10 Top Countries for Americans Working and Living Abroad
Life + Money

10 Top Countries for Americans Working and Living Abroad

© Flickr / Nicolas Lannuzel

It’s standard for Americans to joke every four years about their plans to leave the country if a presidential candidate they despise wins the election.

Given the acrimony of the contest this year, there may be more incentive than ever to follow through on that threat -- or at least to think through the options for escape.

Slideshow: 10 Top Countries for Americans Working and Living Abroad

To help understand your options, HSBC has recently published its 2016 Expat Explorer, which ranks how friendly global cities are to expats from different countries based on economics, experience, and family. In addition to moving for political reasons, many Americans live abroad because the cost of living (in some cases) is cheaper or because they want to experience new things.

Of course, the ability to work overseas depends on each country’s rules. In most cases, it’s easiest to get a job if you’re being transferred from your current company. For those who are unable to work overseas, retirement—especially the early years—represents an extraordinary opportunity to enjoy the benefits of living abroad without having to deal with the politics around securing a work visa.

Singapore topped the list as the best place to live and work abroad. More than 60 percent of expats in Singapore told HSBC that they’re earning more there than in their home country (it was not immediately clear whether this was due to the exchange rate), and more than two-thirds said that their quality of life is better. The United States also made the list (which surveyed global ex-pats, not just Americans), ranking 30th.

Related: 4 Essential Rules for Retiring Abroad

If you’re seriously considering make a move abroad, you should also explore any legal issues (coming and going) and research the medical facilities in the area. Most important, perhaps, are any cultural differences that you could make your move a joy or a headache.

If you do move overseas, the policies of the next president may still affect you. Unless you’ve renounced your citizenship, you’ll still owe taxes to the U.S. government even if you live overseas.

Click through for the list of the best countries for expats.

  1. Singapore
    More than 60 percent of expats in Singapore told HSBC that they’re earning more there than in their home country, and more than two-thirds said that their quality of life is better. Nearly three-quarters of ex-pats in Singapore are confident in the local economy. One in five ex-pats in Singapore were sent by an employer, and more than half work for local firms. For retirees, however, Singapore is expensive, so check out cost of living comparisons before you consider a move.

  2. New Zealand
    More than two-thirds of ex-pats in New Zealand own property there. The country tied for first place with Spain in the experience ranking, thanks to the high quality of life and ease of getting set-up there as a foreigner.

Related: Moving After the Election? Your Guide to Becoming a Canadian Citizen

  1. Canada
    Life in Canada is so good that immigrants never want to leave. More than 80 percent of foreigners who live in Canada have been there for more than five years. Plus, now is a great time to move north, since the strong dollar means that everything in Canada costs about 25 percent less than it did a few years ago.

  2. The Czech Republic
    Ex-pat parents living the Czech Republic say that the education there is better than the education in their native country. Residents also enjoy a high quality of life and beautiful and cultured cities.

  3. Switzerland
    Ex-pats living in Switzerland earn an average of $188,000 per year. However, some costs there are higher—75 percent of ex-pats in Switzerland say that it is more expensive to raise their children there. It was not immediately clear whether the companies are working for local Swiss companies or for countries that transferred them.

Related: 8 Things You Need to Do to Get Ready for Retirement

  1. Norway
    This country offers expats good financial incentives for living there, a higher quality of life than their home countries, and a longer life expectancy. They also get to live in the midst of fjords, mountains and the Northern Lights. Earlier this year, Natixis Global Asset Management named Norway the best country in the world for retirement.

  2. Austria
    Nearly 80 percent of ex-pats in Austria say that living there has improved their children’s quality of life. The culturally-rich cities here also value work-life balance.

  3. Sweden
    While it ranks eighth overall, Sweden takes the top spot for best countries for expat families. Three-quarters of expat parents living here say that the quality of childcare is better than in their home country. About half of survey respondents came from the United States and the United Kingdom, but more than 100 countries participated.

  4. Bahrain
    More than half of expats living here say they’ve saved more for retirement, and more than 60 percent say they have more disposable income here. Nearly eight-in-10 expats say that they’ve seen an improvement in their children’s quality of life. To retire in Bahrain, you need to have lived and worked in the Gulf States for more than 15 years and meet a minimum asset threshold and prove you have enough income to support yourself. Also, as a Muslim country, there may be some areas where women are not allowed to work.

  5. Germany
    Germany offers expats financial security as well as a rich culture and comprehensive social security benefits. It ranks first in both work-life balance and economic confidence, which could make it a good choice for retirees. The downside: the cost of living is higher than some other countries.