If you’re planning on moving out of the United States, becoming a digital nomad, or just spending a year abroad, here are the countries where it’s easy to get a residency visa.
Over 1 million Americans can’t be wrong! Mexico is the easiest and lowest cost residency visa period. Mexico also the most popular country with about 10 times more visas issued to US citizens than any other.
The reasons Mexican residency is so popular are obvious. You can drive there, same time zone, many expat communities you can join, life is cheap, quality of life and food is amazing (at least in certain areas), and English is widely spoken.
If you’re retired, the easiest way to get residency in Mexico is to show a guaranteed income of at least $1,550 for one person + $520 for each dependent. If you don’t have a pension or IRA distributions, you can also buy a Mexico real estate valued at $210,000 or show a bank account balance of at least $25,000 for at least 8 months.
If even that’s too much work, you can string together 6-month residency visas and stay in Mexico indefinitely. Each time you enter Mexico by air, you’re given a 6-month visa. It’s that form you sign and hand in after exiting the plane… that’s your visa. To “renew” you just need to leave for a day and fly back in.
When you drive into Mexico, you don’t get a visa and no one stamps your passport. So long as you stay within border towns, there will be no visa and no checks. If you want to drive south, you and your car will need permits.
For more, see The easy path to residency in Mexico and Why you should move to Mexico.
The easiest residency program with a path to citizenship is from Panama. If you’re from a top 50 country, such as the US, Canada, Australia, EU, UK, etc., you can get residency in Panama with an investment of less than $20,000 for a family of four.
After 5 years of residency, you can apply for citizenship and a second passport. A passport from Panama will get you into 151 countries without a visa, which is pretty close to a Tier-A passport. If you want a better passport, you’ll need to look at a country like Portugal with an investment of 500,000 to 1 million Euros.
If you’re not from a top 50 country, see Nicaragua below. However, you might be surprised by which countries are on the “friendly” list. For more, check out: Best Panama Residency by Investment Program.
Belize is the easiest residency program for retirees. If you have about $2,000 a month in guaranteed payments, you can become a resident of Belize through their QRP program.
Belize is focused on bringing in retirees and those with fixed incomes. But, you don’t need to be retired to qualify. Anyone over 45 years of age with a pension or guaranteed passive income stream of $2,000 a month can use the QRP. If you don’t have pension distributions, you can set up a bank annuity.
For more, see: Getting Residency in Belize
4. New Zealand
New Zealand is going in the opposite direction of Belize. This country wants to bring in young people. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 30, it’s very easy to get a residency visa in New Zealand.
NZ’s “working holiday” visa grants young Western travellers 12 months to explore. Once your 12 months is up, you can apply for a different visa or return home. I did this visa myself back in 2005 and it was one of the best times in my life.
I will say though, the problem with New Zealand is that life has become very expensive. The wealthy are buying up properties and pushing up prices throughout the country. NZ is already 10% more expensive than the United States and I expect this to continue to increase into the future.
This sets New Zealand apart from the rest of this list. While living in Mexico, Panama, and the rest is amazingly cheap for those holding dollars, the cost of living in New Zealand has gone up.
5. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is the home of many digital nomads, Bali offers the most laid back lifestyle on this list. Combine this with a low cost of living, decent internet, and one of the easiest visas, and you see why Bali is a top pick, especially for tech-savvy hipsters.
Indonesia doesn’t have an easy path to citizenship like Panama, but it does have a very easy “social visa.” This residency visa is renewable for up to 6 months. To extend, you’ll fly to the embassy in Singapore (about $100 for the flight) and return in 3 days with another 6-month visa.
If you’re not eligible for Panama’s friendly nations visa, or Panama’s not your cup of tea, consider Nicaragua. This country has one of the lowest cost visas with a path to citizenship and the fastest to permanent residency.
Invest $35,000 in Nicaragua’s reforestation program and anyone can become a resident of this welcoming country. Legal and government fees will depend on your country of origin and can be as high as $10,000 per person (US, UK, and EU citizens are much lower).
Nicaragua is the only country that gives you permanent residency immediately. Most countries, including Panama, start with a few years of temporary residency and then allow you to upgrade to permanent status.
Like Panama, you can apply for citizenship after 5 years of residency. Nica’s passport is a solid travel document giving you visa-free access to 112 countries. Most importantly, a passport from Nicaragua gives you visa-free access to the Schengen Region of the European Union.
The catch with Nicaragua is that you must spend 180 days a year in the country. Most second residency programs don’t have a significant physical presence requirement. Panama requires you to spend 1 day every 2 years and Belize only 30 days a year, so 180 is high.
Nica’s logic is that they want residents who will become valuable members of their society. They want you to bring your knowledge and capital to the country and to add value in exchange for the residency visa.
I hope you’ve found this article on 6 countries where it’s easy to get a residency visa helpful. For more on Mexico, Belize Panama, and Nicaragua, please contact us by clicking here.
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About The Author
Mikkel Thorup is the host of The Expat Money Show podcast and Director of Content at Escape Artist. He is also the author of #1 Best-Selling book Expat Secrets on Amazon. He has spent nearly 20 years in continual travel around the world, visiting more than 100 countries including Colombia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Iran. His goal is to help people just like you to generate additional streams of income, eliminate your tax bill, and take advantage of offshore structures so you can travel the world freely and never have to worry about money again. For more information on his legal (but creative) tax strategies for Expats watch this free video.
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