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Many Americans consider moving to another country at some point in their lives. For most, it’s never anything more than a fun idea. Some, however, follow through on their dream of living abroad.
If you’re considering moving overseas, you probably have several questions. Chief among those would be, “What country should I pick?”
To help you get a better understanding of your options, we’ve put together a list of some of the best countries to move to from the US. But first, let’s look at some factors to consider when choosing where you want to start a new life.
Before you start making plans to move to a new country, you need to know how easy it will be to live there long term. Ask yourself:
Getting the answers to these questions may help you narrow down your list of options.
Finding a job will probably be an important factor when choosing a new home abroad. Is your skill set valuable in this country? How tough will it be to get hired?
(Of course, this may be less important if you’re retired or self-employed as a business owner or freelancer.)
Sunny beaches and long summers can make any country a popular destination for tourists and expats alike. In fact, one of the most common reasons for moving to another country is to bask in a warmer climate. (This is a big reason why you won’t find places like Russia or Finland on many lists of the best countries to move to from the US.)
Putting down roots in a remote, disconnected part of the world may sound like the ideal to some. The reality, however, can be quite a different story. Moving all of your possessions to a remote location adds more stress to the process of relocating. Plus, just because you don’t want to live in the US doesn’t mean you won’t want to visit again. Choosing a country that makes international travel difficult could create headaches down the road.
Experiencing different cultures is a highlight of traveling. And no matter where you move, there will inevitably be some cultural differences you’ll have to adapt to. That said, there’s such a thing as too much change. Those fun, bizarre aspects of a foreign culture may not seem so fun a few years down the road.
Consider picking a country with a culture similar to what you’re used to. This will make it easier to integrate and feel at home in your new world. In particular, it’s always a good idea to choose someplace where a language barrier won’t be a problem.
A lower cost of living is another popular motivation for Americans moving abroad. If you choose a country that’s more expensive than the US, you’ll miss out on this benefit entirely. So before making the final decision, take the time to calculate how expensive your life will be in a given country.
This one may seem obvious. Still, you’d be surprised how many times travelers assume incorrectly that a country is safer than it really is. Alternatively, they may see that a country is safe and assume that the whole country is, without realizing that the city they’re moving to has a higher crime rate than the national average. And even if it’s safe for the locals, how safe is it for foreigners like you?
It’s worth doing some research to learn whether you’re going to expose yourself to unnecessary risks.
When you move to another country, you agree to abide by their rules. Things that have always been normal to you may be rude or even illegal. Find out what worldviews, policies, and regulations you can expect while you’re still outside the system.
Portugal is widely regarded as one of the best countries to move to from the US. There are quite a few reasons for this.
To start with, Portugal’s warm, temperate climate makes it a favorite spot to relax in the sun. Plus, you can rest easy knowing that you and your family are likely far from any danger. According to the 2021 Global Peace Index, Portugal is the fourth safest country in the world.
Portugal also boasts a comprehensive healthcare system and one of the lowest costs of living in Europe. This includes lower-than-average prices for food, lodging, and most other day-to-day expenses.
Most Americans will have no trouble fitting in as long as they stick to major cities like Lisbon and Porto, where English speakers are common. (If you decide to settle in a rural area, the language barrier may be more of a problem.) Portugal even features numerous international schools with an American curriculum, making it easier for children to relocate.
Finally, the Portugal Golden Visa and D7 Visa programs are both excellent options for obtaining long-term residency.
Right beside Portugal, Spain provides another warm, laid-back home for Americans living abroad. In fact, Spain offers virtually all of the same benefits as Portugal, though with a somewhat higher price tag. Spain’s cost of living is not as low as its smaller western neighbor.
As with Portugal, you would likely want to move to a major city, especially Barcelona, where English is more common. The Canary Islands are also a popular choice, especially for expat retirees.
Regardless, Spain’s Golden Visa program is designed to make relocating as simple as possible, with a variety of investment choices available for foreigners. You can then seek permanent residency and even citizenship as long as you meet certain criteria.
Spanish citizenship comes with plenty of benefits as well, including the fact that a Spanish passport allows you to travel to 190 countries worldwide without needing a visa.
As you can probably already tell, the Mediterranean region is a popular destination for Americans moving overseas. Another country on the list of Mediterranean hotspots is Greece. Compared with many other European countries, Greece’s cost of living is relatively affordable, though still not as low as Portugal’s.
Greece’s main claim to fame is its gorgeous beaches stretching along the edge of the sapphire-blue sea. The Greek isles are also renowned for their beauty and offer rural areas with plenty of privacy. If you prefer the bustle of the city, Athens and Thessaloniki are more than welcoming to foreign guests.
No matter whether you settle on the mainland or one of Greece’s many islands, the weather will seldom give you a reason to complain. Warm summers and mild winters characterize the cycle of Greek seasons.
Greece also has a number of international schools for American students, though most of these are based in Athens. And virtually anywhere you go, almost everyone under the age of 40 will be able to communicate in English.
If you’re interested in making your home in Greece, the Greece Golden Visa program is generally the best place to start. Greece’s investment threshold is much lower than many countries, requiring an investment of only 250,000 euros to become eligible for a visa.
Malta is a small island nation floating just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta’s breathtaking coast, delicious cuisine, and rich culture have made it a magnet for US expats. The island’s year-round sunshine doesn’t hurt its popularity, either. Plus, most of the population of Malta can speak English.
Better still, Malta’s Golden Visa program is generally the cheapest option for any European country, lower even than Greece’s threshold. You may only need to invest as much as 30,000 euros to acquire a visa. Malta’s relatively low cost of living will also help your remaining finances stretch further.
Yet another Mediterranean country beckoning Americans overseas is Montenegro. Like most of its neighbors in the Balkan region, Montenegro presents a fascinating mix of Eastern and Western cultural influences. For example, the architecture and aesthetics of Montenegro are clearly inspired by Italy, while Montenegrin cuisine is noted for its Greek and Turkish elements.
In short, Montenegro is a kind of crossroads for European culture, offering the best of all worlds. And despite its small size, Montenegro is steeped in a rich cultural history of its own.
Montenegro’s cost of living is notably lower than in the US, and the tax benefits are even more enticing. Much of the local population speaks English as well, though this will be less common outside of tourist destinations such as Kotor, Budva, or Tivat.
Because of Montenegro’s small size, immigration rules are rather strict. However, options are still available for obtaining residency.
Now it’s time to consider some of the best countries to move to from the US that aren’t located in the Mediterranean region. First on the list is Thailand, a true gem of the East.
Like the other countries we’ve discussed, Thailand is known for its low cost of living and pleasant climate. (Though the monsoon season can take some getting used to for Americans moving abroad.)
Thailand’s thriving economy makes it a notorious base of operations for business owners and digital nomads. In particular, the capital of Bangkok is home to a healthy expat population, many of whom are involved in international business. If you prefer to stay closer to the beach, the cities of Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Phangan are also solid choices.
Because Thailand is a hub for tourists and expats, English is commonly spoken, and Americans shouldn’t have too much trouble communicating. Thailand also features a well-developed rail network, making it easy to travel quickly and comfortably throughout the country.
However, gaining residency in Thailand isn’t always easy. Because so many international travelers would love to call Thailand home, the rules for immigration are strict. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, of course. Many expats apply for the 10-Year Visa program and use this as their entry point into Thai society.
Roughly a third of Singapore’s population are foreigners, with tens of thousands of those being expats from the US. There are several reasons for Singapore’s popularity, including its universal healthcare system, low crime rates, and light tax burden. And of course, the large expat community means that English is common.
Becoming a resident of Singapore is also much easier than in most other countries. Even obtaining citizenship is relatively simple.
On the other hand, Singapore isn’t cheap. The cost of living in Singapore is a fair bit higher than in the US. However, Singapore’s impressive social programs may make up for this.
South Korea has established itself as a global hub of culture, exporting K-pop (Korean pop), K-dramas, K-beauty, and more. Aside from this, South Korea is also noted for promoting vibrant lifestyles and offering world-class shopping opportunities. South Korea’s cuisine is also legendary worldwide.
On top of all this, South Korea maintains a remarkably low cost of living—though one major exception to this is housing, which can be pricey.
South Korea also boasts some of the fastest internet speeds in the world, though with the prevalence of online censorship, you may need to invest in a VPN.
In general, South Korea can be a great home for younger, tech-savvier expats who want to taste the good life overseas.
If you’re hoping to live overseas, we hope this list of the best countries to move to from the US has helped you understand your options. If you still have questions, we’d be happy to answer them all.
At Greenback Expat Tax Services, we help Americans living abroad file their expat taxes accurately and on time. Just contact us, and we’ll be happy to help you in any way we can. We can even prepare and file your expat taxes for years to come.
Looking for tax consultations before moving abroad? Book a consultation with a Greenback expat tax specialist.