Get Us Out Of Here!
January 27, 2011 6:31 PM   Subscribe

Due concerns about the US's economic situation and disillusionment with its foreign and domestic policies, my boyfriend and I are considering moving to another country, and we're looking for suggestions where, and how to do it.

I'm a dual citizen, so Canada would be the easiest and probably most logical choice. I haven't been there since I was seven, though, so I don't really know whether we would like it there, and it doesn't have quite the same allure as the idea of moving to somewhere like Denmark. What we're looking for: liberal, secular country with a reasonably high standard of living and social protections for its citizens. We unfortunately only speak English, and although we both have degrees and fairly well-paying government jobs here, we don't have any skills that would likely be in high demand in another country (at least not enough for us to be offered work visas). We are, however, both considering grad school, and would happily do it abroad, especially if that would help with visa issues, as long as we could take out loans to pay for it. Any advice, opinions, or suggestions about places to move and ways to legally work there are appreciated!
posted by odayoday to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
All I can tell you is that Denmark is very strongly anti-immigration. Unless you have EU citizenship, you will likely find it impossible to move there. Even marrying a Danish citizen is not enough to get you permanent residence (unless you are Princess Mary, for whom they made a special act of parliament.)

You might find it possible to get student permits for grad school there, but it is really hard to make a life somewhere and then be kicked out when you are all settled in, which is almost definitely what would happen when you graduated.

If you are looking at Scandinavia at all seriously, Sweden is probably a better bet.
posted by lollusc at 6:56 PM on January 27, 2011

New Zealand! Beautiful place. Planning to move there myself one day. No idea how hard it is to move there as an American though (I'm Aussie). Australia fits the bill too (not quite as liberal or secular) but our migration process is quite difficult from what international students/migrant friends have told me, and it changes on about a weekly basis.

Also, exactly what lollusc said. I think you will find that many countries with social protections for its citizens are wary of letting too many non-citizens in if they're not skilled migrants filling a skills shortage. You may be better off looking at the list of skills shortages, doing grad school in that field in the US, then trying to migrate.
posted by jaynewould at 7:08 PM on January 27, 2011

Can you guys consider getting a job with an American company that offers positions abroad? My sister has managed to relocate to different countries and is expanding her career goals to work abroad indefinitely. This is not uncommon for IT positions as companies are expanding overseas. I'd look at industries where you have relevant experience that have offices in the countries you might consider living. It might not happen overnight, but you'd be surprised how few people actually want to be stationed abroad and your willingness to relocate might work in your favor.
posted by loquat at 7:24 PM on January 27, 2011

Yes, if you're thinking about Australia or New Zealand as a North American, especially if you're over 30, you'll probably want a skill in demand. I know from numerous anecdotes that it's very difficult for international students in Australia to convert their student visas into permanent residency.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2011

No offense to any and all Antipodeans out there, but I have no idea why you would choose Aus or New Zealand if you already have the ability to reside in Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:39 PM on January 27, 2011

We unfortunately only speak English, and although we both have degrees and fairly well-paying government jobs here, we don't have any skills that would likely be in high demand in another country (at least not enough for us to be offered work visas)
Why would they want you, if they have social protections? You are coming in to take their jobs (especially given you guys are bureaucrats looking at moving to countries where a lot of people work for the government).

This is coming from someone who wants to live abroad: definitely think through the decision. Visit the place. You can rail against ethereal things like "foreign and domestic policies," but these are intellectual realities...they do little to really shape your day to day (although I suppose you said you worked for the Government). I've found every country to have good things, and every country to have bad (just look at all the backlash in scandinavian countries against immigrants, for example, and a general increase in support for fringe right wing parties). The US certainly has it's flaws, but it also has a lot of good things...tons of cultural diversity, diversity in cities, ton of immigrants, etc.

I am not saying not to move abroad, I am just saying that it's better to pin down more reasonable goals than "the recession!" or "disillusionment," because these will not sustain you long term. Every place has it's shit, because every place has humans.

That said, I'd love to live and work in New Zealand (and I even count as having a "skilled background"), but man, I don't know what job I could find...
posted by wooh at 7:44 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

KokuRyu: Weather.

Generally regarding the question please see this question.

Perhaps you should stay in the USA and fight for your values.

Don't let the bastards win.

The world needs more good Americans who oppose your governments current sillyness.

Regarding the economic situation keep in mind that the US is actually richer per head than most other developed countries. Have a look at things like housing prices in countries you'd like to move to compared to the US.

That said, living overseas is a great experience and REALLY lets you start to understand how other countries are. But you probably want to go to the country beforehand to get a feel for it. Then you can emigrate.
posted by sien at 7:55 PM on January 27, 2011

I dunno nothin' about other provinces, only Ontario.

My sense is that if you're really fed up with the US and its politics, moving to Canada might well not be a big enough difference to really satisfy you. Especially not Stephen Harper's Canada.

On the other hand, two things.

One is that thinking about where to go is secondary -- your answer is "Somewhere that will take you," and finding somewhere that will accept you is a much harder limiting factor than whether the country is "good enough."

The other is that if you've been in Texas the whole time, you might not get (at a fundamental grokking level) how different even other chunks of the US are from Texas. I'm still surprised at the differences myself after 3 1/2 years here instead of D/FW. Even though I'd say that, apart from the few big obvious things like health care, life in Ontario wouldn't be all that different from life in NY or MA, life in NY is like breathing the fresh air of freedom compared to having to listen to people praise Governor Goodhair all the time.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you should stay in the USA and fight for your values.

Yes. Please. I'm so tired of these loopy questions. The people who are really victimized by terrible policies have no options to move across town, let alone Denmark. Please, stay, pay taxes, vote and fight. Please.
posted by sweetkid at 8:32 PM on January 27, 2011 [13 favorites]

Two thoughts:

1. Definitely try Canada. It's pretty easy to visit, or even to stay for a while. You'll know if it's for you pretty quickly. Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal sound like pretty decent starting options to check out. They're all very different.

2. If you want to reconsider staying in the US, perhaps consider a new city that's special and different from where you are now. Ultimately, it's all about the people you live with, and the differences can be striking. Ideas: Seattle, San Francisco, New York, somewhere in Vermont.
posted by Citrus at 8:57 PM on January 27, 2011

Nthing Canada if you really do want out. I'm a dual citizen of the US and Italy, so, as an EU passport holder, I have the ability to live and work in any EU member country--and I'm strongly considering taking the harder road and giving Canada a try (mainly because it would let me stay close to family here, who are refusing to budge).

That said, I'm still waiting to see how things play out over the next couple of years in the US, and when I read things like what sien and sweetkid wrote, it makes me feel guilty and it makes me reconsider whether moving is really the right path to take. Sometimes I feel as if it might be my unhappiness at my career--well, my current lack of a career--or other life decisions that might be underneath my desire to get out of the US, too, so I'm waiting until I'm in a happier place before I actually go ahead and commit to moving.

I'm in MA, and I have never been to Texas, but, from what I hear, we do things a little differently here. Like others have suggested, trying out life here might be a wise step--maybe even consider it an intermediate step before moving out of the country. Expatriating can be a ridiculously time-consuming, expensive, and just generally difficult process, even if you are already a citizen of the country you'd like to move to.
posted by dcheeno at 10:56 PM on January 27, 2011

If foreign policy is one of your hot buttons, try Costa Rica. No military since 1947 so no stupid wars and thus not a terrorist target either.

It's a predominantly Catholic country but very laid-back about it.

Most of the upper and upper middle class speak English and there is a huge English-speaking expat community (supposedly Costa Rica has more Americans per capita than any other country other than the U.S. itself).

Many expats living there don't get official residency, but just travel in and out of the country often enough to keep getting a new tourist visa (there are even travel agencies that will offer to book you a 72-hour "visa vacation" to nice destinations in Nicaragua or Panama). Officially you're not supposed to do any work in the country on a tourist visa but unofficially those laws don't tend to be enforced against North Americans (the enforcement target is Nicaraguans). Non-retired expats tend to make their livings by starting businesses, working online, teaching English, or providing professional services (U.S. tax preparation etc.) to other expats.

For grad school, there is the University for Peace with classes are taught in English. You can't get US federal financial aid for UPeace directly but they have a M. A. in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development joint program with American University in DC with the latter institution administering the program, which I think means you can get financial aid.

If you like the Costa Rica idea, here are some resources with much more detailed information on the ins and outs of moving there:
The New Golden Door To Retirement and Living in Costa Rica
Moon Living Abroad in Costa Rica
(full disclosure: I contributed a small amount of text to each book but don't have any financial interest in book sales)
Association of Residents of Costa Rica

The biggest downside IMO is Costa Rican society is very chauvinistic, with gender relations and women's rights at about the level of the 1970s or 1980s in the U.S. So it's not a great place to be a single American woman, which is a big part of why I eventually repatriated to the U.S. (that, and the 2006 elections and Bush's rapidly declining approval rating gave me hope that the U.S. might not be a lost cause after all). But it's not so bad that I wouldn't move back there with my husband now that I'm married, and Costa Rica is decidedly our destination of choice if/when we ever give up on the U.S.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:25 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this will help, but there's a sub-forum at Reddit called I Want Out.
posted by sharkfu at 11:46 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Those social protections you admire would not extend to you, except perhaps in Canada, but since you haven't lived there in ages you might want to check if there's a waiting period. Without a work visa, you'd mostly be limited to cash-under-the-table jobs. You haven't mentioned your plan for paying for things like rent and health insurance. With the dollar weak, you should be prepared to burn through your savings for all the basics.
posted by paindemie at 11:49 PM on January 27, 2011

You can already get into Canada? Some of us have to wait three years and fill out a shit-ton of paperwork and put up a bunch of cash out-of-pocket. Quit your griping. "Oh, but Denmark!" you lament. Do you speak Danish? Do you have any inkling of an idea just how ludicrous the Danish language sounds? Shove a handful of marbles in your mouth and read something out loud. That's Danish. Not to mention, have you ever even been to Denmark? Because, really, the place is enormously overrated. Yes, blonds on every street corner, but Germany has those, too (as does Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, etc.) Is it the social safety net? Canada's got that. The free bikes? They suck and you'd end up buying your own anyway.

Anyway the answer is go to Canada.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:58 AM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you have Canadian citizenship, then you would be able to move back with very little effort compared to immigrating somewhere else. However your boyfriend would have to go through the normal long, bureaucratic process. AFAIK, your status would be no help to him unless you were married. But it still may be easier than getting a permanent visa to most European countries. Depending on his field of work, getting a multi-year work visa may require only a job offer in advance and not much else. Permanent residency after that is just a matter of time and paper work.

If you do decide on Canada for mostly the purposes of politics, then I would recommend downtown Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, or Victoria in increasing order of "liberalness". Simply pretend Alberta doesn't exist. That's what most Canadians do.

Have you considered a simple change of locations within the US? You didn't mention where you're starting from, but there is a wide spectrum of environments already open to you. In visiting the states on business, San Francisco and New York still had the bizarre fascist overtones of your American tv news networks, but overall seemed like much more pleasant places than some other cities I've seen.
posted by dodecapus at 8:21 AM on January 28, 2011

Try Canada. Spend some time there, even a week here and there. Dodecapus's list of cities is good. New Zealand and Australia have their allure as well, but they may be harder to figure out visas for. If you're thinking about grad school, perhaps look into a Commonwealth Scholarship (no idea if you're eligible after not living in Canada for so long) or other Commonwealth programs that may make things smoother. Think about getting a working holiday visa to NZ or Australia and then taking a year or six months to see what day-to-day life is like there. It's hard to find work on that kind of visa (you can't accept any permanent employment), but it's a great experience and really helpful as a way to start experiencing a country as a resident and not just a tourist.

I'm an American who went to grad school in Canada and then lived in NZ for a year on a working holiday visa. They were both great experiences, and I happily could have stayed in either place. Let me know if you have any other questions.
posted by bassjump at 8:31 AM on January 28, 2011

I'm an American who recently "got out". My only advice is to actually pick a place that you want to go to, not just to jump ship. They all have problems and you'll be an outsider no matter where you go.

That said, I love where I'm at.
posted by melt away at 11:44 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't believe no one suggested the Netherlands yet. They have a special treaty to help Americans set up businesses there on relatively low capital, in exchange for one year residency. Residency is renewable on showing that the business is working out and you still have money invested in it. This scheme is called the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, and after much investigation, I concluded it was the best way to move to Europe. (Then I got transferred for work.)

They're so-so on immigration-friendliness otherwise, but are all-good on the English-speaking front and liberal ways.

Grad school is another good option especially if you want to study things that would otherwise require 5-digits of loans in the US.
posted by whatzit at 1:24 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Come to Canada. Honestly. What you will find here: stable economy, friendly people, painfully (happily) bland politics, clean and safe cities. What you won't find: punitively high taxes (despite what American media may have led you to believe), ghettos, populist anti-immigration sentiment, cable news.

Canada is like the States but without the testosterone.

As for which cities are best, Ottawa is incredibly...pleasant. Montreal is cool, but if you don't speak French it can be difficult at times. Toronto ain't bad. Vancouver will cost you a fortune. Halifax is extremely awesome. And don't listen to Alberta haters. They tend to be people who've never actually visited. Calgary is far more cosmopolitan than anyone would like to admit.

If you have dual citizenship I can't see why you wouldn't come up here.
posted by fso at 4:22 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oooooh... Canada! Grad school is really cheap in Canada (at least for Library Science). Stick w/Canada - you'll appreciate being to come back and visit easily!
posted by jrobin276 at 9:14 AM on September 7, 2011

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