What to Consider When Retiring Abroad?
When choosing a country in which to retire, it is best to start with a list of places and then narrow your search based on the criteria listed below.
Where do I Want to Retire?
The first step to any relocation is choosing where to go. Should you move somewhere you have visited before, or a brand-new country? Do you want to be on the beach or in the mountains? Are you interested in city-living or a quiet life in the countryside? Do you want year-round warm, sunny weather, or do you prefer four distinct seasons?
The answers to these questions are up to you, but senior expats should also consider the transportation options in a country as well as access to airports. Public transportation around the globe ranges from ultra-modern, expansive metro systems to motorbike taxis and standing in the back of a pick-up truck. Retired expats should consider their own mobility and whether they are able to walk or climb without limitations.
It is also important to check the availability of a city or town’s transportation. For example, how often does public transit run and how widespread is it throughout the country? Are taxis or ride-share apps safe and reliable? Expats interested in having their own vehicle should also look into the rules and regulations of obtaining a driving license in the country of their choice. This information can be found in our destination guides.
Access to international travel is important for all expats to consider, but especially retirees. For senior expats, being near an airport not only serves as an easy and convenient way to see family, but it is also important in case you need to fly home in case of a medical emergency. If you decide to live away from a large city with an international airport, you should look at how to access the airport.
Unsure of where to begin your search? Our global relocation services include a one-hour relocation consultation. Call InterNations GO! to learn more about what you need to consider when retiring abroad.
What are the Visa and Residency Requirements?
Now that you have narrowed your list of countries based on your personal wants, it is time to look into your visa options. Depending on your nationality and the country you want to move to, this can be a great hurdle. For example, EU nationals planning to retire to another EU country will not face any visa requirements. A non-EU national wanting to retire in a country like France or Spain, however, will need to go through a lengthy application process.
One of the greatest visa challenges retired expats face when moving abroad is not having a job. Employment in a country is a standard requirement of more foreigners wanting to move abroad. Luckily, it is possible to find countries that offer visas specifically for retirees who want to live in a country without a job. For example, Malaysia offers renewable ten-year visas to foreigners over 50, and Peru allows indefinite stays to retirees as long as they do not earn a professional income.
In the countries that allow retired foreigners to live without a job, the requirement you will see most often is a proof of sufficient financial means. Visa applicants will need to meet a minimum monthly income (your retirement savings and/or pension check). The required amount will differ from country to country. To verify your finances, you will need to provide a certified bank statement that shows how much money you have, as well as any regular payment you may receive.
If you can secure a visa in the country of your choice, keep in mind that it will require periodic renewal. Renewal varies from country to country. For most, it is required annually or bi-annually, but there are also countries with five and ten-year visas. In some countries, such as Thailand, retired expats must report to an immigration office every 90 days to verify their visa. If you move to a country with similar requirements, check to see where the immigration offices are as this could have a big impact on where you choose to settle, and whether you want to put up with this hassle.
What is the Cost of Living?
If you are a retiree living on a fixed income such as retirement savings or a pension, the next most important factor to consider when moving abroad is the cost of living. The cost of living includes several expenses, such as housing, food costs, utilities, medical services, and extra activities like eating out and travel.
Depending on the country, your retirement savings can provide a more extravagant lifestyle than you would have in your home country. For example, North American and European expats may find their money will go further in Central America or Southeast Asia, simply because of the exchange rate.
When calculating a country’s cost of living, the biggest expense to take into account is accommodation. Over time, buying a home can be cheaper than renting. However, this is not always a viable option for expats, due to restrictions against foreign buyers or the plain uncertainty of how long you will stay in the country. Some countries do not allow foreigners to purchase property. Other countries do allow it, but only after a certain length of residency.
If you have a relocation destination in mind, check out our country guides to see whether you should purchase or rent when searching for a new home abroad.
What is the Healthcare System like?
As a retiree, knowing what a country’s healthcare system is like is crucial to your safety and wellbeing while living in a foreign land. Even if we are healthy and only require regular checkups, our bodies become slower and need more care as we advance in age.
When looking into a country’s healthcare system, there are several aspects to consider. The first is your access to health insurance. In general, once you obtain residency in a country, you can no longer use foreign or traveler’s health insurance. This will require you to look into whether or not you can register with the country’s public healthcare scheme. If you cannot, what are the private options available to you?
Senior expats should also look into the overall quality of the healthcare system. Is the care received under the public system just as good as the private? What are the waiting times to see a doctor, and how do you see a specialist? What are the costs incurred with each visit?
Our complete relocation services include country guides that answer some of these pressing questions. We provide information on such topics as the differences between each country’s public and private health services, the documents required to register with a public insurance scheme, and the average cost of medical care.