In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and an election year full of uncertainty and fear for many Americans, more US citizens than ever are considering moving abroad. Leaving the current chaos to move somewhere comfortable and affordable has never been so appealing. We did some looking into four of the best options for US citizens to consider.
While travel restrictions to many countries from the US are currently prohibited due to the uncontrolled COVID-19 pandemic in the States, Americans looking to leave can still consider these places for the future when weighing their options. CNBC compiled a helpful list of four countries to place on your short list, and we did some extra digging to find out what might be so appealing about these beautiful destinations. One place considered often by Americans but that remains temporarily unattainable is New Zealand.
In July, The Guardian shared an article on how interest on moving from the US to New Zealand had jumped in recent weeks as the island nation managed to get their coronavirus pandemic under control early on. In the US, however, numbers were quickly rising. However, with over 5 million people infected, US citizens are persona non grata in many countries hoping to keep their numbers under control, and New Zealand is no exception. Aside from this, New Zealand is a notoriously difficult country to emigrate to, with many pathways but stringent requirements.
With New Zealand off the table, which countries are the best?
Right now, there are four options which seem to present the best and most affordable places for American citizens to consider:
- Costa Rica
A place that conjures mental images of a tropical paradise and dreamy beaches, Costa Rica has long been seen as a dream vacation destination by Americans. A small country in Central America, Costa Rica boasts modest living costs, beautiful scenery, and a vibrant and friendly slow-living lifestyle. US citizens can visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa. While becoming a citizen is difficult for foreigners, it’s easy to obtain residency, and Costa Rican law provides enough protection and rights under residency status that it’s usually adequate for those looking to move to or retire in the Central American country. Non-citizens can buy land, and even start businesses.
While it’s not the cheapest country on the list, Costa Rica has a fantastic healthcare system and both citizens and residents can access the program by contributing a small monthly fee based on income. A couple can live in Costa Rica for approximately $2,000 a month, and a budget of $3,500 will give residents access to a very comfortable lifestyle.
Cons include the fact that it’s not the cheapest option, and the national language is Spanish, so many Americans would need to brush up on their lessons.
Belize is an English-speaking country also in Central America. The only Central American country to boast no pacific coastline, Belize is nonetheless breathtakingly beautiful and offers potential residents a lot in the way of an outdoor lifestyle.
US citizens can stay in 30-day stretches without a visa required. After that, there is a series of steps to take to extend your visit, and after 50 consecutive weeks, you are eligible to apply for residency. You must be able to prove an ability to support yourself financially, and in Belize that requires approximately $2,800 a month.
Belize was once the center of the ancient Mayan empire, and many pyramids remain, and are open to the public to gaze at in wonder. With beautiful beaches and lush tropical vegetation, Belize offers much of the tropical paradise of Costa Rica but for slightly cheaper.
Cons of moving to Belize include the fact that their healthcare infrastructure is not as advanced as Americans are used to, and the care quality is somewhat limited in comparison to places like Costa Rica.
If you’re looking for somewhere farther afield than Central America, European country Portugal may be an option to consider. With a cost of living around $2500 a month, Portugal allows American tourists to stay for up to 90 days without a visa. Several options for residency are offered after that, but Portugal bureaucracy moves notoriously slow so expect to have all your ducks in a row, and then wait. The vistas offered vary wildly, from beaches to mountains, and everything in between.
Portugal is world famous for both beautiful beaches and delicious food, and like Costa Rica offers a nationalized healthcare system that often appeals to US citizens who tire of the for-profit system they’re used to.
Cons of living in Portugal include a struggling economy and a slow lifestyle. Not slow as in, “relaxed,” slow as in you will wait in line forever in some places. But with beautiful scenery to keep your attention, you may not mind so much.
A country that’s gained popularity among ex-pats in recent years, Uruguay has become a retirement haven for US citizens looking to slow down and chill out in their golden years. This South American country has a cost of living from about $2800 a month, and boasts beautiful beaches and a solid healthcare system. Like Costa Rica, you don’t have to be a citizen to buy property or start a business, and US citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
With a healthy infrastructure and banking system, Uruguay has been called, “The Switzerland of America.” Same sex marriage, marijuana, and abortion are all legal. This makes it an appealing destination for Gen Z and Millennials looking to leave as well, not just retirees. Uruguay is also one of the largest meat producers, and offers more than beautiful beaches in the form of lush rolling plains.
Cons of living in Uruguay include an exclusively Spanish-speaking population, hard-to-find work, and unique wildlife that US ex-pats used to a city lifestyle might find alarming.
Unfortunately, most places remain closed for business to Americans
With COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise in the US, many foreign borders remain closed to US citizens. While places like Los Cabos in Mexico are welcoming healthy US citizens for a break away from the chaos, and Turks and Caicos also welcomes Americans who won’t bring the virus, it seems like it will be a long time before people can travel freely from the US.
But if you’re considering escaping the chaos to a slower and cheaper lifestyle, the four great options included are places to keep in mind. In the meantime, we’ll have to do what we can to contain the virus on US soil and try to rein in political chaos since we’re more or less stuck here for the time being.