Living abroad can be an attractive and affordable way to spend retirement.
And many countries offer visas specifically for American retirees. While often temporary, they are usually the start of a pathway to permanent residence.
There are certainly to retiring abroad, including dealing with taxes, ensuring you’ll have access to health care and possibly differences in language. But it can also be a unique adventure for the next chapter in your life.
Following are a handful of countries that are relatively friendly to American retirees, along with some basic information about the process of getting a retirement visa in each.
Panama is a narrow country at the southern tip of Central America, guaranteeing you’re never too far from ocean views regardless of where you call home. Its area is slightly smaller than South Carolina.
Aside from its famous canal, the Spanish-speaking country is known for having one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America and having an active expat community in the mountain town of Boquete.
You’ll need to obtain an immigration lawyer in Panama to submit your visa application and a health certificate issued by a doctor in Panama. Other requirements include an income of at least $1,000 per month, an FBI background check, a certified birth certificate and a valid passport.
This program, known as Panama Pensionado, comes with all kinds of service and entertainment discounts as well as an exemption for the import tax on household goods and new cars.
For more information: Embassy of Panama
This English-speaking country on the Caribbean coast of Central America is home to Mayan ruins, jungle wilderness and the second-largest barrier reef in the world.
Its Qualified Retirement Program is open to people age 45 or older with an income of at least $2,000 per month who pass a security check. The program requires you to spend at least 30 consecutive days per year in Belize, but you’re free to gallivant around Central America the rest of the year.
The program comes with some benefits, including tax exemptions on income, capital gains and inheritance; import tax exemptions on personal property, cars, boats and aircraft; and the ability to purchase land or a home.
For more information: Belize Tourism Board
The archipelago of Indonesia is home to about 276 million people, making it the fourth-most populous country in the world. What’s one more?
The country, which has its own language, offers one-year renewable retirement visas. You’ll need to find a sponsorship travel agent in Indonesia to apply. Other requirements include proof of income and a place to stay, life insurance, health insurance and liability insurance. It is possible to acquire a permanent stay visa known as the KITAP after four years.
For more information: Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia
4. The Philippines
The Philippines is another Asian island nation that welcomes American retirees. English is one of the two official languages here.
To apply for the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa, you’ll need to be at least 50 years old and receive medical and police clearance. There are different paths to qualify. For the two most common, you’ll need to deposit at least $20,000 in a bank here or deposit $10,000 with proof of sufficient monthly pension income.
The visa grants benefits including a one-time import tax exclusion on personal effects worth up to $7,000, a number of discounts and health benefits.
For more information: Philippine Retirement Authority
Thailand’s famous temples, palaces and beaches could be yours to explore if you’re age 50 or older, the U.S. Embassy in Thailand says.
You’ll need proof of monthly retirement income equal to 65,000 baht, or about $1,800. Another option is to maintain at least 800,000 baht (more than $22,000) in a Thai bank. You’ll also need to complete a background check and receive medical approval.
For more information: Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs
6. New Zealand
If you want to live out retirement like the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, New Zealand isn’t out of reach if your pockets are deep enough.
“Temporary” retirement visas are available to those age 66 or older who are prepared to invest at least $750,000 New Zealand dollars — which as of early 2023 was less than $500,000 in U.S. dollars — in the country for two years. That’s in addition to the NZD $500,000 ($316,000 USD) you’re required to have to live on as well as NZD $60,000 ($38,000 USD) in annual income. This visa can be renewed after two years.
In addition to other requirements, you must prove good health and good character with a medical exam and a background check.
The nation of Mauritius isn’t exactly a household name, but this gorgeous island east of Madagascar has a relatively low bar to entry for retiring Americans. The main requirement is a monthly income of $1,500, and visas are available to those 50 years or older. You’ll need to undergo a background check covering the last 10 years.
The initial residency period is 10 years, but you can subsequently apply for a 20-year permanent residence permit. The money transferred into the country is not taxed; there’s no wealth tax or inheritance tax either.
8. South Africa
Another option available to those seeking a retirement in Africa is the 32nd largest economy in the world, according to the CIA. Retirees can apply for a long-term temporary resident visa to South Africa provided they can prove a monthly income of at least 37,000 rand, which was roughly $2,000 in the U.S. as of early 2023. It’s possible to later apply for permanent residency.