Okay, you're upset with the direction America is headed and you've been thinking of moving to another country. Perhaps you feel exhaustively cynical about the political, economic, or social situation in the U.S. and think it is beyond repair. You wouldn't be alone. Many top economists and other trend forecasters are now openly predicting that a total economic, environmental, and social collapse may be imminent in America.
Americans, young professionals and baby boomers alike, are increasingly saying that their main desire for moving out of America is to seek "political asylum" of sorts. In the past, this political discontent was typically drawn along party lines -- under Bush's 8 years the exodus mainly consisted of bitter Democrats, while as recently as March Rush Limbaugh declared, half-jokingly, that he'd move to Costa Rica if "Obamacare" became law. However, these days, more Americans have grown cynical of the system itself and have given up on left-right politics.
Many believe that dropping out of the system as much as possible is the best form of protest. And now, because many people can telecommute through the Internet, it seems that living outside the U.S. is more do-able than ever. Furthermore, the lower cost of living in many other countries may actually increase the standard of living for some people.
Surely, America will rebound from its eventual collapse, much like Russia and Argentina have, but it might make for uncomfortable sacrifices in America during the next decade. More Americans are looking to "ride out the storm" elsewhere, while others desire to become permanent nomads seeking foreign opportunity and adventure.
It should be noted that no country is perfect and you'll face challenges no matter where you go. You'll find that modernization and rampant consumerism is expanding into almost every corner of the world. Some view this as a good thing, as more American comforts can be found, while others view it as a cultural blight to foreign lands. Your expectations must be kept realistic in that you may not find paradise, but your expat adventure may ultimately lead to a more peaceful lifestyle.
The criteria for countries of safe haven include social stability, economic opportunity, freedom of self-expression, relative self-sufficiency, and an essential local community strength. These critical components are the foundation for living life with a greater sense of independence.
Here are our 5 best countries for Americans to escape the decline:
Uruguay, whose official motto is "libertad o muerte (liberty or death)," is located in South America, southwest of Brazil and east of Argentina. Uruguay borders on the Atlantic Ocean and has developed infrastructure, a stable democracy, European flair, and rich culture that draws many expats to her borders. Uruguay is a constitutional democracy with one of the most developed economies in South America, possessing a high GDP per capita. Between the years 2007 and 2009, Uruguay was the only country in the Americas which didn't technically experience a recession, and now has the lowest Income Inequality and highest Quality of Life in Latin America, second only to Canada in all the Americas. Uruguay is rated as the least corrupt country in Latin America with its political and labour conditions being among the freest on the continent. In 2010, Uruguay became the first nation in Latin America to test hemp cultivation, while no drugs are illegal for personal consumption. Located entirely in the temperate zone, Uruguay provides an excellent climate for growing.
Housing costs are much lower than the United States, as well as health care and food. Some consumer products such as cars and electronics can cost more, as well as Internet connection fees. Americans can buy real estate and own businesses, and they have an automatic 90-day visa to explore Uruguay. Americans only need to have a proof-of-income of $500/mth to apply for residency.
Costa Rica is a peaceful country in Central America, often referred to as the "Switzerland" of the Latin America due to its stable economy, political stability, and quality health care. Costa Rica, blessed with two beautiful coast lines (Pacific and Caribbean), is roughly the size of West Virginia and home to around 4 million people. The Central Valley's eternal springlike climate is said to be one of the best in the world allowing for a year-round growing season. Costa Rica is consistently voted one of the "Happiest and Greenest" countries in the world with about 95% of its electric production coming from renewable sources. AARP and others have ranked it one of the best foreign retirement locations, as it has all the same modern conveniences found in America and is only a 5-hour flight from New York.
Besides the price of real estate, which is comparable to the U.S., the cost of living is lower -- especially property taxes, health insurance, and fresh food. Americans have an automatic 90-day visa which can be renewed by leaving the country for 3 days before re-entering. Non-residents can own real estate and businesses, but are not allowed to work without a work visa. Residency requirements vary based on category. Current information is available here.
New Zealand might be the most isolated fully developed nation in the world. It shares no borders, sits relatively distant from any other nation, has no real national enemies, has a safe democracy and a diverse landscape with many remote places to hide away within. Located in the South Pacific with beautiful beaches, sunshine, friendly people, and stunning vistas, it has two main islands and several smaller islands like Chatham Island and the Cook Islands. New Zealand ranks highly in international comparisons on many topics, including education, economic freedom, and lack of corruption. New Zealand now ranks among the freest economies in the world with one of the least corrupt governments ranked #1 on the Global Peace Index in 2010 -- second year in a row. Its cities also consistently rank among the world's most liveable. The most commonly spoken language is English.
The cost of living is somewhat comparable to the United States. Americans have an automatic 90-day visa to enter and explore the country. Non-residents can apply for a 2-year work visa only in fields determined by immigration.
Iceland has a free market economy that has historically been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2007, it was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index, and the fourth most productive country per capita economy. In 2008, Iceland's economy was devastated by the international bankers calling their foreign debt due. However, because of pride and solidarity among the people, strong social services, a nearly self-reliant energy sector, and a manageable population (320,000), it is poised to recover once the foreign debt issues are settled. Iceland has passed legislation to establish the country as a "free speech haven" to protect journalists and their sources. This law is a huge deal as most Western countries seem to be heading toward regulating the Internet, and it has the potential to jump-start the Icelandic economy in terms of offering censorship-free servers and other services to journalists and internet businesses. Iceland is also a peaceful country with no standing army.
Iceland will be working it's way back from financial collapse, while the U.S. still appears headed for the cliff. Because of the shattered financial system, there are good opportunities to live on less income in Iceland now than during its peak, while all the signs seem poised for recovery. Residency has traditionally been difficult to get in Iceland and is usually done through vital employment needs, but the new push as a political safe-haven may open up the process a bit. Currently, American passports have an automatic 90-day visa to visit Iceland.
Argentina has bounced back from its financial collapse in 2002 when it defaulted on international debt causing massive inflation and high unemployment. The people said "Nunca Mas," the government has since paid off its debt to the IMF, and Argentina now has one of the world's highest qualities of life. Argentina is the second largest country in South America and the 8th largest in the world. It is a fully-developed country with strong agricultural production as the second-largest exporter of corn in the world -- not to mention good wines and beef too. The capital of Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris of Latin America” because it feels like a European city with rich architecture and numerous sidewalk cafes. If the arts and ambiance with a low cost of living are your thing, then Argentina may be the best bang for your buck.
The cost of living is reportedly much lower than the United States for housing, food, travel, and health care. Americans have an automatic passport visa of 90 days to Argentina as well. Pensioners will need to prove a $700 per month income to qualify for residency, while others can apply if they prove a steady income of $900 per month.
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