4 (and a half) ways to become an expat

We’ve all read about the spike in the search for moving to Canada should Donald Trump win the U.S. Presidency. One report even claims that at one point the tourism board’s website shut down temporarily because of it. But the truth is that each presidential election year American’s threaten to leave the country, and literally no one ever does. Whether it’s because their outrage dies or the fact that moving abroad is a process that takes at least a year, full of government paperwork (literal paper and work), the stats show that there is never a surge of people taking up the expatriate life after a (controversial) president takes office (i.e. Bush #43 and Obama #44). But folks still insist that this time it’s different, because, well, Trump. So here’s the truth of what it really takes to pack your bags and take up residency in another country.

But first I need to ask you - do you even have a passport? According to the US State Department only 46% of the American population have valid passports. So where are ya’ll going (or not going), really?


For those who have passed round one, you must next decide your strategy. There’s generally four ways to do it: as a student, from a government assignment, as an private employee or simply just packing your bags and leaving.

Let’s talk about being a student.

Mind you, you can be a student at any age. It’s arguably the simplest and least risky way to move to another country. If you’re going to school now, you can apply for a semester or a full year abroad. It’s a good way to test the waters. It does not matter what your degree is in either, many schools offer study abroad opportunities through their student life programs; and others may be offered in a particular department, but are open to the entire student body.

By the way, as these Presidential elections toss up the idea about “free college” here in the U.S., it’s worth me letting you know that there are a handful of European countries actually offering American students free college - Yes! Countries like Germany, France and Norway they will actually pay you to go to school there.

Working for the government. 

We’re not talking about enlisting in the military,which, of course, is one way that you can go. Rather, let’s think about one of those good old contract jobs. Searching www.usa.gov/government-jobs is a great place to start, because all federal agencies are required to list their openings publicly. If you can swing it, government contract jobs or working for a company with one, are the most gravy ways to live and work in another country. They offer lots of benefits, like they paying for you and your family to travel to your post, housing, per diems, and all of that is  separate from your salary!

You could also become a diplomat. Yeah you can! It’s a matter of passing a few tests and training, they aren’t easy tests and training, but if you’ve got a will, then maybe this can be your way.

Find a full time job overseas.

We all know of many folks who teach abroad. The pay isn’t great, but there other private corporation options other than teaching. It’s a matter of you doing some  research in the field that you are in, then hopping onto Linkedin and tracking down connections.

If you already telecommute, then you pretty much don’t have an excuse as to why you aren’t making plans already if you want to live abroad. Granted, some telecommuting companies require that you live stateside. But if you are awesome at your job and position yourself to be an essential member of your team, then a little charming of your boss with a decent proposal of your plan can send you on your path to live somewhere other than here.

You can volunteer…

But we’re not actually recommending this. Volunteering is a great way to dip your toe into expatriate living; and often times a surefire way to have an instant social circle. It’s also a great way to test out a location you may be interested in moving to before committing to it. But keep in mind, volunteers don’t make money. So it will wear thin on you being broke.

Finally, you can just run away from home.


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Dayvee Sutton

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