Your Moving Guide: The Top 4 Easiest European Countries to Move to from the US
Your Moving Guide: The 4 Easiest European Countries to Move to from the US – Although everyone has their own reasons for wishing to make the move abroad, many of us move simply because we want to improve our quality of life. As you probably know, it’s quite true that the general culture and way of life in Europe prioritizes enjoying life over working long hours.
Europe is an excellent place to prioritize your own way of life and get more value on your American-earned income. Several European countries are known for their relatively slow pace of life and emphasis on simple pleasures. With a generally lower cost of living, affordable healthcare, and improved safety, Europe is where many Americans are setting their sights. Of course, many Americans are already familiar with basking in Europe’s fascinating history, magnificent architecture, and spectacular landscapes, but living there calls for a different outlook.
Even though the U.S. passport is ranked as the 7th strongest passport in the world, you want to make your move to your new destination as stress-free as possible by choosing a country that matches your unique needs. Our list of these 4 European countries offers a window into a different way of life, with an improved standard of living, affordable healthcare, lower language barriers, thriving expat communities, and tons of travel opportunities out and about.
Things to Consider About the Easiest European Countries to Move to from the US
One of the first things you must consider is the type of visa you can qualify for and how it can aid you towards achieving permanent residency or even citizenship. Your visa options will depend on where your income will come from and how your savings can support you during your transition.
Another important factor is, of course, taxes. As a US citizen, your worldwide income will be subject to US income tax wherever you choose to live. With this in mind, you should always choose a destination with favorable tax policies to make your tax needs less stressful.
While English is widely used in the countries on our list, learning the local language can help you better and more quickly integrate into your new home base. Even more importantly, keep in mind that the new country has its own customs, traditions, laws, and regulations. It’s always prudent to start reading and immerse yourself in the culture and daily life in the new location.
Portugal: Open Immigration Policies, Great Weather, and Warm People
Portugal is one of the best European countries to move to from the US and there are many stories to back that up. In particular, Expat Empire’s founder, David, came to the country in 2019 and has been there ever since. Let’s cover some of the main reasons that US expats consider Portugal as their new home base:
- The 2022 Global Peace Index places Portugal as the sixth safest country in the world.
- The entire country enjoys a mild climate, with drier weather in the South and rainier weather in the North.
- Citizens and Residents of Portugal enjoy a well-developed (and remarkably affordable) healthcare system.
- The cost of living here is considerably lower than in the US and even lower when compared to other European Union countries.
- English is a common language spoken in large cities and tourist spots like the Algarve, Porto, and Lisbon.
- Everywhere you go, you’ll find great food and wine, magnificent monuments, and a wealth of natural beauty.
A Major Draw: Portugal’s Open Immigration Policies
Portugal allows dual nationality and many expats choose between the two most popular routes to permanent residency – the D7 passive income visa and their Golden Visa program. Other more traditional visa options include the student visa and the work visa.
The D7 Visa (aka Passive Income Visa) is ideal for anyone who earns sufficient regular passive income from abroad from sources such as rental, interest, pension, dividends, or intellectual property. After receiving the visa and moving to Portugal, foreigners can maintain temporary residency for a maximum of 5 years. Once those 5 years are up, foreigners may apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Portugal also has one of the lowest income requirements for residency visas; you only have to earn a minimum of €800 per month to qualify for the D7 Visa.
Alternatively, some expats choose to move to Portugal using the Golden Visa. This option requires property investment, capital investment, or funds investment in Portugal in exchange for a temporary residency. The minimum requirement is €280,000 for residential real estate investments, €500,000 for funds investment, or €1,500,000 for capital investment. To maintain residency, holders of a Golden Visa only need to be present in the country for 7 days per year!
In Portugal, you can find thriving expat communities in places like Lisbon, Porto, Lagos, and Tavira. One of the island groups off the mainland, Madeira especially has a popular remote worker hub especially since they recently launched their Digital Nomads Village. Overall, the climate is quite agreeable and the tax regime is one of the easiest compared to other European countries. This is exemplified by the Non-Habitual Residency tax program, which exempts foreigners from Portuguese taxes for 10 years as long as their income is taxed in another country.
Spain: Incredible Food, Rich History, and a Laid-Back Lifestyle
Spain is famous around the world for its spectacular culture, relaxed way of life, and friendly people. Countless expats from within Europe, the US, and beyond spend their days enjoying all that Spain has to offer:
- Spain is known for its low cost of living when compared with most other EU countries.
- Cities all the way to small towns enjoy easily accessible public transportation, including high-speed trains between major metropolitan areas.
- The state-run healthcare system is highly regarded and affordable.
- Mainland Spain has a diverse climate ranging from the rainy Northern regions to the almost desert-like Inland South. Much of the country also has a year-round pleasant climate with places like Andalusia and the Canary Islands, which both attract many retirees.
- Spain’s largest city and capital, Madrid, is known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle and incredible culture and history. Meanwhile, Spain’s second-largest city and capital of the Catalonia region, Barcelona, is considered a global technology, fashion, culinary, and cultural hotspot. Other cities with thriving expat communities to consider include Málaga, Granada, and Valencia.
- While some expats may find the language barrier outside tourist areas and major cities a bit challenging, the country is pushing its younger generation to learn English.
The Top 4 Easiest European Countries to Move to from the US – Attractive Opportunities: Spain’s Great Visa Options
There are plenty of ways for Americans to move to Spain. Beyond the traditional Work Visa and Student Visa pathways, the Golden Visa, Digital Nomad Visa, and Non-Lucrative Visa are the most popular options for expats from around the world.
The Non-Lucrative Visa (aka Non-Working Visa) is the easiest to obtain and offers a viable path to residency for investors and retirees. Much like Portugal’s version, this visa is granted with proof of legitimate income from foreign sources such as property or investments. However, this visa does not allow employment with Spanish or international businesses. The approval gives a 1-year resident permit, with two 2-year renewals and eligibility for permanent residency after 5 years. After 10 total years of living in Spain, foreigners are eligible for citizenship.
Spain’s Golden Visa program has three options: property investment, financial investments in a Spanish company, or public debt investments. These investments range from €500,000 to €2,000,000 and open up eligibility for temporary residency. Amazingly, there is no requirement to live in Spain while holding a Golden Visa.
In Summer 2022, Spain announced the implementation of a Digital Nomad Visa that allows you to live in the country for up to one year. This visa is part of the government’s initiative to drive growth in its less populated regions where there are limited job opportunities. When certain conditions are met, digital nomads may extend the visa for up to three years total. Stay tuned for official details as this exciting new option is rolled out.
Malta: Warm Weather, Low Taxes, and Diverse Culture
Malta is a very small island group in the Mediterranean Sea between the Italian island of Sicily and North Africa, though it’s an attractive European home base for expats. A full member of the European Union, Malta has come a long way in recent decades and has many benefits:
- The southerly location and position in the middle of the Mediterranean mean that the weather is warm and sunny year-round.
- The Maltese food culture has been informed by strong influences from Sicilian, Tunisian, Greek, Turkish, and British cuisines. The seafood, in particular, is worth writing home about.
- Malta has been a trading stopover for thousands of years, leading to impressive architectural landmarks and archaeological sites.
- The small island country enjoys some of the fastest Internet per capita around the world.
- A former British colony, Malta has a strong influence from the United Kingdom. This is best seen on the streets as nearly 90% of the population speaks English.
- Malta has a favorable tax regime for American expats and businesses.
- Malta consistently ranks near the top of the world rankings for their affordable and efficient healthcare system.
- There are thriving expat communities around St Julian’s, Vittoriosa, Senglea, Cospicua, and Sliema.
A Digital Nomad’s Dream: Malta’s Visa Programs
Apart from the traditional visa programs, Malta runs a highly popular Digital Nomad Visa and an easier Golden Visa. Plus, because Malta is part of the Schengen area and the EU, Maltese citizens, and residents can visit other Schengen countries and EU countries visa-free.
Malta’s Digital Nomad Visa allows foreigners to stay for one year and renew for up to a maximum of 3 years while working remotely. The only requirements are that you meet the gross income threshold of €2,700 per month and work for an employer in a foreign country, whether as a partner, shareholder, or offering consulting services or freelancing services.
For Malta’s Golden Visa, foreigners only need €30,000 for the visa application, followed by a specific investment. This Golden Visa also gives you the chance to work for a Maltese employer and be eligible for citizenship between 1 to 3 years. The investments possible include a donation of €600,000 to the national development fund, purchasing residential investment of at least €700,000, or philanthropic donations of at least €100,000 and an additional €50,000 for family members.
Greece: A Long History, Affordable Living, and Incredible Weather
Greece is an amazing country known for its rich history that goes back several thousands of years. These days, it’s a dynamic and modern country and a great destination for tourists. Let’s cover why many expats choose to call Greece their home:
- Greece has an ancient and diverse food culture, with influences from the Middle East, Anatolia, North Africa, the Balkans, Italy, Spain, and beyond. The Greek diet is known to be much healthier than most European cuisines, full of olive oil, yogurt, and fresh vegetables.
- Greece has a low cost of living in comparison to other Western European countries, even though it has been a member of the European Union for decades.
- The country has a mountainous mainland as well as over 200 inhabited islands in the Aegean Sea, offering plenty of small-town life and privacy.
- The major cities of Athens and Thessaloniki are excellent places to find thriving expat communities.
Taking Your Piece of History: Greece’s Visa Programs
Greece is one of the several European countries that offer both a Digital Nomad Visa and a Golden Visa. Like the three countries we covered before it, Greece is a member of the European Union and the Schengen Area, enabling visa-free travel throughout the EU and a few other countries for all citizens and residents.
The Digital Nomad program has been especially popular due to Greece’s stunning natural beauty and great weather, enabling all sorts of outdoor activities throughout the year. For the first six months of holding a Digital Nomad visa, residents do not need to pay any taxes in Greece. After two years of living in Greece, all residents qualify for a 50% reduction in taxes. This visa is issued for one year and is renewable two more times for three years total.
Greece’s Golden Visa program enables foreigners to obtain residency by making investments of at least €250,000 on real estate properties or a lump sum 10-year lease agreement on a property. Foreigners may also invest at least €400,000 in government bonds, shares in a Greek real estate investment, or shares in a Greek corporation. Like Spain, there is no minimum residency requirement while holding a Golden Visa. After 7 years of being a resident of Greece, foreigners may qualify for citizenship.
Your Expert Guidance for Moving to Europe
No matter how easy these European countries may seem, choosing the right one can be a puzzle. You must consider which visa is available to you depending on your income, savings, family situation, health conditions, and age. You also have to consider which areas in a country might work best for your situation. It’s a lot of big decisions and advice is always necessary.
Are you ready to explore your options? We can help. Check out our various consulting services which can cover practically everything you’ll need to know about your move to Europe or beyond. Our Destination Comparison service will give you the data you need to pick which city or country you should move to next. For on-the-ground help, consider our free Connect with Our Partners service. We will help you create a holistic strategy to make your transition into Europe effortless. Before you make a decision, take advantage of our Free Consultation Call to discover which European country is best for you.