So you’ve made up your mind—you want to live abroad—but what are the best countries to live in? More specifically, what is the best country to live in for you? Where are the best places to work abroad? To study? To retire?

The answers to these questions depend on who you are, and what you plan to do in your new home. Are you a student? A professional with an in-demand skill set? Or someone with no experience, but with a vision and a strong work ethic? Or perhaps, you lucky, lucky thing, you’re a person of independent means looking for an adventure or a sweet place to hang your hat and put up your feet.

Another factor to consider is your language skills. A lot of Americans are fluent in Spanish or another language, and if you’re one of these lucky folks, this opens up your options considerably. (And if you don’t have a second language, you should consider acquiring one. Spanish, in particular, is easy to learn, and is one of the most useful and widespread languages in the world.)

Finally, if you’re moving with family members, especially children, you have to consider your destination especially carefully, and find somewhere that will be a good fit for all of you.

The Best Places to Work Abroad

If you have a job offer from a company in the country you are planning to move to (in-country), that employer will often help you with visas, relocating, and finding a place to live. But what if you don’t have that job offer just yet?

Best Work-Abroad Countries for Skilled Workers:

Workers with training and experience in various key industries will find themselves in demand the world over. With the right skills, you can often acquire a work permit before you arrive, then hit the ground running.

Which skills are wanted can vary by country, but in general, the following categories of people will often find it easy to acquire a work permit, and even residency in foreign countries:

  • medical professionals
  • engineers
  • computer and software professionals
  • trade professionals (electricians, repair staff, auto mechanics, etc.),
  •  certified English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers

Again, it will be easier for you in every way, if you arrive with a job offer in hand, but here are a few countries where even unsponsored skilled workers are encouraged to apply:

Canada: Canada is one of the best countries to live in. It’s very welcoming to immigrants and has numerous methods under which individuals may qualify for residency. There is a special express entry program for skilled professionals. Check the government website to see if you are eligible.

Australia: Australia is another one of the best places to work abroad. They are always seeking skilled workers, but the kinds of workers who qualify vary according to the country’s economic needs at any given time. You can use the government’s free SkillSelect tool to see if your skills are in demand at this time—and also to find a sponsor.

The Middle East: Different countries in the Arab world are continually seeking professionals, especially tradespeople, construction workers, and associated white-collar workers. The upside of this kind of work is that it’s usually exceptionally well paid. On the downside, foreign workers often live in compounds separated from the country’s general population. In addition, many of these jobs are segregated by gender, and female workers may find it difficult to adjust to the social strictures outside of their compound.

Seoul, South Korea

Asia: If you have an English as a Second Language credential (TESOL, TEFL or CELTA), you have a unique opportunity. ESL teachers are very much in demand in Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, and other places. Visa rules and requirements can vary widely, and there are a lot of scams, so it pays to do your research. This article gives an excellent rundown of the work, the requirements, the benefits, and the pitfalls of teaching English abroad. This article provides an overview of employment prospects for ESL teachers in Asia, as well as some recruiters, employers, and professional organizations.

Best Countries to Immigrate to for Semi-Skilled and Unskilled Workers:

But what if you don’t have any specific training or professional work experience? What if the things you have to offer are a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn? It will be more difficult, but there are still places you can go.

Canada: Again, Canada is the best country to live in for many kinds of immigrants. In particular, they are actively seeking caregivers for children, people with medical needs, and the elderly, and have a special program to encourage caregivers to immigrate. Canada also has a program for self-employed people such as artists and athletes, and another for graduates of Canadian institutions willing to live in specific areas such as Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Ireland: Ireland is another one of the best countries for American expats. U.S. passport holders can remain in Ireland for three months without a visa. However, if you intend to work, and/or stay longer than three months, you will need to apply for immigration permission to work—and you’ll need to apply before you go. One popular and easy route to a work permit is a working holiday permit, which is good for up to a year. Another is to join an atypical working scheme. Beware, though—there are a lot of “Work in Ireland” scams. Best to research and apply directly through the Irish government’s immigration website.

best countries american expats work abroad live ecuador

Ecuador, image via Pixabay

The Best Foreign Countries to Live in for Retirees

Lucky you, you’re a person of independent means. You’ve worked hard your entire life, saved and invested wisely, and now you’re looking to continue the adventure in an exotic locale. Where can you live large for less? And where will you be welcome? The answers might surprise you.

Latin America: Thousands of Americans happily retire to places in Mexico, Central, and South America. The area offers a breathtaking diversity of climates and geography, from the balmy tropical climes of Nicaragua and Costa Rica to the temperate subtropical Paraguay and Uruguay, to the cool mountainous regions of Argentina, Chile and Ecuador. Many of these countries have easy pathways to residency, with reasonable financial requirements—or no requirements at all. Many places have excellent public healthcare systems. And in almost all of these places, with proper planning and research, you can live very well for a fraction of the cost of a similar lifestyle in the United States. International Living magazine has an extensive archive of resources to help you get started in your search for the perfect Latin American home.

Cyprus: If you fancy the other side of the world, consider retiring to beautiful Cyprus. The financial requirement is a mere $7,500 annually for retirees. In addition, English is widely spoken, the crime rate is low, and there is an extensive support network for expatriates.

Malta: This little island off the coast of Italy is intriguing not only for its natural beauty, but because of the ease with which it welcomes immigrants. Malta offers citizenship—which includes EU citizenship–through investment. It’s pricey, but for the right person, it can be a great choice.

best countries retirees live abroad expat mexico chichen-itza-1025099_960_720

The Chichen Itza Pyramid, Mexico image via Pixabay

Best Places to Raise an Expat Family

The Independent recently published a survey of expatriates, asking them to rate their experiences with family life in their host countries. The survey took into account work/life balance, educational opportunities, child safety, recreational opportunities, and other factors. Scandinavian countries ranked highest, though establishing residency there can be incredibly difficult. The same goes for other European countries. Mexico, however, rated highly on several different surveys, and its immigration requirements are much less stringent. Singapore has been described as very safe and child-friendly; it is also very expensive.

If you’re thinking about your children’s college education, you might also consider one of the numerous countries that offer free or low-cost university, sometimes even in English. These include Germany, Slovenia, and many places in Latin America. Again, immigration and visa requirements can vary widely, so it’s important to read up on your options. The best place to start is the website of the government of your target country.

Living abroad can be the adventure of a lifetime. But it pays to plan and do your research. Know what sort of visas and permits you will need—and their specific rules and limitations. Do your paperwork completely, perfectly, and on time. Understand how much money it will take, both to meet the residency requirements of your new home, and to live comfortably there—and put some extra aside for emergencies. Make sure that you understand the culture of your target country, and that it will be a good match for you and your family. If you’re moving to a non-English-speaking country, try to obtain a working conversational knowledge of your new country’s language. Even if you can get by using English, this small act of consideration can make a big difference to your hosts—and to the welcome you will receive.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons, Panoramic view of Luxembourg city’s Grund and its fortifications (UNESCO world heritage), at dusk, in Luxembourg.

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