Dateline: Derry, Northern Ireland
I first became an expat 31 years ago when I legally emigrated to the United States and successfully pursued a green card. Years later, I left the US, surrendered my green card, and became a legal permanent resident of Belize.
After that, I became a citizen of the United Kingdom. And, as I write this, I am in Ireland in the early stages of pursuing Irish citizenship for my wife and myself.
I mention all of this because I want you to know that I’m not an armchair enthusiast; I’m someone who’s actually gone through the process of picking up and moving to another place and dealt with the paperwork hassle in order to comply with all the laws and procedures to eventually obtain legal residency or even citizenship.
So, do you want to know what I tell close friends who are thinking of becoming expats? I tell them to hurry up. Here’s why.
The noose is tightening everywhere
In one person’s lifetime, the population of the planet has more than doubled. Accordingly, the number of people in cities and countries has hugely increased. In the more ‘desirable’ places — especially the ones where bombs aren’t dropping — cities have massively expanded with foreign-born residents.
The backlash to that is that native-born people in many countries are telling politicians they “want their country back.” Consequently, anti-immigration rhetoric is a real vote-getter these days.
And, make no mistake, while we call ourselves ‘expats’ we are considered ‘immigrants’ when we arrive in another country.
Over time, it seems like the conditions that must be met in order to legally emigrate are becoming more stringent in every major country, not more lax. In countries that have outright economic citizenship programs (i.e. pay money, get a passport) the costs increase regularly and by significant amounts. Many economic citizenship programs have been terminated completely under pressure from the US and other OECD countries that don’t want their milk cows getting off the dairy farm.
Become an expat, don’t get in the box
Now, maybe it’s because I make all my income online and mentor other people to do the same — which means my friends and colleagues live in a world of flexibility and many options — but one of the elements I’ve noticed is how every country wants you to move from one box into another.
As governments go broke, they are increasingly interested in finding people who can pay them a known quantity of money on a regular basis. For example, to comply with the rules to live in places like the UK and Ireland you have to earn a certain income, bank in a local bank, report your assets on tax forms, pay taxes, and do all that other stuff that makes you the low hanging fruit for financing the ambitions of politicians.
The options for living outside the box are shrinking, not increasing.
Good options for expats still exist. But there is no denying that the global trend is moving toward fewer options and more red tape as time goes by. There really is no advantage to wait any longer than your personal situation makes absolutely necessary. This is why I tell my friends who want to live a life of increased freedom and financial options to hurry up. It won’t get any easier or cheaper than it is right now.