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July 26, 2009 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Which countries are easiest for a US citizen to move to permanently?

Within the next 15 years I'd like to retire from my current career and start another. At that time I would consider moving from the US, and if I do that, I'd like to purchase some real-estate ahead of time.

I'm not a nationalist. Although I have strong preferences toward the US bill of rights, I'd like to reside within a population that follows the spirit of that bill, rather than the marketing. In general, I find the US population lacking in spirit toward ideas of freedom and access. But, honestly, I have no other experiences to which to compare the US.

Which countries should I research further or keep on my hot list? Which ones, in 10-15 years, would likely be willing to take in a liberal, single, middle-aged male with a BS or MS in science and a teen-aged child? Which countries will likely be the beacons of liberty and individual rights of the future?

I'm also interested in alternative fuels and populations of people who seriously understand the needs of renewable energy as part of future economies.

Which of those countries would be easiest for a US citizen to migrate to? Or, how would I best prepare myself over the next decade to increase my chances?
posted by TheOtherSide to Law & Government (17 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you have a bunch of money?
posted by box at 11:10 AM on July 26, 2009


Let's say, optimistically and theoretically, I'm able to save $500K US by then. No, not a 'bunch' of money.
posted by TheOtherSide at 11:14 AM on July 26, 2009


Costa Rica.
posted by mdonley at 11:17 AM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


A don't have a specific answer for you, but there's a book called Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America. I don't know if anyone can accurately predict a political climate in 10-15 years, but it has info on likely candidates. (Note: my local library had a copy, so you don't necessarily need to spend the money sight-unseen)
posted by sharkfu at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The political thing: New Zealand, Canada, the usual Western European and Scandinavian suspects. I dunno how easy it is to emigrate to any of those, though.
posted by box at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2009


Most countries that are "hard" to immigrate to as a normal person or even as a skilled worker make it very, very easy (in terms of chances, not paperwork) for you to immigrate as an investor. Usually you have to start or buy a significant stake in a local business, for which US$500K is adequate starting capital. Certainly Canada would take you.
posted by randomstriker at 11:22 AM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd also add that given how every large or industrialized nation's population is aging, any and all skilled workers will become very desireable. Consequently immigration policies everywhere are likely to loosen, not tighten, in the future.
posted by randomstriker at 11:26 AM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America. There are also many forums for expats, such as Expat Focus.

For identifying green or livable cities, you might look at the list of car-free places.

You might find it easier to relocate if you have your own business and won't be viewed as taking a job from a local. I have an online business that I can run from anywhere, which makes it easier for me to check places out while still building my business.
posted by PatoPata at 11:36 AM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not a nationalist. Although I have strong preferences toward the US bill of rights, I'd like to reside within a population that follows the spirit of that bill, rather than the marketing. In general, I find the US population lacking in spirit toward ideas of freedom and access. But, honestly, I have no other experiences to which to compare the US.

Just a warning -- many countries, even liberal democracies, have different definitions of what freedom and access mean. Things that may seem like a basic right in the US may not be elsewhere (and vice versa, of course). For instance, the UK has very strong libel laws which preclude the discussion of ongoing court cases in many instances. They also allow for much longer detention of prisoners without charging them than the US. Australia is implementing pretty broad internet censorship.

As said above, you're likely to find it easier to emigrate if you are independently wealthy. Otherwise, applying for a work visa is a difficult process without a guaranteed outcome. Due to broad and comprehensive welfare state provisions to residents, many European countries are fairly "closed" to non-EU citizens.

None of this is to say you shouldn't pursue your interest in emigrating, of course. Just wanting to make sure you've thought this out; there likely aren't many freedom-loving, politically engaged, environmentally conscious liberal democracies that also have open immigration policies. One final thing to note is that even if you emigrate, if you remain a US citizen there is a good chance you will still be paying federal income tax to the US.
posted by proj at 11:59 AM on July 26, 2009


It's impossible to predict what the political climate is going to be in any liberal democracy in 10-15 years. They all seem to go through cycles of conservatism and liberalism over time and it's hard to predict when it's likely to swing in the other direction. My own nation is in an extremely conservative political place right now (and that's with a Labor government in power), even though it might seem quite liberal by US standards. I sure as heck wouldn't like to predict what any nation's immigration policies are going to be 10 years from now.
posted by Lolie at 12:13 PM on July 26, 2009


A few points here:

"I'd like to purchase some real-estate ahead of time."

Unless you're paying cash now you seriously don't want to doing this, as it implies some type of mortgage and you'll be exposed to currency exchange fluctuations. And even if you're paying cash the same risk factor arises if you've got any regular obligations in the foreign currency e.g., taxes, extraordinary maintenance, etc. If the US dollar weakens significantly against the currency of your obligation, your US dollar denominated payments will skyrocket.


"Which ones, in 10-15 years, would likely be willing to take in a liberal, single, middle-aged male with a BS or MS in science and a teen-aged child?"


I've spent a lot of time working in Africa, and many of those countries would welcome you if you wanted to help them develop.

"Which countries will likely be the beacons of liberty and individual rights of the future?"

Many African nations, because the governments are so undeveloped, afford a much higher degree of personal freedom than the Westernised democracies. But, as I'm sure you're aware, there are downsides to living & working in Africa and besides disease one to be careful about is the volatile nature of African nations. 10-15 years is a very long time to be making forward looking projections for developing nations.


"Or, how would I best prepare myself over the next decade to increase my chances? "

I'd suggest become bi or even tri linqual for starters. Most of the nations you might find attractive, given your requirements, don't speak English.



proj -- "One final thing to note is that even if you emigrate, if you remain a US citizen there is a good chance you will still be paying federal income tax to the US."

Speaking as a long term American ex-pat (I left in 1997), this is certainly the case if you earn more than $85$K. Anything below that is tax free on the US side, but still subject to local taxes which, for many nations, are much higher and much more aggressive (i.e., you tend to hit the highest nominal rate at much, much lower income thresholds).

Note the US Government doesn't seem to want its citizens living abroad (grumble); that threshold used to be $95.5K, and now they tax all sorts of stuff they didn't tax before. The tax burden on ex-pats, who use very few domestic US services has been gradually increasing.

That being said, if one structures ones affairs properly you can realise a much lower nominal rate of taxation; I'm currently paying a little more than 15% tax, but you've got work at this.
posted by Mutant at 12:25 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Which countries should you consider? Any OECD country. From your perspective, they're all just different flavors of awesome.

Which countries are the easiest to emigrate to? The easiest countries to move to are the ones that you are also a citizen of, which might or might not apply to you. The second easiest countries to emigrate to are the ones that your spouse is a citizen of. The third easiest country to move to is the one that your big corporation moves you to and takes care of the paperwork for.

Countries' immigration agencies will not generally care that you are liberal, middle-aged, or male. They also probably will not care that you have a son, though you might not be able to take him if his mother has any form of custody, or (if he's old enough) if he's committed a crime.

The best way to do this would be to network widely, internationally, and relentlessly so that you have contacts in Canada or the UK or Oz or wherever who can hire you, or you have contacts with a big multinational that can hire you and then move you. A strategy of emigrating by abandoning your previous career, your previous professional network, all your industry-specific skills, and so on seems rather unlikely to succeed. Networking widely and internationally also puts you in the position where meeting and falling for some foreign person is more realistic.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:58 PM on July 26, 2009


Canada will welcome you if:
- you want to open a new business in Canada, bring in a good chunk of money, and hire employees (who aren't related to you)
or
- you meet the requirements as outlined in the skilled worker category, namely a good education, excellent english (or french), work experience, and so forth.
posted by maxpower at 2:14 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Panama loves expats.*

*With a steady income.
posted by mullingitover at 2:47 PM on July 26, 2009


Seconding Costa Rica. A family friend retired there a few years ago and she LOVES it.

She spent a good three years preparing for the move, going there several times to meet with officials, lawyers and real estate folks. She did spend some money going through those motions.

She purchased a little ranch there for about $150K, put another $150k in the bank and lives on her teachers retirement.

She originally planned on doing some kind of eco-tourism thing, but she's spending her time surfing, hiking, camping etc.

You have fifteen years to think about it, and this is one place you should read more about. In about fifteen years, you might see me there as well!
posted by snsranch at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I moved to Canada and I love it. Liberal democracy with much lower corruption than the US, higher tolerance (gay marriage is legal throughout Canada) and free health care (paid for by slightly higher taxes). Canada has, in general, much more sensible politics, which is why Canadian banks are not currently failing, the real estate market is not collapsing, and the currency remains strong.

Part of Canada's sensible politics is its willingness to take skilled workers with little fuss. Also, rich people. Skilled rich people are even more welcome.

I would be careful about countries outside of Western Europe and North America, because their democratic institutions are not as well established. In other words, who the hell knows if there will be a coup? Whereas there hasn't been a coup in Canada in, oh, ever.

I think of Canada as the US's slightly older, more stable, more sensible brother.

Oh, and we don't get into wars quite so often.
posted by musofire at 7:42 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some crazy things are happening in Mexico now, but there are many happy expats there. There is also the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, which allows Americans to start their own business in the Netherlands. The Dutch bike everywhere! (And biking is definitely environmentally friendly).
posted by oceano at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2009


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