If the latest news cycle has you dreaming of packing up your bags and moving abroad—and let’s face it, we’ve all been there—there’s a lot more to leaving than just buying a plane ticket. While most countries around the world will allow Americans to stay for around 3 months, after that things get difficult. From figuring out each country’s long-term-stay visa rules to completing all the required paperwork, moving abroad isn’t the easiest feat.
In most countries, in order to obtain a work permit you have to demonstrate "needed skills." Alternatively, you can try to get a direct transfer from your employer in the United States to an overseas branch. In either case, the key to legally living abroad is to figure out how to obtain some sort of visa. A few countries make this easier than others, so we’ve rounded up the top choices for becoming an expat. (Need even more info? Don’t miss our practical guide to moving abroad for anxious Americans).
According to Nomadic Matt, a popular travel blog, one of the easiest visas to get in Europe is a German "self-employment" visa. Contract workers, artists, and other freelancers will earn two years in the EU with a self-employment visa. Once you have the visa regulations sorted out, check out Berlin. A hub for American expats looking for cheap living, a thriving art culture, and plenty of nightlife, Berlin ticks all the boxes.
Prague, Czech Republic:
The Czech Republic is another Schengen country—the name of the 26 European countries that follow a similar visa policy—that offers a "freelance visa" similar to Germany’s. Head over here for a good description of that process, and then think about moving to Prague. Apartments in Prague are still cheaper than other European cities, and Prague boasts gorgeous scenery and loads of delicious restaurants. There are also well-organized, supportive expat groups and a relatively inexpensive, national healthcare system.
Australia is a popular expat destination that boasts a high standard of living, even if it doesn’t come cheap. If you work in a field that is on Australia’s Skilled Occupations List (SOL), you can apply as a skilled migrant and find a job when you arrive, or let the government help you search for a job as you go through the visa application process. Once you’re in country, head to Melbourne. Although less well known than the more popular—and more expensive—Sydney, Melbourne scores on excellent public transport, a bustling cafe and bar scene, and eclectic nightlife.
Ambergris Caye, Belize:
The small island of Ambergris Caye in Belize is the opposite of a thriving metropolis—its 10,000 residents don’t use cars and choose to bike, walk, or drive a golf cart. But the waterside location, top-notch restaurants, and low-stress atmosphere make it an ideal location for expats looking to get away from it all. It’s also relatively easy for Americans to move to Belize; expats can renew a tourist card for $25-$50 per month indefinitely or apply for permanent residency after they’ve lived in the country for a year. And while many expats travel back to the U.S. or to Mexico for healthcare, the cheap cost of living makes frequent travel feasible.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
Entrepreneurs take note: according to WeWork, the Netherlands is looking to innovate by attracting foreign start-ups and scientists. Thanks to the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, if you have an idea for a business you can apply for a one-year residency visa. After 12 months you’ll be able to extend your stay with a self-employed work permit. Once you have your visas figured out, move to Amsterdam. The food-loving city is a cyclist’s paradise, English is commonly spoken, and the artwork of Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt takes center stage. Plus there are canals.