This post is perfect for anyone trying to live abroad, study internationally, or join a foreign partner abroad. After living abroad for the last 7 years, I know a little something-something about moving across the world. Especially how to move and live abroad as an American!
Today, I can move to a new country quickly and easily because I’ve done it so many times and now, I’m here to teach you how to live abroad as well.
While living abroad as an American isn’t easy, it’s definitely not impossible! You have to think about tax, visas, immigration and so much more! But living abroad is so so worth it.
My first move to China in 2013 changed my life forever.
Even though every country has different requirements for Americans, the basics remain the same. In this article, you will learn the basic steps about how to move abroad.
Then, you can apply them to whatever country you want to live abroad in.
In this ‘Live Abroad’ blog post, you’re going to learn about:
- Visas and Immigration
- Finding a job abroad
Get Inspired ??
Move Abroad Master Class
If this seems daunting, why not join my ‘How to Move Abroad’ Master Class? It’s an intensive 5-week program, that provides end-to-end country-specific support and information for Americans interested in living abroad.
After living abroad for 7 years, I’ve created a proven and tested ‘move abroad’ framework that you can reapply to any country that you’re interested in.
You can do take the ‘Move Abroad’ Master Class online from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace, with weekly live classes hosted by me!
Preparing to Live Abroad
Living abroad is just like living in American (lol)! I think it’s important to highlight that I’m not doing something crazy or unattainable – I’ve just reanimated my very normal American life abroad.
Whether you’re living in Seattle or Beijing (like me!), you’ll always need to have somewhere to live, the legal right to be in that country, a way to make money while being abroad, etc. When preparing to live abroad, you need to make sure that you have the following figured out:
- What country do you want to move too?
- Will you move abroad alone?
- How long do you intend to live abroad?
- What type of job do you want abroad?
And so much more! But let’s start with the basics first.
I would recommend that you take at least 3 – 6 months to plan your move abroad if this is your first time living abroad.
After living abroad for 7 years, I can now move to a new country and start a new life in 4 weeks or less so it gets easier – don’t worry.
When considering what new country to move to, you should really reflect on the values of that country and if they align with yours? If you’re interested in universal healthcare, then maybe Norway or Argentina is best for you!
If you’re looking to make serious cash and be taxed at a low rate, potentially consider Dubai or Switzerland!
If you’re looking to move abroad for a short period of time – less than 1 year – you can prioritize living in countries that are easy to move to for Americans (i.e. countries with generous and easy visa requirements).
For example, if you’re American and you are trying to move to Ireland, they have a flexible ‘Stamp’ process, which has very few visa requirements for Americans.
Trying to find a job abroad is particularly difficult because you’ll have to prove that your skillset is worth hiring as an American over a local person.
Nevertheless, if you’re in a specialized or ‘under-supported industry’ – i.e. there are not enough local professionals to match the need – then your chances of finding a job abroad are much higher.
Under-supported and specialized industries would include:
- Teaching English or teaching at an international school
- Professional services: Tech, Law, Medicine, etc
- Work/Study: WWOOFing, Trusted Housesitters, Au Pair, Seasonal Work
Another option would be to have a remote job or to work online, which would give you the freedom to work anywhere in the world.
If you want to start earning money immediately, you can freelance on sites like Fiverr or Upwork. These are great for writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, devs, and more. If you have a marketable skill that people want to pay for, you can make a lot of money remotely.
I have a video tutorial about How to Make Money Anywhere that you can watch on my Youtube Channel!
Visas and Immigration
Some countries are more or less difficult for Americans to move to so you should really do your research. It all depends on the relationship between the United States and the host country. The main types of visas include the following:
- Tourist Visa (short-stay)
- Work Visa
- Student Visa
- Family/Partner Visa
- Specialized Visa
Did you know that you can live abroad on a short-stay visa for a limited amount of time? Living in London for 6 months is pretty easy as there’s a 6-month allowance on a tourist visa BUT you’re ineligible to work on a tourist visa.
Here is a list of countries that are easy for Americans to move to on a short-stay tourist visa:
If you’re interested in staying in a country for longer than 3 – 6 months, then you’ll likely need to consider alternative long-stay visa options as a solution. Here are a few quick snapshots of how each visa works.
This is a long-stay visa option, but you have to be sponsored by a company or institution in order to be eligible for a work visa.
With a work visa, you’ll be able to use local services and you can bring your family; however, you’re only entitled to live in that particular country for a specific length of time (1-2 years, 2-5 years, etc).
If you lose your job or sponsorship, you’re expected to find a new sponsoring entity within a few months or you’ll have to return to your country of origin.
In order to make your resume/CV more competitive, I definitely recommend earning a few certifications on Coursera.
My favorite certifications that are guaranteed to make your CV look great to employers are Graphic Design, Software Development, Project Management, and Brand Management.
I used courses and certifications in Software Development to help me land the position I have today!
A Student Visa is another viable long-stay option as most programs are a year or longer.
You’ll need a university or academic program to sponsor your visa, but student visas are often easier to obtain as governments want to encourage foreign talent to spend money and invest their time locally.
You do not necessarily have to do a formal degree in order to get a student visa. There are multiple internships, culture/language courses, and flexible work options that a student visa applies to.
For example, if you’re working as an Au Pair, you’ll likely be on a student visa despite having a casual work agreement with your host family.
If you have a loved one abroad, then you could potentially be eligible for a Family or Partner Visa.
However, these visas are often very competitive and often come with salary thresholds to ensure that you’re not a ‘liability’ to the state (i.e. your partner needs to make at least XX,XXX to support 2 people).
You do not necessarily have to be married to take advantage of a Partner visa. Many countries have flexible Partner Visa requirements that will allow couples who have been living together with joint accounts or bills to be reunited.
If your partner is NOT a national of the country (i.e. does not have the right of residence) in the country you intend to move to then that adds an additional layer of complexity potentially.
Many countries want to encourage entrepreneurs or subject-matter experts to move to their country so there are specialized visas available for this purpose.
It often requires a certain amount of investment or there are strict time requirements, but specialized visas are available for those who are determined to be a productive part of the local economy.
Finding a Job Abroad
There are a variety of ways to find a job abroad. You can start looking before departure and you can explore options after you’ve arrived. There are subtle, but important differences based on what method you choose.
Option 1: If you’re able to find a job before you arrive, these jobs are often more expat-friendly and typically have higher salaries because companies are trying to lure in foreign talent.
These jobs will often have support for your move abroad and will provide localized resources once you have arrived.
Option 2: If you intend on finding a job after you have arrived, then you will likely be more exposed to local contracts with local salaries.
Local salaries reflect the local job market and will often be lower than expat jobs with little or no relocation support. There will also likely be language expectations as you’re serving the local market.
Even though local contracts have lower salaries and support, they are still very lucrative as the cost of living outside of America tends to be lower. I’ve always had local contracts and salaries and I’ve been able to support myself just fine.
When looking for jobs abroad, it’s important that you get creative with your job hunt. Instead of randomly applying on LinkedIn, you’ll want to apply to companies directly and to utilize networks and recruiters in that local market.
I would highly recommend that you network as much as possible both online and in-person as you are more likely to stand out as a candidate this way.
Perhaps, the best way to approach finding a job abroad is to come to your country of choice early to do a language or academic program and then transfer your student visa to a work visa after some local experience.
In my ‘Move Abroad’ Master Class, I do an in-depth review and application of how to find a job abroad, which will provide specific resources and websites to aid you in your living abroad journey. My Master Class is designed for Americans specifically.
Integration while Living Abroad
Your experience abroad will be impacted by your ability to integrate with both the expat and the local community.
You’ll meet incredible people from all over the world, but if you’re unable (or unwilling) to interact with the culture around you, you’ll get frustrated easily.
In every country, there will be a government-recognized language and cultural institution.
In Germany, we have the Goethe Institute and these cultural institutions specialize in integrating foreigners into the language, local traditions, and culture.
Be sure to look into taking an A1 language course before your departure so you can interact on a basic level with the world around you.
In regards to logistics – housing, banking, moving things – I would recommend the following:
- Do not commit to a house you’ve never seen. Instead, stay at an Airbnb or serviced apartment for at least 2 weeks while you get acclimated and figure out where you want to live and with whom.
- Open an international bank account (I use Revolut and N26) so you can be flexible with bringing money over from the United States in a cost-efficient way.
- Check 2 large suitcases and nothing more. You can buy everything you might need abroad and then rent a furnished apartment for your first year.
If you’re considering permanent relocation abroad (like me!) then you can start investing in bigger, more permanent pieces of furniture after you survive your first year abroad! And man, it’s going to be a doozy, but it’s so so worth it!
All Americans should live abroad at some point in their life. It makes you more empathetic towards immigrants in our own country and you’ll return home with a wealth of knowledge, language skills and experience.
The world is such a massive and wonderful place, you deserve the opportunity to go explore it!
If you’re interested in end-to-end ‘living abroad’ support as an American, definitely look into my ‘Move Abroad’ Master Class!
It will prepare you to move abroad in 5-weeks with fun videos and helpful materials throughout the course.
You’ll also be surrounded by like-minded classmates who are trying to do the same thing!… so you can steal their tips and ideas (lol).
If you have any questions, please reach out to me on Instagram – @WanderOnwards – I love meeting new people on the interwebs!!
I also have loads of ‘living abroad’ content on my Youtube channel – @wanderonwards. Be sure to watch through my ‘Move Abroad’ Playlist to understand the process better.