It’s almost election time again, and we all know what that means: Many of us will once again vow to leave the country if the results don’t go the way we’d hoped. As elections continue to become more polarized and party differences grow more extreme, more Americans are electing to leave the US. While the number of Americans who renounce their citizenship is still quite small, the figure is steadily climbing, and in 2015 over 3,000 people gave up their US citizenship and left the country ostensibly for good. In the past the majority of people who left did so for financial reasons, but today more people than ever before cite political reasons.
Expat or Immigrant: What’s the Difference?
Many people are confused about the difference between being an immigrant and an expat is. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of an expatriate is “to leave one’s native country to live elsewhere or to renounce allegiance to one’s native country,” while the definition of an immigrant is “a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.” In other words, when you leave your country of origin, you will be an expat from that country and an immigrant in your new country at the same time. The difference is in intent: while the intention of immigrants is likely to be to remain in their new country, expats are motivated by a desire to leave a country, so they may not end up settling in their new country permanently.
Which Countries are Best for Americans?
If you are seeking a high standard of living in a country that welcomes US expats and that has easy immigration policies, you will definitely want to look toward Latin America, but there are many other places around the globe that are also desirable for Americans. The latest lists of the most ex-pat friendly destinations include Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The United Arab Emirates, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Norway , and Svalbard, which is a collection of self-governed islands off the coast of Norway. So as you can see, there are countries on many different continents that would make excellent choices.
What if I Change My Mind?
While there are many struggles associated with repatriation, in most cases the people who choose to leave the US will be free to return to the country if they so choose. In the first quarter of 2015 alone, there were an all-time high number of reunifications. You do not have to renounce your US citizenship in order to live abroad, however, and in fact many Americans choose to retain their citizenship, their passports, and their voting rights here in this country even if they choose to reside elsewhere. Whether or not you are able to do so will depend on many factors, including which country you end up calling home and for how long.
The Bottom Line
It is said that the trend of threatening to leave the country was originally started during the 2000 election, when the late director Robert Altman (Short Cuts, Cookie’s Fortune) threatened to leave the United States if George W. Bush won the election, but like most of these threats his was an idle one, and he was very much still a US citizen and resident at the time of his death six years into Bush’s presidency. The truth is the vast majority of people who say they will leave will never actually do so, but if you are one who actually does, this blog post should give you an idea of some of the countries you may want to look into first if you want to live a high-quality lifestyle abroad.