The population of the United States is around 330 million, of which around 9 million are currently living abroad. Spending a prolonged time in a foreign country lets you gain a different perspective not only on the country itself, but also on your life at home, and on the people around you. But where to go? And how to get there? Read on for a list of the best countries for U.S. citizens who want to live abroad and for some tips for staying longer.
If you don’t want to stray too far from what you know, New Zealand is a great place to choose. You will find public institutions familiar to what you have back home in the US, with a strong emphasis on democracy and egalitarianism. You can find both busy cities and green landscapes, attracting fantasy film crews for decades. If you are between 18 and 30, you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa aimed specifically at US citizens that lets you stay for a year, find a job (or try more), or enroll in a training course or program.
Hungary is located in the very center of Europe, with excellent connections to all major cities on the continent. Since it is a member of the European Union, you can expect to meet not only advanced infrastructure and high living standards (for a fraction of what you pay in Western Europe), but with local residency, you will be able to travel visa-free anywhere in the Schengen zone. Residency is available for various purposes, including employment at a local company or as a digital nomad, while you can also easily set up your own business since company formation in Hungary is available to anyone and takes only a few days.
Costa Rica is not only physically close to the US, it also feels a lot like sunny California complemented by a rainforest. Every year more than a million tourists visit from the US, and the income generated from that is turned into infrastructure, including reliable airports and highways, lush conservation districts, and quality public healthcare and education. Tourist visas are easy enough to obtain, as well as residency for the employees of big corporations; however, if you are interested in another type of residency, that might take some time and navigation on the turbulent seas of bureaucracy.
Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia with a warm, welcoming culture and a flourishing community of digital nomads taking advantage of the widely available, high-speed internet connection. Heavy traffic and pollution may be considered some of the tradeoffs, depending on where you decide to move. Visa rules are changing a bit more often than it would be optimal for long-term planning, so if you are considering leaving for Vietnam, make sure to check on the current requirements regularly throughout the preparation phase.
Germany is one of the leading nations of the European Union, and its capital, Berlin is a real, diverse melting pot of various cultures, with legendary nightlife. Its business landscape is equally varied, with a vibrant startup culture alongside the European headquarters of several multinational corporations. As a US citizen, you can enter Germany for three months as a tourist without too much ado, but becoming a resident, opening a bank account, or getting a mobile phone plan requires patience as well as a vast amount of paperwork; not to mention finding suitable accommodation for a reasonable rent. However, at least all residency procedures are explained in the meticulous fashion Germans are known for, and information and services are both available in English.
Live and work around the world
If you want an instant increase in your living standard, there is nothing better than getting a US salary and spending it in a country where the cost of living is much lower than in the US. Wherever you intend to go, tourist visas are usually readily available to US citizens to check out the country before making a commitment. Once you decide to stay, however, you will most probably need to indicate the purpose of your stay.
Standard purposes for getting residency in a foreign country include:
- Working remotely from the US, as an employee of a US-based company (it can be your own company)
- Working for a local company, which might be easier if you can work for the local branch of an international corporation based in the US
- Starting your own local business (of course, you can keep your US clients if you can perform your work remotely)
The complexity of residency procedures varies country by country, alongside waiting times. For example, you can obtain a work permit in Hungary only if you first find an employer that is willing to work together with you and the immigration office to complete your application. However, the procedure itself is relatively straightforward, and you can easily find agencies that offer professional assistance in dealing with the authorities.
Planning for the long run
When considering a move abroad, you might also want to ask yourself how long you wish to stay, even if you do not have an answer just yet. Are you looking for an experience of spending time abroad for a few years, or are you looking for a new home? Many countries offer citizenship to long-term residents, and citizenship might become one of your goals as you are spending more and more time in your second home of choice. Considering this, you might also want to factor in right from the start if you have any ancestors from a country you are interested in (which might be the case, considering that much of the US was populated by immigrants from all over the world), as many countries offer expedited citizenship to the descendants of their former citizens. For example, Hungarian citizenship by ancestry can be acquired in just one year, which is a fair deal compared to both the 8 years required for regular naturalization in Hungary and the time required in other EU member states.
Take advantage of your US passport
Your US passport lets you travel around the world. You can enter many countries either visa-free or with relatively little administration. Once you are there, you can take a look around to decide if your current destination is a place where it would be nice to spend some more time. Immerse yourself in a new culture, get the experience of a lifetime, and let yourself find your second home.