How to Live Overseas As an American 2022


With the recent growth of the international business community, moving abroad as an American now doesn't have to be reserved for wealthy retirees. It has become more attainable for the average working American to live overseas, and it can also be an incredible opportunity to learn and grow. If you are looking to join this community of expats but don't know where to start, it might feel a bit overwhelming. Yet, if you do your research, organize all your paperwork, and take steps to immerse yourself in your new country, you'll be feeling at home overseas in no time.


Part 1 of 3:Deciding Where to Live

1Research the cost of living in different countries. While you certainly want to move somewhere where you can live comfortably, affordability is a big concern when deciding to relocate. Many countries are more affordable than the U.S., but some are not. You can use this online tool from Numbeo to compare the cost of living between 2 locations: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries.jsp

If you're looking to go to Europe, Portugal features some of the lowest costs of living in all of Western Europe.

Colombia has some up-and-coming cities with desirable climates, such as Medellín and Cali, that are pretty inexpensive by American standards.

Thailand has incredibly low living expenses, including rent and food.

2Read up on countries' immigration policies. Your plans will inevitably be shaped by a country's immigration laws. It is easier to take up permanent residence in some countries than in others, and it usually relates to your employment situation. Visit the government websites of the countries you're interested in to learn more.

You'll need to obtain a visa, which is a government-issued document that permits a foreigner to stay in a country for a specific time and purpose. Visas are granted by governments for tourism, studying, employment, and many other purposes.

3Learn about the job industries in the countries you're considering. Many expats move with a job offer already lined up, and some countries require one as a requirement for a visa. But, if you don't have any professional plans, try to learn about what industries are important in each country. You may be more employable in some places but not in others.

If you have desirable technical skill that a country needs, like if you are a doctor or engineer looking to move to a developing country, you will be viewed as more valuable by a country's government.

Many countries are in need of English teachers. This is a great way to get your foot in the door and build a network of people who may be able to help you find another job.

4Read about the role of religion in your countries of interest. This step is particularly important if you consider your religion to be a big part of your life. Although most modern democracies practice religious tolerance, not every country has a First Amendment equivalent that protects a variety of forms of religious expression. Consult your local library or do online research to learn about how certain countries relate to religion.

If you are a person of faith, realize that you may need to make compromises in order to fit in with a culture that is less accepting. This can be very difficult.

5Investigate how family-friendly your countries of interest are. If you're moving with children or looking to start a family, prioritize countries that have strong education systems and a lower crime rates. Also, look into federal policies on family leave from work. These are factors that will significantly affect the quality of your family life.

Sweden has a reputation for being one of the best countries to raise children. They provide 480 days of paid leave for parents when a new child is born or adopted!

6Ask other American expats for their insights. If you know any expats who are moving to a country you are interested in, schedule a quick Skype conversation with them! Obviously, their experience will be unique to them, but they can still provide you with valuable information to help you in your decision.

They'll also be able to speak to the size of the American expat community in that country. This is an important consideration, as adjusting to your new country will be easier if there is are other Americans who can relate to your experience. Mexico and Canada obviously have large American populations, but overseas options include the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Japan.

There are several organizations that help connect American expats, and you can utilize their networks to meet people! Some good starting points are the Association of American Residents Overseas, American Citizens Abroad, and Expat.com.

7Visit your potential destinations and try to imagine living there. If within financial reason, try to visit the locations that you are interested in. Tour potential neighborhoods, observe how locals interact with one another, and try to picture yourself living there.

Consider the proximity of potential living places to locations that you'll need to frequent, like your workplace, schools, or grocery stores.

Also assess how you feel in the climate. If you feel unbearably uncomfortable during a visit, it's probably better to look elsewhere.

Part 2 of 3:Getting Your Paperwork in Order

1Apply for a visa. Before leaving America for your destination country, apply for a visa through that country's immigration services entity. You will have to pay to apply, and the cost varies by country, but it's generally within the $50-$200 range.

A visa is a temporary permit, so you will need to renew it or apply for permanent residency if you want to remain in that country past the expiration date.

Double-check that you're applying for the right kind of visa. Some visas — for example, visitor or student ones — don't allow the holders to seek employment, and this is a problem if you need to work!

See this article for a sample of the visa application process. It will be different for each individual country, but this one focuses on the United Kingdom.

2Obtain a work permit. If you're moving for employment-related reasons, you need to get a work permit — a document that clears you for employment in that country. Work permits are specific to one job with one employer, so it's not possible to apply for a work permit and then hunt for a job.

It's a bit confusing because in some countries, a work permit allows you to live there, whereas in others you have to apply for a separate residency permit. Ask the foreign affairs branch of your country for more details.

3Set up a foreign bank account. Contact a reputable bank and inquire about their procedures for setting up an account. Consider the amount of monthly account fees, as these can be costly. However, it can be a convenient way to transfer money online from your home bank account to your foreign bank account — assuming the currency conversion rates are good.

There are several online currency converters that can help you. OANDA (https://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/), X-Rates (https://www.x-rates.com/), and XE Currency Converter (https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/) are all solid options.

Keep in mind that it can be difficult to obtain a bank account in a foreign country as a U.S. citizen in a foreign because of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA), a law that requires that all foreign financial institutions report the value of accounts held by U.S. citizens to the IRS. This process can be costly for foreign banks, and so many of them have limited services or stopped extending services entirely to U.S. citizens.

4Get a driver's permit. Unless you're moving to a large city or a place with excellent public transportation, you should obtain a driver's permit. The type of permit you'll need will be different based on your length of stay in the foreign country.

If you're just planning on renting a car for a short period of time, you can apply for an International Driving Permit from the U.S. Department of Motor Vehicles.

If your plans are more long-term, look up online the specific procedures for qualifying for a driver's permit in your new country. You may be required to take courses or pass certain tests, because driving in other countries can be very different than driving in the U.S.

For example, in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, and several other countries, you'll need to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road, and probably in a car that has the wheel on what you consider to be the passenger's side.

5Learn how to pay American taxes while living abroad. The U.S. is 1 of only 2 countries in the world that practices citizenship-based taxation, which means that all citizens — regardless of their place of residence — are required to pay taxes. So, file your U.S. taxes by April 15. In general, the filing process is the same as it would be if you were living in the U.S.

Fortunately, there are policies in place to help minimize the chances of paying full double taxes to both the U.S. and your new country.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) is a way to exclude income you earned in a foreign country from being subject to U.S. income tax. It's done through IRS Form 2555 and you can use this online IRS tool to determine which income is eligible for exclusion: https://www.irs.gov/help/ita/can-i-exclude-income-earned-in-a-foreign-country.Trustworthy SourceInternal Revenue ServiceU.S. government agency in charge of managing the Federal Tax CodeGo to source

Alternatively, you can use the Foreign Tax Credit to deduct foreign taxes from your U.S. tax. This uses IRS Form 1116.

6Learn how and when to pay taxes in your country of residence. Of course, it's also super important to understand the tax requirements of your new country. The best starting point for doing this would be a government website. Countries generally follow one of three tax systems: citizenship, residential, or territorial.

A citizenship tax system is the most rigid of the three, and the only other country that uses it besides the United States is Eritrea.

Countries with residential tax systems generally tax people who have lived there for at least half of a year, or 183 days.

Under a territorial tax system, only income that is generated within the country's borders is taxed. Costa Rica and Panama both observe this system.

Part 3 of 3:Adjusting to a New Community and Culture

1Familiarize yourself with federal and local laws. Devote time to learning about the laws of your new country to avoid accidentally breaking them. There are some behaviors in America that are not okay in other countries, and you wouldn't want to be kicked out after all the effort you've put in to get there!

For example, in Singapore, you can be fined $10,000 for connecting to another person's wifi network.

2Learn as much as you can about your new country's culture. Different areas of the world have distinct cultures, and not understanding commonly-held beliefs or behavioral norms can leave you feeling out-of-place. When trying to learn about a new culture, read up on its history, typical etiquette, holidays, religions, and language. Blogs or online videos made by people of that culture can also help bring in perspectives of people of that culture.

This guide outlines several common behaviors in American culture, and it's a good starting point to start thinking about how these expectations might differ in the culture you're trying to learn about.

3Welcome new experiences. Culture shock is a common side effect of moving to a new place, and it involves becoming aware of the differences between American culture and the culture of your new country of residence.

Culture shock generally happens in 3 phases: the honeymoon (being excited and open to the new culture), rejection (missing your way of life back in America), and recovery (gradually accepting the ways of the new culture).

The best way to fight against this is to have an open mind and commit yourself to having new experiences. Try new foods, do new activities, and surprise yourself! This will help you feel more comfortable and confident in an unfamiliar culture.

4Get involved in community organizations or groups. Find groups that engage your existing interests. This can be especially helpful if you are struggling to overcome a language barrier. Seek out a service organization if you enjoy community service, take a cooking class if you like being in the kitchen, or join an athletic league if you want to meet fellow lovers of your sport.

Facebook groups and other online communities can be great ways of connecting with people with similar interests.

Even doing something as simple as frequenting the same coffee shops or restaurants can help bolster a sense of belonging. This will also get you out and about, interacting with other locals and learning about behavioral norms.

5Stay connected with family and friends back home. If you're feeling isolated in a new place, talking to loved ones who are still in the U.S. can be comforting. Accessing telephone and Internet services, however, may be more complicated than it was in the States. This is because cell phone frequencies vary based on country, and some telephone providers don't give coverage to certain areas.

Skype is a video and voice chat service that can help you get around this. Computer-to-computer calls are free, and computer-to-landline calls are also pretty inexpensive.

eKit offers communication technologies, like mobile phones, SIM cards, and global calling cards, that can help keep international travelers in touch with those who are far away.

RebTel is a service that provides recipients of your calls with a separate number to call to reach you. They are not charged with any extra international fees.