The Most Welcoming Countries to Expats

July 31, 2019 by John Harrington

Expats are people living outside of their native country. The reasons they are doing so include jobs and career, lifestyle choices, education, and for love and family.

For many expats, the decision to live in a particular country might stem from having visited it on vacation and enjoyed the experience so much that they want to stay there for an extended amount of time. These are the most tourist-friendly countries in the world.

When people choose to live outside of their home country, chances are they do so for a long time. According to the latest InterNations survey, “Expat Insider 2018: The World Through Expat Eyes,” 32% of respondents planned to live in another nation possibly forever, and another 19% intended to live in their adopted country for five years or longer.

If you were to take a snapshot of a typical expat, it is slightly more likely to be a woman, in her mid-40s with a university degree, in a relationship, and without dependent children abroad.

Where do expats go and why? The InterNations’ fifth annual survey addressed those questions and others in its latest survey. A total of 18,135 expats participated in the survey. They represented 178 nationalities living in 187 countries or territories. The higher number of respondents boosted the number of expat destinations to 68 in the overall rankings. Participants were asked to rate up to 48 factors regarding living abroad on a scale of 1 to 7. Respondents’ ratings were then combined into 17 subcategories and their mean values were used to create five indices — quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, family life, and personal finance.

Eight of the top 15 nations were in Latin America and Asia. Panama, Ecuador, and Australia — all top 15 nations on the survey — had the most dramatic improvement from the previous rankings, all of them rising by at least 22 positions. Countries that fell in the latest survey included Switzerland, Sweden, Romania, and Hong Kong, all of which tumbled by at least 17 positions, and obviously not among the top 15 most welcoming nations for expats.

The United States did not fare well in the survey, coming in 47th out of 68 countries. America declined in all five of the survey’s indices. Expats found America’s health-care system difficult to navigate and the cost of living in the United States is high. There were also concerns among expats about political stability in the United States. This was a contributing factor as to why some nations don’t like the United States — these are the countries with the most and least disrespect for America.

Click here to see the most welcoming countries to expats.

Source: RossHelen / Getty Images

15. Luxembourg
> Ease of settling in: 40th out of 68
> Working abroad: 9th out of 68

The tiny Western European nation ranked first in the safety and security section of the quality of life index for expats as well as first for economy and job security under the working abroad part of the index. Luxembourg also was in the top three countries for expats in the ease of going through the registration process and opening a bank account, categories under the ease of settling in index.

Source: HuyThoai / Getty Images

14. Vietnam
> Ease of settling in: 31st out of 68
> Working abroad: 7th out of 68

Vietnam got a thumbs up for cost of living from 91% of expats. They think their household income is more than enough to cover their expenses in the Southeastern Asian nation. Vietnam ranked third in the cost-of-living index. It ranked second in the career prospects and satisfaction part of the working abroad index, and first in where it’s easy to apply for a job. Also in the ease-of-settling-in index, Vietnam ranked highly in friendliness (sixth) and finding friends (12th).

Source: DavorLovincic / Getty Images

13. Panama
> Ease of settling in: 27th out of 68
> Working abroad: 16th out of 68

Panama has shown dramatic improvement on the list, moving up 23 places to 13th in 2018 from 36th the previous year, the biggest gain of any country. Respondents were satisfied with their life abroad and nearly four out of five were satisfied with their financial situation. The survey showed expats in Panama were more encouraged by their career prospects. The Central American nation was boosted by the expansion of the Panama Canal, which improved business outlook.

Source: ymgerman / Getty Images

12. Australia
> Ease of settling in: 19th out of 68
> Working abroad: 13th out of 68

Australia recovered much of the ground it lost in 2017, and is 12th on the current Expat Insider list. Among the areas where Australia improved were personal finance, quality of life, and ease of settling in. Expats liked the weather down under, which allowed them to explore nature more frequently. As many as 38% of expats in Australia inquired about gaining citizenship after moving there, a high percentage.

Source: tupungato / Getty Images

11. New Zealand
> Ease of settling in: 22nd out of 68
> Working abroad: 10th out of 68

New Zealand is considered to be one of the world’s digital havens, and 93% of expats were happy with the availability of online services, the third-highest score. It was easy to open a bank account there, boosting New Zealand’s ranking among nations for ease of settling in. New Zealand ranked highly in the working abroad categories for work and leisure (seventh) and economy and job security (14th), and the family life category of availability of childcare and education (third). A high percentage of expats, 31%, inquired about gaining citizenship after moving to New Zealand.

Source: pedrosz / Flickr

10. Czechia (The Czech Republic)
> Ease of settling in: 53rd out of 68
> Working abroad: 3rd out of 68

Czechia, also known as the Czech Republic, was boosted by high scores for working abroad and family life, where it places third in each index. Job satisfaction, job security, and career prospects made Czechia attractive for expats in the working abroad index. Good childcare options, quality of education and affordability of raising children boosted the central European country’s family life index scores.

Source: pedrosz / Flickr

9. Colombia
> Ease of settling in: 9th out of 68
> Working abroad: 32nd out of 68

Colombia was in the top 15 countries for expats on the strength of its showing in the personal finance index, where it ranked first. The South American nation also ranked fifth among the 68 nations for low cost of living. In terms of ease of settling in, Colombia ranked highly in measures of finding friends, friendliness, and feeling at home. Colombia also ranked fourth in expat satisfaction for online services, a measure in the quality of life gauge.

Source: LucVi / Getty Images

8. Spain
> Ease of settling in: 7th out of 68
> Working abroad: 43rd out of 68

Spain landed among the top 15 countries for expats by placing third in the quality of life index, with 90% of respondents generally satisfied with life in the Iberian nation. Foreign residents were satisfied with the leisure activity options, the climate, and affordable health care. Expats said the Spanish are friendly to foreign residents and considered the language not difficult to learn. Nine of 10 parents were happy with family life in Spain.

Source: Esdelval / Getty Images

7. Costa Rica
> Ease of settling in: 3rd out of 68
> Working abroad: 38th out of 68

Central and South America have five nations represented in the top 15 nations for expats, and Costa Rica was one of them. The nation with a laid-back culture ranked highly for ease of settling in, and was among the top seven in the categories of feeling at home, finding friends, even if you don’t speak the local language. In terms of quality of life, Costa Rica ranked in the top five nations in leisure options and personal happiness. Expats were drawn to Costa Rica for its rainforests, waterfalls, and beaches.

Source: RossHelen / Getty Images

6. Portugal
> Ease of settling in: 5th out of 68
> Working abroad: 48th out of 68

Expats were drawn to Portugal because of the quality of life. The Iberian nation ranked second in the quality of life index, fifth in ease of settling in, and ninth in family life. As many as 94% of respondents said they were happy with the climate, and respondents were reassured by the country’s high level of personal safety. More than eight out of 10 said the quality of healthcare is good. One-fourth of respondents to the survey were retirees, and the average age of expats in Portugal was 48.9, more than four years older than the survey average.

Source: 3-bs / Flickr

5. Singapore
> Ease of settling in: 18th out of 68
> Working abroad: 14th out of 68

The island city-state south of Malaysia is known for being a well-run, multinational nation and is one of the world’s financial hubs. Singapore ranked fourth out of 68 nations in quality of life, and graded well in the other indexes. What hurt Singapore was its cost of living score, where it placed 58th out of 68 nations. In terms of working abroad, Singapore scored in the top 10 in the subcategories of economy and job security and career prospects and satisfaction. In Singapore, 31% of expats are managers and 9% are entrepreneurs. Singapore was also 12th on the family life index, ranking second only to Finland in the subcategory of quality of education.

Source: atosan / Getty Images

4. Mexico
> Ease of settling in: 2nd out of 68
> Working abroad: 21st of out 68

Mexico was among the most welcoming of nations to expats, 88% of whom were generally satisfied with the nation. Mexico scored highly in the indexes of ease of settling in, personal finance, and cost of living. Mexico ranked first in the subcategory of personal happiness and was second for leisure. The Mexican population was ranked by Expat Insider as the world’s friendliest. Mexico was in the top three in cost of living and personal finance. Some 39% of expats were retirees and more than half of expats said they may stay in Mexico forever.

Source: stockcam / Getty Images

3. Ecuador
> Ease of settling in: 8th out of 68
> Working abroad: 11th out of 68

Expat Insider said Ecuador tumbled in the ratings in 2017, possibly because of the impact of an earthquake. However, the South American nation jumped back into the upper echelon of desired nations for expats, many of whom were retirees seeking a better quality of life, were satisfied with their financial situation, were happy with their leisure choices, and can avail of affordable health-care options. Ecuador also leaped 40 spots in the working abroad portion of the index.

Source: LeoPatrizi / Getty Images

2. Taiwan
> Ease of settling in: 15th out of 68
> Working abroad: 2nd out of 68

Taiwan is a desired destination for expats because of people’s happiness as well as education system. Respondents are content with their job, and are satisfied with the Asian island nation’s quality of life. About 96% of expats rank the healthcare system as affordable, an important factor to them.

Source: Umarali0313 / Wikimedia Commons

> Ease of settling in: 1st out of 68
> Working abroad: 1st out of 68

Bahrain retains its position as the most desired nation for expats for a second year in a row. The Gulf state scores well in settling in and working abroad. Bahrain’s ratings improved among expat families and it is the most highly ranked nation among expat women around the world.