According to a poll released by Gallup in 2019, a record number of Americans are interested in leaving the United States to live abroad. It’s a topic that is brought up in our Club Bébé Voyage Facebook group often. But how does one actually go about doing it? It’s, unfortunately, a bit more complicated than just get up and go: if you want to stay in another country for an extended period of time, you’re going to need permission and some paperwork, but it is possible! Here are some tips for how to go about getting the process started.
Get A Job
This is undoubtedly the straightest path forward in order to be able to live abroad. Does your employer have offices around the world? Do they offer or are they open to international transfers? Talk to your manager or HR department about the possibilities available to you. Are you looking for a new job? Maybe a global company that is open to a transfer such as this should be a priority in your search. Have the conversation, but keep in mind that though this is the “easy” way, it often requires lots of approvals, paperwork, and expense on the employer’s end, so while it’s great to initiate the conversation, it can take time. Even so, an employer-initiated transfer is like hitting the jackpot for those interested in living in another country; in most cases, they’ll handle taking care of visas for your family and other paperwork, compensate much or all of your moving expenses, help with settling you into your new home, and potentially even more assistance like school tuition.
If you are self-employed you will still need a visa to work and live abroad, but if you have a highly marketable technical skill, are an entrepreneur, or in the start-up world, you may find that doors will more willingly open for you. Countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand are looking to invest in business and technology and have special “entrepreneur” or “start-up” visas. In some cases, like in Chile, countries have designed whole programs to attract workers who wish to live abroad. If this sounds like your situation, programs like this can really help make the visa process more manageable.
If a longer-term or permanent move to another country is what you’re looking for, you will of course need to continuously renew your visa while staying as a guest. If you move through your employer, they will help you with this process, but if not, it’s paperwork and fees that you will be responsible for managing and paying. If you have hopes of one day acquiring permanent residency or eventual citizenship, all countries have different rules and requirements. In the United Arab Emirates, you’ll need to live in the country continuously for 30 years before becoming eligible for citizenship! But in Argentina, the process can begin after just two years. If the security of all that citizenship or permanent residency provides is appealing to you, look into the long list of countries that make that path a bit easier.
Chiama Tua Nonna
Do you have a parent or grandparent who was born outside of the U.S.? Well give them a call, they’d love to hear from you. And then ask them for their birth certificate. There are a whole host of countries around the globe that offer citizenship to Americans based on descent. Again, you’ll find yourself in a bit of paperwork and documentation madness, but the rewards are valuable. For example, if you have a parent or grandparent born in Ireland, you are eligible for Irish citizenship, and though a bit more convoluted, Italy has a similar and even more lenient rule for ancestry citizenship. If you have an ancestral tie to another country, it is worth looking into their requirements: India, Ghana, Poland, the Philippines, are all among the list of countries that offer such programs. Remember that even if you don’t want to live in that country, there may be more lenient rules or agreements for their citizens in a place that you do want to live, so it’s worth checking.
Ugh, “networking”. The term can feel a bit skeezy and the idea can be daunting, to just reach out to strangers, but we have to be people of action to make our dreams come true! Start with who you know — has anyone in your circle lived abroad, or do you know someone from a country that you’d be interested in moving to? Talk to them! If you don’t know anyone directly, use online networking or other informational groups to make connections with people who are living in a country you’re considering. Our Club Bébé Voyage Facebook group is a great place to start but search for other living abroad or “international” groups as well. Search for terms like “English speakers in ____” or “expats in ____” and you’ll find a slew of informational groups to help get some questions answered.
Are you already looking for jobs abroad? Think about (politely, of course!) looking for connections and reaching out to contacts online that might be able to give you more information on a company or job that you’re interested in, plus potential advice or contacts. Start with LinkedIn and move on to networking sites that are focused on the specific region or country that you’re interested in.
Make An Investment
Yes, it’s true: if you’ve got the funds, some countries will put you on the fast track towards citizenship or permanent residency. Several countries offer “golden” visa schemes for those who make an investment into a certain industry or real estate purchase. For example, the very popular Portuguese “Golden Visa” gives your family full residency in E.U. Portugal with a minimum of €350-500,000 property purchase. In five years, you’ll be eligible to apply for citizenship. Countries around the world have similar programs at varying levels of financial commitment, so if you’re looking to invest, this could be a great option.
Fall In Love
Look, I’m not necessarily suggesting that you 90 Day Fiancé your way into a country . . . but if you’re on the market and an international lifestyle is something important to you, why not add “multiple passports” to the list along with “sense of humor” and “nice eyes”? I am of course joking here . . . but not entirely. Moving for love is a common story in the living abroad community. If you marry someone with citizenship elsewhere, it’s very likely that you will be, if not entitled to citizenship right away, allowed to live and work in that country and given a faster track on the road to citizenship. And of course, it will also give you a fascinating insight into a culture that you would never be able to get as a complete outsider, plus, you know, eternal love and all that nice stuff, too.
Ok, don’t marry someone for a visa. But consider it a bonus and maybe a reason to overlook their absolutely horrible dishwasher-loading technique.
A Move Vs. A Change Of Scenery
If you have a flexible lifestyle (can work from anywhere, kids aren’t in school yet or you homeschool) and you’re not looking to settle anywhere, just get a taste of what life is like outside of the U.S., consider taking your family on an epic, temporary adventure! Many families have planned amazing journeys throughout a specific region or in some cases the whole globe, visiting destinations for a longer period of time than a normal trip, but not overstaying their tourist visas. If this nomadic lifestyle sounds like what you’re looking for, it’s not quite moving abroad, but it definitely gives you the opportunity to experience a place and culture in a deeper way than just a vacation. Who knows, you might even make a connection to a place where you could see your family living one day.
Remote Working Visas
In this new world of home offices, some countries are now offering temporary remote working visas that allow you to stay in the country for a longer period of time provided you are employed and in some cases meet an annual salary requirement, plus pay a visa fee. Think of it as working from home away from home. Check out a list of participating countries and information on the requirements to temporarily live abroad here.
Think About If You’re Really Up For This
Living in another country is an exciting, fascinating experience; one that enhances your outlook on the world and can enrich your family’s life and story in so many deeply fulfilling ways. But it is also really difficult. The logistical portion of all the above, but little things too, like setting up a new bank account, getting a phone, a driver’s license, healthcare, and perhaps doing it all in another language. Those tangible difficulties are one thing, but there’s the additional factor of those intangible day-to-day-living frustrations. Language barriers, cultural differences, smaller refrigerators, isolation, being away from family and friends, access to acceptable peanut butter, healthcare, money, the impact on your child’s life, schools: these are all things that you need to really consider. It’s a great adventure, but it’s not a vacation every day.
If your family decides that the financial and emotional investment is worth the reward, it’s an illuminating adventure that gives you the opportunity to explore the world in a way you wouldn’t otherwise experience. Good luck, and if you have any questions on what it’s like to live abroad feel free to ask in the comments or come over to our Club Bébé Voyage page and start up a conversation!