So you like the idea of leaving the US, eh?
Not so fast.
The idea of living abroad might seem glamorous, but it can be tough. Being away from family and friends will take a toll and living abroad as an expat is not for the faint of heart.
Also, did you know that the US is one of TWO countries in the world that taxes its citizens’ worldwide income, regardless of where that income is earned? If your tax rate is 25% in the country where you live and your tax rate in the US is 30%, the math gets ugly pretty fast. There are tax treaties in place for many countries, but the complexity is a real thing that you’ll need to address from day one. TurboTax is no help here, so you’ll be shelling out some clams in order to stay out of trouble with the IRS.
To make matters more complex, you might not be welcome to relocate to the country of your choice. It might sound shocking, but not every country is falling over themselves to get Americans to move there these days. In fact, many countries would prefer that we stay away.
Perhaps they can see the black smoke from our political dumpster fire with their binoculars, or perhaps they hate the Kardashians. In any case, it’s not a given that you’ll be welcome as an American in another country.
On a related note, there’s a reason this guide sells well during the first few weeks of November every other year. Can you guess why? 😉
Europe is a popular place for expats to begin their search when they’re considering leaving the US. It makes sense because European destinations are some of the most popular vacations spots for Americans and flights to Europe are relatively inexpensive right now (thanks to WOW Air and Norwegian Airlines for bringing cheap international flights into the mix). Don’t forget the bragging rights component. My Instagram is lit every time I visit Europe and post pictures, which is the way God intended it to be. Not all of Europe is equal, though. There are some political divisions and institutions that need to be respected. The European Union is a big deal, and so is the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone matters the most for expats because the member countries work together to restrict travel and immigration (read: YOU). The graphic below does the best job of illustrating the complexity of the different European groups, which is surely going to become more complex if/when the UK completes the Brexit process.
Here are some of the easiest places to move as a US citizen, in no particular order:
In the 1950s, the US and Holland created the Dutch American Friendship Treaty (or DAFT, for short). Somebody in the State Department had a sense of humor back in the day with a name like that.
The Dutch wanted to make it easy for Americans to relocate to The Netherlands to help rebuild their country after WWII, so that’s where how the treaty started. It’s still in effect today and the rules are simple. It’s inexpensive and relatively easy to get a proper visa (two years at a time; five years until you can apply for citizenship) through the DAFT Treaty. You’ll need 4500 euros to park in a bank account and you’ll need to get on Dutch healthcare, plus the money you’ll need for regular life expenses, like rent and food.
Our southern neighbor makes it easy for Americans to move there. The peso is weak right now so take those gringo dollars and live large in Mexico. You’ll still be relatively close to the US should you need to return to visit and Spanish is a great language to learn if you don’t speak it already.
Plus, you can’t go wrong with tacos and tequila, right? You already know about the beaches, weather, etc.
I was lucky enough to spend a few months in Colombia this year. I am extremely bullish on the future of Colombia considering all the US expats who are retiring there and the amazing strides the country has made since the Pablo Escobar days of the 80s and 90s. Those days are long gone and most of Colombia is safer than any major city in the US, so don’t believe the hype. In fact, many of the expats I met in Colombia wanted to keep it quiet–they don’t want any more gringos moving there and driving the prices up.
With a small investment in real estate (~$25,000 USD), you can fast-track your permanent residency/citizenship. There are regular flights to Colombia from major US hubs like Miami and Houston (with LA getting into the game before too long as well).
Many Americans move to the giant metropolitan sand pit in the heart of the Middle East. Dubai is the popular spot to land for most people and it feels a bit like Vegas (with more authoritarianism and less public drunkenness because drunk people are instantly sent to jail in Dubai).
Dubai has done a great job of making themselves the financial center of the Middle East, so there are plenty of jobs in banking and finance. There will be a period of adjustment if you are moving from the US because of the differences in culture and government.
Fun fact: Most of the real estate transactions in Dubai are new developments because so much of the housing stock there is relatively new, much like just about everything else in Dubai. The new construction over the past few decades has been astounding and there aren’t many resale transactions because of all the new housing stock that keeps being built.
Buy a boat and sail around the world
I guess this isn’t technically “moving” out of the US because you have to be a citizen of SOMEWHERE, but it will accomplish many of the same things you’ll get in a big relocation. Does it sound crazy? It really isn’t. With technology and connectivity being what they are these days, it’s not outrageous to plan a trip around the world on a boat. People do it all the time. Check out some YouTube videos for first-person narratives on how it works.
For more suggestions about how to escape the US, you’ll have to buy the guide. I know, I know…I’m such a tease. If you like it, please leave a review. If you don’t like it, please let me know and I’ll mail you my royalties from the sale. The stamp on the envelope will be worth more than the royalties, but it’s the principle I’m trying to defend here.