How to Choose Your New Expat Country
When you have decided the kind of climate, surroundings and lifestyle you want, that’s when you can really dig in and find the best countries that fit your critera.
Pick two or three countries that interest you. Maybe you are lucky and have been to one or more of these countries. If not, you certainly need to visit them and get a better feel if they are right for you. If you are still working, take a 2 week vacation and see as much of a country as you can. If you are retired, visit and stay as much as the “visitor visa” will allow, usually 60 to 90 days.
Talk to as many expats and locals as you can to discuss their likes and dislikes about each place. Go one on one with everyone you meet. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Visit local hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, malls. Find out what is available. Look at local neighborhoods. One of the best ways to do this, as we did, is just hire a local taxi driver for a day. I will cost about $75.00 but well worth it. While the taxi driver drives, you can actually look around. Why a taxi driver? Number one, they know the neighborhoods and can tell you what places are safe and friendly. They can also be a great source of first hand information than you simply can’t get any other way. They will give you an unbiased opinion.
If you have decided to build a home or purchase one, talk with a local real estate person about costs. Many real estate companies do “relocation real estate tours”. These are low pressure tours of areas that you might be interested in to see what you can get for the money you want to spend. In most countries the “real estate”company also will handle several rentals. Again take a look at some rentals to determine what you will get for your budget.
Don’t depend on the real estate person to answer questions honestly when you are talking about potable water, electricity reliability or other services you might need. Remember they are trying to make a sale. Again for this information talk to the locals who are living there and experiencing problems.
Please be advised that all the rosy pictures made by some expat blogs and other websites about areas that expats move to, often fail to tell the whole story. To encourage you to move to their location, they will often glorify it and not tell you of the problems ongoing or otherwise. This is where doing due diligence on the ground is essential before making a commitment to a place.
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Permanent Resident Expat or Visitor Visa?
All countries offer choices as to how you can reside in that country. If you only plan to be in a country part time it will not be necessary to obtain “permanent residency status.” However, please find out what the “visitor Visa’s” time frame is when you have decided on only part time living in any country. Tourist Visas allow only a limited stay in a country. You will have to leave the country usually every 60-90 days for at least 72 hours before reentering. You must adhere to their laws or risk fines and the possibility of not being let back into the country at all.
If you have decided to become a full time expat, you have options in most countries for different ways to obtain your permanent residency. They all will want you to show that you can live in your expat country without ever being a burden to it. That means they need proof of your income or savings. The requirements for each country are specific to that country. Also a word of note, that these countries are always changing the requirements and updating them.
Your decision on which country to move to, may be based in part on what the requirements are and what your particular financial situation is. Some countries have big incentives for retired people and people willing to invest in the country. Again my suggestion would be not to get this information from old blogs and websites that have not been updated. Talk with an immigration attorney in the country you are thinking of for up to date information.
You Will Need An Attorney If You Choose Panama
In Panama, we contacted a Panama City attorney who was recommended in one of the forums. We asked her many questions about the process and the requirements for becoming a resident in Panama. She was quick to answer by email all of our concerns. She has been with us throughout the entire process of getting our Visa’s, Cedulas and purchasing our home. Without her we would not have had it so easy. She kept up on all the details and continues to do that for us. We are proud to say Mayra Lamboglia de Ruzzi is our attorney. We highly recommend her as the number one choice for an immigration attorney. She knows her stuff and keeps up with all the changes to laws.
Her office is close to the hotels in El Cangrejo, so if you stay in that area you can safely walk or take a cab to her office. Her husband Pier works with her. They are a dynamite team. I can’t recommend them enough. They both speak excellent English and are no nonsense with regards to the facts and what needs to be done and when.
Other people think highly of her also please visit this expat’s blog about Mayra. Have we got an Attorney for You.
My Short List
I love to travel. I would like to travel to many more countries than I have. I have found things I liked about every country I have been to. And I could continue to search and seek out more countries that I am interested in. But the time has come for me to pick one to live in at least for now.
I made my list of things I needed to have in the country I choose. My preferences always begin with climate. I want to be somewhere tropical, not humid, but safe. My short list had three countries on it. Belize, Costa Rica and Panama. I love all of these countries. And not to boast, I think I know a lot about these countries. For those whose short list might include some of these countries, I will give you my personal take on them.