updated 10:42 PM CEST, Jul 30, 2020

Expat-focused publisher reports ‘massive surge’ in Americans seeking info on moving abroad

Expat-focused publisher reports ‘massive surge’ in Americans seeking info on moving abroad © International Living

International Living, an Ireland-based magazine and news website for expatriates, said it has registered a “massive”, five-fold “surge” in the number of Americans checking out its online facility that provides information on moving out of the U.S.

The company revealed the tidal wave of in American interest in expatriating in a press release this week.

“Over the last three months, International Living has seen a surge of 504.97% in traffic” to its “How to Move Out of the U.S.” website page, the publication said on Wednesday.

Jennifer Stevens Intl Living Exec Editor croppedThis increase, since May, suggests that Americans “are looking to escape,” International Living executive editor Jennifer Stevens, pictured left, notes, in the press release.

“First, there’s the uncertainty surrounding the election, which drives people to consider a ‘Plan B’, should their preferred candidate lose. We saw this same trend in 2016, though to a lesser degree.

“This year, in addition, the pandemic has created huge financial challenges for millions of people whose jobs have evaporated. Worried about staying afloat in the States, it stands to reason that they’re looking right now to explore good-value places abroad, where their dollars will stretch further.

“Plus, it’s clear other countries have handled the COVID-19 situation better than the U.S. has.

"[These other countries] are now opening up again, while many parts of the U.S. seem headed for a second shutdown.

"I think that makes people pause and conside where [they would] would rather be [the] next time something like this happens? What places seem to have their act together?”

This interest in relocating overseas comes at a time when dozens of countries around the world have closed their borders temporarily to Americans, owing to the high U.S. Covid-19 infection rate. These barriers will be eventually be lifted, though, International Living points out.

In the meantime, it seems that many of those stuck at home are considering their options online – and checking out the International Living website when they do. 

“In greater numbers, they’re using search terms like, 'moving out of the U.S.',  'I want to move out of the U.S.', 'moving out of America',  'how to leave America', and 'leaving America' – with the top search volume coming under the phrase 'how to move out of the United States',” International Living reports.

Countries of particular interest: Belize,
Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy

Those showing an interest in migrating abroad have shown a particular interest in such potential destinations as Belize, Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica and Italy, International Living says its data shows, with online traffic to its website pages for these areas “up as much as 798.01%” (in the case of Belize, pictured above) since May.

Individuals considering such destinations are presumed to be interested in their potential to lower their cost of living while at the same time raising the quality of life they are able to enjoy.

And they are right to be asking this question, Stevens says, since it is a fact that “on a budget that would have you living hand-to-mouth in the States, you could live extremely well in a place where health insurance can cost less than US$1,000 a year, you could have a housekeeper help you out three days a week for US$135 a month, and rent on a furnished two-bedroom home could be US$750 or even less".

“People may be seeking information on moving abroad because they feel pushed to do so right now, but once they see how far their dollars can stretch, I predict they’ll feel encouraged and excited by the prospects they have.”

Range of factors

The International Living findings that suggest a growing willingness on the part of Americans to consider moving overseas concur with observations others have been making over the past year or so.

As reported, A CBS News report last year found that the number of Americans who are heading overseas to retire leapt by 40% between 2007 and 2017, according to Social Security Administration data, and noted that the trend was expected to continue, owing to what it said was the fact that growing numbers of Baby Boomers are discovering they didn't save enough to maintain their standard of living at home.

The report, headlined "American 'economic refugees' are increasingly retiring abroad", noted that although the median amount Americans hitting age 65 currently have set aside for their retirements is US$152,000 – "the highest of any working generation" – "one in five say they haven't yet recovered from the recession" and might never do so.

Meanwhile, since that report was unveiled in September, media reports over the last few months have increasingly revealed a growing disillusionment on the part of many Americans with their country’s insurance-based medical system, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic having highlighted its shortcomings, particularly with respect to those who lack employer-sponsored plans, or who had such plans but lost them when they lost their jobs recently. 

One story that went global was a report out of Seattle, Washington last month that described how a 70-year-old man had been hit with a US$1.12m bill for his 62-day stay in hospital during which he was treated for Covid-19. 

"Nearly a quarter of the bill was made up of drug costs," the UK-based Daily Mail noted in its version of the story.  

Luckily for the man in question, though, the article went on, he had health insurance, so "almost all of the charges will likely be picked up by the taxpayer due to special financial rules put in place by Congress" to help hospitals and insurance companies to defray unexpected costs resulting from the pandemic. Not all Americans enjoy such coverage, critics of the U.S. healthcare system say, and for those who have to pay for it out of their own pocket, particularly if they are retired and have pre-existing conditions, it can be prohibitively expensive.  

Also said to be considering their options, not just in the U.S., are wealthy individuals who anticipate that their income tax rates are set to soar, as the countries in which they currently live seek to pay for the money they've had to pour into Covid-19 emergency measures. Such individuals these days can choose from a range of low-tax destinations that compete to offer them tax residency and/or eventual citizenship in exchange for investment, helped by a growing number of companies that specialize in advising such individuals.

Portugal 'No. 1 for retirement' in 2020

As reported here in January, Portugal leapt six places to top International Living's latest edition of its Global Retirement Index, which ranks countries around the world on their suitability for individuals of all nationalities who are looking to retire in a country other than the one in which they currently live.

The next five jurisdictions in order are in Latin America, possibly reflecting an American perspective, since these countries – Panama, Costa Rico, Mexico, Columbia and Ecuador – happen to be popular with American retirees, many of whom would have emigrated to the U.S. from these countries originally, or otherwise have family links. (See table, below, along with last year's ranking.) Intl Living Top 10 Retirement Index 2020