Immigration: When things get tense at home, or even just super boring, you may start thinking about running away and living the life of an adventurous ex-patriot. But when the complexities and expenses associated with migration hit you, it’s easy to become discouraged and put the dream away. Don’t do it! We have a list of ten countries with relatively easy pathways to permanent residency.
Canada, eh? It’s one of the friendliest countries on earth. And while you might not think of Canada as beachy, it actually has the longest coastline in the world at 202,080 km. Canada has compassionately opened its borders to refugees from war-torn nations, but if you are not in fear for your life, you will have to show some professional skills.
Take a look at Canada’s current industry shortages, and if you match up with any, you can take advantage of an express entry program for super-fast approval. It’s easy to apply – just complete an online quiz that tallies points for qualifications like education level, industries you have experience in, and whether or not you speak French. If you have family in Canada or studied there at any point, you’re ahead of the game.
If you’re fussy about the deadly drug trade, you may be tempted to skip over Mexico as an option. But there are still places in Mexico that are safe, and not only that, they are full of clean beaches, mountain views, cute historic towns, and upscale urban delights. Plus, it is the country that introduced chocolate, chilies, and corn to the world.
Get started in Mexico quickly with an FMM visa, available at any airport or border location for the staggering fee of $21. When your visa expires in six months, you can renew it again, and again, and again. There’s no limit. Unfortunately, you can’t work on an FMM visa, but you can upgrade to a temporary residency visa that does allow work for only a few bucks more. You may need to leave the country temporarily to apply for one, though.
Austria is a gorgeous little country that offers plenty of mountain fun in the form of the snow-capped Alps, which actually cover 62% of the country. Its location is ideal for exploration of many other European countries, as well. The lifestyle in Austria is called “perpetual resort,” which sounds pretty fine to us.
The downside of Austria is that the cost of living is pretty high. However, the country offers 10 different types of residence permit, so you are likely to qualify if you can afford it. You will need to apply for residency in Austria from your home country, unless you are a resident of the United States or a European Union country. In that case, you are eligible for a D-visa that grants residence in Austria for up to six months before you apply for a residence permit.
If you love the idea of enjoying limitless beer and chocolate in a cozy little country dotted with gorgeous architecture and breathtaking natural beauty, consider Belgium. It is also a very progressive country; it was the second in the world to legalize gay marriage (after the Netherlands)
You will need a job to be granted a permanent residency visa, but you can apply from home. Once you land a job, you only need to hold onto it for two weeks before becoming eligible for a residency permit. That’s not an offer to stay forever just yet, but as long as you keep working, you are moving toward it.
Ecuador has virtually unmatched natural beauty in the form of mountain peaks, volcanoes, beaches, and islands. It is named after the equator, which runs through it, and is the only country in the world named after a geographical feature. The cost of living in Ecuador is very low, and if you’re American, you’ll be glad to know that the US dollar is the official currency.
Forget what you think you know about Nicaragua and see that it is a stunningly beautiful country with two pristine coastlines and passionate, caring people. It’s also great for stargazers – 86 out of 88 constellations in the night sky can be seen clearly in Nicaragua.
If you want to spend your days on the beach, definitely take a look at Belize. The average temperature is 84F (29C), so you can have as many beach days as you want. Located between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize is a small country with a population that harmoniously represents no less than eight different cultures. It is also an English-speaking country with a very low cost of living.
Getting to Belize is pretty easy. You can enter on a 30-day visitor visa and simply keep renewing it every month until you’ve lived there for 50 weeks. At that point, a $1,000 fee and a few bureaucratic hurdles will get you permanent residency.
If that sounds like a doable plan of attack, you may want to engage a lawyer in Belize right away to keep you informed of any fine print. Some districts do require you to leave the country for two weeks every six months, which resets the clock on the 50-week requirement. And if you need to work while you await permanent residency, you could use some help to secure a work permit.
8. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is very attractive to migration-seekers due to its peaceful and easy-going residents. Pacifists will appreciate the fact that it doesn’t even have a national army. But don’t forget the 801 miles of stunning coastline and world-class healthcare, too. Nature lovers will appreciate the 52 species of hummingbirds.
The cost of living in Costa Rica is not too high. Couples will need about $2,500 per month to live comfortably. If you’re looking to retire, Costa Rica has a retiree program that you’ll qualify for if you can show $1,000 per month in income. Most folks will need a job in order to achieve permanent residency, but if you have skills that Costa Rica needs, things as simple as teaching English or entertaining tourists, the dream could be in reach.
If you dream of disappearing off the face of the earth, Paraguay might be the place for you. Not many people know anything about it, despite being bordered by Argentina and Brazil. Chances are high that Paraguayans know about you, though. The country has a literacy rate higher than the United States. It’s a beautiful place with friendly people, vast scenic vistas, and low cost of living.
Since it is so obscure, the demand for immigration is low and the bar for acceptance is, too. You will be required to deposit an amount of money into a Paraguayan bank that equals roughly 35x the monthly minimum wage. It sounds like a lot, but it comes out to only about $4,500-$5,500 USD. That’s all it takes to live in Paraguay indefinitely, and after three years you can apply for citizenship.
Panama is an independent nation in Central America with a beachy landscape and a lot of English speakers. (The US dollar is its currency.) Some of the best coffee in the world is grown there. It’s a country that is considered safe and well developed, which also makes it pretty attractive to retirees.
Panama’s retiree visa requires a monthly income of $1,000. If you’re not old enough to retire, a $5,000 deposit in a Panamanian bank gets you in the door for permanent residency. If you happen to hail from one of 50 countries that are friendly to Panama, a few of which are the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Austria, you are eligible for a Friendly Nations visa. However, you will eventually need a job to become a citizen.
Ready to go? The bar for permanent residency in any of these countries is set pretty low, so with some planning and maybe a bit of saving, you could be drinking beer in Belgium or sipping cocktails on the beach in Costa Rica before you know it.