely

Quite a few countries are happy to welcome you if you’re bringing money into the country. This has long been a way for retirees to enjoy a higher standard of living. Some countries require people to be ‘retirement age’ in order to qualify, but most don’t.

In countries with a lower cost of living than the US, the monthly income requirement can seem quite reasonable. Guaranteed income includes government pension plans, private pension plans, disability income, certificates of deposit, and annuities. Some programs specify that the income must be guaranteed for your lifetime. Sometimes passive income like rental income, income from businesses you own, stock market returns, and royalties are considered. You may need to demonstrate a certain net worth or cash savings.

Many people choose to retire abroad in order to access affordable healthcare and long-term care. Others live abroad for a portion of their retirement and return to the US to rely on family members and Medicare.

Some countries will allow people who are self-employed or work remotely to qualify for their retiree visa programs, while others have created programs specifically for remote workers.

Canada and Australia do not have visas for retirees or people of independent means.

Entrepreneur and investor immigration programs

You may not think of yourself as someone who has enough money to qualify as a business investor, but some countries offer investment and entrepreneur visas that are within the grasp of many Americans. These programs may offer you permanent resident status right away. A few go directly to citizenship. These include Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Malta, St Kitts and Nevis, and Turkey.

Investing $250k in real estate can get you a Turkish passport in a matter of months. You also have the option of purchasing $500k in government bonds, VC funds, real estate funds, or leaving it in a Turkish bank account for three years.

A passport for the Caribbean nations will run around $100k.

Most provide you with a resident permit that can eventually be used to gain permanent resident status. The most popular of these are mentioned later in this guide.

Some investor visas don’t require you to run a company, they only ask that you invest in their country. Buying a nice house may be enough to get you a resident permit.

Temporary Options

Not everyone wants to move abroad permanently. If you’re interested in spending a year or more in another country without worrying about eventually becoming a permanent resident, there are many options.

Most of these options will require you to have private health insurance. Some require police checks. Even if your record is squeaky clean, this can add a chunk of time to the process – getting a police check from the US can easily take six months. Translating and certifying documents can also be a hassle.

Temporary Work Permit

The dream is to get your company to transfer you to another office. If you can talk your company into doing this, it’s the easiest way to move abroad. Your employer’s attorneys will take care of the details for you and hopefully provide a relocation consultant.

Nearly any country will give you a work permit if you have a qualifying job offer. Most countries require your potential employer to jump through hoops, like demonstrating that they tried to hire a local, showing you have unique skills, and paying fees.

Teach English

You probably know someone who’s taught English abroad. You may know someone who went to teach English for a year and never came back.

South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, and the UAE are known for providing lucrative teaching opportunities. Many include flights, health insurance, and housing. Plenty of other countries have schools that hire native speakers to teach English, including those of Eastern Europe and South America. Countries in Africa are more likely to rely on volunteers.

You don’t need a teaching degree or even a TEFL certificate to teach English abroad, although it certainly helps. Some schools will help you get any necessary certifications and provide training. Dave’s ESL Cafe is the place to find out about how it works and find job postings.

Work as an Au Pair

An au pair is typically a young person (most often women) who takes care of children, cooks meals, and does some housework. Positions generally include room and board and a little bit of spending money. The service placing you with a family will typically walk you through the process of getting a work permit.

Freelancing

Berlin and Prague are known as havens for expats on freelance visas. They’re national programs, so there’s no need to only settle in these two cities.

Your options include Columbia, Croatia, Czechia, Dubai, Estonia, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Malta, Norway, Portugal, and Romania.

You’ll need to show that you have a stable income, so this is best for people with an established client base. Some of these countries require you to demonstrate you have current or potential clients in the country in order to qualify. They may require you to have a stable address in the country, making it less attractive for digital nomads who don’t want to commit to spending a whole year in one spot. You may qualify for PR status after a few years.

Working remotely or living off investments

Many countries will welcome you to stay for a year or more if you’re bringing money into the country. If there’s a specific country you’d like to stay in, chances are high that they’ll have a program for people working remotely for foreign companies or living off of passive income. It may be called a “person of independent means,” “passive income,” “retirement,” or “non-lucrative” visa. Depending on the country, you may even be able to get permission without qualifying for a formal program.

You will most likely be required to show proof of private insurance coverage. Check to see the tax implications of your stay, as some countries have special tax programs for participants, many have international agreements to avoid double taxation, and each country has different rules about who is considered a tax resident.

New programs are being introduced as countries update their laws and as countries scramble to replace tourism income lost due to the pandemic. Countries that are currently working on programs to attract remote workers and digital nomads include Belize, Cyprus, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Thailand.

Non-working resident visas

Many countries are happy to give you resident permits if you can prove that you have a reliable source of income (such as investment income or a pension) or savings. Income requirements are higher if you have a family and the likelihood of your application being approved is higher as your income increases.

While most of them are intended for retirees, not all of them have age limits and those that have age limits may be open to people in their 40s. Most programs allow you to bring your family. Some define family to include parents and adult children. A few allow you to bring a foreign domestic helper.

  • Argentina: You can apply for permanent resident status or citizenship after living in the country for two years with either of these two visas.
    • Rentista visa: Those with proof of income can get a visa for a year, renewable for up to three years. The official required amount is very low, but it appears that applications aren’t approved with less than US$2,000k/month. You can establish a business or do freelance work with this visa.
    • Pensionado visa: This has a lower income requirement, around US$500/month which must be guaranteed income.
  • Aruba: You can get a residence permit in Aruba with an income of US$29k/year if you’re over 55 or US$58k/year if you’re under 55.
  • Belize: If you have an income of US$24k/year, you can move to Belize as a Qualified Retired Person.
  • Costa Rica: Proof of US$2,500/month will get you a rentista visa for two years. If you have guaranteed income, you only need to show US$1,000/month for a pensionado visa.
  • Cyprus: An income of at least €10k/year qualifies you for a Category F visa. Your visa will automatically be cancelled if you are gone for two years or acquire PR status abroad.
  • Ecuador: You can move to Ecuador with a guaranteed income of US$800/month. It has to be guaranteed for your lifetime, such as social security, a government pension, or annuities. This visa allows you to work remotely, start a business, and freelance in Ecuador.
  • Guatemala: The pensionado and rentista visas both have a USD$1,000/month income requirement. It takes three months for applications to be approved, they’re valid for a year, and can be renewed.
  • Ireland: If you have an income of €50k/year and savings to cover unexpected expenses, you can retire to Ireland as a person of independent means. There is no age requirement listed. Approval takes four months.
  • Italy: You can retire to Italy with the Italian Elective Residency Visa. Income requirements vary, starting at €2,600/month. You’ll need to show that you’ve signed a lease or bought a home. The initial visa is for one year and can be renewed for two years at a time.
  • Malaysia: The My 2nd Home program provides a 10-year residence permit that’s renewable. You can bring your family, including your parents. It welcomes those under 50 with an income of US$2,000/month who make a deposit of US$72k with the government. After a year half of the deposit can be used to buy a home. The deposit requirement is lower for those over 50.
  • Mauritius: The Premium Visa is valid for up to a year and can be renewed. The application is online, can be done from within Mauritius if you’re there on a tourist visa, and takes 48 hours for processing (during business days).
  • Mexico: Mexico’s temporary residence permit allows visitors to stay for up to a year and it can be renewed for three years. This program welcomes remote workers, as long as they have an income of US$1,62/month for the past six months or US$27k in savings.
  • Nicaragua: If you’re over 45 and have an income of US$600/month, you can get a retirement visa. If you’re under 45, you’ll need to show an income of US$750/month.
  • Panama: If you have a guaranteed income of US$1,000/month you can get residency in Panama. This is reduced to US$750/month if you spend US$100k in real estate. If you don’t have guaranteed income, you can put US$170k in a National Bank of Panama CD, which will provide the necessary guaranteed income.
  • Portugal: The D7 visa allows you to live in Portugal without working, as long as you can prove that you have an income greater than the minimum wage (currently €600/month). The higher your income, the better your chance of being approved. You have to apply from outside of Portugal in a country where you’re a legal resident. It’s valid for two years, can be renewed for another three, and then you’re eligible to apply for citizenship.
  • South Africa: If you have a net worth of US$750k, you can become a permanent resident for a one-time fee of US$7,500. You can also get a resident permit for up to four years by showing a guaranteed income and/or a high net worth. You can renew this indefinitely as long as you visit South Africa once every three years.
  • Spain: You’ll need to show an income of €26k/year or enough savings to support yourself. Remote workers and freelancers qualify. You have to be a resident of your country of citizenship to apply. If you’re from a Spanish speaking country, you’re eligible to apply for citizenship in two years instead of the usual ten. It’s possible that Puerto Rico may qualify for expedited citizenship. There’s a list of villages eager to attract remote workers.

Remote work visas

Programs designed for remote workers are becoming more common. Those without salaries will need to prove that they have a reliable income stream, such as long-term client contracts, or adequate savings.

  • Anguilla: They’re really trying to sell this program by naming it “Lose The Crowd Find Yourself. Work. Life. Bliss.” You’ll need proof of employment or a business license and a police check. You’ll also need to import anything you bring with you. The visa is good for a year.
  • Antigua and Barbuda: The Nomad Digital Residence visa is valid for two years. You’ll need an income of US$50k/year and a police check.
  • Aruba: The One Happy Workation visa for Aruba is only valid for 90 days and is only open to US citizens. You cannot arrange your own accommodations, this is a hotel package that comes with permission to work remotely. You’ll need to buy into their state-run travel insurance program for your stay.
  • Bahamas: The Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay visa is good for a year and extendable for up to three.
  • Barbados: The Barbados Welcome Stamp program allows you to stay for a year as long as you can show that you have an income of US$50k/year.
  • Bermuda: The Work from Bermuda visa allows you to stay for a year.
  • Cape Verde: The Remote Working Cabo Verde program gets you a six month visa, extendable for up to a year, if you can prove an income of €1,500/month.
  • Cayman Islands: If you have a salary of US$100k (or $150k for a couple) you can spend two years working remotely from the Cayman Islands with a Global Citizen Certificate.
  • Croatia: If you have proof of an income of US$2,600/month, you can spend a year in Croatia. They require a police check, which can delay your ability to submit an application. Applications are typically approved in two or three months. Once it’s approved, you can only leave Croatia for 30 days at a time and for a maximum of 90 days during the year. You have to register your residence, making moving around within the country difficult.
  • Curaçao: If you can prove that you’re a remote worker with a salaried job or stable client base, you and your family can get a six month visa for Curaçao. The application takes about two weeks for approval and you can renew it to stay up to a year. The application is done online and can be done in Curaçao as long as you have time left on your tourist visa.
  • Dominica: If you earn US$70k/year you can spend 18 months in Dominica through their working in nature program.
  • Dubai, UAE: Yes, Dubai is a city and this program is only valid for residence within the city. You need an income of US$5k/month to apply for this year-long visa.
  • Ecuador: Ecuador will accept 9-V visa applications with a proof of income as low as US$400/month and a university degree. Applications are approved in about two weeks. It’s valid for two years. You can then renew it for another two years or apply for permanent resident status.
  • Estonia: If you have proof of an income of €3,500/month, you can apply from within the country or at an embassy and is typically approved within 30 days. Valid for a year.
  • Georgia: If you have an income of US$2,000/month, you and your family can spend a year on the Remote from Georgia visa.
  • Greece: If you earn at least €3,500 as a freelancer or remote worker, you and your family can live in Greece for a year. The income requirement increases if you bring a spouse and children. You have to apply initially from your home country and can then renew it twice. Applications are approved in ten days.
  • Iceland: If you earn US$88k/year as a permanent salaried employee you can spend six months working remotely in Iceland.
  • Malta: If you have proof of an income of €2,700/month, you can get a year-long visa for Malta. This is renewable, just be sure to submit your renewal application at least 30 days before your visa expires. Processing takes 30 days and requires a police check.
  • Mauritius: The premium visa is good for a year and doesn’t have specific income requirements.
  • Montserrat: If you earn US$70k/year you can spend a year in Montserrat. They boast a processing time of 7 business days.
  • Panama: The Short Stay Visa for Remote Workers is valid for nine months and can be renewed for another nine. You need US$36k/year in income to qualify. This program is designed with remote workers in mind, but is also open to freelancers and business owners.
  • Romania: You can spend 12 months in Romania if you can prove that you earn three times the median wage, which is currently €3,300/month. This program is open to people who are self-employed and remote workers. You’ll need a police check. You can apply online. You can renew it for a second year.
  • Seychelles: The Seychelles Workcation program gets you a 12-month visa and doesn’t have a specific income requirement.

Long-stay tourist visas

If you’re living off of savings or passive income, you can live in a country on a tourist visa. Many countries will also allow you to work remotely on a tourist visa.

Most tourist visas are valid for 30, 60, or 90 days. Some countries offer much more generous tourist visas. You’ll still want to be prepared to show proof of health insurance and funds at the border, even though you don’t need to apply for a visa.

  • Albania: US citizens can spend a year in Albania on a tourist visa.
  • Bahamas: US citizens and Canadians get 240 days in the Bahamas.
  • Georgia: Citizens of Australia, the US, New Zealand, South Africa, and other countries can spend 360 days in Georgia.
  • Palau: US citizens can spend 360 days in Palau on a tourist visa.

US citizens get automatic six month tourist visas for Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Barbados, Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Central African Republic, Curaçao, Dominica, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the UK. Some of these reset if you do a visa run. Fiji, Kiribati, and Tunisia give you 120 days.

US citizens can easily apply to get extended tourist visas in Australia, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, India, Jamaica, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Uruguay.

While the Schengen Zone doesn’t allow for your tourist visa to reset if you leave the country, it has quite a few exceptions, allowing longer stays in specific countries for people with certain nationalities.

  • Belgium offers an additional two or three months for citizens of some countries.
  • Denmark: Citizens of the US, Australia, Canada, Chile, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea can stay in Denmark 90 days past their 90 day Schengen visa, so long as they leave the Schengen Zone from Denmark.
  • France:
    • France will allow you to stay as a tourist for up to a year. You need to apply no more than 90 days before your arrival in France and the process takes 30 days.
    • US citizens can spend an additional 90 days in France past their 90 day Schengen visa. You need to leave directly from France. This isn’t well known and you may need to figure out a way to prove that you were in France, since there is no border control within the Schengen zone.
  • Poland: US citizens can stay in Poland for 90 days after their Schengen visa. You need to leave the Schengen zone before you enter Poland in order to get entry and exit stamps in your passport showing you were in Poland.
  • Sweden: Sweden will allow you to stay as a tourist for up to a year. You can apply from within Sweden and it takes two weeks for approval. You’ll need to provide a compelling reason for your extended visit.

Start a business, move your business, or invest

The financial resources required to qualify for a business or investor visa vary widely. Some countries will consider a long-term lease or home purchase an investment, while others want to see a business plan and jobs for locals. These programs typically allow you to bring your family and often offer a pathway to citizenship.

  • Brazil: In 2020 Brazil introduced a program offering a five year residency permit for an investment of US$130k. You can then apply for citizenship.
  • Curaçao: This island nation has a tiered investment program, with US$281k getting you a renewable three year visa, US$420k getting you a renewable five year visa, and US$838k getting you an indefinite visa.
  • Greece: An investment of €250k will get you residency in a few months, although there are also substantial fees. Your residency is valid for five years and can be renewed. After seven years you’re eligible for citizenship.
  • Holland: The Dutch American Friendship Treaty is a unique program to allow Americans to start a business in Holland with very minimal requirements. Here’s how one freelancer got her DAFT visa and some FAQs. If you decide to become a Dutch citizen, you’ll have to renounce your US citizenship.
  • Ireland: Ireland’s investor program is open to people with a net worth of €2 million or more. You can invest €1 million or donate €500k to an approved project.
  • Italy: You can invest as little as €250k into a start-up, €1 million in an Italian business or philanthropic project, or €2 million in government bonds.
  • Mauritius: There are several investment options for Mauritius, including the Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS), Real Estate Scheme (RES), Property Development Scheme (PDS), and Smart City Scheme (SCS).
  • Montenegro: Purchasing a home or investing in a business in Montenegro makes you eligible for residency. In five years you qualify for permanent resident status and another five years makes you eligible for citizenship.
  • Panama: If you’re a citizen of one of 50 friendly nations, purchasing US$200k in real estate or depositing US$300k in a fixed deposit account for three years will get you residency. You’re eligible for permanent resident status in two years and citizenship in five years.
  • Portugal:
  • Spain: Spain’s residency by investment program starts at €500k. You can apply for PR status after five years and citizenship in ten. If you’re from a Spanish speaking country you’re eligible for citizenship in only two years.
  • The UK: If you can get access to investment funds, you can get an Entrepreneur Visa in the UK.

Go back to school

It’s generally relatively simple to get a student visa to attend university abroad — and there are no age limits. The tricky part is going to be the financing.

Luckily, if you’re American and looking to use FAFSA, they do fund some international universities. There are scholarships available, too. And, of course, some universities are free or very affordable. You can compare European schools for bachelors, masters and PhD programs. Many universities offer programs in English.

The best course of action is to contact the specific universities you’re interested in, as they’ll provide advice for obtaining a visa and financial assistance.

Many countries make it possible to get a work permit after graduation.

Do a working holiday

If you’re over 18 and under 35, you can work abroad for six or more months. You’ll generally need to show that you can support yourself while looking for a job and have your own health insurance. The visa fees are generally quite low and it’s a lot cheaper than doing a study abroad program.

If you’re looking for help arranging a work exchange and managing the paperwork, Bunac or Swap can set things up for you. While you have the legal ability to work for local companies, there’s no requirement that you do so. You can work remotely or live off of savings if you want.

If you’re interested in staying after your visa is up, you have the chance to build your professional network in hopes of getting an employer to sponsor you for a new visa. You may be able to stay as a skilled worker, even without a job offer. You may also find a new love interest who would like to keep you in the country.

Australia

Australia recently expanded its work and holiday visa to include people up to the age of 35. You can stay for a year, but you can only work for 6 months for any one employer. Your significant other will have to get their own visa and you cannot bring any dependent children. US citizens can apply online.

Ireland

Ireland’s Intern Work and Travel Pilot Programme allows US citizens to spend up to 12 months working in Ireland. You must either be a current full-time student or have graduated within the last year.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa is open to Americans 18-30 years old. It lasts for 12 months typically, or 18 months if you’re working in agriculture or horticulture.

Singapore

The Singapore Work Holiday Programme is good for up to 6 months. You can apply for a new pass 12 months after your old pass expired. You need to be a student or recent graduate.

South Korea

You’ll need to be a student or recent graduate in order to participate in the Working Holiday Program in Korea. You’ll have to plan your trip, too, and provide a plan for where you’ll be living and traveling. If you’re 18-30, you can stay for up to 18 months.

Before you start packing your things, take a step back to think about what’s important to you. Common concerns include:

  • Employment opportunities in your field
  • Quality, affordable healthcare
  • Quality, affordable education
  • Diversity
  • LGBTQ rights and gender equality
  • Affordable housing
  • Low crime rates
  • Low tax rates
  • Climate
  • Transportation
  • Cultural institutions

Deciding where to move to is a big decision. Here are some ways to look before you leap:

Other resources that you’ll find helpful:

Countries that speak English

You know that Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK all speak English. Don’t forget about Belize, Malta, Anguilla, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Botswana, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, Saint Helena, Zambia, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Seychelles, Swaziland, Zimbabe, the Gambia, Lesotho, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Fiji.

Quite a few other countries have a population that is largely fluent in English. These include the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Finland, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Iceland, Croatia, Slovenia, Poland, France, Bulgaria, India, Israel, Romania, Switzerland, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Italy, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand.

Things to know before you move abroad

What’s the difference between an expat and an immigrant? Technically, an expat is anyone who’s living outside their country of nationality. Generally, an expat is living abroad temporarily and an immigrant has made a permanent move.

Taxes

As a US citizen, you have to file taxes in the US, even if you’re a resident of another country and never step foot on US soil. While this is certainly a burden, it’s unlikely that you’ll face double taxation. The first $95k (adjusted each year) of your income is exempt from taxes in the US and there are a number of deductions available for Americans living abroad. If you’re married, you get double the exemption. Thus, if someone is complaining about double taxation they either a) have a really bad accountant and/or b) just told you they make over $100k a year. Cue up the tiny violins.

You’ll likely want to choose a country that has a tax treaty with the US or a country that won’t tax your foreign income.

A lot of information out there on moving abroad is designed to minimize taxation. Before you fall down the rabbit hole of the Five Flags Theory and start offshoring all your savings, think about what sorts of perks living in a high tax country (like Canada and the EU countries) provides. Do you want access to universal healthcare, high quality public schools, affordable universities, disability insurance, subsidized housing, enforced building codes, fire protection, police protection and other perks? You might decide elaborate tax-avoidance planning isn’t for you.

Health care & social safety net

Some countries place restrictions on non-citizen’s access to healthcare and the social safety net. Generally, permanent residents have nearly all the rights of citizens, but retiree permanent resident options have restrictions.

Even if your visa or residency type gives you access to healthcare and other support, it may not kick in right away. Make sure you have insurance coverage and plans in place to fill the gap.

Retirement savings

If you’re not retiring abroad, you’ll want to be putting money away for your eventual retirement. If you’re employed by a company in your new home, you may have access to the equivalent of a 401k.

You can’t contribute to your IRA unless you have taxable income in the US — meaning if you’re slightly over that $95k tax exemption you can max out your IRA first and avoid owing anything.

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