For some Americans, moving abroad is a conscious, thoroughly planned decision, while for others it could be a spur of the moment, spontaneous decision. Nevertheless, the decision is mostly influenced by the individual’s geographic, socio-economic and political environment; as well as their personal circumstances.
In this article put together by Kiiky, we’ll list the best countries for American ex-pats.
According to Forbes, Treasury Department records show that 2020 set a new record for the number of Americans who renounced their U.S. citizenship or gave up their long-term green cards. Common reasons for renouncing can be family, tax, and legal complications for people who generally live outside the United States.
With the increasing number of Americans leaving the country, where could be their destination? Let’s find out.
Before we get to know the best countries for American expatriates, take a quick look at the table of contents below.
Table of contents
- Who is An American Expat?
- Why Should I Be An Expat?
- What Are The Benefits Of Becoming An American Expat?
- How To Expatriate From America
- 5 Things To Know About Being An American Expatriate
- #1 Make sure you know American Expatriate Taxes
- #2 Take advantage of social security agreements between the US and your destination country
- #3 Applying for a New Driver’s License in your Destination Country may be Required
- #4 Understand International Health Insurance
- #5 You May Have to Report Your Foreign Bank Accounts When Living Abroad
- Which Are The Best Countries For American Expatriates?
- #13 Georgia
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Who is An American Expat?
An American expatriate, or ex-pat, is an individual living and/or working in another country other than his or her country of citizenship, often temporarily and for work reasons. Also, an expatriate can also be an individual who has relinquished citizenship in their home country to become a citizen of another.
In common usage, expat often refers to professionals, skilled workers, or artists taking positions outside their home country, either independently or sent abroad by their employers, which can be companies, universities, governments, or non-governmental organizations.
SEE ALSO: Best Countries to Study Abroad
Why Should I Be An Expat?
People move abroad for many different reasons. The realization of what makes people move is the first step in the expatriation process.
For some people, moving abroad is an intentional, thoroughly planned decision, while for others it could be a ‘spur of the moment’, spontaneous decision. Nevertheless, the decision is most times influenced by the individual’s geographic, socio-economic and political environment; as well as their personal circumstances.
There are several reasons one might want to be an expat – American expat. The greatest of all is the desire to take up a new challenge with brighter days on sight.
Let’s take a quick look at the top 5 reasons why becoming an American expatriate might be an ideal thing to do.
Widen your horizons
Leaving America for your destination country will help you discover new places, cultures, new people and experiences. These changes will either change you for good or bad. Again, leaving your comfort zone redefines purpose and helps one achheive all that seemed limiting in his home country.
And don’t forget, new challenges can usher in exciting moments and shake you up to get out of that old dull rut. You will grow stronger and be full of vigor as you keep accepting challenges with determination.
Access to better education
Many expats move abroad with their families to give their children access to better education and career prospect especially when the bar is low in their home country.
For most families, their desire might be for their children to attend any of the best universities in London or the best universities in Europe. With that intention, becoming an ex-pat is a way to go.
Knowing that your children are experiencing the desired high-quality education gives you great peace of mind. Additionally, living abroad introduces the possibility of learning a new language, skill, or any other thing that can be highly gainful.
For Career Advancement
For most persons, the idea of going to another country has to be one that aligns with their career growth. This is so because some countries have a more friendly and flourishing economy where businesses and jobs thrive. Therefore, when opportunity abounds, the next consideration is which country is better, for what reason, and what are the available prospects.
Moreso, having added experience in your industry abroad will give you an edge over competitors. For instance, your prospective employers will be highly impressed by the professional Engineering course you complete in France.
As a way to escape an unfavorable situation in the country
Most expats always state that one of the reasons why they left their home country is because of one unfavorable law or harsh economic policy, harsh weather, etc. People like a place that gives them comfort. They desire a place where they can live to the fullest without restriction imposed. Now, this doesn’t mean that their destination country is lawless. What they do is choose an expat destination that satisfies their desires.
What Are The Benefits Of Becoming An American Expat?
Moving abroad can be rather frightening, but it can also contribute immensely to your personal growth on so many levels. In spite of the fact that sometimes you might have to face obstacles, there’s always a pinch of salt to give it a good taste.
Here are the benefits of becoming an American Expatriate.
Moving abroad will teach you how to keep an open mind when it comes to identifying and respecting other people’s cultures and traditions. An open mind will make you receptive to other people’s culture and also understand that the culture that once seemed strange is actually not bad. It will also help you interact and relate better with people from different countries.
Increase your creativity
Having to live on foreign soil as an ex-pat will increase your ability to think creatively and have a clearer perspective of the worldview. According to thoughtcatalog, moving abroad will provide you with new ideas and visions.
Learn beyond the books
Becoming an American expat, gives you a first-hand insight into the traditions and cultures of your new location. Ordinarily, you might be ignorant about your destination country’s holiday, culture, and tradition, but, by the virtue of going there, you’ll get enriched with knowledge surrounding the nation’s lifestyle.
Creates a sense of independence
Being away from your family where you were used to everything will create a sense of awareness and independence in you. This will force you to learn how to take care of yourself and think independently.
Boost your career
With the presence of industry competition, having an added experience abroad will give you a knowledge edge over your competitors. The experience will place you ahead in terms of industry experience and global perspective.
Learn a new language
Leaving America for a country like France means you have to learn your France. When I first arrived in Togo, my biggest challenge was communication. Because I knew why I was there and desired to relate better, I had to learn the language of the country. Presently, I can comfortably communicate in French.
Build International networks
Living abroad as an expat will always win you international connections especially if you make intentional moves. As a foreigner, you’ll be moved to widen your professional network in order to fit in to the system and also for the greater good.
How To Expatriate From America
Before you think of leaving the United States, be sure to have a second passport in hand before turning in your US travel document.
According to escapeartist, 1,313 Americans turned in their passports this quarter. The total for calendar 2016 was 5,411, up 26% from 2015 when the total was 4,279 published expatriates. The 2015 total was 58% more than 2014. It looks like 2017 will be about 30% higher than 2016.
Once you make up your mind to leave, you may have to pay an exit tax. This tax is a full tax applied the calculated to the sum of all your hard work and investments, even if you aren’t selling.
Therefore, it’s pertinent for American expatriates to file US tax obligations on time in order to prevent penalties and earn a tax credit.
To expatriate from United States you need to possess the following:
- Have a second passport
- Have a foreign bank account
- Get your properties in order
- Full employment on foreign soil or have a substantial income
If you want to expatriate from the United States, you will settle accounts with the IRS, hand over your passport and leave, but in most cases, it’s never that simple. Also keep in mind that the next time you visit the U.S., you may need a visa (which in some cases, isn’t granted).
Let’s take a look at the 5 things you need to know about being an American expat…
5 Things To Know About Being An American Expatriate
According to InterNations, about 83% of US Americans are generally satisfied with life elsewhere. Among the American expatriate respondents, over two-fifths want to stay in their destination country forever.
Here’s a list of things you need to know in order to prepare you to become an American expatriate
#1 Make sure you know American Expatriate Taxes
One of the most important things that American ex-pats should know about is US Expat Taxes. The United States requires tax filling to its residents after they have moved abroad, even if you are paying tax in your destination country.
To prevent penalties and earn a tax credit, American expatriates must file US tax obligations on time. Special regulations may apply when using foreign taxes paid as a credit against US tax obligations. It is vital for future and current US expats to understand US tax programs and talk to an expat tax professional.
#2 Take advantage of social security agreements between the US and your destination country
According to US International Social Security Agreements, The US has established many bilateral social security agreements that enable American expats to only pay social security taxes to one of the two governments. Eligible countries include Italy, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Chile, and Japan. This regulation can help get rid of dual social security taxation.
Nonetheless, the exact regulations may have specific exclusions and rules such as self-employment rules and territoriality rules. Therefore, American expatriates should check their destination country’s agreement descriptions to ensure that they are covered while living abroad. You can engage the services of a tax and legal adviser.
#3 Applying for a New Driver’s License in your Destination Country may be Required
If you desire to drive in your destination country, you need to be aware that road conditions and driving regulations can be different from those in the United States. Insurance and a valid driver’s license are required in most countries.
Also, check if your destination country accepts a U.S. driver’s license, if they don’t you can apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a local driver’s license.
#4 Understand International Health Insurance
One of the most important considerations for American expats is obtaining global medical coverage, especially where local plans or adequate medical care may be unavailable.
Your domestic health plan in the USA might not cover you abroad, so you will need to research an international plan assuming you will become a non-US resident. Therefore, it is critical for US expatriates to obtain an international health insurance plan.
A good plan should provide a sizeable direct-pay medical network, to enable your family to stay free of out of pocket fee. In addition, many global health insurance plan providers offer international medical networks with English-speaking doctors and medical staff.
Similarly, if you are an American expatriate who is living abroad and often travels back to the United States, it is also important to get the American coverage option in your international health insurance plan.
Most American expatriates residing abroad will seek out a global medical plan that includes the USA because if they suffer a severe medical illness or injury, the expat will most likely want to seek medical treatment back home in the USA. Therefore, it is essential to cover your international health insurance needs with an expat insurance expert such as Expat Financial and weigh the costs and advantages of having an international health insurance plan that provides full coverage in the United States of America.
#5 You May Have to Report Your Foreign Bank Accounts When Living Abroad
Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) is a report of foreign bank accounts based solely on your overseas account balances. This may be the case if you have a balance that eclipsed $10,000 or more in your foreign bank accounts at any point during the year.
Expat Financial offers independent advice, solutions, and outstanding service and support to clients around the world and we have extensive experience in sourcing medical cover for individual American expatriates and expat employers worldwide.
Which Are The Best Countries For American Expatriates?
About nine million Americans live outside the country according to an estimate by the State Department. While we’ve stated some of the reasons why Americans leave their country, it’s time to state the best countries for American expats. Stay with me as I list the best countries for Americans to move to.
The Republic of Georgia is already one of the best countries in the world for digital nomads, as wandering types could stay for up to a year on a tourist visa. But the government just relaxed its visa requirements even further, with a “Remotely from Georgia” program that allows remote workers earning at least $2,000 per month to reside in the country for a full year.
Most Americans fancy Georgia for many reasons. Nonetheless, the obvious attractions are the breathtaking hikes in the Caucasus mountains, khachapuri, and Tbilisi’s rowdy and rakish club scene.
At Georgia, you will live on a steady stream of orange wine, herby salads, and organic stews (wine-inclined countries usually sprout fabulous veggies). Georgia is also highly affordable: Most foreigners in Tbilisi are paying $700 a month or less per month for well-furnished apartments.
According to CIC news, over 10,000 U.S. citizens and residents pivot north every year to settle in Canada through Express Entry. In fact, the U.S. is the second most popular source country among Express Entry immigrants.
Life in Canada comes with diversity, amazing food, low crime rates, excellent public education, healthcare, a stable economy, eco-consciousness, ketchup chips, and most importantly, more nature than you can even bother to care about.
You can roam around Canada’s mountains and glaciers and beaches and islands to ski, surf, kayak, dive, hunt, hike, or just hibernate in a house on the prairie. Being an American is even an added advantage as you already know the language, so you can skip the culture shock and go straight to cultural immersion.
In Canada, you’ll also experience a better work-life balance. A Gallup article suggested that full-time U.S. workers end up working an average of 47 hours a week, whereas, in Canada, the standard number of weekly work hours is 40 hours a week.
Nevertheless, Canada’s notoriously livable cities are getting silly expensive, and Canadians are oddly clannish when it comes to hiring.
According to thrillist, Canada values “Canadian experience,” whatever that is, over the skills you bring from abroad. And all that wilderness can get lonely in the long gray winters, but cannabis is legal, which certainly helps.
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Uruguay is also on our list of best countries for American expats.
Uruguay has maintained a stable economy, a functional political system with little corruption, and progressive LGBTQ laws and attitudes.
Expats in Uruguay agree that the best thing about living in Uruguay is the friendly people. In addition to the friendly locals, the weather, beautiful beaches, and stable economy make it a great place to live.
With a decent standard of living, American expats find Uruguay a haven. Native Uruguayans are a highly educated, welcoming lot—but to navigate daily life you’ll need near-fluency in Spanish because almost no one speaks English.
Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, with rising middle-class, low crime rates, and a decent low cost of living. Americans can thrive here for nearly half the price of the home; spacious one-bedrooms in lively, culture-rich cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi cost less than $700, while a mouth-watering bowl of phở is just $2.
A flourishing community of digital nomads takes advantage of reliable high-speed Wi-Fi to work remotely or stick around to teach English and explore a laundry list of incredible domestic sights, from the beautiful rice terraces of Mù Cang Chải to the white sands of Phú Quốc. Traffic, pollution, and ever-changing visa rules are the tradeoffs for eating ridiculously well and connecting with Vietnam’s warm, welcoming culture.
Seeking relief from the stress and violence of racism in the US, members of the Black Diaspora are drawn to Ghana’s stable economy, tropical climes, and vastly more affordable cost of living. Rents in the cosmopolitan capital of Accra range from $145 a month for a two-bedroom apartment to $700 a month for a three-bedroom house with security.
English is the main language and business opportunities abound, but like many developing countries, the infrastructure in Ghana is iffy. Power outages are common, and the gridlocks in Accra rival LA. And although the Ghanian government has started a program to fast track citizenship for African Americans, obtaining any official document requires extreme patience. But clear these obstacles and a long-established expat community stands ready to welcome newcomers with happy hours, networking events, and social support groups like the African American Association of Ghana and the Diaspora Africa Forum.
“I would sooner be a foreigner in Spain than in most countries,” said George Orwell. “How easy it is to make friends in Spain!” With its intoxicating sunshine, endless beaches, laid back culture, and cheap fine wine, Spain has long been a haven for American escapists like Orwell and Hemingway. And arguably, it’s never been easier to chase la Buena Vida.
Among Europe’s most affordable countries, Spain has a high unemployment rate, so don’t get your hopes up on finding a job. But the Spanish government does offer a self-employment visa, perfect for freelancers and digital nomads who flock to international tech and fashion hubs like Barcelona or hideaway in dreamy coastal enclaves like the Canary Islands. And while the work visa application process is painstaking, it has notably fewer requirements than some other EU countries and allows for travel anywhere in Europe’s Schengen area for one whole year.
Along with cheap beer and wine, schnitzel, and the Autobahn, Germany’s got much to offer weary Americans. Being smack in the middle of the continent, it’s prime territory for weekend trips. Your gateway to the Alps, Munich offers exquisite outdoor escapes and access to huge multinational firms. And in the diverse melting pot of Berlin, a low cost of living, legendary nightlife, and booming startup culture lure ambitious tech types and free spirits in equal measure.
Ze Germans love bureaucracy—Americans can enter the country with a three-month visa, but an official move requires streams upon streams of documentation. Simply opening a bank account or getting a mobile phone creates its own paper snail trail. And in Berlin, the struggle is especially real when it comes to finding a place to call your own: Showing up at apartment viewings to compete against 20 other hopefuls is just the way it is.
#6 South Korea
Between the enduring popularity of K-pop, K-dramas, K-beauty, and K-style, South Korea’s moment isn’t ending anytime soon. Americans tend to drift to the metropolitan behemoth that is Seoul, where public transit is a breeze, the shopping and street food are world-class, and boozing is a national pastime. Open-container laws allow for soju in the streets well into the morning hours.
The nation at large is mountainous and modern, with some of the fastest Wi-Fi speeds in the world (though online censorship is real, so have a VPN handy). Housing can be pricey sans roommate, but otherwise, the cost of living is surprisingly low.
#5 New Zealand
Imagine living in a country where you could learn about indigenous culture straight from the Māori, hike to waterfalls and active volcanoes, tour film locations from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and sip delicious, locally produced wine—and that’s just the North Island. The South Island, a three-hour ferry ride away, is home to ancient forests, impressive glaciers, vast wine regions, and some of the best ski slopes in the world.
If you’re between 18 and 30, get a Working Holiday Visa (once applications open up again), stay for a year, and pick up odd jobs in tourism, hospitality, and agriculture. Your paycheck will go towards skydives or any other adrenaline-pumping activities you’ll want to try in the country that invented bungee jumping.
Portugal topped International Living’s Global Retirement Index in 2020, which of course applies to both expats and retirees alike.
Portugal’s temperate climate, wild beaches, golf courses, natural beauties and low cost of living makes it a noticeable destination for American expats.
Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe. US expats will find their living expenses drastically reduced. A couple can live comfortably in Portugal on anything from $1,500 to $2,500 per month, depending on where they choose to reside.
Aside from the financial advantages of living in Portugal, the home of Fado music offers a warm and sunny climate with beautiful Mediterranean coastlines.
Additionally, Portugal offers quality services and amenities, with well-functioning health and education systems. It is a safe and tranquil country to live in, which is why more expats are choosing to move here during these tumultuous times.
Portugal is one of the easiest places in Europe to obtain long-term residencies and visas through their Golden Visa program, making the move over easier than most other countries in the same league.
#3 Costa Rica
The sunny Central American nation of Costa Rica is consistently a top competitor in International Living’s list of top retirement destinations. After coming third in 2020, this year it takes the top spot!
It is known for its natural beauty and diverse range of amazing climates, with about 25% of its land being made up of preserved national parks. It is also extremely liveable, with top-quality affordable healthcare and education, warm and friendly locals, and many of the amenities you would expect from a first-world nation at a reduced cost.
Costa Rica is often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America” due to its neutrality, political stability, and peaceful society.
According to the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica is one of the world’s happiest countries. The report cites the country’s beautiful beaches, picturesque rainforests, stable democracy, and educated population as reasons for its exceptionally high quality of life.
They completely abolished their army in 1948, instead of putting all the money into education and healthcare. Costa Rica is probably the safest country in Latin America and is up there with the safest in the world.
The World Health Organization ranks Costa Rica as having the best health care system in Central America and 36th best in the world.
Obtaining residency in Costa Rica is quite affordable by US standards. A couple could live very well in Costa Rica for around $2000 – $3000 a month.
Many Americans favor Panama as a destination because it is so close to the United States. Moving to Panama affords the same luxuries and amenities that they would hope for anywhere else. Additionally, the cost of living in Panama is relatively low.
Panama is a long-time favorite for U.S. retirees and expats alike. This Caribbean paradise is home to a warm tropical climate, stunningly beautiful beaches, and a laid-back yet active way of life.
Moving to Panama is extremely easy and rewarding for Americans. It is very close, both geographically and culturally. The standard currency is the US dollar, English is widely spoken, and there is an established community of fellow expats.
Furthermore, Panama is one of the simplest countries to get long-term visas and permanent residency status, with literally dozens of different visa programs to suit each person’s situation. The most popular is the Visa Pensionado, specifically aimed at retirees, but open to people of all ages.
Mexico City has more than 400,000 Americans making it the single urban environment with the largest number of Americans. Nevertheless, most Americans living in Mexico are Americans of Mexican descent. The proximity between the two states makes it easy for citizens of the two countries to move back and forth.
Mexico has been a thriving home to American expats for more than 50 years.
In Mexico, American expats will find everything they had back home and more. Its proximity makes the transition smooth and easy. You will be welcomed by the enormous expat community along with the laid-back and friendly locals. Mexico prides on its high-quality, yet extremely affordable, healthcare services.
The culture is full of festivals, celebrations, and activities to keep almost anyone entertained. It also offers one of the tastiest cuisines on earth! Compared to the US, the Mexican climate is far more pleasant, the lifestyle is more relaxed, and the cost of living is much is on the low side.
If you are among the many Americans who desire to explore a new country as an American expat, it might be nice to take a moment and fantasize about what your life could be like in any of the countries in our list of best countries for American expats.
- The 14 Best Countries for Americans Who Want to Live Abroad – thrillist.com
- How to Expatriate From The United States – escapeartist.com
- 9 Reasons You Should Become An Expat – thoughtcatalog.com
- What’s an Expat Anyway? – internations.org
- 5 Things You Should Know About Being An American Expatriate – expatfinancial.com