American citizens looking to move overseas seek a lower cost of living than the US, but a similar quality of life. Fortunately, there are a number of destinations that fit the bill.
As with all things, make sure you do your research before agreeing to relocate, and read as much as you can about your intended destination. This guide will help you with making the right decision as it is based on our 30 years experience of working with American expats abroad. We have summed up best countries for American expats, including some European countries. Read below to find out more.
What makes these places the best countries to move and live abroad for Americans in 2021?
There’s been a rise in Americans looking to move abroad, and politically stable destinations with accessible and affordable healthcare are popular choices.
As always, make sure you do your research before you relocate or retire abroad. It’s a good idea to read and watch as much as you can about your intended destination before you commit – there are many useful expat blogs and vlogs out there.
At William Russell, we have nearly 30 years of helping expatriates settle into their new lives overseas by providing world-class global health insurance. We also have lots of expert resources to help you and your family adapt to life abroad.
This list covers the some of the best destinations for North American expatriates and their families to move to in 2021. It’s based on the latest available data on things like potential expat earnings, quality of life, healthcare and more. However, please remember to always do your own research into local COVID-19 restrictions
Our round-up of the best countries for American expats
It makes sense that due to geography, the vast majority of North American expatriates choose to base themselves within the Americas – that is South America, Central America or Canada. However, Europe and Asia are also popular with US expats.
Mexico is a popular choice for American expats due to its close proximity to the US and its climate. In fact, Mexico is home to more American expats than any other country in the world, with 1.5 million choosing it as their permanent home.
When relocating to Mexico from the US, there are three types of visa depending on how long you want to stay:
- a 6-month holiday permit
- a temporary working permit
- a permanent visa
As Mexico is such a big country, expats recommend staying for 6 months on a temporary visa first. You can then try out different locations – both cities and coastal towns – before committing to somewhere to live.
The pros of being an American expat in Mexico include:
- A lower cost of living – Investopedia estimates that a single person or retiree can live in Mexico City for less than $1,000 USD/month. This will be higher for families. Bear in mind that wages are lower in Mexico than in the US.
- Good work opportunities in the tech industries – there is an emerging tech scene in Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara. It’s home to small and medium companies bursting with innovation, creativity and engineering talent. Big names such as Oracle, Intel, IBM and HP are based there.
- Friendly people – the Mexican people are said to be very friendly and welcoming. Even so, it’s a good idea to learn as much Spanish as you can before your move.
The cons of moving to Mexico as an American expat include:
- Safety – this is always a consideration in Mexico, although places like Querétaro and Sayulita tend to be safer options.
- Tax – if you’re a US citizen, you will continue to pay tax in the US.
- Health insurance – you will need health insurance when you move to Mexico. Make sure you check that it covers you for being flown back to the US if that’s something you would like included. Not all companies include this as standard
Around 9,000 Americans live permanently in this South American country that’s famous for being on the Equator. Ecuador is consistently voted one of the cheapest places to retire and with an average expat salary of around $48,000 USD, it’s a very affordable place to live. Property prices are rising steadily, particularly in the popular city of Cuenca, but the cost of living in the capital Quito is still cheaper than many expats imagine. As with Mexico, you’ll get more from your move if you commit to learning Spanish.
Some of the top reasons for becoming an American expat in Ecuador include:
- Inexpensive, efficient healthcare of a high quality. This is a draw for many Americans, as the Ecuadorian healthcare system is ranked higher than that of the US. Dental care is also very reasonably priced.
- Cultural heritage – Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and full of rich sights and experiences.
- Wellbeing – famous for its ‘buen vivir’, levels of wellbeing in Ecuador are comparatively higher than in countries of a similar size with a similar GDP.
When making your decision about a permanent move from America to Ecuador, it’s worth considering:
- Ease of finding employment – Ecuador is best suited to people with specialist skills and/or who work for a big international company. Otherwise, jobs are not overly plentiful and often tend to go to locals first.
- Security concerns – the bigger cities, including the capital Quito, still have some issues around personal security including street robbery and assault.
Canada is another consistently popular choice for American expats. It ranks very highly for quality of life, safety, health and environment – and it has a stable political landscape. Over 10,000 American expats moved to Canada in 2019, and the number of US families moving permanently to Canada more doubled in 2020.
Some of the key advantages when moving from America to Canada include:
- Good expat salaries – the average expat salary in Canada is an impressive $111,000 USD.
- Universal healthcare – the healthcare system in Canada is world-famous and a definite draw for American expats.
When weighing up both the pros and cons of moving your family to Canada from the US, it’s worth noting that:
- The cost of living is high in the major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
- There are restrictions over private healthcare – certain Canadian provinces have banned private healthcare, although there is some debate as to whether this is constitutional.
After the Americas, Europe is the next most popular destination for US expats. The jewel in Europe’s crown is sunny Portugal where the cost of living is among the lowest in Western Europe. With the average expat salary being around $102,669 USD, there is bound to be money left over for enjoying the good life.
Other big draws for moving to Portugal from America include:
- Accessible healthcare – in Portugal, healthcare is high quality and a fraction of the cost in the US. And if you become a permanent resident, public health care is free.
- Safety – In 2017, Portugal was ranked the third safest country in the world, 156 places ahead of the US. Overall crime is low and politics are stable.
On the other hand, it’s important to note that:
- The moving process can be laborious. There tends to be a lot of paperwork involved for Americans moving to Portugal. There are a variety of visa options and it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a relocation expert.
- Home burglaries are common. Although overall crime is low, burglaries are common, particularly among tourists and expats.
You’ll be in good company as an expat in Singapore, where almost a third of the population are foreigners – and tens of thousands of these are Americans. Although salaries tend to be lower in than they are in North America, as an expat you may be eligible for a relocation package. And while taxes are low in Singapore, do check whether – as an American citizen – you will need to continue to pay into the US tax system.
Some clear benefits for American expats in Singapore include:
- World-class education. If you’re emigrating from the US to Singapore with your family, education will be an important consideration.
- Universal healthcare – Singapore’s healthcare is among the best in the world. Residents are expected to contribute towards their treatment. Many expats in Singapore choose to have private healthcare insurance for emergencies and more complex issues.
- Safety – this is a huge draw for Americans looking to relocate to Singapore. Violent crime is very low, and it’s also one of the cleanest cities in the world.
Other factors to take into considering include:
- High cost of living, including groceries and property prices. This is because Singapore is a small island where goods have to be imported and space is at a premium.
- Becoming a citizen is possible after living in Singapore for two years.
Peace of mind when you move
No matter where you go, you can take one thing off your mind. William Russell offers international health insurance that covers you for everything from minor injuries to long hospital stays. We can even offer medical evacuation to patients who require treatment in other countries.