The US government doesn’t officially track the number of emigrants. But the US Department of State estimates that there are around nine million American expats worldwide. This includes Americans who chose residence permits or citizenship by investment programs.
In the second quarter of 2022, 580 Americans not just relocated to another country, but also renounced their citizenship. It is three times more than last year, says the US Internal Revenue Service. Over the past five years, 1,473 citizens with a net worth of at least $2,000,000 have left the US.
Best countries to move from the USA
Close proximity to the US makes the Caribbean countries appealing to Americans. The local sunny tropical climate, warm azure ocean, and developed infrastructure make it a perfect place to raise children or retire.
English is widely spoken in 18 Caribbean territories out of 26. Eastern Caribbean Dollar is pegged to the United States Dollar: ECD 2,70 = USD 1.
Citizenship by Investment are offered by five Caribbean nations — Dominica, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.
A passport from one of those Caribbean countries provides:
- Tax optimization. There are no capital gains or inheritance taxes. With the exception of St Lucia, three are no taxes on interest, dividends, and royalties. In Saint Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, and Barbuda, there is no income tax;
- Profitable real estate market. The average price for 1 m² of property is $7,500. Real estate can be rented for an average yield of 3,5%. Investors participating in Caribbean citizenship programs don't have to purchase a landholding licence for foreigners.
Caribbean citizenship by investment programs: a cost comparison
|Country||National Fund contribution||Real estate purchase|
|Antigua and Barbuda||From $100,000||From $200,000|
|Dominica||From $100,000||From $200,000|
|St Lucia||From $100,000||From $300,000|
|Grenada||From $150,000||From $220,000|
|St Kitts and Nevis||From $150,000||From $175,000|
Contributions to national funds are non-refundable. The real estate options are refundable: investment properties can be used for profit, and sold in five years.
Investors and their families can use an individual Caribbean citizenship cost calculation.
Portugal is the 6th safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. The cost of living in Portugal is almost 35% lower than in other Western European states. The country has a mild climate with an abundance of warm, sunny days, beautiful beaches and resorts, and rich culture. English is spoken by 27% of Portuguese nationals.
Education in Portugal is of high quality. There are international schools aimed at expat children, as well as American international schools with the US academic system.
Diplomas of Portuguese universities are recognized globally. Fourteen local universities are placed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Taxes in Portugal are lower than in the US. New residents can be given a Non-Habitual Resident (NHR) status. With that status, skilled professionals who receive salaries from Portuguese companies or are self-employed in Portugal can pay income tax at a lowered rate of 20%. For those receiving pensions from other countries, the NHR status provides the pension tax at a flat rate of 10%.
Best options for relocating to Portugal
- Portugal Golden Visa by investment. Applicants invest from €280,000 and choose out of seven options, including the purchase of the real estate, or investment fund, starting a company, or making a capital transfer.
Investors can get a special Non-habitual Resident status. After that, they don’t have to pay global income taxes in Portugal for 10 years, and the tax rate for the income earned in Portugal is 20%.
- The Retirement Visa, or the Portugal D7 Visa. Applicants need to prove a passive income outside of Portugal of at least €760 a month.
- In 5 years, residents can apply for Portugal citizenship.
If you're planning on moving to Europe from the US, note that Malta Citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations is one of a kind in the European Union. While Malta doesn’t have direct citizenship by investment program, it has a naturalisation program for exceptional services, including direct investment.
Healthcare in Malta ranks better than in the US one. Environmental initiatives are robust: for example, the country is transitioning to a green economy, and local beaches get Blue Flag awards every year.
Safety in Malta is high: the country is among the 20 safest ones in the world. In terms of crime rate, it’s safer here than in Denmark, Ireland or the Netherlands. Malta is also the 2nd safest country in the world for women.
The climate in Malta is the Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild winters. The average annual sea temperature is 68 °F — the warmest in Europe.
Tax system in Malta is favourable. For instance, shareholders of Maltese companies can return up to 100% of the corporate tax. Malta’s VAT is below 20%. There’s no property tax, except for the time the owner sells it, and no taxes on gifts or inheritance.
The education level in Malta is high, with a number of public and private international schools. Most schools follow the British curriculum. University diplomas from Malta are recognized in the UK and the US. The University of Malta is included in the QS World University Ranking.
Options for relocating to Malta from the US:
- Malta Residence Permit. Investors spend at least €30,000 and either rent or purchase real estate.
- Malta Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment regulation. Investors fulfil three conditions: contribute to the National Development and Social Fund, donate to a non-governmental organisation, and buy or rent residential real estate. The minimum investment amount is €690,000.
Spain has the largest American population in Europe. It is a safe country with a Global Peace Index of 1,603, while the US has 2,337 — the lower the index is, the better.
English is not widely spoken in Spain, with approximately 12% knowing the language — mostly due to the vast number of American expats. But this isn’t an obstacle when it comes to social services, banking, or the hospitality industry. Education and healthcare quality in the country is on a European level, with public and private options. The cultural and social scene of Spain is flourishing.
The climate in Spain is perfect for those who don’t like either cold or hot weather. Summers here are relatively cool, but sunny, and winters are mild.
One of the ways to relocate to Spain from the US is to get a Permanent Residence by Investment. Options include investing at least €500,000 in real estate, at least €1,000,000 in company shares or bank deposits, and at least €2,000,000 in government bonds. Residents can apply for Spanish citizenship in 10 years.
Greece is rightfully praised for its beauty, heritage, culture, lovely Mediterranean climate, and lay-back lifestyle. The country has one of the lowest costs of living in the European Union. It’s also one of the safest European states.
Education in Greece is globally recognized for its high quality. Expat children can attend bilingual and international schools — especially if residing in Athens. Athens is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Greece.
The tax system in Greece has benefits aimed at expats and high-net-worth foreign investors. Shipowners, entrepreneurs, and retired foreign investors receive a 15-year tax break and pay a flat tax of €100,000.
Greece Golden Visa is a program that grants permanent residency by investment. Investors contribute from €250,000, and use one out of several options:
- purchasing real estate;
- purchasing a plot of construction or agricultural land;
- purchasing bonds;
- purchasing a timeshare;
- opening a deposit;
- renting a tourist accommodation;
- inheriting real estate.
In 7 years investors can apply for Greek citizenship.
The Republic of Cyprus is an island country and a part of the European Union. English is spoken by 76% of the population. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the most beautiful ones.
Climate in Cyprus is a mix of Subtropical Mediterranean in the lowlands and Continental in the mountains. This means that you can enjoy hot summers by the warm sea, and go skiing or snowboarding during winter.
Education in Cyprus is available both in private and public schooling forms. American expat children can attend international English schools. There are more than thirty well-respected colleges and universities, with the University of Cyprus being the highest-ranked one.
Cyprus Permanent Residence by Investment is a convenient way to settle on the island. Applicants invest at least €300,000 in one of the 3 options: residential or commercial real estate, company shares, or investment funds.
Permanent residents of Cyprus don’t pay global income, or inheritance taxes, and the Corporate Income Tax is 12,5%, which is one of the lowest in Europe. Citizenship can be obtained in 5 years.
Switzerland is in the top 3 most expensive countries in the world, as annually confirmed by agencies like Eurostat. But the cost of living is justified by a high quality of life. The Better Life Index of Switzerland is 7,5, which is higher than the global average of 6,7.
English is spoken by half of the Swiss population. The most common language of Switzerland is the Swiss German dialect.
Climate in Switzerland is continental: you can experience all four seasons without much weather harshness.
Education in Switzerland consists of free public schools and paid private schooling. American expat students can also attend bilingual, or international schools. Public universities in Switzerland are among the world's best, and Swiss citizens don't pay tuition for Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
Taxes in Switzerland can be linked to the Switzerland Residence Permit Program. This program is a way to relocate to Switzerland from the US. Applicants pay a lump sum tax of at least ₣450,000 per year.
Switzerland Residence Permit must be renewed every year or every 5 years. Residence permit holders can live in Switzerland, but not work. However, they manage capital or business in another country. In 10 years they can become full fledged Switzerland citizens.
Austria is one of the most livable countries in the world. It's also great for US expats who value privacy: Austrians are genuinely friendly, yet respectful when it comes to boundaries.
Climate in Austria is mainly continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The country has one of the best landscapes in the world, including nature preserves with lakes, mountains, and forests.
Cost of living in Austria is moderate to high, but is approximately ten times lower than in neighbouring Switzerland. Austria is also an extremely safe country. For instance, it has a homicidal rate of 0,61 per 100,000 population, one of the lowest rates in the world.
English is widely spoken in Austria especially in urban areas, as well as across public, hospitality and business sectors. The official language of the country is a specific dialect of German, known as Austrian German. If you want to permanently reside in the country, you will need to eventually learn the language.
Healthcare in Austria is one of the best in the world, with a developed two-tier system. Both public and private healthcare services are quality.
Education-wise, Austria is in the top 30 countries in the world, according to the United Nations Development Program. Public schools mostly teach in German, but it is possible to find bilingual or international public schools. US expat children can attend one of the English-speaking private schools that teach the American Curriculum.
Universities in Austria are globally recognized, and public ones offer tuition-free options for citizens.
When relocating to Austria from the US, expats can participate in the Austria Residence Permit program. There are no direct investment options, but renting a house in the country is one of the mandatory options. In 5 years expats can apply for life-long residency in Austria.
Andorra is a small, but thriving South-European country, bordering Spain and France. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and a life expectancy of up to 83 years.
Healthcare in Andorra is in the world’s top 5. The insurance covers 75 to 90% of all healthcare expenses.
Education in Andorra, especially children schooling, has a strong system that leaves students with a 100% literacy rate. Public schools have three systems to choose from — Andorran, French, or Spanish — but there are bilingual and public schools.
Tax rates in Andorra are among the lowest in the world. There are no taxes on dividends, inheritance, wealth, or profits.
Andorra Residence Permit by investment is a convenient way to relocate to Andorra from the US. Applicants invest at least €400,000, either purchasing real estate or bonds, investing in a business, or opening an interest-free deposit.
Why do Americans move to another country?
Excluding reasons like job relocation, marriage, or reuniting with the family, what drives US citizens to move abroad is the better quality of life. The main reasons to relocate are below.
Growing real estate prices. US housing prices grew by 18,7% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, says the US Federal Housing Finance Agency. In the European Union, housing prices grew only by 10,5% over the same period.
In developed non-European countries, such as the Caribbean states, average real estate cost doesn't exceed $7,000 per 1 m². In the US the average real estate cost can reach $17,000 per 1 m².
Plummeting euro. In the summer of 2022, the euro fell to a two-decade low against the US dollar. This made real estate and the cost of living in Europe more affordable for Americans.
Heavy tax burden. Tax rates in the US are high, and taxes are imposed on income, payroll, property, sales, capital gains, dividends, imports, estates and gifts.
American citizens must file and pay their US taxes even if living abroad. This results in some Americans renouncing their US citizenship.
Safety and healthcare concerns. The US has the highest rate of firearm deaths compared with other high-income countries. Additionally, the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court put female reproductive rights in danger. These two precedents are among the main factors that make Americans concerned for their and their families' safety.
Climate change. 64% of Americans said climate change in the US and better weather in another country was their reason to relocate in 2022, claims the Fibres survey.
What to consider when moving to another country from the USA
Ease of travel. The US passport is one of the strongest in the world. However, it doesn't grant visa-free access everywhere. For example, Americans need to obtain visas to enter China, Turkey, India, and Vietnam. But they can get a second passport from a state with a visa-free agreement with one or several of these countries.
Travel freedom is also essential for those who want to revoke their US citizenship. With a passport from a European Union or a Caribbean nation, Americans will be eligible for tourist and business US visas. Thus they will retain global mobility.
Taxation requirements. The US tax system is notoriously complicated. If an American citizen moves to a foreign country, they still need to pay US taxes on worldwide income.
The US has tax treaties with 66 countries. The treaties allow foreign residents not to pay taxes or pay them at a reduced rate on income they receive within the US. American citizens residing abroad can also file a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, which allows the maximum tax exclusion of $112,000 per person, as of 2022.
Americans with dual citizenship can also revoke their US citizenship and pay taxes in one country only. They will have to conduct business with the States as a foreign entity, which can be convenient with a developed country passport.
Moving with the family. Make sure your country of choice will welcome your relatives as well. Permanent residence, or citizenship by investment programs usually provide this. The investor can add their spouse, children, parents, and siblings to the application.
When relocating with kids, research, and possibly apply for a kindergarten or a school beforehand. Explore the tuition options: most developed countries have a free school education, but free university education is only available for permanent residents.
If you're looking for the best and safest country to live in with children, UNICEF regularly publishes the Places and Spaces ranking of states like that.
Climate and environment. Research the average seasonal temperatures, the possibilities of natural disasters, the quality of air and water, and the like. Rankings like the Environmental Performance Index will help.
Work and business permissions. Not every country allows residency permit holders to get a job, or own a business within the state borders. When applying for a residency permit in your country of choice, evaluate your options.
Expats who obtained permanent residency or citizenship of another country are usually allowed to work permanently or start a company.
Language and cultural characteristics. Learning the language and customs of a country you reside in is not just politeness and the way to make day-to-day life convenient. There are states where residence permits or citizenship applicants must pass language and history tests.
Living expenses. Includes real estate, utility, food, clothing, gas, healthcare, education, and other necessities. There are also residence permit programs — like digital nomad or retiree visa programs — that require proof of regular income of a certain amount.
How to move legally from the US to another country
A lot of countries have residency permit programs and naturalisation laws, and expats use them to legally relocate. This includes the countries we listed above.
Foreign countries can grant permanent residency or citizenship based on:
- descent. Some countries give citizenship to those born on their territory, also known as the right of soil. Others give citizenship to those born from at least one of their citizens, also known as the right of soil. There are countries that combine both the right of soil and the right of blood policies;
- exceptional merit. Includes skilled professionals and specialists in science, business, art and other fields, as well as investors;
- refugee status, which includes political asylums;
- investment. Applicants invest in the country’s economy. Options include making national fund contributions, purchasing bonds, buying or renting real estate, supporting government initiatives and more. In return, investors can be granted residency or citizenship.
You can’t relocate from the US to a foreign country with student or foreign visas. Your first step needs to be joining a residency, citizenship, or naturalisation program, depending on what your country of choice offers.
Residency visas grant a long-term permit for living in your chosen country. There are two common types:
- Residence permit. Allows the holder to live in a country for approximately five years. After that, the permit can be renewed, or the holder can apply for citizenship. A residence permit gives the right to live, study, seek healthcare, and buy real estate in the country. Travel mobility is a common advantage of some residence permits. For example, a residence permit of a Schengen Zone country allows the holder to spend 90 days out of every six months in other Schengen countries, visa-free.
Digital nomad visas are a residence permit type that has been gaining popularity. A residence permit commonly doesn’t allow the holder to work or conduct business in the country. But a digital nomad visa allows them to work remotely for a foreign state and earn foreign income.
- Permanent residency. Allows the holder to live in a country indefinitely. This status is often given automatically to the residents who have spent 5—7 years in the country. Permanent residency holders are usually allowed to apply for citizenship. If they opt out, they can still use the same benefits as the country’s citizenship — but they will have to periodically renew their permanent residency status.
Citizenship can be obtained in some countries by skipping a residency permit step. Caribbean citizenship by investment is a good example.
Frequently asked questions
South American countries like Caribbean states, or Mexico are the closest to the US and are also the easiest for relocating.
Western Hemisphere, South America, and Europe are among the closest options territory-wise but explore global options. Look for countries with a higher quality of life and robust ways to welcome expats. Some countries will grant your naturalisation by the right of blood if you were born from one of their citizens. Others give residency for exceptional meri — for instance, to skilled professionals.
Most residency permit or citizenship programs offer different options for relocating to another country, including investing in its economy.
If a family wants to get second citizenship faster and relocate to a warm country that neighbours the US, they can choose one of the Caribbean states. If a family wants to relocate to a safe European country, Malta offers naturalisation policies by exceptional services, including investment. Other European options to consider include getting a residency permit in Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, or Andorra.
Malta is one of the safest European states with great quality of life. Cyprus is a beautiful and highly developed nation with a low cost of living and a comfortable tax system. But there are many more: check our Best countries to move from the USA list.
Greece, Cyprus, Andorra, Portugal, the Caribbean and Malta are among the most favourable places for US expats. The choice depends on the expat’s demands: for instance, having a “Plan B” country, a place to retire, better taxation and business opportunities, or access to European education. Immigrant Invest has a checklist for relocating from the US and choosing a country.