Retirement overseas is a big step towards a completely new stage your life. It may seem easy, but it’s not all plain sailing. You also need to look at the financial side, making sure your assets are secure so you can live out your golden years in comfort and pass maximum value to the next generation.
This article answers the most frequently asked questions about taxes, visas, safety, healthcare, other practical matters of retirees’ relocation and life abroad. If some of them seem familiar or too early for you to consider, that’s great! On the other hand, they can help you discuss the pros and cons of retirement abroad with your own parents or senior family members who are trying to make the right decision.
1. Will I be allowed to return to my home country if I move overseas for retirement and later change my mind?
Yes, of course, you definitely will. Retirement abroad does not deprive anyone of the right to return to one’s home country. Assuming you keep your original or native citizenship, you are free to return to your home country at any time.
2. Will my original citizenship be lost after overseas retirement?
The answer is no. The status of being a foreign resident does not affect one’s original citizenship at all. There is a difference between a residence permit and citizenship. The risk of losing citizenship is likely only in case of an official (deliberate) renunciation of one’s citizenship status or as a result of a hostile act against the state. There is no risk of losing one’s native citizenship without being aware of what is happening.
As a rule, renunciation of citizenship srequires a formal application, at least one interview with officials, and a state duty payment. Most countries are not interested in losing their grip on citizens who pay taxes and contribute otherwise to the budget!
The USA is an example of mandatory duties of citizenship. A US citizen is obliged to report his/her income and pay personal worldwide income tax to the US treasury – regardless of the place of one’s actual (long-term) residence and revenues (some exceptions may apply). To prevent the churn of citizens/taxpayers, U.S. lawmakers have proposed so-called “departure taxes” and keep complicating the procedures. And yet there are many advantages to retire abroad if you are a US citizen. No wonder some destinations in Central and South America, and more recently Portugal, have become very popular with senior Americans. They find life expenses there more affordable, the social environment stimulating, the lifestyle more exciting, the climate and nature attractive, and worldwide travel opportunities quite easy.
3. Do I need a passport to arrange my retirement and life overseas?
A passport is essential. It is normally required for crossing international borders when traveling around the world, regardless of the planned duration of stay at the destination. Travel and more can be facilitated by a properly chosen second passport, the issuance of which is greatly simplified by citizenship through investment programs.
4. Do I need to inform the government of my home country about my retirement and relocation abroad for permanent residence?
No, you needn’t. But potential expats who are interested in retirement abroad are advised to notify the local embassy/consulate (of the historical homeland/another country of citizenship) about their presence in the new country. This step will provide additional security and some possible benefits.
5. What happens when an expat retiree dies abroad?
In such a situation, relatives should notify the local embassy/consulate of the deceased retiree’s home country, to ensure cancellation of the passport. The diplomatic mission will help arrange repatriation of the remains (if desired).
6. What can happen if one gets arrested after retirement overseas?
When you are in a foreign country as a tourist, resident investor, retirement visa holder, or an individual with some other immigration status, you are of course subject to local laws. If you are arrested for violating local laws, you should immediately contact the consulate of your country of citizenship. Consular officers can only recommend a local lawyer. Know and respect the laws of your country of residence, avoid any chance of getting arrested, whether abroad or at home, and always stay on the safe side!
7. Is vaccination required for overseas retirement?
It all depends on the destination. Some countries require certain vaccinations, especially now with the Covid pandemic. In such cases, a vaccination card might be required.
Please note: the list of the mandatory and recommended vaccinations can vary depending on the current state of health of the traveler/retiree interested in a stay or residence abroad, and on its duration, as well as on the epidemiologic situation in the home and the host countries.
8. Is it safe to drink tap water after relocation for retirement and life abroad?
It depends on the destination. France, for example, offers high-quality tap water that is suitable for drinking, but the taste may not appeal to the expat due to the chemicals used in the pretreatment of H2O. In developing countries, tap water is generally not suitable for drinking. The simplest strategy (recommended by experienced travelers) is to drink bottled or filtered water everywhere.
9. How safe is the life of an expat retiree in the host country?
The destinations recommended by InternationalWealth experts are deemed safe. However, honestly, is there any place in the world that is absolutely free from crime? While enjoying the life of a retiree abroad, please remember to lock the front door of your apartment, don’t leave your keys in the car, and be careful if you wear expensive jewelry or watches when going out.
10. Are earthquakes/hurricanes likely in the state chosen for my retirement abroad?
Again, it all depends on the destination. Panama, for example, is outside the hurricane belt, but it sometimes gets hit with earthquakes. A similar example is Grenada, a Caribbean country outside the hurricane belt that often suffers from earthquakes. Looking on the brighter side, Grenada has no army and no armed conflict risks. An additional advantage is the opportunity to obtain a second passport by investing legally, effortlessly, and very quickly into some attractive property.
11. Are there any poisonous bugs/snakes in the country I have chosen for my overseas retirement?
The habitat of mosquitoes, midges, cockroaches, and spiders is the entire world! The risk of running into some poisonous reptile is likely both in the jungle and in ordinary neighborhoods. You can encounter snakes in any state of the USA. But has it ever really happened to you? Look online for information on dangerous creatures and other relevant facts to learn more about your prospective new homeland.
12. Will I continue to receive Social Security/retirement benefits when I move abroad?
As a rule, yes. But we recommend that you should consult with InternationalWealth experts beforehand so that you can dot your i’s and cross your t’s and avoid unpleasant surprises in the future.
13. Will the health insurance system of my home country cover health care services abroad after my retirement?
Generally not – the major exception being if you are moving from one EU country to another. Certain other state healthcare systems do cover you on short trips abroad, but not for permanent relocation.
When arranging your retirement abroad, private medical insurance is advisable and in some cases compulsory. You should get a special insurance plan to cover the likely medical expenses. This is very important if you have some pre-existing medical conditions, and even more important because of many temporary restrictions and new regulations imposed worldwide because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if you have never lived in the EU, some EU countries may give you access to state medical care if you arrange your permanent residence. Besides, you will find very reasonably priced healthcare services and affordable insurance plans in some countries. But this needs to be researched in advance, as healthcare in some countries is very expensive.
You are welcome to look up the relevant articles on our portal to learn about health care and health insurance options abroad in general – and the country of your choice in particular. You can also book a free consultation with our experts by writing to our e-mail address given at the top of this page.
14. Will my laptop/mobile phone be inactive or on roaming after my retirement overseas?
Your laptop will work anywhere as long as it has suitable adapters that support a standard local voltage (110 V / 220 V). You may need a socket connector to plug the computer into an outlet in your new home.
For example, in Europe, most Asian countries, and Argentina, the usual 220-volt adapters are used. Most Central and South American countries use American-type 110-volt plugs. Therefore, you will need an adapter when you move. Such devices are sold, for example, in most international airports.
Your cell phone plan might need some adjustments. First, you should find out from the representatives of your current operator whether the company offers coverage in the destination country. Second, find out if roaming is available and what it costs. In the long run, most expats end up with a local mobile number and possibly a cell phone.
15. Will my driver’s license issued in my home country be valid abroad after my retirement overseas?
Yes, it will. Normally, a foreign driver’s license is valid for up to one year of residence in the new country. After this period, most countries will require a local driver’s license/validation of the driver’s license which was issued in the country of origin. The exact rules vary country-by-country.
16. Will I have to learn the local language if I decide to move overseas for retirement?
No, you should not worry about this. In most places, it is possible to live comfortably without learning the official language of the host country. There are communities of expats speaking their national languages, so you can communicate with them. But it is recommended to make an effort and learn the basics of the language of the host country to facilitate integration into the local community.
17. Will food of a certain kind be available in the country where I move to for my retirement abroad?
It all depends on the choice of a particular destination and the local food habits. There are some universal solutions, though. For example, fast food has long become global. A traveler can buy a Coca-Cola and a hamburger almost anywhere on Earth. You can find places like McDonald’s almost anywhere, except in the most remote regions of the planet.
18. Will I be able to get a job abroad during my retirement overseas?
Yes, it is possible in principle, but it would not be easy. As a rule, employment abroad requires a work permit. Such a permit is not easy to obtain if the expat has not got a job invitation from a local employer beforehand. But if you wish you can start a local business, or work as a freelancer over the internet. In such cases, you are welcome to rely on the support of InternationalWealth experts.
19. Will I have the right to vote in local elections during my retirement overseas?
Generally not. A foreigner with a resident status is deprived of such a right, except in a handful of countries. For example, Scotland allows all residents to vote in local elections. The UK allows resident Commonwealth and Irish citizens to vote. EU citizens living in EU Countries are generally allowed to vote in local and European elections, but not national elections. But these are the exceptions rather than the rule. To vote in the national government elections, you normally need to become a citizen of the host country. Please note that residency is not citizenship.
20. Will my credit/debit cards be valid abroad in case of my retirement overseas?
There shouldn’t be any problems with bank cards. However, before you use your cards abroad, you should find out what kind of fee the issuing bank will charge. Many financial institutions that issue bank cards charge quite high fees for transactions in foreign currencies.
If you have a card, for example in U.S. dollars, you won’t have any problems moving to countries like Panama, where the U.S. dollars are used. However, remember that the bank may charge a foreign transaction fee abroad.
Please note that the terms and conditions for some credit/debit cards, including travel-related cards, do not include transaction fees. For example, airline-sponsored credit cards tend to offer better deals.
21. Can I take my car with me when moving abroad after my retirement?
Yes, you can do so. There are usually no prohibitions. But usually, the shipment of a vehicle costs a lot of money. Unless it is a retro car dear to your heart as a memory, we do not recommend such pricey trouble. It will be easier and cheaper to buy or rent a car locally, or even import a new one.
22. How much does it cost to move abroad for retirement?
The amount depends on the needs of the traveler. If it is a matter of packing a couple of suitcases to hit the road, the total cost can be surprisingly modest (in fact, it will be the sum of an air ticket price plus some minor expenses).
However, if you want to officially obtain a residence permit to settle in the host country, you should be prepared to spend from several thousand to several hundred thousand U.S. dollars or the equivalent in another currency (the costs will include the legal fees, the state duties, and possible investments, plus the transfer, other practicalities).
If you decide to ship your chattels to the destination in a container, you should be prepared to pay about $10,000 or more (the specific amount depends on where the retiree is moving from and to). You should also plan the research and travel expenses for finding the best destination and new home for the retiree abroad.
Expert support when planning retirement overseas
You have worked hard in your life to retire in a location where you can enjoy every day, where your values and abilities can be appreciated.
The selection of just the right spot on the globe for your retirement overseas is a far-reaching and exciting exercise involving research, consultations, and perhaps some field trip to the country of your choice. This way can be shorter and cost-effective if you rely on advice from experienced professionals.
Expert support is available from InternationalWealth. You are welcome to send us your questions. Don’t be shy to ask about whatever you need to know! It’s never bad to want to learn things before you make important decisions. This is especially true in the case of costly aspirations and tight time limits. The InternationalWealth experts invite you to discuss and connect all the dots in your immigration, citizenship, and residency expectations and opportunities.
To book a FREE consultation, please send us your questions to the e-mail address given above.
How much does it cost to move abroad for retirement?
It all depends on your destination, the size of your luggage, and the immigration mechanisms that will be used to legally relocate you to your desired destination. You should book a free consultation with our experts to estimate the relevant approximate costs.
Is moving overseas for retirement selfish?
The decision to move anywhere, let alone across the world, is a purely private matter. But the motivation is rarely driven by selfish urges. For example, some retirees decide to relocate for work, for the sake of their partner’s wellbeing, or to move closer to where their loved ones live.
Is it worth applying for a gold visa/economic citizenship when moving abroad?
Such economic immigration solutions are not a must, but you should be aware of the benefits they offer. For example, participation in such a program can expedite your move and give you full access to all local health care resources. Look up the details on our portal, and ask our experts to guide you to your objectives.