We've seen a dramatic increase in the number of Americans declaring on Expat Exchange that "If Trump is elected, I am leaving the United States" or "If Hillary Clinton is elected, I'm outta here." Many of these posts go on to ask about the best places to live abroad.
Importantly, keep in mind that unless you renounce your citizenship and become a citizen of your new country, you'll still be paying your U.S. federal income taxes like every other United States citizen.
That being said, here are 10 countries to consider if you are thinking about moving abroad based upon the outcome of the election:
Culturally, many Americans find Canada to be a lot like home, despite the obvious climate differences. Expats love Canadians for their liberal attitudes and tolerant views. One expat in Toronto said, "Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. We are not just a tolerant city we are an inclusive city. All religions and cultures are welcome as long as they are peaceful, do not impose their belief on others and practice in the same inclusive and welcoming manner."
A socially progressive country at heart, Canada enacted the Civil Marriage act in 2005 legalizing same-sex marriage. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital, as Canada could legalize recreational Marijuana use as early as next year. This might help Canada beat the US to a lead position in the booming multi-billion dollar industry.
Canada's public healthcare system started in 1984. Citizens and permanent residents may apply for public health insurance, but there is a common misperception that health care in Canada is "free." Families and individuals in Canada pay for healthcare via their individual taxes.
Canada has individual tax rates of 33% and corporate tax rates of 26.5% according to KPMG's tax tables.
Expats living in Uruguay love Uruguay for its friendly people, stable government, tolerant views and laid-back coastal cities and towns. Expats typically choose to live in one of Uruguay's coastal cities, such as Punta del Este, Montevideo and Atlantida. Many expats choose Uruguay as a destination for off-the-grid living.
Uruguay is liberal in many respects. Not only is marijuana legal in Uruguay, but the government of Uruguay created the first nationalized market for marijuana in 2014. LGBT rights are among the most liberal in South America and the world according to Wikipedia. Same-sex civil unions became legal in 2008 and same-sex marriages were legalized in 2013.
From a tax perspective, KPMG's tax tables state that Uruguay's corporate taxation rate is 25% and the individual tax rates is as high as 30%.
Healthcare in Uruguay is a system through which you pay monthly to belong to a hospital and any of its clinics. This type of hospital membership plan is called a Mutualista. Or, you may pay as you go. "Medical care is OK. Slow service like in Canada but you have to pay. We have health insurance [mutualista] that's about $100/mo/person," explained one expat. Another added, "Yes, you cannot change Mutualistas except once every two years in February. Most have age restrictions now. We were told by Asociacion Espanola in Atlantida that my husband was too old at 70, but we went to the main office in MVD and they signed him up no problem. It can take weeks to get an appointment with a specialist and my friend waited 10 days before they actually operated on her broken hip."
The U.S. Media has made many Americans fearful of Mexico, but there are still a number of areas that are safe expat destinations. Cities and towns along Mexico's Pacific Coast and Riviera Maya; Lake Chapala and Ajijic; and other cities such as San Miguel de Allende and San Cristobal de las Casas are all great places to live or retire in Mexico.
Same sex civil unions are legal in several states and cities in Mexico, including Mexico City. The Mexican government is taking steps to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use. According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Mexicans are practicing Catholics.
Mexico has an individual income tax rate of up to 35% and corporate tax rate of up to 30% according to KPMG's tax tables.
Tourists and expats love Germany's beer-drinking, bratwurst-eating culture; historic small cities like Heidelberg and Regensburg; and larger cities like Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.
If you're looking for Clinton-style leadership, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel may be a good choice. Merkel has welcomed millions of refugees into Germany and has an established public health insurance model that Obamacare is moving toward. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper, "I value her [Hillary Clinton's] long political experience, her commitment for women's rights, family issues and health care." She went on to say, "I value her strategic thinking and that she is a strong supporter of the transatlantic partnership. Whenever I had the chance to work together with Hillary Clinton, it was a great pleasure." As for tax rates, a typical working expat would have an income tax rate of 42% for an income of of between Euro 52,154 - 250,000 (single person) or Euro 104,305 - 500,000 (married).
One expat commented on living in Berlin, "Once we settled in Berlin, we have no regrets whatsoever. It has been all we could hope for in living in Germany. The culture, the history and of course, cosmopolitan Berlin. We love our place in the city and are happy we made this move. Berlin is no longer divided and I still see the Berlin from my younger days. We feel safe, we enjoy the many cultures and influences from around the world. We travel throughout Europe easily."
If you can afford to retire early and want to live on the beach in a country with low taxes and a laid-back vibe, Belize may be the right choice for you. Income taxes in Belize run around 25%. The unemployment rate is extremely high and expats have a tough time finding work and obtaining a work permit. "Almost all jobs are given to Belizeans and very few are given to outsiders. By all means you need to be in the country for 6 months before you can apply for a work permit. You may find better luck with foreign corporation," advised one expat. Belize is an offshore tax haven with offshore corporations paying no tax on income earned abroad.
It is important to note, however, that the government of Belize is NOT tolerant with respect to gay rights. Homosexuals are prohibited from immigrating to Belize. That being said, one expat replied to an inquiry about whether or not Belize is gay-friendly saying, "Also, is Belize gay friendly? (Officially it is "illegal") but you can live here without issue as long as you keep it private and do not keep anything on your PC, LT, tablet or items in your rental/home to that fact. All it takes is one pissed off neighbor or friend to make an accusation and the police have the right in Belize to bust your door down. But that is rare unless you are extremely flamboyant in public or piss a lot of people off...)"
If you have health issues, most expats would advise you not to move to Belize. "Belizean health care is, on the whole, mostly primitive even by typical developing nation standards. The nearest thing to a saving grace is that quality health care can be had a few hours away in either Mexico or Guatemala. If you're comfortable with the idea of having to be medevaced for anything more serious than a sprained ankle--and some people are--then Belize may be worth a closer look. In that case you'll probably want to spring for an insurance policy that includes medical evacuation coverage," described one expat living in Belize. You may get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA for insurance coverage that includes evacuation.
France is known by tourists for its incredible food; vast selection of art museums; breathtakingly beautiful cities, towns and countryside; and chic, stylish people. Expats living in France enjoy all of these things on a daily basis, but tend to add a few negatives to their descriptions of life in France: bureaucracy, strikes and high taxes. That being said, most expats agree that the pros outweigh the cons.
An expat in France commented on living in Paris, "I embraced the long lunch, the food and the wine. I'm now fluent in French, and am able to do business in German and Italian, so the language skills I have picked up have exceeded my language expectations. My flat was tiny but gorgeous. The fresh fruit and vegetables at the market was brilliant with seasonal foods, and I even got to buy and eat fresh cranberries, which I never would have in Australia as the climate isn't suitible. Dealing with bureaucracy met my expectations and did take a long time for anything to be done (9 weeks to connect phone and internet), but you just have to take it in your stride and try again next week/month."
From a liberal vs. conservative standpoint, France legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. Marijuana along with all other narcotics are illegal in France. From a tax perspective, France boasts a high corporate tax rate of approximately 33% and individual tax rates of up to 49% according to KPMG's tax tables. France has a universal health care system that is available to expats and retirees who become permanent residents. Initially, an expat is required to purchase private health insurance. If needed, you may get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.
7. Costa Rica
With its stable government, tropical weather and beautiful beaches, Costa Rica is a very popular expat destination. Tamarindo, Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal, Escazu, Atenas and Grecia are among the best places for expats to live in Costa Rica.
"Leave most everything where you came from, sell it off, come start a new life in Paradise. Be prepared for some culture shock and getting used to the slower pace of life but be prepared for more exercise and a better quality of life where you will live life, not watch it on television. (not that we don't have tv's and cable)," advised one expat living in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has an individual income tax rate of up to 15% and corporate tax rate of up to 30% according to KPMG's tax tables. The cost of living in Costa Rica is considerably higher than other countries in Central America.
Expats living in the Netherlands appreciate that the Dutch are very tolerant and environmentally conscious. "For the first time in 20 years I am riding a cycle... and using public transport! I love how everyone skates when there is ice - I purchased my first pair of ice skates during our first winter. [I love their] appreciation of the sun... I really took that for granted. Nederlanders worship the sun," commented one expat.
The one downside of expat life in the Netherlands is that expats often don't feel entirely accepted by the Dutch. "Overcoming the social barrier between you and the Dutch... [it] is pretty hard for a 'vremdelingen' (foreigner) to get accepted by the Dutch" to the point where you would exchange invitations, confessed one expat. As a result, many expats find the greatest friendship and support in the local expat community.
With income tax rates of up to 52%, the Netherlands is a country rich with social programs. Some expats in the Netherlands are eligible for the 30% rule and have only 70% of their income taxed. The Dutch government started the program to attract foreign specialists with skills that were scarce in the Netherlands. There is also a health insurance premium. Healthcare system in the Netherlands is partly public and partly private. For example, public health insurance covers long-term care and hospitalization.
Ecuador is a very popular destination for expats. Expats living in Ecuador appreciate its low cost of living, bustling cities, laid back beach towns, affordable health care and friendly people.
"The weather here is great, wardrobe is mostly shorts, sleeveless shirts and sandals. As expected, so much less stress than in the U.S. due to slower pace of life and simplifying daily tasks. The fresh, inexpensive seafood, vegetables and fruits you can get at the outdoor markets are wonderful and daily walks on the beach make for a healthy lifestyle," said one expat in Salinas.
Individual tax rates in Ecuador as high as 35% and corporate tax rates are 22% according to KPMG's tax tables.
"Nicaragua is great for retired expats who do not depend on a local income and for foreign investors with lots of cash to start a business and support themselves while it develops. It is NOT a place for young people with limited money to build a future," commented one expat. Expats do not need to be residents in order to start a business, which means you can start your business relatively quickly after moving to Nicaragua. Nicaragua's corporate tax rate is 30% and the government is planning to drop the rate 1% per year from 2016 through 2021.
Regarding healthcare in Nicaragua, several expats offered some helpful advice. "We don't have any insurance. Keep in mind that the system is very different here. A couple good things are that most drugs are over the counter - except narcotics, which need a prescription - and labs are self-standing, not attached to doctors so you can walk in and get tested. You get the results and take the letter to the farmacia and get your meds, if needed. We both take one prescription drug and pay about 20% of what it would cost in the states," explained one expat in Nicaragua.
"We stay away from Vivian Pellas [hospital in Managua] which is going on the U.S. model and almost the same prices. There are plenty of alternatives. Lots of people are going to the Nica health centers and hospitals with good results. Most of the doctors are Cuban trained and well liked. We are responsible for our own health and like it that way. There are many private hospitals that are better than the public ones, including Baptist and Integral. You pay cash, about 25% of U.S. prices, but anything chronic or serious you should probably go home and hope you can get on some plan in time," advised one expat. "I'm very healthy, but the day will surely come when I have something that requires more than Nicaragua offers. I've seen friends well treated by the Nicaragua system, and for free, but also [have] a Nicaraguan friend with throat cancer fighting for an operation that will save his life. Access to diagnostic imaging is very limited for people using the national health system, and there is a lot of guessing on the part of the doctors. The capacity is there, and prices are a fraction of the cost in the US, but the Nicaraguan healthcare system doesn't have the budget for it," warned one expat in Nicaragua.
"I am a gay man living in Managua and dating a local Nicaraguan. I have found it more comfortable being here as a gay man than I would have expected. I assumed it would be kept a secret 100%, but that has not ended up needing to be the case. There are enough gay people here that people figure it out even if you are not 'flaming'," said one gay expat in Managua. That being said, gay marriage, partnerships and adoption by gay couples is not legal in Nicaragua according to the Family Code passed by congress in June 2014. The LGBT community in Nicaragua is planning to challenge these changes in country's supreme court.
When it comes to politics, emotions obviously run high. Moving abroad, however, is a process that is best managed by removing emotions from the equation. Over the course of Expat Exchange's 19 years online, we have seen too many people throw caution to the wind only to find themselves miserable in a far away corner of the world.
So do your homework using our country guides, talk to expats on Expat Exchange's free forums and take long visits - not vacations - to the country you think you might want to call your new home.