Moving to another country from the U.S. is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most Americans.
The world is a huge place, and the United States makes up a tiny percentage of that place. In fact, the U.S. makes up less than 7% of the world’s total landmass and less than 5% of the world’s total population. With so much to explore, it would be a shame to stay in one place forever.
That is exactly why many U.S. citizens move overseas and become expats.
Whether you’re looking for a new job, a different way of life, or seeking an adventure, it’s important to conduct thorough research before you make any definitive plans. This page will discuss the basic things you need to research before moving abroad from the U.S., along with popular destinations for American expatriates and how you can move there.
How to Move Abroad
Moving out of the United States is not as easy as packing your bags and buying a plane ticket. There is an extensive amount of work that needs to be done before you even start looking at flights.
The first thing you need to do is to figure out where you want to live overseas. If you know the general region, try to narrow it down to two or three countries. Check out our resources on the best places to live to help you with your search.
Once you have a general idea of where you want to live, look at the cost of living compared to the United States. Knowing how things compare in terms of price will help you determine if moving there is actually feasible. In general, Central America, South America, and Southeast Asia are cheaper than the U.S. Western Europe and places like Australia and New Zealand are generally more expensive than the U.S.
When looking at the cost of living, also be sure to look at job opportunities in your country of choice. In some countries, finding employment is notoriously difficult. If you’re retired, you obviously don’t have to worry about this factor.
A very important part of your planning should be your access to healthcare when you move abroad. Chances are you currently have healthcare in the U.S. but your plan will not carry over to your new destination. We strongly recommend that you review international health insurance options which will cover you where you live abroad and back home in the US if you like.
Another thing to consider, if you have kids look at local schools and international schools. Bringing your kids overseas definitely adds to the workload, but it exposes them to hundreds of new opportunities that may not have in America.
Finally, it is essential to research visa requirements. Many countries let you visit for a short period of time without a visa, but when you’re moving abroad, there are almost always visa requirements. A good way to get started with the visa process is to contact the embassy of your destination country. Often, embassies have satellite offices in the United States to help people trying to move there.
Now that we’ve outlined the basics of moving abroad, check out these guidelines about moving to some popular overseas destinations for American expatriates.
Moving to the U.K. from the U.S.
If you’re looking for an easy transition to a new country, moving to the UK from the U.S. may be the best move you can make.
Moving from the U.S. to the U.K. often feels like moving to a different region in the states. The language is the same (although the accents are very different) and the culture is very similar. Overall, acclimating to the U.K. way of life doesn’t present nearly as much culture shock as moving to Japan, for example.
If you want to move to the United Kingdom from the U.S. (meaning you want to work or go to school for longer than six months, you need an immigrant visa. The UK embassy website has a complete list of available visas so you can find the one that’s right for you. The most common visas for American expats in the U.K. include the Tier 2 Skilled Worker visa and the Innovator visa (if you want to start a business.
If you’re looking to move to London from the U.S., keep in mind that the cost of living in London is high. In London, expect to pay nearly as much to live as in New York City. However, there are more affordable places to live in the UK. You can see some costs to live in the United Kindom to compare.
If the big city isn’t your thing, the U.K. has a whole lot more to offer. The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
For those interested in moving to England from the US, you can enjoy a variety of different lifestyles. For those that love the exciting hustle and bustle of the city, consider London, Birmingham, or Manchester. If you prefer coastal living, you might like Whitby, Southwold, or St. Ives, all of which are on the water. Looking for a charming ancient town instead? Check out locales such as Rye, Castle Combe, or Bibury.
Find out about Health Insurance in the UK for Expats
Immigrating to France from America
Dreaming about moving to Paris, the French countryside, or along the French Riviera? Moving to France from the U.S. is not as unattainable as it seems.
If you want to move to France from the U.S., you’ll need some sort of visa. You can get a visitor visa (if you want to stay for more than 90 days but don’t plan to work), or a work visa. Once in the country, you can then apply for a residency to make your move permanent.
Paris may be the most well-known city in France, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right city for you. The cost of living in Paris is as high as living in other major cities around the world.
If you want a more affordable place to live, there are lots of other spectacular places to live in France. You may want to consider the small city of Montpellier, the wine country of Bordeaux, or the ancient city of Lyon (the food capital of France.
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Moving to Spain from the U.S.
Thinking about moving out of the US and living in Spain? There are many reasons to move to Spain. There is an excellent healthcare system in Spain, a lively culture, and a daily siesta, which creates a relaxed, laidback lifestyle. Plus, the cost of living in Spain makes it a favorite destination for expats in Europe.
Spain is also known for its child-friendly culture, so if you’re moving with children, you’ll feel right at home. It’s important to note that the education system is slightly different from it in the United States. You can choose to send your child to a local school or one of the best international schools in Spain. International schools are great for children who don’t know the language. Local schools offer a unique opportunity to integrate with the local culture.
In Spain, you’ll find many different, and very beautiful, cities and towns. You can live the city life in Madrid or Barcelona or opt for a coastal lifestyle by living in a beach town such as Palma, Malaga, or Ibiza.
Keep in mind, the Spanish economy has been struggling in recent years. Jobs aren’t plentiful, but our list of the most popular jobs in Spain for foreigners might be helpful.
As with most countries, you will need a long-term visa to stay in Spain for longer than 90 days. You can also apply for temporary residency (longer than 90 days but shorter than 5 years) or permanent residency.
For more information on Spanish visa and residency requirements for Americans, contact the Spanish Embassy in Washington.
Moving to China for the U.S.
China is an exciting nation with small towns and thriving metropolitan cities among its vast 3.7 million square miles. It has a strong economy and offers excellent job opportunities for international citizens. Plus, the cost of living in China is lower than in the US and Western Europe. Most people in urban Chinese cities enjoy higher incomes and have more disposable income than people in the United States.
Most international citizens in China tend to live in major cities rather than in rural and agricultural outlying areas. If you have children, China is widely considered to be a good place to raise a family.
Those are just a few of the reasons why people move to China, but many expatriates find it hard to adjust to life there. Americans often find it difficult to get used to the local culture and local food. Learn more in our article about the benefits and downsides of moving to China.
In addition to cultural complications, getting a visa is difficult. The major exception is for successful entrepreneurs and celebrities. So while it can be difficult for unskilled workers, professionals have a much easier time getting long-term visas for China.
More information on moving to China can be found on the U.S. Embassy website.
Italy for American Expats
Many U.S. citizens consider moving to Italy because of the climate and culture. Italy’s climate is similar to the southern United States and the culture is well known for its rich history and irresistible food.
If you live in a small town, the cost of living in Italy is less than most cities in the United States. Major cities like Rome and Milan are comparable to places like NYC and London.
The Italian healthcare system is one of the best in the world. They have a national healthcare plan that costs less and offers better medical access than the healthcare system in the US.
It also offers a variety of incredible places to live in. Florence, for example, offers the perfect balance between city living and small-town life. Bologna, which is very friendly to expats, is one of Europe’s main educational centers and has high standards for education. Check out our guide to the best cities in Italy for more information.
If you plan to stay for more than 90 days, you’ll need a residence permit. The type of permit you need is determined by whether you are want to seek employment, study in an Italian school, or work as someone self-employed.
Americans Retiring in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the best places to retire for American expats. Costa Rican natives and locals are friendly and welcoming, so it’s easy for expats to feel at home and adjust to the culture.
The cost of living in Costa Rica is low compared to the majority of the United States, making it a favorite place for retirees and nomads looking to make their dollars stretch farther.
Without a visa, you can spend up to 90 days in Costa Rica. When the 90 days are up, you can simply visit a nearby country for one day then return to Costa Rica and start your 90 days all over again. While this is frowned upon, it’s fairly common for people who want to live in Costa Rica but don’t want to go through the trouble of obtaining a long-term visa.
If you decide you want to stay permanently, you can apply for a temporary residency for three years. At the end of three years, you can apply for permanent residency. Learn more in our guide to moving to Costa Rica.
Many Americans wonder, “is Costa Rica safe?” The U.S. State Department ranks it as a level 1 country, which is the lowest level of concern, meaning that Costa Rica is just as safe as the United States.
Regardless of what type of lifestyle you’re looking for, Costa Rica is home to a wide variety of coastal villages and towns. You can opt for the small surfing town of Tamarindo, the capital city of Cartago, or the city of Escazu, one of the most affluent places in the entire country. Here’s our list of the best places to live in Costa Rica for more information.
Moving to Mexico From America
Mexico is a favorite destination for US citizens because of its proximity and affordability. This makes it easy to travel back and forth, especially from Ensenada, which is just two hours south of San Diego.
The cost of living in Mexico is cheap, especially if you’re coming from a major city. It boasts exciting nightlife, a vibrant culture, and excellent food. For those who love to cook, fresh food and local markets are everywhere.
The safest places to live in Mexico include the surf town of Sayulita and the small town of Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula. Other places with a low crime rate include the town of Tulum and the colonial city of Merida, which has churches built from ancient Mayan ruins.
To get a work visa, you must already have a job secured and your employer will handle most of the application process. To apply for temporary or permanent residency, you must contact your local Mexican consulate.
Moving to Canada from the US
Though the cold climate is not for everyone, Canada is a safe and popular place for Americans to move to. Its proximity to the United States makes it especially easy for US citizens to travel to and from their native land.
The cost of living in Canada varies from region to region, but Vancouver is the most expensive place to live, it’s also the place with the largest expat community. If you’re planning on moving to Toronto from the U.S., you’ll find it a bit more affordable. Other less expensive cities include Montreal, Ottawa, and Calgary. Canada’s vast area of land offers the option to live in big cities, small towns, or very remote areas.
Canada is also known for having a great national healthcare system. There are lots of hospitals in Canada that will treat foreigners who aren’t a part of the government-run healthcare system.
If you’re thinking about immigrating to Canada, it’s important to know that they have very strict immigration laws. Before you can enter the country you must be deemed “admissible.” You are inadmissible if you have committed a serious crime, have health issues, or have financial problems.
For U.S. citizens looking to make Canada their new home, there are a variety of good job opportunities throughout the country. The best jobs in Canada include IT, healthcare, and engineering.
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Other Popular Places to Move Abroad for US Citizens:
Ready to move to Australia from the US? It’s an incredible country to move to because there is no language barrier and the climate is second to none, but the cost of living in Australia is higher than in most American cities.
Sydney is the most popular place to move to. but with diverse locations to choose from, you can live on the beach, in the city, or a small town. Here are the best places to live in Australia for more information.
If you want to work in Australia, you’ll need a work visa. Read our guide on moving to Australia to learn more. If you fall in love with the country and decide to stay you can apply for Australian citizenship.
Thinking about moving to Ireland from the U.S.? It’s a great choice for U.S. citizens because it is one of the easiest places to get dual citizenship – you can get free Irish citizenship if one of your grandparents was born there.
The cost of living in Ireland is higher than in many places outside of major cities in the U.S., but the country also offers a high quality of life and an excellent education system.
The cost of retiring in Malaysia is 42.72% lower than in the U.S., leading many Americans to retire in Malaysia. Most expats choose to live in the city of Kuala Lumpur or on the island of Penang. And if you’re interested in living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy in Malaysia is relatively easy due to the vast amount of fresh produce.
A tropical climate makes the exotic country of Thailand a fabulous choice for foreign citizens. The country is one of the best places for expats to work for foreigners. Plus, the cost of living in Thailand makes it affordable for digital nomads. In fact, in a city such as Bangkok, you can rent a studio apartment in an expensive neighborhood for just $568 per month.
In Thailand, there are a variety of unique cities and towns, including the small island of Koh Tao, the city of Chiang Mai, and the beach resort of Hua Hin. Read our guide to the best places to live in Thailand to learn more.
With its strong economy, high salaries, and disposable income, expats love Singapore. In Singapore, there is high-quality childcare and education, luxury lifestyles, and high wages. But it doesn’t come cheap, the cost of living in Singapore is one of the highest in the world.
Singapore has excellent business opportunities, making it great for people who want to start their own businesses. It’s also known for its low tax rates, low crime rates, and excellent education system.
If you’re considering moving to Japan from the US, you’ll have your choice of unique locations to pick from. Japan is home to the non-stop city of Tokyo, smaller cities such as Osaka and Kyoto, and small, quiet towns.
Choosing Where to Live
Thinking about moving to the UK, Thailand, Costa Rica, or Europe from the U.S.? There are fabulous destinations all over the world where expats can live a safe, comfortable, and happy life.
Before you decide where to go:
- Research visa and residency requirements.
- Obtain international health insurance.
- Check out the school system if you have children.
- Look at the cost of living compared to average income.
- And, unless you’re retiring, make sure there are job opportunities available.
With a little bit of research, you’re sure to find a place that’s perfect when moving abroad from the US.