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March 1, 2011 7:12 AM   Subscribe

What countries are "relatively easy for Americans to immigrate to, have strong and growing economies with decent job prospects, and make citizenship a pretty fast process" ?

Prompted by this comment on a recent student loan question, what countries would be good options for an American to consider if one we're to decide to pick up and start over?

Assume a college degree and maybe a few years of work experience in a general office environment. No significant technical skills and no desireable advanced degrees.
posted by T.D. Strange to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Canada might be worth a shot, depending on what you got your degree in. Unfortunately, I don't think the strategy given in that answer is particularly realistic for a single American without international ties, in 2011.
posted by SMPA at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2011

Best answer: The one that came to mind for me was the Netherlands, which will trade you a one-year residency for about 4K in capital (if I remember right) and a business plan. You have to show the business is profitable in exchange for renewing your residency. Citizenship was maybe seven years, but does require proficiency in Dutch. Find more by googling the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty.
posted by whatzit at 7:36 AM on March 1, 2011

Without marriage to one of its citizens, a significant advanced skill-set, piles of money, or a claim on citizenship through ancestry, your problem here will emphatically *not* be which country to pick. The one that will accept you out of the many you've looked into? Go there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:39 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: your problem here will emphatically *not* be which country to pick.

Which is why that was not the question.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Okay, here goes a long shot: China. A majority of the last two generations speak English fluently there, and they're quite friendly to Americans! With or without a college degree, they ALWAYS need English teachers. You can get a job solely on the basis of being a native speaker. Cost of living isn't terrifically high, but it can be quite a culture shock. It's a pretty conservative country. I figure if I were to ever want to start over, I'd go there. The only problem is that i think citizenship takes awhile to go through. I'm honestly not sure, though. Good luck!
posted by Krazor at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Citizenship was maybe seven years, but does require proficiency in Dutch

Having at least 3 US friends who have just been through the process, it is no walk in the park to obtain, though yes, Entrepreneurship visas are a viable route to get in in the first place.

I'm not American, but I recall hearing places like Costa Rica were go-to's.
posted by wingless_angel at 7:58 AM on March 1, 2011

Krazor, I havent checked in a while but citizenship for non-chinese (especially for those who are not ethnically Chinese) is not a possibility. You can get permanent residency, but I think that also incredibly hard to get (I saw someone get it on CCP while I was there, but he had been there for 25 years and had a family, and it was a big deal).

That being said, I would also say China.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2011

posted by jchaw at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2011

Got any immigrant parents or grandparents? Some countries will recognize you as a citizen if you are merely a descendant of a citizen, regardless of where you were born. Ireland, for example (although this may no longer be the case). Israel also allows citizenship under it's Right of Return, under certain circumstances.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2011

If you have any Jewish ancestors, Israel will go to great lengths to help you immigrate. When a college friend did it, the local immigration office sent someone to greet her up at the airport, paid for language classes, helped her get a job, and on and on.
posted by Sifleandollie at 9:14 AM on March 1, 2011

If you have a skill set that is in need you could obtain a residency permit for New Zealand pretty easily. If not, and as long as the laws haven't changed I believe one can invest in a certain amount of real estate and make the process easier.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 10:15 AM on March 1, 2011

For instance, it's two years to citizenship in Peru.
posted by aniola at 11:01 AM on March 1, 2011

A different way to live in the Netherlands is to try to be hired as a knowledge migrant. Once you find a company that is willing to hire you for a job that meets the requirements, the approval process only takes a few weeks (and the immigration department approves something like 97-98% of applications each year).

Knowledge migrants always start off with a year-long contract, but if your employer offers you an indefinite-term contract after that, you then get a four-year residence permit. You can pretty much keep renewing that permit as long as you're employed, or you can apply for citizenship after five years of having a continuous permit (although you do have to pay the fees and take the language test, which is no cakewalk).

Obviously, this requires you to develop a specialized skillset so you'll be appealing to Dutch employers, but you may consider it easier than pursuing the Friendship Treaty, since that requires you to run a continuously successful personal business.
posted by neushoorn at 11:20 AM on March 1, 2011

to follow up on Cool Papa Bell's comment, Italy also offers citizenship through ancestry. If that's relevant to you, let me know and I can post a little more detail (I'm -- slowly -- getting the paperwork together for my boyfriend, whose grandparents immigrated from Italy in 1911).
posted by scody at 1:17 PM on March 1, 2011

Germany also offers citizenship through ancestry - though they also want (strongly) for you to give up American citizenship to become a full-on citizen. Otherwise, without an ancestry angle, the whole process takes about four or five years and you have to know German and jump through hoops and stuff, but no more so than any other country.

One thing to think really really long and hard about is giving up your US citizenship - or is that not a part of it? Having friends and family back in the US as well as a profound love for certain municipalities, I would not want to lose the ability to easily return and some countries ask that you relinquish just that.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:41 PM on March 1, 2011

For the purpose of getting your foot on the door and testing the water, I'd say Hong Kong. Check out the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. This would give you a visa good for one year to look for job, which you can renew afterwards. You need enough money to support yourself for the whole year though, which could run up to at least $30,000.

Similar scheme for Singapore with the Employment Pass Eligibility Certificate. This, I believe, is good for one year too and non-renewable.

Next on the list would be New Zealand, try the self-assessment test here in order to submit the Expression of Interest to get the Work to Residence visa.

Be forewarned though, with a lack of special skills, it might be difficult for you to get any job in these countries .. I strongly believe in visiting them first before even thinking of applying for any of these visas.
posted by joewandy at 3:59 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, here goes a long shot: China. A majority of the last two generations speak English fluently there

What? No. This is not true. It may be that a majority of the last two generations living in large cities speak it with adequate fluency. But when I traveled inland few people spoke English at all. I ran into one English teacher whose pronunciation was so bad that I couldn't understand her at all. I dig China, but prepare to learn the language.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:19 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

After some thought, I think you may also want to consider "permanent residency", or "long-term visas".

What you are after is the right to stay long-term and be afforded property rights. In many cases, e.g., permanent residency in the United States or Singapore, gives you these privileges.
posted by jchaw at 7:24 PM on March 2, 2011

God, I wish i knew the answer to this one. Unfortunately the countries I'm most interested in are the most excruciating difficult to get into. Like, anywhere in Scandinavia.

That being said, doing anything in healthcare or computers will get you into almost anywhere, for other people reading and looking for ideas (look for exemption lists or variations on that phrase, and residency requirements. Often if you get in through skilled professions and manage to maintain residency and a job long enough you can apply for citizenship). I know your question is (a) old and (b) specifies office jobs, but I'm surprised the answers were so sparse here. Large lumps of money (sometimes in conjunction with a business plan) get you into quite a few places too. Used to be the case with Canada 7 or 8 years ago, but I haven't looked lately.
posted by thelastcamel at 10:44 PM on December 7, 2011

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