You can’t just ‘move’ to another country

This means you, Americans.

While not commenting on the U.S. presidential election, I hear more and more Americans say they will leave their country and live somewhere else – and that comes from both sides. Talk about perceived and misplaced American privilege and exceptionalism!

No, you cannot just move into another country, Americans. Why so many would consider this an easy option is both confusing and hypocritical.

America, where immigrants and immigration are criticized every day, has very strict immigration laws. Why do Americans think they can just avoid similar laws in other countries?

The truth is that many have not thought they would need any special accommodations to live elsewhere. After all, they are Americans! Both pompous and hypocritical.

I know normally intelligent people with the belief they can just live in another country, as if they were living in America. To them, I suggest a little research. It never occurs to them that another country would also have restrictions on immigrants.

For example, you can only live in Costa Rica for 90 days (which is usually the max around the world) before you have to leave the country. You can come right back in for another 90 days, and do it again later after 90 days. This can be expensive and time-consuming, with a trip to either Nicaragua or Panama a three-day adventure. Yes, you can get a long-term visa for retirement but the process is both expensive and cumbersome, usually requiring third-party help.

In the European Union, Americans can stay for 90 days before they must leave the EU for 90 days before they can return. That means if you live in France, for example, for three months, you cannot move to another EU country, such as Italy, until you have left the EU for at least 90 days. Again, there are long-term options that require legal and financial obligations.

In Indonesia, you can only stay in-country for 30 days before you have to get your passport stamped in another country. Then you can return for another 30 days before repeating the process. At least for Americans, you don’t have to pay the $35 tourist visa fee every time you re-enter the country. Again, long-term options are available.

In Thailand, where I currently live, the rules are a little more relaxed but it did take getting three different visas in order for me to acquire a one-year retirement visa. This can be renewed annually but requires a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok for an “income certificate” verifying my monthly income.

That’s right, you usually have to show a guaranteed monthly income of a certain amount, or you have to deposit a large amount of money in a local bank – and not touch that money. For Thailand, that income is at least $1,800/month or a bank deposit of about $23,000.

Vietnam offers a 90-day visa that you can extend in-country apparently forever – or at least until they decide to close the loophole. Again, a guaranteed income or bank deposit is required for long-term options. The rules are also a little looser in Cambodia, Laos and Philippines, but financial requirements remain.

And you won’t be able to work in any of these countries legally, unless a local company hires you and you are provided a work permit. So, making the income you need to live on is not going to happen by finding a job. Usually, countries don’t like foreigners taking jobs locals should have.

Sound familiar?

And, honestly, moving because of the U.S. political situation is not a good reason. Living abroad requires a completely different mindset – unless you have lots of money. It also requires an absence of responsibilities holding you down currently.

If you’re married, you have to convince your spouse to move, knowing your lifestyle will change dramatically, that you will be leaving friends and family for long periods of time, that you will be living among strangers who speak a different language and follow different customs.

You may have to learn to eat with your fingers. Or deal with blaring mosque loudspeakers at 5 am. Sit through blackouts. Find your water shut off. Lousy Internet. Unsanitary conditions (to you), especially pertaining to the street food vendors. Cockroaches and even centipedes in your apartment. Rats. Packs of street dogs. In tropical locations, sometimes endless rain and flooding. Petty crime. And, as a reader pointed out, there often is no freedom of speech. You really have to learn to keep your mouth shut.

And usually you can’t just make a phone call to fix something – because the person at the other end of the call might not speak English. Why should they? You are in their country.

When I first left the U.S. more than six years ago, I first sold, gave away or threw away pretty much everything I owned, except for some memorabilia and what I could fit in two suitcases and a backpack. How many Americans would do that? Moving your household overseas is hugely expensive. Even moving your pets is a hassle and expensive.

I have a number of American friends who live vicariously through my blogs, seemingly wating for the day when they, too, decide to explore the world, or at least another country. But their circumstances do not lend themselves to leaving it all behind. They have friends and family they would not want to leave. They may have debts to be paid. They may not have the necessary financial requirements. They may not have the mindset to recalibrate their lifestyles.

When they ask about the possibilities, I have to be blunt. Do your research. Consider your current situation honestly. Do not think that simply because you are an American you can just move into another country? While that seems like an absurd statement, it does seem to be the expectations voiced by a lot of Americans.

Bottom line: When you move to another country, you are just another immigrant. You will not be granted any special privileges, except you might be charged more for things because you are American (because we’re all rich, you know!). Again – you are an immigrant!

Now, if you can accept these requirements and limitations, and if you have the correct mindset for leaving your home country, then I fully endorse your effort.

For me, it’s been the best six years of my life!

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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One Response to You can’t just ‘move’ to another country

  1. Walter Meier says:

    Great write-up Ken. I would add “keep in mind, there is no Bill of Rights, Freedom of Speech or Religion in many countries. And forget about a free court-appointed lawyer if you run into trouble with the law.

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