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15 December, 2021

10 Countries That Have Become The Best Places For Expats To Live In 2021

The international community InterNations surveyed 12,000 expats from 186 countries and compiled the Expat Insider ranking. The primary consideration was the living conditions of skilled professionals working abroad.

Fifty-nine countries made the list of the best places for expats to live. Professionals can get a residence permit by investment if they wish - seven countries have investment programmes.

Residence permits and citizenship by investment: the best countries and cities for expats
Photo: Adobe Stock

Portugal is the only European country to make it into the top 10 and was ranked fifth. Expats noted the high quality of life in the country, the large number of holiday destinations and the warm, pleasant climate. 84% of expats are satisfied with their lives overall, compared to the global average of 75%.

Lisbon, Portugal's capital city, made the list of the best cities for expats, coming in 18th. Residents are happy with the city's convenient infrastructure, the price of living and the friendliness of the local population.

Costa Rica got third place for its attitude to foreigners: Costa Ricans actively help expats to socialise and integrate into society. 82% of expats said they quickly got used to the local culture and felt at home in Costa Rica.

Mexico comes second in the ranking. Expats integrate quickly into society, with 85% of professionals finding it easy to get a job in Mexico and 78% saying they quickly made local friends. What foreigners like most is the Mexican culture, cuisine and the friendliness of the locals.

Taiwan ranked first for the third year in a row. The country received the highest score in the Health System Quality category: 96% of expats are satisfied with medical services. 

75% of expats like the working environment and feel safe in Taiwan. For example, an expat from Canada shares, "My salary is enough to live and travel around the country. I feel safe wherever I go.

Top 10 countries for expats

PlaceCountry
1 Taiwan
2 Mexico
3 Costa-Rica
4 Malaysia
5 Portugal
6 New Zealand
7 Australia
8 Ecuador
9 Canada
10 Vietnam
* A full list of countries can be found on the InterNations community website
Best countries for expats: Taiwan

Taipei is the capital of Taiwan. The city’s economy is growing at an average of 5% a year. It’s the country’s industrial and cultural centre

Best countries for expats: Mexico

Expats have hailed Mexico’s cuisine as one of the tastiest in the world. Mexican cuisine is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site

Best countries for expats: Costa Rica

Costa Rica was discovered by Christopher Columbus. He was struck by the beauty of the local nature and exclaimed “Rich coast!”

How to obtain a residence permit in the ranking countries

Seven countries in the InterNations ranking offer foreigners a residence permit by investing in the country's economy. Governments offer one or more investment options, such as a non-refundable contribution to a fund, the purchase of real estate or investment in a business.

Countries from the Expat Insider rating with investment programs

PlaceCountry
5 Portugal
23 Austria
30 Switzerland
40  Greece
45 Great Britain
50 Malta
53 Cyprus

Residence permit in Portugal are granted by investments in real estate, businesses, investment funds, scientific or cultural projects. Investors also have the option of transferring capital to the country, for example by opening a deposit in a local bank. The minimum investment amount under the programme is €250,000.

Austria received a high passport score: it allows you to travel to 188 countries. 98% are satisfied with the quality of life in the country and the good environment. 82% believe that Austria has an excellent healthcare system.

Residence permit in Austria are issued to financially independent people on the basis of quotas. In 2021, 6,020 places were allocated for the whole of Austria. One quota place means one person, not the whole family at once. Quota places will expire at the beginning of January. You should therefore prepare your documents well in advance and apply from 2 January

Switzerland was ranked 30th. Expats praise the country's ecology, the beauty of nature and the relaxed pace of life. But the cost of living in Switzerland is much higher than in other countries.

A residence permit in Switzerland is also granted to financially independent persons. The investor enters into an agreement with one of the cantonal authorities and pays a lump sum tax of ₣ 450,000. It takes about six months to formalise the status.

Greece is 40th in the ranking, but received third place in the ‘number of places to stay’ category: expats choose the country for living and travelling through local towns and villages.t

A residence permit in Greece is granted by purchasing a property worth €250,000 or more. It is allowed to purchase property or to rent tourist properties. It is also possible to purchase a plot of land for construction purposes.

The UK offers a wide range of jobs for professionals and career prospects. 67% of expats rate their workplace as the best in the world.

 Residence permit can be obtained in the UK for investments of £2 million or more. The government grants investors a special Investor Visa which allows them to live and do business in the country. It takes at least two months to apply for a visa.

Expats like Malta for its pleasant climate, plenty of holiday options, including seaside holidays. But foreign professionals are not very happy with their working conditions.

A permanent residence in Malta can be obtained by an investment of €112,000 or more. The investor rents or buys a house on the island, makes administrative and governmental contributions, transfers money to charity. It is also necessary to confirm the existence of assets worth at least €500,000.

Malta also offers foreigners a residence permit for tax optimisation. Under the terms of the programme, the investor changes his or her tax residence to Maltese residence. The minimum investment amount to obtain a residence permit is €30,000.  

The Maltese government grants citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment. The applicant first obtains a residence permit, then undergoes a rigorous due diligence check. If approved, a year or three years after the residence permit, the investor can invest €690,000 or more in the Maltese economy, and apply for citizenship.

Cyprus received average scores in the categories of "cost of living" and "security in the country", "level of happiness" and "quality of healthcare system".

A permanent residence permit in Cyprus is granted for an investment of €300,000 or more. It is allowed to buy real estate, shares in Cypriot companies or shares in investment funds. To obtain a residence permit in Spain, you must buy a property in the country worth at least €500,000.

Holders of a residence permit or a permanent residence permit of an EU Member State can travel visa-free through the Schengen area, even during a pandemic. They also have the right to live, work, conduct business and study in the country of residence without restrictions.

Maltese citizenship entitles you to visa-free entry to over 180 countries and the freedom to live in any EU Member State.

Who compiled the rankings and how

InterNations  is an international community of expats from around the world. InterNations publishes articles that provide information to expatriates about expatriation, country life and local events. 

Expat Insider is ranked every year. In 2021, community experts wanted to show what it was like to live and work abroad during a pandemic, so they also assessed health systems.

The overall ranking includes an assessment of expats' living conditions, country holiday options, levels of personal happiness, ability to travel the world, levels of ecology, safety and health systems.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent who helps you obtain residency or citizenship on a direct investment basis. If you want to become a resident or citizen of an EU member state, seek advice from experts in investment programmes.

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10 Countries That Have Become The Best Places For Expats To Live In 2021