In today’s globally connected world, the allure of starting fresh in a new country is compelling for many individuals. Understanding the intricate web of immigration regulations can be a decisive factor in narrowing down where to move. Each nation has a distinct set of immigration policies. Some are more welcoming than others.
In this guide to the easiest countries to immigrate to, we start by comparing permanent residency and citizenship requirements. Then we examine the various visa programs of certain immigrant-friendly countries that can set you on the path to permanent residency and citizenship. By understanding various immigration programs worldwide, you may find the path that aligns best with your goals and aspirations.
Understanding your options: permanent residency vs citizenship
Before considering which country to move to, it’s often helpful to understand the distinction between permanent residency and citizenship. Though the exact differences vary between countries, in general:
- Permanent residents have the right to reside in, enter and exit the country freely. They may also be subject to a country’s tax laws and may or may not be able to work in the country.
- Citizens, on the other hand, enjoy all the residency benefits of permanent residents and additional rights. For instance, citizens may vote, receive health care and apply for government benefits.
What country can I easily move to?
Where you can easily move depends on your situation. If your spouse or parent is a citizen of a foreign country, you may find it easier to move there than to most other countries. Therefore, you might want to consider your and your family’s connection to a foreign country before conducting significant research on this issue.
Connections aside, in general, some of the easiest countries to immigrate to from the U.S. are Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Costa Rica.
The U.S.’s southern neighbor is the most common destination for American expats.
Mexico offers a fairly easy visa regimen that allows many Americans to relocate and place themselves on the path to citizenship quickly. American visitors may reside in the country for up to 180 days without a visa. If you wish to stay in Mexico for a few years, you must apply for a temporary residence visa. This document allows you to reside in the country for up to four years and is sometimes a prerequisite for a permanent resident visa.
To apply for a temporary residence visa, you first need to provide proof of your own financial means. You can currently do this by showing proof of an investment or savings account with an average monthly balance of approximately $42,000 dollars. It’s also sufficient to show proof of a steady monthly income of about $2,500 dollars.
Mexico also offers visas for students, workers, pensioners and people with Mexican family members. Depending on which visa you apply for, you must provide additional documents, such as proof of enrollment in a Mexican university. Additionally, investors can obtain a temporary residence visa if they currently have more than $169,000 in personal property or $338,308 in real estate property.
You may also apply for a permanent residence visa. The requirements for this visa are similar to those for the temporary residence visa. However, the requirements are somewhat stricter. Many Mexican consulates in the U.S. limit applications to retirees who can prove they can meet their financial obligations.
Temporary and permanent residency holders may eventually apply for Mexican citizenship if they meet certain requirements.
Portugal is one of the easiest European countries to immigrate to from the U.S. Like Mexico, Portugal offers many visa avenues for Americans to pursue. These include residence visas for:
- Pensioners or foreign retirees
- Individuals with Portuguese family members
Again, the exact paperwork requirements vary according to the avenue you choose to pursue.
In 2023, Portugal began offering a digital nomad visa. Under this program, you may currently obtain residency in the country for two years by showing that you have a remote job where you earn approximately $3,000 every month. There are other requirements as well, including the completion of a successful background check and the purchase of health insurance.
Once obtained, you may renew your digital visa for another three years. After that time, you may apply for permanent residency in Portugal.
Entrepreneurs, students, workers and Americans with Spanish relatives are among the many groups of people who may apply for permanent residence permits in Spain.
Entrepreneurs need to submit a plausible business plan, while students need to provide proof from a center of higher learning that they are enrolled in courses that require at least 20 hours per week. All residency visa applicants also need to pass a criminal background check.
Spain offers two special permanent residency visas: the “non-lucrative visa” and a digital nomad visa. Both are especially easy avenues for obtaining Spanish citizenship or permanent residency.
Non-lucrative or non-working visa
The primary requirement for this visa is proof of financial means to support yourself in the country. The amount is equivalent to 400 percent of Spain’s average income, or about $30,000 dollars as of 2023. Note that you may only meet this requirement through pre-existing savings in a bank account or passive income. You can’t count income from a job in Spain or somewhere else abroad under this visa, but income from dividends, investments and rental properties suffice.
Digital nomad visa
To qualify for Spain’s new digital nomad visa, you must show you work remotely for a company based outside of Spain. Alternatively, you may show that you have your own business in the digital world. A contract, freelance gigs or consistent invoices usually do the trick. Furthermore, you have to demonstrate sufficient income to support yourself. The current minimum monthly income is approximately $2,600. The digital nomad visa is valid for one year, but you may renew it for two more years.
Costa Rica’s visa regime closely follows Mexico’s. However, some of the visas are easier to obtain. For instance:
- American retirees may apply for a temporary residence visa in Mexico by showing a monthly pension income of $1,000.
- Students, teachers, researchers and interns may also obtain a temporary residence visa, assuming they have proof of their association with a legitimate Costa Rican educational institute.
- Renters with over $2,500 in monthly income may apply for a temporary residence visa.
- Spouses of Costa Rican nationals or permanent residents may apply for a temporary residence visa. They must either marry in Costa Rica or register their marriage in the country to prove they have a valid marriage.
- Investors with at least $150,000 in Costa Rican real estate may obtain temporary residence visas.
The temporary residence visa is valid for two years. However, you may renew it.
Once you’ve had a temporary residence permit for at least three years, you may apply for a permanent residence permit. You may also apply for a permanent residency permit without holding a temporary residence permit if you have a blood relative who’s Costa Rican.
How an attorney may help
None of the above countries require you to hire an attorney to assist with your visa applications. Nonetheless, some people find the services of an attorney to be helpful.
First, an immigration lawyer may be able to assess your situation and goals to help you determine which country might be best for you. Second, they can unpack specific visa requirements so you know exactly what to collect and provide. Third, an attorney may review your application for completeness and accuracy, maximizing your chances of a successful application. Finally, an attorney may interface with foreign authorities if you receive a rejection or other unfavorable response.