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What are the Best Places for Expats to Live Overseas?

Best Countries for American Expats

Americans are known for keeping to their own part of the world and not exploring other countries as of 2019 only 42% actually own a passport.

If you are looking to take advantage of living in different country and all the lifestyle advantages that comes with it then now is the time. It is becoming easier and easier to live abroad these days. With online info, articles, maps, reviews, and courses it really has never been easier. More countries than ever are making it easier to get citizenship.

Work and job opportunities are increasingly moving online and becoming virtual workplaces. Starting a business online has never been easier and with it comes the freedom to live wherever you want. Here are some of the best places we have found to live abroad.

Best Countries for American Expats to Live Abroad

Table of Contents:


1. Panama

Panama is a long-time favourite for US retirees and expats alike. This Caribbean paradise is home to a warm tropical climate, stunningly beautiful beaches, and a laid-back yet active way of life. 

Moving to Panama is extremely easy and rewarding for Americans. It is very close, both geographically and culturally. The standard currency is the US dollar, English is widely spoken, and there is an established community of fellow expats. Furthermore, Panama is one of the easiest countries to obtain long-term visas and permanent residency status, with literally dozens of different visa programs to suit each person’s situation. The most popular is the Visa Pensionado, specifically aimed at retirees, but open to people of all ages. 

Panama also has its various financial advantages. First of all, it is significantly more affordable to live here than in the US. Depending on where you decide to move to, it is very possible for a couple to live on as little as $1,000 - $2,000 a month in Panama. Panama is also a tax haven and thriving offshore financial centre. Becoming a Panama resident can enable you to substantially reduce your tax bill. 

Panama offers a diverse range of living situations, from modern city-life in Panama City, to quiet mountain villages in places like Boquete and El Valle. You will definitely be able to find something to suit your tastes, and will not be left deprived of fun things to do. 

Panama makes it easy to get a move and establish residency through a number of their visas programs. 

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2. Costa Rica

The sunny Central American nation of Costa Rica is consistently a top competitor in International Living’s list of top retirement destinations. After coming third in 2020, this year it takes the top spot!

There are so many reasons why more and more American expats are choosing to live in Costa Rica. It is known for its natural beauty and diverse range of amazing climates, with about 25% of its land being made up of protected national parks. It is also extremely liveable, with top-quality affordable healthcare and education, warm and friendly locals, and many of the amenities you would expect from a first-world nation at a reduced cost. 


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Costa Rica is often referred to as the “Switzerland of Central America” due to its neutrality, political stability, and peaceful society. They even went so far as to completely abolish their army in 1948, instead putting all the money into education and healthcare. Costa Rica is probably the safest country in Latin America, and is up there with the safest in the world. 

Thankfully, Costa Rica is one of the easier countries to obtain residency, and is quite affordable by US standards. A couple could live very well in Costa Rica for around $2000 - $3000 a month.


3. Mexico

Prospective US expats looking for great places to move to in 2021 need look no further than their own back yard. Mexico has been a thriving home to US and Canadian expats for more than 50 years. In fact, there are now more than 1 million Americans and half a million Canadians living in Mexico. This makes it one of the most popular expat destinations in the world, and certainly the most popular for North Americans. 

In Mexico, American expats will find everything they had back home and more. Its proximity makes the transition smooth and easy. You will be welcomed by the immense expat community along with the laid-back and friendly locals. All the amenities you could need are available in Mexico. One of its biggest draws is its high-quality, yet extremely affordable, healthcare services.

Mexico is a place of fun and excitement. The culture is full of festivals, celebrations, and activities to keep almost anyone entertained. It also offers one of the tastiest cuisines on earth! Compared to the US, the Mexican climate is far more pleasant, the lifestyle is more relaxed, and the cost of living is much, much lower!


4. Portugal

Moving away from the Americas, the next country on our list is the European gem of Portugal. A long-time favourite among expats from all around the world. Portugal topped International Living’s Global Retirement Index in 2020, which of course applies to both expats and retirees alike! 

Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe. US expats will find their living expenses drastically reduced. A couple can live comfortably in Portugal on anything from $1,500 to $2,500 per month, depending on where they choose to reside. 

Portugal’s benefits extend far beyond mere financial advantages. It offers a warm and sunny climate with beautiful Mediterranean coastlines. Its inhabitants are just as warm as its weather, and are welcoming to foreign expats. There is a diverse range of climates and lifestyles that one can choose from in Portugal, from rural coastal villages to thriving metropolitan cities. 

As expected, Portugal offers quality services and amenities, with well-functioning health and education systems. It is a safe and peaceful country to live in, which is why more expats are choosing to move here during these tumultuous times. 

Portugal is one of the easiest places in Europe to obtain long-term residencies and visas through their Golden Visa program, making the move over easier than most other countries in the same league. 


5. Spain

Looking right next door at Portugal’s Mediterranean neighbour, Spain also has a lot to offer! It is similar to Portugal as an expat destination in many respects. Climate, food, and culture are some of the main draws of Spain. It is bigger than its neighbour, with a wider range of climates and landscapes to choose from. 

It is also extremely affordable compared to the rest of Europe. It is possible to get by in its capital city, Madrid, for as little as $2,000 a month. Outside of the main cities, things become even cheaper. Don’t let the low costs fool you, as Spain has one of the highest standards of living of all the countries on this list. You will have all the amenities that you are accustomed to in the US, at a much more affordable price. 

Spain is another country which offers Golden Visa residency options and fast-track citizenship through investment, which will facilitate a permanent relocation if that is what you are looking for. 

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6. New Zealand

No list of expat-friendly countries would be complete without mentioning the peaceful and beautiful land of New Zealand. New Zealand offers expats a laid-back and friendly lifestyle in a highly developed, stable country. It is world-renowned for its stunning natural landscapes and outdoor adventure opportunities. 

Whilst New Zealand offers some pretty wild outdoor experiences, the society is an extremely calm, kind, and friendly one. It is consistently recognised as one of the safest countries in the world to live in. It has excellent state-sponsored healthcare and public services. Low population density means there is plenty room for newcomers to find a beautiful space of their own in the country, or enjoy a relaxed version of city-life in Auckland, the capital.

The living costs in New Zealand are not cheap, but are comparatively more affordable than Australia, its Oceanic big brother. Wage rates are generally good and there are plenty of employment opportunities, especially for young, skilled migrants. It is therefore not difficult to enjoy a high quality of life on Kiwi Soil as an expat. New Zealand now has the added draw that it has been one of the least-affected by Covid-19, due to their excellent management and national cooperation. 

New Zealand has an established expat community, and offers various visa and residency opportunities to make it easier for foreign nationals to immigrate. One popular choice for younger expats is to start with a one-year work holiday visa to get a taste of living and working in New Zealand for a longer time period. 

New Zealand also makes the list of one of the best places to incorporate an online business.


7. Malaysia

Malaysia is one of many wonderful South-East Asian expat destinations. There are some important reasons why we have chosen to include it over other great options like Thailand and Vietnam:

Malaysia offers all of the amazing features that other South-East Asian countries have become popular for, such as a great climate, beautiful outdoors, and idyllic beaches, along with absurdly low living costs. However, what really sets Malaysia apart and makes it so attractive for US expats is that it is extremely Western-friendly and well-developed compared to other Asian nations. 

English is widely spoken, infrastructure and services are at first-world standards in many parts of Malaysia, and its cities offer modern and luxurious living standards. Malaysia’s benefits don’t end there. The healthcare system is excellent and affordable, the country is extremely safe and stable, and the locals are friendly and welcoming. 

To top it all off, Malaysia is one of the easier places on earth to obtain permanent residency. This, along with their tax-friendly legislation for foreign nationals, make it an ideal place for digital nomads and offshore business owners to set up shop.

To continue with the list we have some that are for those expats looking for a bit more comfort.


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Countries that Have the Highest Quality of Life

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8. Canada

Canada, the home of poutine, strong beer and hockey, tops our list of the best countries in the world to live in. In fact, Canada tops almost every list of the best countries to live in! In a study that surveys over 20,000 global citizens from four different regions, Canada has ranked as the number one country in terms of quality of life for the last five years in a row.

Canada has almost everything to offer. It is extremely stable, both politically and economically. It has one of the best public education systems, a well-developed and free national healthcare service, plenty of job and business opportunities, and is regarded as a very safe and peaceful nation. 

Canada also has incredibly beautiful landscapes with plenty of opportunity to explore and travel. Its people are friendly and welcoming. Canada is a melting pot of different cultures and peoples from around the world, and expats will feel right at home.

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9. Switzerland

Switzerland is another consistent favourite in everyone’s list of countries to live in. This small Central European country surrounded by the Alps is quite literally a fairy tale setting. 

It topped HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey of the best places to live and work for the last two years running. Switzerland is most well-known for its political neutrality and stability. It also has one of the best standards of living in the world and offers beautiful outdoor living with some breath-taking scenery.

Finding high-paying employment in Switzerland is not difficult, and you can also benefit from its friendly territorial tax system and world-class banking services.  

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10. Australia

Australia is absolutely massive. Something that you don't realize until you live there. The outback is literally is the outback, a world away from life in the costal areas.

If you live outside the main cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane you will find amazing local scenes in Adelaide, Perth and Broome.

Australia has one of the best living standards in the world, excellent healthcare, and highly developed infrastructure and public service. This, along with its warm climate and beautiful

Australia is one of the best places to live in for solid employment prospects combined with an excellent quality of life. 

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11. New Zealand

Similar to its Oceanic counterpart, the picturesque island nation of New Zealand provides no shortage in the way of employment and education prospects. In fact, its education expenditure as a percentage of GDP is one of the highest in the world.

New Zealand is known for its laid-back and friendly lifestyle, along with its stunning natural landscapes. It is one of the safest countries in the world, with excellent state-sponsored healthcare and good public services.

New Zealand has a small, sparse population, with almost a third residing in Auckland alone. It has become a favourite for British expats and retirees thanks to its safety, political stability, and calm and peaceful surroundings.

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12. Singapore 

The tiny city-state of Singapore has become one of the most well-developed and wealthiest nations in the world. It ranks 3rd with the average GDP per capital coming in at 107,694 USD.

In addition, Singapore has one of the best banking systems in the world, friendly tax legislation and simple offshore incorporation laws, making it a great place for entrepreneurs and digital nomads to start a business but also for retires and expats looking for a safe and reliable place to settle down. It is a safe, highly sophisticated, and functional society to live in. 

Singaporeans are healthy and happy people, with a life expectancy of over 80 years. It also offers one of the best education systems in the world. Children from around the globe attend one of the many excellent schools and get to mix with diverse cultures and languages. Public transport, services are world-class ranking in the top #10 place to live according to a number of indicators.

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13. Scandinavian Nations: Denmark, Sweden, Norway

Rounding off our list are the three Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. All three of these countries consistently rank in the top 10 in the quality-of-life rankings, and currently hold 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place respectively.

All three of these countries are also known for their great education systems, high earnings, equality, overall well-being and usually rank in the top positions in the world happiness indicator. These are extremely warm and welcoming societies, with thriving ex-pat communities.

The Scandinavian governments look after their citizens well, providing access to top-quality free health services, and many other social support systems.

The only downside that we can find is that in comparison to other countries mentioned there is not as much of an expat community as cultures here tend to be more homogenous especially if you move outside the capital cities. However, we don't let that get in the way 

*All of the stats were taken from and can be found here.

There you have it our list of some of the world's best places to live. While it might not be for everyone, we promise you once you get out there, you might not ever want to come home.

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***Please Note: If you are a resident of a country that is a signatory of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) (or a US citizen) your tax reduction possibilities are limited. Due FATCA, CRS, and CFC laws you may not be able to completely eliminate your taxes without moving your residence. While opening an offshore company can increase privacy and asset protection, your tax obligations remans tied to your ownership of overseas entities. Offshore company's are often not taxed in the country where they are incorporated, rather you as the owner are obligated to pay taxes in the country where you reside. Please make sure you know your tax obligations, as we are not tax advisors. Please seek a local tax professional for help regarding your situation. 

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