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Guide to the Best Expatriate Countries

Updated on September 27, 2011

Finding the Best Country for You

What is the best expatriate country for you? There are a lot of web sites that claim certain countries are the best. But some countries just won't mesh with some people. One person's paradise might very well be another person's purgatory.

When selecting a country you need to consider your own requirements and preferences. Here are some of the important ones:

  • Health Care: If you have health problems, then you will want to choose countries with good inexpensive health care. The Baja peninsula of Mexico has excellent doctors (often trained in the USA) that only charge about 25% of what American doctors charge (this is due to the fact that malpractice insurance in the USA can absorb up to 75% of a doctor's wages). Another advantage of Mexico is that medicine costs less and you won't have to spend money to constantly renew prescriptions. Living in Mexico also allows quick travel to the USA for anything not covered in Mexico or if you want to use your medicare or medicaid benefits. Most countries in Europe, Great Britain, Canada, Iceland, and Australia offer free universal health care, but expatriates aren't supposed to receive it. However, many hospitals don't differentiate between foreigners and citizens when accepting patients. I know several Americans who live in Australia and have received free emergency health care at their local hospital.
  • Climate: Are you a descendant of Frosty the Snowman? If you love cold weather, consider a place like Canada or Iceland. For hot dry weather, try Australia, Morocco, or Baja area of Mexico. If you need warm humid air due to asthma or chronic bronchitis, try the Philippines, Thailand, or an island in the Caribbean.
  • Companionship: Are you looking for romance? If you are tall and charismatic, you can probably find a companion anywhere. But if you are short and slender like me, then you might want to consider an Asian country like Thailand or the Philippines. I couldn't walk the street in either of those countries without a girl trying to hit on me. Short, squat and tough looking? Then you might want to try Mexico.
  • Job Opportunities: Will you need to work? Many countries like Thailand and China hire a large amount of English teachers. If you can do internet related work, you just need to have a decent internet connection (and be sure to keep quiet about your occupation, it is still considered to be illegal employment in most countries unless you have a work permit).
  • Language: Are you terrible at learning new languages? There are many places where English is the main language. Canada, Great Britain, Belize, Jamaica, Dominica, and many other Caribbean islands. In the Philippines, English is mandatory in school and about half of the TV stations and magazines are in English.
  • Acceptance of Foreigners: Some countries are just not safe for foreigners or Americans. Some are seriously poor like Nigeria, but many middle east countries should be avoided too.
  • Ease of Visa Renewals: This is a hassle that can greatly vary from country to country. For instance, if you live in Thailand, you may need to make a visa run every 90 days. There are actually companies that specialize in this type of thing for expatriates. Other companies specialize in low hassle thai language classes for the main purpose of using the one year visas available to thai language students. Some countries will allow you to buy citizenship or emigrate for investing in a business, putting money in one of their banks, or marrying a citizen. Living in a nearby country will allow you to make a run home across the border and quickly return. European union countries allow easy travel between them making visa renewals cheap and easy. Chile has inexpensive long term visas. Many of the Caribbean countries are linked together allowing another quick and easy way to renew.
  • Proximity to Home Country: Do you have family that you will be frequently returning to your home country to visit? If so, you may want to consider a country with a short air flight.
  • Are you an ex-felon?: Your passport has a secret code that lets other countries know that you are an ex-felon. Many countries including Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Japan, South Korea will not allow felons to enter. Thailand has a policy against felons, but they have generally ignored it. As the living standards of a country improves, they often select an anti-felon policy on visitors and expatriates. If you are an ex-felon, you may want to select Philippines, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Chile or one of the Caribbean Islands. I am not currently aware of any country that will allow an ex-felon to gain citizenship.

Remember, there is no one country that is right for everyone. Another important thing to know is that a particular country may seem like a great idea until you live there a while. You may want to choose 2 or 3 counties initially to check out. Check out each country for a few months or even a year before making your final choice. This could save you a lot of heartache and money in the long run.

Live long and prosper

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