9 Countries that make it easy to move to

When I travel and speak to people around the world one of the most common questions I get asked is "Where is the easiest country I can move to?" The reasons for wanting to move abroad are wide and varied but the underlying reason is generally to create a better life for themselves and their families.

This desire to seek a better life overseas is increasing, with 258 million people relocating to a new country in 2017 alone, 14 million more than in 2016. All the data shows that immigration can be incredibly beneficial for the countries that welcome them, as immigrants contributed $6.7trillion to global GDP in 2015, second only to the GDP of America, and 85-90% of the money generated by immigrants stays within the host country's economy. This is achieved because they are getting jobs that pay more than at home, so they pay more taxes, create jobs, build businesses, share knowledge and increase international trade. They also send collectively more than $445billion to developing countries, 3 times more than all foreign aid put together!

With immigration policies is some countries making it harder to move abroad, our dreams to travel and make a better life for ourselves and families becomes more difficult. But there are some places that make it easier than others to live and work abroad.

First things first, you need to make sure you have a valid passport that has at least a year before it expires and won't run out of visa pages. Many places will also want to make sure that you have enough money to live on during your stay and a ticket to get back home when your visa runs out. Then make sure you get all the documentation you need for your chosen country in advance before you think of applying to make the process as smooth as possible.

The 'easiest' way to secure a visa through work and your company sponsors you to enable you to have a work permit and helps with getting a visa for your spouse and children. Although these can be more difficult when the company has to prove that they can't find a local to fill the position. Also these work visas are only for that specific job, so if you loose your job or the project comes to an end, you will have to start the process from scratch. If you are self-employed or making the move abroad without a company sponsor, then there will be a few more hoops to jump through, but at least you'll have a little more freedom work wise. If you are under 30 (or 35 in some countries) it is easier to get a working holiday visa, or by applying for a student visa and studying abroad (you have to be accepted by a university or college first) as countries like to attract young workers and international students.

Here are some ideas of where to start your overseas adventure:

1. Ireland

Ireland can be a great place to move to, as long as the unpredictable weather doesn't put you off (all four seasons in one day is normal!). Local hospitality is world renowned and there is a relaxed and friendly way of life. Take a walk through any city here, and there’ll be more pubs per square foot than anything else. Whether in search of a small quiet pub with a handful of patrons, or a full-on standing room only, shout-over-the-noise pub, Ireland has it.

Ireland’s work visas don’t come with age restrictions; all ages are welcome. The catch here is that to get the 12-month Working Holiday Authorization, you have to either be enrolled in undergraduate or graduate education, or have recently graduated (within the past year).

Upon entering the country, you must register with immigration for an Irish Residence Permit. This must be done in the country after your arrival. Check here and follow the links for detailed instruction on the documentation you will need at the immigration office. Depending on your reason for staying longer in Ireland your requirements will be different, such as volunteering, working, religious services, or academics. This website gives a point by point idea of what to expect during your appointment at your county's immigration office.

Alternatively, travellers that do not meet the working holiday program requirements and wish to stay in Ireland for longer than three months can fill out a Long Stay Visa Request here. This visa applies if you are joining relatives in the country, studying, or hoping to live permanently in Ireland. Apply before making any travel plans, as it will need to be approved before you travel.

Working in Ireland outside of the working holiday program is more difficult. Applicants are required to apply for an employee permit here which is valid for two years of employment. These are more difficult to obtain because they require the Irish employer to provide proof they have “made every effort to recruit an Irish or EEA national for the post”. You must have a job offer lined up prior to moving to Ireland for this application process and pay a fee of €1,000 for the permit. It is important to be aware that some careers are not eligible for any sort of work permit. This website summarises the basic requirements to see if you qualify and lists some available jobs in Ireland.

2. New Zealand

New Zealand is well know for it's beautiful countryside ranging from mountains to rainforest, and is a great immigration destination as well. A large percentage of expats praise both their children’s education options (83%) and their kids’ well-being (90%) there. In addition to this, 91% of expats find the locals are friendly towards families with children. In fact, expats in New Zealand don’t find it hard to get used to the local culture, with 77% agreeing that they feel at home there. This is a peaceful nation with a very low crime rate and a diverse cultural scene. There are very good universities in New Zealand and the standard of living and education is high. But the down side is that it is a bit expensive to live here.

If you want to work during your stay, you can apply for a temporary work visa. Check here to see if you qualify and to better understand the restrictions. There are several types of visas, but they are all similar in that the government of NZ is seeking employees that fill a skill shortage from this list in the country that is currently not being filled by NZ citizens.

The essential skills work visa can be valid for up to five years when the proper requirements have been met. There is also the long-term skills shortage visa which can grant you work permission for up to 30 months. NZ also has a working holiday visa for young people ages 18-30 for up to twelve months. You can see if you qualify for a holiday visa here and begin your application.

None of these visas provide the traveller with a residency permit. If your longterm goal is to live permanently in NZ, you should apply for a talent work visa. After holding the job from your talent work visa for two years, you can apply to live in the country indefinitely as a resident if you meet qualifications.

3. Netherlands

If you are moving to the Netherlands from another Western country, culture shock will be minimal especially in one of the main cities. Almost everyone is welcoming of non-Dutch speakers and speaks English, even train announcements are normally in both Dutch and English. Although in the most rural villages you may find some older generations that may only speak Dutch. They also have a low crime rate and an inclusive culture that isn’t materialistic, in which employers, employees and people of all ages socialise. The health service in the Netherlands is efficient, waiting times are usually short, and prescriptions can be ordered via telephone and collected the same day. Doctors generally speak impeccable English and give generous appointment times.

If you’re an entrepreneur, the Netherlands wants you! The country is looking to create new products and jobs by attracting foreign innovators and scientists. If you have a start-up idea, you can apply for a one-year residency in the Netherlands. During this time you’ll be matched with a local mentor to help you build your business. After 12 months you’ll have the option to extend your stay and apply for the standard self-employed work permit.

Nationals of Canada, South Korea, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand between the ages of 18 and 31 are eligible to live and work in the Netherlands for one year on a working holiday visa. The Working Holiday Program or Scheme allows holders of the visa to reside in the country on a temporary residence permit.

If you wish to stay in the Netherlands for longer than three months you must apply for a provisional residence permit(machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf, MVV). EU members and a few other countries are exempt from this, however, an application for a residence permit must still be filed. Click here for a list of countries who do not require an MVV for longer stays. After arrival in the Netherlands, you will need to apply for a residence permit(verblijfsvergunning, VVR). Residence permits are generally valid for one year and should be applied for at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service within three working days of arriving in the Netherlands. Applications are normally done by an employer on their foreign employee's behalf. After processing, a sticker is placed in the expat's passport confirming their residence, and along with their work permit, whether they can take up employment. 

Although EU citizens don’t require a residence permit, they do have to register with their local municipality if they live in the Netherlands for more than four months or live with a family member who is not an EU/EEA citizen. Once they've registered, expats will receive a BSN Number (Citizen Service Number).

Expats can apply for permanent residence in the Netherlands if they've lived in the country for an uninterrupted period of five years. Once they have this, they no longer need an employer-sponsored work permit.

For other visas and to check your eligibility check the website here.

4. Singapore

Singapore is one of the easiest countries in which to establish permanent residency. All you have to do is apply for an employment pass, be the spouse or child of a Singapore citizen, or plan to make an investment in the country.

Travellers have several options for extending their stay in the country and all applications are completed online. Be prepared in advance with getting your applications done ahead of time as the website warns that the application processing time may take six months are longer. You will have to be organized and plan ahead before you arrive in Singapore as a traditional visitor pass is a maximum 30-day stay.

There is the Long Term Visit Pass, which applies if you are a direct family member of a citizen, about to give birth in the country, or if you are a graduate from an approved higher learning institute seeking employment. The list includes various local universities as well as international institutes that have local campuses in Singapore. Most of these specifications probably do not apply to the majority of travelers.

Singapore also offers a student pass if a student is going to be studying in Singapore. A pass is required if your stay in the country will be longer than 30 days. You have to be enrolled in courses as a full-time student, so there is no loophole to take a course or two and obtain a pass.

Another avenue is the global investor program, which applies to business owners interested in spending large amounts of money in the country and moving their business to Singapore. The government is interested in businesses or people with a proven track record that are going to boost the economy of Singapore.

And finally, a person holding an employee pass permitting you to work in Singapore is eligible to apply to become a permanent resident.

Employee Passes are granted by the Ministry of Manpower. This website is also very easy to navigate and answers questions about eligibility and the application process. You must have a job offer lined up in a specialized field, your employer must apply for the pass on your behalf, and if you qualify, the pass lasts for two years and is then eligible for renewal. They also provide a handy self-assessment tool to gauge if you are eligible. The entire process will cost you about $220 and turnaround time is quicker, taking about three weeks.

5. Canada

Canada has long been a welcoming country for expats wanting to forge a new life abroad. The government’s comparatively open immigration policy is widely publicised, and skills shortages in many industries continue to emphasise the need to attract foreign workers to the nation. In order to continue with economic growth, even unskilled temporary migrant workers are becoming essential.

Expats relocating to Canada can expect to find multicultural communities accustomed to interacting and integrating with those from abroad; a point that can make a big difference in initially becoming comfortable in your new environment.

Canada is similar to other countries in that it allows individuals to become residents for a variety of qualified reasons such as close relatives, employment, or starting a business. They provide a tool that calculates if you are eligible to apply. In order to be eligible for a Canadian citizenship several things must be done. Firstly, you must apply to immigrate to Canada and obtain permanent resident status. When you become a landed immigrant and obtain your Permanent Resident Card, you have to live in Canada for 3 years out of a total of 4 years before you are eligible to apply for the Canadian citizenship.

One unique category is the self-employed person program. This program targets people that work in cultural activities, athletics, or farming. If you are accepted into the program, you are eligible to become a permanent resident.

This process requires applicants as well as their family members to undergo a medical exam in the application phase. You may be turned away if you could be considered a threat to the nation’s health or if your medical care will cost the country a significant amount of resources and funding.

Another way to move to Canada permanently is the express entry program. The application process for this program requires applicants to get a certain number of points for various qualities, and the highest ranking point holders earning permanent visas. You can gain points for speaking French, having a sibling living in the country, and relevant work experience.

Another program offered that applies to humanitarian career fields is the caregiver’s program. After working in Canada for a period of two years as a nurse, nurse orderly, home support aid, or child caregiver, you become eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Once you are accepted as a permanent resident you will need to obtain a permanent resident card, a travel document, learn Canada’s taxation system, and other details. This page should help you with the info to get your new life started in Canada.

If you are more interested in a temporary stay in Canada, the country offers temporary work visas, you do not have to have a job lined up ahead of time, and the requirements are very relaxed compared to other countries on this list. Your employer must also not be listed on this banned list, which is maybe how the previous rule came about. These permits are usually valid for six months, you can extend your permit 30 days before it expires.

Studying in Canada involves acquiring a study permit. You can stay for the course of your program and 90 days after. You can apply for additional privileges such as work and travel. You are able to work part-time on campus if you are registered as a full-time student with no additional documentation needed. If you are studying for a period less than six months, you do not need to apply for a study permit.

6. Norway

Norway is a peaceful nation where people generally lead safe and happy lives. The wealthy nation offers free education in its public universities. It is also a naturally beautiful country with almost no pollution. The country enjoys a pleasant weather. Owing to the natural beauty of the land and the relaxed way of life, many people consider Norway as their immigration destination. It helps that the rules for immigration are not very strict in Norway.

Norway is a small Scandinavian country but offers great educational prospects, jobs in the petroleum, energy and shipping industries, a high standard of living and a high happiness index. Norway is also one of the safest countries in the world.

Svalbard is a chain of islands north of Norway with incredibly relaxed immigration laws. The main requirement for being accepted into Svalbard, besides a passport, is that you can show the governor that you are financially capable of housing and caring for yourself. In other words, if you can survive living there, you can stay.

To apply for citizenship in Norway you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • The applicant should be a resident of Norway and hold a valid resident permit

  • The applicant should have stayed in Norway for at least 7 years. In the case of the applicant being married to a Norwegian citizen, he or she should have stayed I Norway for at least 3 years.

  • The applicant must have completed 300 hours of Norwegian language tuition

  • The applicant should have a clean criminal record

  • The applicant must be of sane mind and good character

  • The applicant must pass an exam about Norwegian societal norms

The application for Norwegian citizenship is available online at the UDI website. The form may be filled in by the applicant or by someone else on his or her behalf. Once the application is submitted, an appointment will be scheduled for the applicant to present his or her documents. An application fee of NOK 3700 will have to be paid at this time by debit or credit card. Applicants under the age of 18 years are exempt from this fee. Originals and 2 photocopies of all the required documents should be carried for your appointment. This includes:

  • Signed cover letter received after submitting the application

  • The applicant’s current passport

  • Birth Certificate

  • Marriage Certificate if applicable

  • List of entries and exits from Norway

  • Tax returns filed while staying in Norway

  • NOC from the Police

  • Certificate of having passed the social studies test

  • Certificate of having passed the language test

  • Permanent Residency Permit

It can take up to 8months for these documents to be processed. The applicant will then be given a promise of Norwegian citizenship. This is valid for 1 year during which time the applicant must give up his or her earlier citizenship. Once citizenship is granted, the applicant may choose to participate in a citizenship ceremony and can apply for a Norwegian passport.

7. UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) attracts people from around the world to become its residents. It is a tax-free nation where citizens do not have to pay any personal tax. The country has a very low crime and corruption rate. The oil-rich country has a dynamic economy with a large number of universities and scope for education is good in UAE. The economy in Dubai is moving forward at a rapid pace. This offers many opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs and professionals. All these make UAE a desirable destination for relocation and it's the "hardship posting" that it was once considered to be, so don't expect the big expat packages that used to be given.

Expats should not bring their family members over until they have their work visa, which allows them to sponsor family resident visas. Although be aware that expats are not eligible for citizenship no matter how long they stay for. Be very careful of an employment contract. Everything should be in writing up front, including salary, end of service payout, health insurance, etc.

For Westerners, the pace of doing business will be slower than they may be used to. Getting a decision made is sometimes the biggest challenge.Government regulations can be a maze and difficult to understand; it can even be difficult to get the same interpretation when working through the process. There are times when one department is not connecting with another and applicants can run around in circles. There is also the question of ownership – in some cases, an Emirati sponsor is needed to establish a business and the Emirati must own 51 percent of the business. Make sure you get legal advice with someone who is a specialist in the area, your Embassy should be able to point you in the right direction.

  • Requirements for a Work Visa application: Passport must be valid for at least 6 months more when applying for an Entry Permit. Recent colour photographs (not Polaroid photographs) If you're already in the UAE, you need to leave the country before you can get a new entry permit.

  • Documents required for a Visa could include the following:

  • Passport copies

  • Copy of confirmed flight booking

  • Bank approval letter

  • Passport-sized colour photographs

  • Visa fee

  • Visa application form

8. Finland

Finland grants citizenship to those who have lived in the country for five consecutive years. However, citizens of other Nordic countries can qualify for citizenship after just two consecutive years of residence. All applicants must be proficient in Finnish, Swedish or Finnish sign language.

Seeking a high-quality, yet affordable education for your child? Finland ranks first out of 41 countries in the Quality of Education subcategory, with 92% of expat parents giving it a positive rating. The Nordic country also makes it to the first place for the costs of education. Altogether, 81% of expat parents agree that education is easy to afford there, nearly twice the global average of 41%. In fact, education is free from pre-primary levels to higher education. Textbooks, transportation, and meals are also either free or partly funded.

It may take expats living in Finland a while to adapt to cultural differences. The general perception is that Finns are a reserved and quiet people, although this isn't always the case with the younger generations. Small talk, a skill which Finns are notoriously lacking, is considered with suspicion. These social silences are often a big problem for intercultural communications as it can lead to many misunderstandings. Expats would do well to learn Finnish, the official language, or Swedish, the other national language spoken by a minority of the population, depending on which area of the country they're relocating to. However, as with other Scandinavian countries, the Finns are suspicious of Swedish and can often be fiercely proud of their language.

To find out more about how to apply for a Finnish visa click here.

9. Germany

It’s not the easiest permit to apply for, but if you’re a freelancer, you should put Germany on your radar. Berlin offers an “artist visa” that lets freelancers establish residency in Germany for the purpose of self-employment. You’ll have to fork over up to €110 and a lot of documentation—your business plan, proof of health insurance, and so forth.

Germany is one of the most popular destinations for relocation. It boasts of some of the best universities in the world with a very high quality of education. You have to apply for a visa after you enroll in the school, but if you’re thinking about grad school, it might be a good opportunity to live overseas. The country has a very low crime rate and Germany boasts of one of the lowest levels of unemployment among all the EU member states. All these factors make it a great choice for moving here.

Most expats who intend to settle and work for longer periods will need a German work permit (Arbeitserlaubnis). The requirements will differ depending on where they're from. Applications for a residency permit (Aufaenhait) must either be done in person at a German embassy or consulate, or through the immigration authorities in Germany. Since EU nationals have the right to live and work in Germany getting a residency permit is simply a formality.

There are three different types of residency permits for non-EU citizens who intend to work in Germany. The first is for general employment (Arbeit), the second is for professionals with specialist skills and the third is for self-employed foreigners. In most cases, it's essential that non-EU expats have their residency permits approved before they arrive. 

Expats will either be granted a limited or an unlimited residency permit once their application is approved, which will depend on their country of origin and reasons for being in Germany. Permits attached to a fixed-term contract are granted for the same length of time as the contract states.  

Expats wanting to travel to do business in Germany need to apply for a business visa which requires a formal invitation from a German company. They'll also need to provide evidence of their visit, including the duration of their stay, details of their and a guarantee for any costs involved.

Even someone visiting the German office of their current employer would need a business visa.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

If you are thinking about moving abroad, one top tip is to make contact with your embassy or consulate in your chosen country or city. They have so much local knowledge and know about the process and procedures in your new country as well as many contacts who can help you, whether it's a list of tax and legal advisors or expat support groups to join. From my experience they are very approachable and will do their best to make your transition go as smooth as possible. The length of time it takes to get a visa approved and how easy it is for you will vary depending on your passport country, your occupation and family situation and it is advisable to get legal advice from a specialist before investing large sums of money to move abroad.

Have I missed out your country or one that you found really easy to move to? Share your experience and how you did it below, it might help someone else to follow in your footsteps!

Nicole Blyth - Founder RelocateGuru

Don't forget you can organise all the things you need to know about your new city or country on the RelocateGuru App, helping you to feel at home BEFORE you get there! Save the links to the websites you need, ask the locals questions about what the neighbourhood is like and recommend local businesses.

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