Moving abroad

Thinking About Leaving the US for Good? Here Are Some Easy (and Affordable) Options

Before a few new cases of COVID-19 popped up in New Zealand this week, the country had more than 250,000 Americans visit its official immigration website to research how to qualify to move there, according to the New Zealand Herald

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As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and worries mount over the upcoming presidential election, many Americans have been thinking about moving abroad.

But due to travel restrictions amid COVID-19, the idea of moving internationally may be just a pipe dream for now.

Still, from May to early August, International Living, a website about living and retiring overseas, says its "How to Move Out of the U.S." information page has seen an increase in traffic of 945% from the same period last year.

And before a few new cases of COVID-19 popped up in New Zealand this week, the country had more than 250,000 Americans visit its official immigration website to research how to qualify to move there, according to the New Zealand Herald.

But New Zealand is relatively expensive, extremely far from the U.S. and has very strict immigration rules for Americans, according to Jennifer Stevens, executive editor for International Living. 

Instead, Stevens says there are closer, less expensive options that have easier-to-meet visa requirements for Americans. There are places that are 'friendly, safe, welcoming locales where it’s pretty easy to settle in as an expat," she writes.

Here are four options for Americans, according to International Living:

Costa Rica

Costa Rica one of the most popular choices for American retirees. Not only is it known for its affordable living costs, beautiful beaches and "pura vida" lifestyle, but it’s also great place for expats.

A couple can live well in a town like Atenas (located about 45 minutes west of the city of San Jose) for about $1,518 a month, International Living reports.

Americans can also stay for up to 90 days without a tourist visa. But for those who plan to live there long term, the country offers three visa options, according to International Living, each with varying, but mostly reasonable, income requirements. 

The country currently has about 26,129 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and will only allow foreigners from countries that have “controlled the spread” the virus. Americans are banned from traveling there at this time.


Belize, the only country in Central America with English as its main language, is another affordable location. U.S. currency is also accepted there.

Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, known as an "expat haven" is also affordable. According to International Living, a couple can live well there for about a monthly budget of $2,875.

U.S. citizens can stay in Belize for up to one month without a visa. To stay longer, you would need to go to the country’s immigration office for an updated visitor’s permit or tourist stamp for up to a 90-day period, and renew your visa every 30 days after that. Once you reach 50 consecutive weeks, you can apply for permanent residency. However, it can take a few years to receive approval, according to International Living.

Belize also requires visitors to have sufficient funds to support themselves, a return ticket and a passport valid for at least three months beyond the date of arrival.

The country currently has around 296 confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases and it has issued a "do not travel" advisory to all visitors.


Though all Americans are currently unable to travel to Portugal due to a COVID-19 non-essential travel ban, the country is a favorite among expats.

The cost of living in Portugal — even in big cities like Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve — is around $2,500 to $3,000 a month, according to International Living.

What’s more, visas are not required for U.S. tourists staying for up to 90 days. However, the country does require a valid passport for at least six months from your date of entry.

For those looking to be residents, Portugal offers several types of visas, including ones for students, self-employed individuals, investors and retirees.

The country currently has had around 53,548 confirmed cases COVID-19 and is prohibiting non-essential travel to Portugal by U.S. citizens.


Uruguay, a small country on the east coast of South America, is a great place for expats for strong infrastructure, quality medical care and sandy beaches, according to International Living. A couple can live in the country’s capital, Montevideo, a popular expat neighborhood, for around $3,200 a month.

Tourists can also stay in the country for 90 days at a time as often as they want. For a small fee, that stay can be renewed for 180 days at a time, reports International Living.  For permanent residence, there are stay requirements and a $2,000 fee for U.S. citizens, but it could take years for approval.

Foreigners also are not required to be a Uruguayan resident to buy property. They can buy, own and sell estate with the same rights as citizens, according to International Living.

The country currently has about 1,409 confirmed COVID-19 cases and has closed its borders until an undetermined date.

As for methodology in determining the locations, International Living says its editors looked for places with established expat communities, where English is widely spoken and where the cost of living is low. Also, it ranked countries based on its activity levels.

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