How Realistic Is It to Really Move to Another Country?

Here are countries with lax visa requirements—either for relocation or a long vacation

How Realistic Is It to Really Move to Another Country?

Photo by Kalen Emsley

If you’re among the millions of Americans still in disbelief about the results of Tuesday’s election, allow us to reassure you: Four years is not a lifetime.

Still, many voters have mentioned leaving the United States if Donald Trump was elected President—either out of jest or in earnest—and many of those people likely woke up this morning wondering how they might go about doing just that, and where would be easiest to go if and when they did.

The good news: There are plenty of options! The bad news: Obtaining the foreign equivalent of a green card might be more challenging than you think, especially if our new boss alienates allies abroad. Oh, and related: Permanently leaving the United States to establish residency elsewhere can get spendy.

Where are some of the most popular destinations for starting over—or at least taking an extended, uh, vacation? Disgruntled Americans most commonly talk/fantasize about fleeing to Canada. A number of hippies fled north of the border during the Vietnam War, and the numbers have trickled up ever since. The I’m-fleeing-to-Canada set was out in full effect last night; according to Fox News (note the irony), the Canadian immigration website crashed as election returns trickled in, apparently due to high demand.

When that site is working, it lists all of the requirements for new citizens. Among them: fluency (as in, you have to pass a test) in French or English, a job offer from a Canadian company, and skills in need. If you have these, great. If not, you’re pretty much out of luck.

Some Canadian destinations got a head start with outreach for anxious American voters. Earlier this year, Cape Breton Island, in the northeast, put together a website dubbed “Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins” to serve as a resource for expat relocation. At least one American, a woman named Sher Maryn LeBay, relocated to the island in June and has been blogging about her experiences ever since.

Luckily, other nations have less stringent entry policies. A May 2016 article from the Guardian notes that New Zealand’s immigration website has lists of high-priority job categories that will get your immigration application fast-tracked and that if you’re younger than 30, you can get a one-year working holiday visa in either Australia or New Zealand. In Mexico—at least as of Wednesday morning—the government will grant an expat a permanent resident visa if he or she can document temporary resident status for two years or more (unless marriage is involved, it’s actually four years).

Germany also offers “artist visas,” to creative types, provided you can prove you can support yourself through writing, design, art, music, or other creative work.

While most nations require foreigners to work (or have a written offer to work) before attempting to apply for permanent residency, Singapore offers a way for foreigners to earn this status right away. According to a March 2016 article in the New York Daily News, Singapore’s Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme allows expats to apply for residency as soon as they get their work visas.

We’re just summarizing here; that Guardian article does a great job of laying out requirements for establishing residency in many other countries and municipalities around the world.

The article even mentions Svalbard, a self-governing Norwegian territory where people must carry guns to defend themselves against polar bears—you don’t need a visa to live there, so long as you can pay for yourself.

Finances are a huge consideration in just about every expat scenario, too: What can you afford?

On the one hand, some nations have programs through which people can purchase citizenship and a second (or third) passport. On the other hand: The U.S. government requires expats to pay taxes, even if they don’t earn a penny on domestic soil during the fiscal year.

There is, of course, another option for dealing with a Trump America: Stay and vow to engineer real change. Jonathan Chait nailed this in an election-night essay for New York magazine. The notion of slowing down to change some minds is a philosophy that resonates really well with us. His kicker says it all: “We are not going anywhere. And the America I have raised [my children] to believe in will one day prevail.”

Matt Villano is a writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. To learn more about him, visit
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