Are you a American searching for ways to move abroad from the US? Does the current political climate, lack of employment opportunities, higher cost of living worry you? Or perhaps you’re dreaming of settling somewhere with a different landscape or climate. Whatever the case is, relocating to another country and how to do so can seem a bit overwhelming- especially for Americans. Our passport provides travel opportunities all over the world but not so many relocation options. For instance, some stays longer than 3 months in a foreign country are not possible without a visa. This brings forth questions like: Where do I start? What type of visa do I need? Who will hire me? Who will sponsor me? Is this even possible?
I totally understand because I was asking the same questions 5 years ago. Back then I did not have a mentor or a close friend to show me the ropes and guide me. Within a year of endless web searches, job applications and trusting my gut, I packed my bag and left for London, England. I found a company that sponsored me for a year and these past 4 years I’ve lived in three different countries. As an American in the Netherlands I’m here to tell you that it is possible to move abroad with a US passport. I’m exact proof of this! However, deciding where to relocate and meeting the requirements may be the most challenging aspects. Check out the legitimate ways that Americans can move abroad with these visas.
Go to University & Obtain a Degree abroad
If you want to pursue higher education, enrolling in a school overseas is a legitimate way to move abroad. Student visas are common for universities and higher learning establishments. I applied for a Master’s program in France and moved to Paris to obtain my degree. Going to school is a sure and legitimate way for Americans to move abroad. While the requirements vary in each country, I guarantee you will have lots of paperwork to photocopy.
How Exactly do you get started?
Firstly, you must research schools and their specific majors/programs that interest you. Secondly, I highly recommend you thoroughly research whether these schools have eligible student loan options. For instance, you can find a dream school in Austria but if they don’t offer an option that is approved by the US; I have some bad news but you’re going to either apply for a private loan (which has very high interest) or pay this out of pocket. Obviously you’ll lose out on some dollars because of the currency exchange, but you’re aware of this if you consider university abroad. However, don’t let this scare you because there are plenty of affordable destinations with low tuition. Finding out how cheap it is to study in Italy and Germany compared to the US makes me wonder if I should have completed my bachelor abroad too.
Thirdly, once you make the decision on the right school, turn in an application and get started on the visa process. This can take anywhere from two to six months or longer depending on the institution, country’s immigration rules and process. For example, I applied for my master’s program in December 2017 and I was on a plane in August 2018 to start the beginning of the Fall semester. Evidently, making a choice to further your education is a big decision, especially abroad. Make sure to make all your preparations ahead of time. For better context, I was researching schools two to three years before applying.
Start Your Own Business or Start-up
If you want to start your own company or develop an existing one, then you should consider doing so abroad. Some countries like Europe, Canada, Chile, and Asia encourage foreigners to go in the direction of entrepreneurship. They advocate for highly skilled individuals to make the move over. This in turn can create new jobs, promotes economic development, and betters international relations. Depending on the country you hold interest in, there’s a number of entrepreneur and start up visa categories.
Take into consideration that the requirements will also vary. Canada’s startup visa has language requirements of French, English or both. Many countries will need you to invest a number of funds and have a qualifying business plan like New Zealand. A lucrative destination to consider is Ireland because of it being a start-up hub that is ideal for internationals. Ireland has the Start up Entrepreneur Programme or STEP for short. If you want to have a good business proposal and £50,000 of funds then check it out.
Freelance or Self-Employment Visa
Yes, such a visa exists but not necessarily as the title of freelance for some countries. Are you self employed and have a good enough income to be self sufficient? Some countries will allow you to come as a self-employed person. Countries like Estonia for instance, which has opened up its borders to many internationals due to it’s boom in business and technology jobs. Lucky for you, that as of August 2020 Estonia has a Digital Nomad Visa. If you’re a remote worker you’re still able to come to Estonia and legally work for your company that is located overseas. This is a legitimate way for Americans to move abroad.
I agree that this is easier said than done, but it is possible- you do have options. Many Americans are offered jobs in other countries and become expats. There are things called the Skilled Migrant Visa which allows foreigners with high qualifications and skills to come over with certain employers. For example, if the industry you work in is engineering or computer science you have a higher probability to obtain a working visa and get sponsorship.
Working Holiday Visa
If you are between the ages of 18-30 you’re eligible to spend a holiday working abroad for 12 months or longer. There are a total of six countries that do this: Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. Each country has different requirements but the general rule of thumb is being in this age bracket. Australia is a popular choice amongst young and adventurous Americans especially after graduating. Holiday jobs can range from working in the hospitality industry, library or school.
Get Married or Find a Partner
This may be easy or difficult for you to obtain depending on your relationship status (or if you even have one). If you are married to a partner who is from another country – this is by far the easiest to obtain a visa. Your husband or wife can petition you to immigrate and move to their country. If you’re not married, some countries have what’s called a partner visa. This is pretty self-explanatory but basically you do not need to be married. As long as your partner meets the income threshold, is able to support you and prove a durable relationship. This last part can be quite daunting as some visas require you to have witness statements, provide proof of evidence of your relationship like photos or a timeline of when you first met. This is to ensure that individuals are not faking relationships to emigrate over.
Final Thoughts on Legitimate Ways for Americans to Move Abroad
Nearly 9 million US citizens live abroad in a foreign country, so why can’t you too? Some say you have to be at the right place at the right time, which I don’t disagree with. However, I believe it takes thorough research, intrinsic motivation and action to emigrate to a country. If you believe moving overseas is for you but are unsure of what destination to choose. Read about the best places to live in Europe to give you some better ideas. Next, check out these helpful tips on what to before moving abroad. You’ll have a better sense of what to prepare for your move.