Countries That Welcome U.S. Expats (and the Realities of Moving there)

In light of the current political and economic situation in the United States, many people are contemplating the idea of moving abroad.

With so many options available, the decision of where to relocate can be overwhelming and confusing.

An article from The Travel, 10 Countries Welcoming US Expats, popped up in our news feed and we were intrigued. There were some countries on their list that we hadn’t researched yet.

We dug into the specifics of these 10 countries to learn what types of visas they have, the pros & cons of living there, and how realistic it is to move there.

Note: The visa information in this article is current as of November 2023. Visa requirements change often and are open to interpretation so do your research and consider working with a local immigration attorney.

Spain: A Blend of Culture and Affordability

Historic building in Toledo SpainVisa Options: Spain offers multiple visa options, including the Digital Nomad Visa, Non-Lucrative Visa, and the Golden Visa.

For the Digital Nomad Visa you’ll need to prove your income is at least 2,334 euros per month or 28,000 euros per year (equivalent to 2 times the Spanish minimum wage). You can show bank statements, invoices, and contracts as proof of income.

You’ll need to show proof of income in the amount of 30,000 euros/year to qualify for the Non-Lucrative visa and you can’t work.

To qualify for the Golden Visa you need to invest 500,000 euros.

Pros: The country is known for being both affordable and culturally rich, offering a deep historical background and excellent infrastructure.

There are a wide variety of places to live depending upon your lifestyle and you can get permanent residency.

Cons: You will become a tax resident if you live in Spain for 6 months of a year so make sure you understand the tax laws. (Spain does have tax incentives in place for visa holders.)

Be prepared to learn the Spanish language, and navigate bureaucratic processes.

If you are interested in obtaining a second passport, Spain is not a good option because they don’t allow dual citizenship.

Realistic: Moving to Spain is a realistic option, but potential expatriates should be mindful of potential tax laws and implications.

Italy: The Charms of Italy Amidst Bureaucratic Challenges

Colorful mountain town with ocean view in Liguria ItalyVisa Options: Italy provides visa options such as the forthcoming Digital Nomad Visa, the Self-Employed Visa, and the Elective ResidencyVisa.

The Digital Nomad Visa was announced in 2022 but it hasn’t become available yet.

The Self-Employed Visa is tricky because they set a limit on how many visas they will issue. The income requirement is a minimum of 8,500 euros/year and it is good for 2 years.

For the Elective Residency Visa you need to have at least 31,000 euros/year in passive income. You must live there full-time, (you can’t be out of the country for more than 6 consecutive months), and you can’t work.

Pros: Italy boasts a dreamlike ambiance, offering exquisite wine, fashion, food, and shopping opportunities, along with a rich cultural heritage.

Italy also has tax schemes in place to help reduce your burden. If you have passive income and move to Southern Italy you may qualify for their 7% flat tax rate, which is valid for 10 years.

Cons: Italy is known for its bureaucracy so you’ll need a lot of patience. The country has a lot of taxes on a variety of goods and services.
Southern Italy can get really hot in the summer and northern Italy can get really cold in the winter. You may have to move around the country to avoid extreme temperatures.

The popular tourist areas can be extremely crowded during the high season.

Realistic: Relocating to Italy is feasible, although it might involve navigating through visa complexities and administrative challenges.

Grenada: Tropical Paradise with Investment Requirements

Coastline of GrenadaVisa Options: Grenada offers a Digital Nomad Visa, while investors can take advantage of the Investor Visa program.

The Digital Nomad Visa is valid for 1 year and you need an income of $37,000/year to qualify. The country launched this visa to increase business and boost the local economy.

For the Investor Visa you need to buy property valued $220,000 plus you’ll have to pay an additional $50,000 in administration fees.

Pros: The island is known for its Caribbean allure, English-speaking population, stunning beaches, and good healthcare services. Plus they don’t tax worldwide income.

Cons: The island is in the hurricane zone, there are limited options for goods and services, and island life has higher living costs.

It is located just north of Venezuela in the Caribbean so it isn’t as easy to get there compared to other countries on this list.

Realistic: Moving to Grenada is a realistic option for those with sufficient financial means.

St Kitts and Nevis: Citizenship through Investment in Island Living

Port Zante in St Kitts and NevisVisa Options: Expatriates can obtain citizenship through investment in St Kitts and Nevis by participating in the Sustainable Island State Contribution or investing in real estate.

The investment for the Sustainable Island State Contribution program is $250,000 and the real estate investment is $500,000. You have to purchase real estate from a government approved development.

There are no residency requirements so you can make your investment and spend as much or as little time there as you’d like!

There are additional fees which are rather large but, if this fits in your budget, your investment provides you with citizenship and tax benefits.

Pros: The islands offer breathtaking beauty, English as the official language, they have excellent healthcare facilities, and a strong passport with access to 257 countries. The passport is ranked 25th in the world.

It is close to Puerto Rico, so it’s not too far from the United States or Canada.

Cons: This path can be quite expensive, cost of living is higher, and there’s a risk of hurricanes due to the islands’ location.

Plus you may not like island living. Some people feel claustrophobic or trapped.

Realistic: Relocating to St Kitts and Nevis is realistic for individuals with substantial financial resources.

Türkiye: Vibrant Culture with Investment Opportunities

City view of Istanbul TurkeyVisa Options: Türkiye offers a Golden Visa program, allowing expatriates to gain citizenship through investments in real estate or business. To qualify you’ll need to invest $400,000.

Pros: Vibrant cities like Istanbul, world-renowned markets, cultural diversity, a rich historical background, and friendly people await in Türkiye.

Cons: Moving to Türkiye may require expats to learn some Turkish, adapt to cultural differences, and become comfortable with the practice of bartering.

You should expect to experience culture shock.

Realistic: This option is only realistic for those with significant investments, as it does not provide a pension or digital nomad visa.

Portugal: Safety and Diversity in Popular Expat Destination

View of Porto from Douro river in PortugalVisa Options: Portugal offers several different visa options, including the D7 and D8 visas, catering to various situations such as working or retiring.

There are 2 types of D8 visas: a 1 year Temporary Stay visa and a 2 year Residence visa. Both require a minimum income of 3,040 euros/month.

If you choose the 2 year residence visa you’ll need to obtain a NIF number, open a Portuguese bank account, and provide proof of accommodation. Plus you’ll no longer benefit from the NHR (Non-Habitual Residence) tax regime (as of December 31, 2023) meaning you could end up paying a lot more in taxes.

The D7 visa is a passive income visa. You’ll need at least 760 euros/month to qualify and you’ll need to obtain a NIF number and open a Portuguese bank account. You’ll also need to provide proof of accommodation.

You can’t be out of the country for more than 6 consecutive months, regardless of which visa you have (this rule applies to the D7 and D8 visas). You will become a tax resident and will be required to pay taxes in Portugal.

(The NHR tax scheme doesn’t tax foreign sourced income and reduces the tax rate on Portugal-sourced income. It also taxed foreign-sourced pensions at a flat rate 0f 10%, instead of the progressive rate which vary from 14.5% to 48%. Assuming they do cancel this program at the end of 2023, new residents – those who aren’t already participating in the NHR scheme – will be paying more taxes!)

Pros: The country is renowned for its safety, the prevalence of English in urban areas, and a wide range of activities, whether it’s enjoying nature, culture, history, or the beach life.

It also has good healthcare, solid infrastructure, and a low cost of living.

Cons: Housing prices have increased a lot, especially in Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve region, and there are a lot of tourists.

Realistic: Portugal remains a realistic choice for a variety of expat circumstances, but consult a tax professional before making any decisions.

Mexico: Diverse Opportunities with Some Safety Considerations

Street view with colorful building in Campeche MexicoVisa Options: Mexico offers several visa options, including resident, work, pension, and investor visas, with specific requirements depending on the consulate.

The residency visas requirements have changed, but they are still accessible.

You can also visit Mexico on a 90 day tourist visa. Some customs agents are issuing the 6 month tourist visa again, but the time is not guaranteed.

Pros: Mexico is a country with a rich cultural heritage and diverse landscapes, ranging from mountains to beaches. It offers a wide variety of options for places to live, from bustling cities to tranquil towns.

It is close to the United States and Canada, you can order from Amazon, and you can find places to live for every budget.

Cons: Unfortunately, certain areas in Mexico are not safe, prices can be higher in popular expat destinations, and dealing with tourists may be a part of everyday life.

You can’t drink the water in most of Mexico.

Realistic: Moving to Mexico is a viable option, though obtaining certain visa types may pose challenges.

New Zealand: Limitations on Age for Work Opportunities

Coastal City View of Auckland New ZealandVisa Options: New Zealand provides a working holiday visa for individuals aged 18-30, while also offering various other visas for working, studying, or owning a business.

The country wants skilled workers. If you have a specific skill set that is in demand you may qualify for a visa that leads to permanent residency.

The investor visa is out of reach for the majority of people. You need $15 million to qualify!

Pros: New Zealand consistently ranks high for quality of life, boasts natural beauty, offers plenty of adventure activities, and provides excellent public services, all in an English-speaking environment.

Cons: New Zealand is expensive and far from the United States and Canada.

Resident visas aren’t accessible to most people.

Realistic: This option is only realistic for young individuals or those with substantial financial resources.

Japan: Diverse Opportunities for Working Professionals

City with mountain view in Kagoshima JapanVisa Options: Japan has a variety of visas, including work, study, highly skilled, or entrepreneur visas.

Japan offers excellent opportunities for teaching English. In most cases you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification.

Pros: Japan is known for its amazing culture and history. There is so much to do and experience.

The country has it all, natural beauty and a modern infrastructure, all in a safe environment.

Cons: Cities can be crowded, living spaces may be small and expensive, and the cost of living is high. Be prepared to experience cold and snowy winters.

Japan does not offer a pensioner visa.

Realistic: Moving to Japan is realistic for younger individuals seeking professional opportunities.

South Korea: Embracing K-Culture and Learning Opportunities

Water view of high rise buildings in Busan South KoreaVisa Options: South Korea introduced a K-Culture visa for young teens and adults interested in exploring Korean culture and the K-Pop scene. There’s also a Workaction visa and other work and study visas.

The Workaction visa is their version of a digital nomad visa and it is valid for 2 years.

They offer a Working Holiday visa but you must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to qualify.

If you are Canadian you can visit visa free for 180 days.

Pros: South Korea is known for its technological advancements, cultural richness, efficient public transportation, and diverse range of activities.

The country is famous for its K-Pop music and K-beauty as well.

Cons: The cost of living in South Korea is relatively high, air pollution can be a concern, and they don’t offer a retirement visa.

Realistic: Relocating to South Korea is a good choice, particularly for young individuals seeking cultural immersion and learning opportunities.

Final Thoughts…

This list of countries that welcome American expats offers diverse experiences and opportunities. Each country presents its own advantages and challenges, catering to different demographics.

Understanding the nuances of each destination, along with individual preferences and circumstances, is essential before choosing a destination.

While some of the countries won’t work for us, we enjoyed doing the research and now we are adding a few of them to our list of places to visit.

Watch Our Video About 10 Countries that Welcome US Expats

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I grew up in the Chicagoland area and spent most of my career working as a sales rep in the commercial lighting industry. I still work online for a company in Denver doing sales CRM administration. YouTube is my part-time gig, but I'm so happy we can share our Unconventional Life and hopefully inspire you live yours!

4 replies
  1. LG
    LG says:

    The Spanish minimum wage is currently about €1,080/month. The minimum income for digital nomads is 2x (or 200%) that amount, then 75% for the first family member (e.g. partner) and 25% for each after that (e.g. per child)… not “200 times the minimum wage”.

    Reply

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