As a serial expat and avid traveler, I have lived in six different countries and explored 30 more in the last 10 years. I believe through first hand experience and research for myself and others that these are without a doubt the best countries for Americans to move to.
This includes ease of getting a visa, the ability to learn the language, what it’s like to live there if you don’t speak the language, and cost of living in comparison to the US.
There are so many wonderful places to live around the world, but some are harder countries for Americans to move to than others.
Realities of Living and Working in Another Country
I also want to give realistic expectations to those of you that are looking for move abroad, whatever your reasons.
If you want to move to a country and find a job there in that country, you need to be aware that you will likely need to be both fluent in the language of that country and offered a job from a company before you get there.
Finding a job in another country that is willing to sponsor you isn’t impossible, but it often means you need to have a specific skill that makes you stand out over locals who are equally qualified.
In many countries, in order to sponsor a foreign worker, a company needs to prove that they couldn’t find someone locally who had your skills or they need to pay you a high wage in order to meet visa regulations, which can be too much strain for a small business.
Some countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and several others have lists that are called “skills shortage lists” and these usually include things like school teachers, doctors, engineers, hairdressers, etc.
Those countries need more people with these skills and if you have them, you can apply for a work visa to live and work there. I will link to those pages where applicable below.
Retiring in Another Country
If you are an American who wants to move to another country and you are about to retire or have already retired, then you will likely be looking for different visa options than those who still need to work.
The good thing is, retirement visas or visas without permission to work, are some of the easiest to obtain around the world.
It is basically a visa that allows you to live in that country for the length of the visa (with the option to renew them).
You can rent or buy a home, open a bank account, get health insurance, buy a car, basically do all of the things you would want to do in a place you are living in. The only stipulation is that you cannot work for a company in that country.
I will link to more information for these types of visas where applicable below.
Working Remotely in Another Country
This is increasingly becoming one of the best ways to move abroad while you’re still young. It’s how I live here in Mexico and how many of my friends live in other places like France or Thailand.
If you work for an American company, but you don’t have an office and you can work from anywhere, you can likely get a visa that is similar to a retirement visa mentioned above.
This is often also true for those that work as freelancers.
If you are a web developer, a writer, a designer, a photographer, or any other worker who doesn’t necessarily need to be in one specific city to do your job, then you can likely get short-term and sometimes even permanent visas in countries around the world.
I’ll link to visa information regarding visas that remote workers qualify for and even talk about countries that are offering visas specifically for remote workers and how that can benefit you in the long-term.
The Best Countries for Americans to Move to Around the World
There are so many factors that determine what are the best countries for Americans to move to and they are different for every person.
The best countries for Americans to move to in my opinion are countries that have a better cost of living, that allow me to travel easily, that have incredible food, and that are relatively close to the US so that I can get back and visit family without spending too long traveling.
For others, they want to get as far away as they can. Some want a higher quality of life, regardless of how much it’s going to cost them. Some are looking for a political change and want a country that more closely aligns with their political views.
I have done my best to make this list varied and accessible. It is without a doubt, a biased list based on the places that I’ve visited and the people that I follow online.
If you have questions about specific countries that I have not listed in this article, feel free to reach out and let me know and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction for information.
Number one on the list is the country that I have called home for more than four years.
Mexico is without a doubt one of the most popular countries for Americans to move to. There are over one million of us south of the border making a life here.
I’ve lived in Mexico City for most of my time in the country, but have spent plenty of time exploring other parts of the country.
Whether you want the laid back beach life of Puerto Vallarta, the bumping city life of Mexico City, or something in between like Guanajuato or Puebla, there are so many different cities, towns, and beaches to call home in Mexico.
- Close to the US
- Cost of living is significantly lower
- Great healthcare system
- Huge network of expats all over the country
- Getting a visa is very easy if you meet the requirements
- Safety can be an issue, especially in certain parts of the country
- Property disputes still occur
- Buying a house/property has become increasingly expensive
- Some parts of the country experience large earthquakes
There are several visa options depending on what you want to do in Mexico. The easiest visas to require are temporary residency visas without work permits. These are for those of you that can prove financial solvency – aka you have a minimum of $30,000 USD in an account (can be a savings account, a 401k, etc) and it has been in your account for at least 12 months.
This is the ideal option for people who are freelancers, are self-employed, or are retired.
There are also visa options for people who get a job in Mexico. These are also temporary residency visas, but they are tied to the job that you have. So if you change your job, you need to adjust your visa to reflect the new company.
For a total breakdown of all of the visa options, check out Mexperience, where you can read about it in more depth.
France is a country that I have always dreamed of living in. I think it’s one of the most sought after countries for Americans to move to, and there are certainly a few ways to get around living in this gorgeous country.
- A beautiful country with big cities and small towns to live in
- Incredibly food
- Tons of museums and history to explore
- Amazing health care system and very affordable even if you have to pay out of pocket
- Great work-life balance
- Cost of living, even in a big city like Paris, isn’t anywhere near as outrageous as living in a big city in the US
- Public transportation both within and between cities and towns is fantastic
- Most people don’t speak English, so you will definitely have to learn at least basic French
- There is SO much bureaucracy when it comes to visas, bank accounts, renting homes, buying homes, etc that it can be a real headache to get anything done
- Finding a job, even if you speak French, is quite difficult as a foreigner
You can do as popular YouTuber Damon Dominique (originally of Damon and Jo) did and apply for an artist visa. This visa is quite difficult to get and you must prove that you are bringing real value to France.
Alternatively, if you have enough funds to support yourself, you can continuously re-apply for long-term tourist visas in France like Jamie Beck. You cannot work and you cannot open a bank account, but you can rent places to live, buy a car, even buy a property.
However, you must either have consistent income coming in from outside the country (like a freelance income, business income from your home country, or work for a company based in the US that allows you to work remotely). You can also simply prove that you have a certain amount of money in your bank account.
You can read about the different visa options available to Americans who want to live long-term in France here.
Regardless of what French visa you apply for, be sure to have patience because, with the countless OFII appointments you are going to have, you’ll need it.
There are a lot of reasons to love Spain. The food, the culture, the language, the cobbled streets, the stunning architecture.
There are big cities, stunning beaches, tiny islands, and small country towns where Americans would feel very at home depending on what you’re looking for.
- Modern cities and easy access to the rest of Europe for traveling
- Easy to get a visa if you meet the requirements
- Multi-cultural society
- Affordable cost of living
- Incredible food
- Varied landscapes to explore
- Laidback lifestyle – they are, after all, the inventors of the siesta!
- If you want to work here and you don’t want to teach English, getting hired by a company that will sponsor you is incredibly difficult
- The visa process, while technically easy, can take quite a long time to sort out
- There are lots of Spanish dialects and indeed totally different languages in some parts of the country so may be difficult to adjust
One of the easiest ways to move to Spain if you want to live and work there is to get a job as a teacher there. The program is called Auxiliares de Conversacion and it places you in schools around the country.
This visa allows you to work as a teacher, make a reasonable income, and afford a decent quality of life around the country. Madrid is without a doubt the most popular place for Americans to do this program.
There are also visas available for those that want to retire in Spain or are able to prove financial solvency (you have enough money in the bank for the visa). This is called the non-lucrative visa and is a good option for digital nomads and freelancers as well as retirees who are not going to work for a company in Spain should also be able to obtain this visa.
4. Costa Rica
Closely behind Mexico, Costa Rica is one of the most popular countries for Americans to move to, especially for those that want to retire in the sunshine.
I have only been to Costa Rica once for a short time, but the beaches of Manuel Antonio and the relaxing vibes of Puerto Viejo were enough of a glimpse to show me that Costa Rica has SO many stunning places to call home.
- Great weather most of the year (with a wet season depending on what side of the country you’re on)
- Beautiful and varied landscape with beaches, volcanoes, jungles. You can surf, fish, hike, snorkel in the same weekend
- There are a lot of expats here, so it’s still quite easy to get American products that you may miss
- It’s very laid back, which is great if you are retiring or looking for a place to focus more on life than work
- The country is well connected by buses if you want to explore the different regions and the road network is pretty good
- People here really care about the environment and keeping Costa Rica beautiful
- Produce is wildly fresh and packed with flavor
- Close to the US by flight and well connected to many major airports back in the US
- There aren’t really any “addresses” as it were, so getting a package delivered is basically impossible
- The laid back, Pura Vida lifestyle isn’t for everyone if you are trying to grow a business and career or you aren’t particularly laidback in general
- Because there are so many expats and American tourists, it’s not as affordable as it once was. It’s actually a roughly similar cost of living in small towns and suburbs around the US
5. New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever had the joy of calling home.
There are a lot of reasons you may want to move to New Zealand, but there are some things you’ll need to know about the somewhat strict visa process before you get your heart set on it.
- It’s truly stunning, outdoor lovers will be in paradise from the hiking and kayaking to the sailing and beachgoing, there are endless parks and campsites to explore around this tiny country
- It’s small and easy to navigate
- Buying a car to explore and indeed rent in general is pretty affordable
- English is the main language and spoken everywhere around the country
- The economy is strong and the government is stable
- Once you get on the visa ladder, it’s pretty straightforward to get permanent residency and citizenship
- If you don’t meet the strict guidelines for the visa requirements, it’s nearly impossible to live here long-term
- Food is incredibly expensive
- It’s very far from the US and pretty much everywhere else
If you are under 31 years old, you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa. This is a great way to get into the country, find a job of your choice, and see if you like living there. It’s usually how most young people get themselves a good job and then are able to get sponsored by those jobs in order to remain in New Zealand indefinitely.
One of the more popular options for those that want to work and live in New Zealand is to check the Skills Shortage List. As of writing (2020), the list is looking for people skilled in construction, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, IT specialists, chefs, electricians, and engineers.
If you are skilled in one of the jobs on the skills shortage list, you may be able to apply directly for residency in New Zealand.
Other options include starting a business or investing in business here, proving that you are an artist or creative who will add value to the economy, or getting a job that will sponsor your visa.
Check the New Zealand Immigration website for full details on all of the visa options available if you don’t fit into these categories. The immigration website is one of the most helpful and easy to use that I’ve ever seen.
6. South Korea
I lived in South Korea for a year teaching English and I look back on it fondly.
While it’s not a place that I would call home for the long term, I would never take back that year and think it’s an incredible experience.
If you want to live in Asia, have a high quality of life, and explore one of the most beautiful countries for Americans to move to in the world, then you may want to consider Korea.
- The food is incredible – amazing meat, fresh vegetables, delicious rice, beautifully ripe fruits, wild-caught seafood, and you’ll learn to love Kimchi, I promise. Did I mention it’s home to the best fried chicken in the world?
- If you want to get a job teaching English, getting a job and a visa is incredibly easy to do
- Teachers are paid very well and the quality of life is very high in Korea
- The country is more than 70% mountain and hiking is a national pastime, so outdoor adventurers will have an incredible time
- The whole country is very well connected by train and buses, including a fast-train network that gets you across the whole country in a matter of hours
- People are SO nice and will go out of their way to show you how wonderful their country is
- If you don’t want to teach English, getting a job or any type of visa at all is quite difficult
- The country is almost completely homogenous and you will always be an outsider, no matter how long you live there
- Learning Korean takes a lot of focus and time (however, when you do learn it, it’s very rewarding)
- The hierarchy system, especially in the workplace, can be difficult to get used to, especially for women
- The culture is VERY different from the American culture and while you can really learn a lot, it can also be incredibly difficult to assimilate and learn how not to make a cultural faux pax.
Like I mentioned above, the main way to move to Korea is get a job teaching English. The best website to look for teaching jobs is Dave’s ESL Cafe.
You simply put your resume on the website and the offers will become flooding in. Just be sure to specify what city and country you want a job, because there are also recruiters for China on this website.
Nina of the Expater blog has been living in Chile and I have absolutely loved following along with her Instagram and stories of life in this long country.
I had never really had Chile on my radar as one of the best countries for Americans to move to, but the cosmopolitan life in Chile, the stunning mountains of the southern regions, the incredible coastline have really drawn me in.
I also really enjoyed learning more about Chile while reading Travels in a Thin Country by Sara Wheeler. She travels the entire length of the country learning about the history and culture of each place and it really sparked my interest in at least visiting this unique place.
- The economy is stable and there are quite a lot of job opportunities, especially in the vibrant city of Santiago
- The country is huge and has so many different beautiful landscapes to explore
- Even other native Spanish speakers say that the Spanish in Chile is some of the hardest to understand. They speak quickly and use very different words, so even if you are fluent in Spanish, you may struggle a bit at first
- It’s quite far from the US with flights between Santiago and JFK in New York taking about 10 and a half hours
- It’s quite expensive, especially compared to other countries in this region of the world, especially for food
8. The UK
A country that feels like my second home and one that I have indeed lived in on and off over the years. It’s where my boyfriend is from and it’s without a doubt one of the best countries for Americans to move to.
However, it is also one of the most difficult countries for Americans to move to.
- English the primary language here
- The culture, while in many ways very different from the US, is also similar enough that you won’t make a total fool of yourself before you start learning it.
- Public transportation around the country is fantastic
- Getting a UK visa gives you the options to live in English, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as well as several islands around the UK
- The country is small enough to navigate easily and quickly, but also big enough that there are lots of different landscapes and places to explore
- It’s quite expensive to replicate your quality of life that you had back in the US
- Homes, in general, are significantly smaller than American homes
- The weather is not the best unless you love grey skies and light drizzle for 3/4 of the year
- Getting a visa is incredibly difficult unless you are highly skilled or you date a British person (and even then the monetary requirements are quite extreme)
Like I mentioned in the cons section, there aren’t really many visa options available unless you are able to 1) have your current American company transfer you to an office in the UK, 2) Date or marry a British person for at least two years and he or she earns over £18,000 per year, 3) are on the skills shortage list
Since the announcement that the UK is leaving the EU, the country has worked on reforming their visa options and they can be viewed and better understood on the UK immigration website.
Colombia is an expat haven for many, including popular YouTuber and fellow American Zach Morris, who has even gone as far as getting his Colombian citizenship.
- Incredibly low cost of living, especially if coming with US dollars
- Tons of natural beauty, big cities, gorgeous coastal towns and cities, and easy access to other countries in Latin America
- Direct flights to most big cities in the country from the US
- Same time zone as Central time, making it great for those still working remotely for US clients
- It has a bad reputation for crime that it’s still trying to shake. There’s no doubt that petty crime is still a big problem in big cities like Medellin and Bogota.
- There aren’t a ton of job opportunities if you are planning to come here to work
If you want to simply visit Colombia for a few months a year, Americans get a 90-day visa waiver upon arrival to Colombia. This allows you to travel and rent short-term places around the country without a problem. You cannot work on this visa waiver, it is intended solely for tourists.
If you can get a job with a Col0mbian company, or better yet, get the company you currently work for to transfer you to an office in Colombia, then the company will take care of your work visa.
If you are looking to retire, the retirement visa is the one you’ll want to apply for and you can do this by showing that you have a certain amount of money in a retirement account of show proof of a monthly pension.
The Medellin Guru is a fantastic website for those that want to learn more about the Colombian visa process and what life is like in Colombia.
Argentina is one of the most beautiful countries in the Americas and in my humble opinion, one of the best countries for Americans to move to.
Most expats move to Buenos Aires, a vibrant city with so much culture, art, amazing food, and also architecturally stunning. It’s full of parks and also happens to be where most of the jobs are.
American Expat Erin of Sol Salute has been living in Argentina for 10 years and explains all that you need to know about moving to Buenos Aires as an American.
- Lots of visa options and several that are relatively easy to get
- Low cost of living compared to living similarly in the US
- Stunning country to explore including Patagonia, Buenos Aires, and Mendoza
- Very, very cheap wine
- A hugely cultural country with incredible museums, wine country to explore, great schools and universities for children and an international population from across the world to get to know
- Amazing food, especially if you love grilled meats
- Quite far from the US – a non-stop flight from Buenos Aires to New York takes about 11 hours
- Christmas is in the summertime – haha not exactly a con, but getting used to the seasons being swapped around can feel quite strange at first
- The economy isn’t entirely stable, the currency fluctuates regularly and sometimes there are random power outages (mostly in Buenos Aires)
If you don’t plan to stay in Argentina long-term, the tourist waiver that initially gives you three months can be extended to give you a total of six months, and then you can reset it by leaving the country and coming back in much like the Mexican FMM mentioned above.
You cannot work on this, however, if you are a freelancer or are looking to spend some time down there to see if it’s somewhere you want to live, it’s a good and easy option to start with.
If you want to work in Argentina, you need a work visa. Like many countries, you first need to get a job with an Argentinian company. They will then sort the visa on your behalf.
There are also pensioner visas for those that want to retire in Argentina as well as financier visas which allow freelancers or remote workers to get visas in Argentina.
If you want to read more about all of the different visa options, check out the International Living site that breaks down each option and what you need in order to qualify for them.
Thailand is one of the best countries for Americans to move to if you’re looking to immerse yourself in a totally different culture.
If you are a digital nomad, you no doubt have heard about the huge community of digital nomads in Chiang Mai. Whether you want to join the community up north, enjoy the bustling cosmopolitan Bangkok, or get out to the islands, there are a lot of options for moving to Thailand.
- It’s absolutely stunning whether you’re in the jungles, national parks, underwater scuba diving or on the white sand beaches
- The country is incredibly well organized with excellent public transportation and orderly bureaucratic systems
- Although prices have risen over the years as tourism increases there, it’s still incredibly affordable
- Many people, especially in the more touristy areas, speak English
- The food is some of the best in the entire world
- It’s quite far from the US with flights taking over 10 hours and time differences can be difficult if trying to keep up with American clients
- It has quite a tropical climate for the majority of the year, so it’s not ideal for those that don’t love the heat
- There is no real permanent visa option, so you have to go through the process of reapplying for your visa every year or two, which can be a pain if you plan to retire here
- The Thai language is quite difficult to master for native English speakers
When you arrive in Thailand you receive a 30-day visa waiver as an American. Many people leave the country for 72 hours and then return to have an additional 30 days. This is fine if you are just staying for a few months, but if you are looking for a long-term plan, this isn’t it.
You can also apply for a non-immigrant visa, which you apply for prior to arriving in Thailand. This visa is for 90-days and is renewable once you are inside the country.
This visa is for foreigners who want to study, get married, retire, or work remotely as a digital nomad.
Alternatively, do as many young Americans do, and apply to work as an English teacher. This is a great way to get your foot in the door with a work visa and if you want to be a teacher, is also a wonderful experience.
However, even if you don’t plan to be a teacher long term, it can allow you to get to know the country and the opportunities available to you for working there.
The Thai Embassy in New York website is a great place to get started with your research on how to move to Thailand.