As one gets older, the thought of where you want to settle is raised and over the years retiring abroad has fast become a new and exciting adventure for many. However, the legalities and practicalities of making the adventure workable are important and depend on the choices you make and can determine how simple or difficult the journey in reaching your goal will be.

Destination is of course important as are the pros and cons of each location including weather and food however, this is not the only consideration that has to be made. Below are just a few points to consider:

  • What type of visa is most suitable for me?
  • What are my rights and obligations as an international retiree?
  • Can my family freely come to visit me?
  • Do I need to pay tax locally?
  • Can I acquire a property?
  • What rules apply for my succession?
  • Do I need a will in the country of destination ?

At Harvey Law Group (HLG), we have 30 years of experience in advising private clients on their global mobility options, and we have developed a unique expertise when it comes to retirement abroad.

1. Choose your destination

The first and most exciting decision to make is where exactly you want to retire.

The world is your oyster and there are so many amazing options. Currently, the most popular locations are Portugal, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia. These are based on objective factors including health care, climate, cost of living and ease of securing a visa. Asia is also another top destination as it also offers many interesting options, especially when it comes to affordable private health care and weather.

2. Choose your immigration or long term stay visa path wisely

The destination could widen the options available to you and the pathway taken in reaching where you want to go whether through a citizenship-by-descent, citizenship-by-investment, a nomad visa or a retirement visa.

For example, some countries offer citizenship-by-descent, meaning that as long as a parent or grandparent was born there, you can apply for full citizenship and receive all its associated benefits. Ideally, that country will also allow you to keep your citizenship i.e. hold dual citizenship, so you do not lose the ability to easily travel or move back home. Countries that allow for dual citizenship-by-descent include Australia, Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and several more.

In other countries such as Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey and Vanuatu, citizenship-by-investment programs are the most effective way to secure an alternative citizenship and passport with all its benefits and rights to retire, in exchange of a dedicated investment.

An increasingly popular trend emerged few years ago and now many countries have initiated nomad visas as a means of tourism and economic stimulation. Those visas (often referred as digital nomad visas, remote visa, or freelancer visas) is a burgeoning visa stream that combines the perks of working remotely with the bonus of living abroad and are currently available in over 25 countries such as the Bahamas, Iceland, Mauritius, Taiwan, etc.

If an alternative citizenship or a nomad visa is not what you are looking for, then consideration of the destinations visa requirements is important. Visa type and requirements vary widely: a temporary residency permit might be limited in time or renewable and will naturally come with paper works and renewal fees. You will often have to live in the country for a certain number of years before you can apply for permanent residency if that is your end goal.

Some countries, such as Thailand, the Philippines, Colombia and Panama, have visas specific to retirees who can demonstrate that they show a minimum monthly income while some other countries offer residency to foreigners who make real estate purchases.

3. Choose your housing option

Your first instinct might be to buy property in your adopted country; however, one should not assume that the real estate market or homebuying standards are the same abroad as in your native country. Some countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have important restrictions on where – and what – foreigners can buy and own legally.

If you are set on buying, it is important to first explore your options with the help of a qualified lawyer who understands the local market and can advise you on both the immigration and the property angles. A reputable lawyer can advise you on the possible restrictions you will come up against, assess any potential legal complications for any properties you are interested in and assist you in opening a local bank account and the possibility – or impossibility – of securing local financing for your purchase.

Renting could be a safer option, at least when you first arrive in the country and you are exploring where you might want to settle, but again the rental process in other countries is often very different and can include providing a substantial security deposit, a requirement to pay a full year ahead, or unique modalities related to renting a furnished property.

4. Choose your lawyer carefully

In most countries, immigration is restricted to authorized immigration lawyer to guide and advise you and your family. Retiring abroad does have an immigration component, hence making your own research and due diligence on the type of professional you seek assistance to is highly recommended. Unlike agents or non-authorized firms, a professional immigration lawyer has an obligation to advise on the best destination and program most suited to your objectives and lifestyle.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.