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Want to Retire Abroad? Answers to 14 FAQs

Advice on everything from Medicare abroad to working overseas

(This article previously appeared on Liveandinvestoverseas.com.)

If you’re considering retiring abroad, you undoubtedly have questions. Here are answers to 14 of the most frequently asked questions we get at Live and Invest Overseas:

1. If I live overseas, would I lose my original citizenship?

No, your residency status abroad has no effect on your citizenship.

Residency and citizenship are two different things. If you’re a U.S. citizen, the only way to lose your U.S. citizenship is to renounce it formally. This is a serious step that you can’t take accidentally.

In other words, there’s no chance you’d lose your U.S. citizenship without realizing it. Renouncing it requires a formal application and at least one interview with the FBI. Once your application to renounce your citizenship has been approved, you then must appear again before federal authorities to relinquish your blue passport with the eagle on the cover. The United States doesn’t want to lose you as one of its citizens, for, as long as you carry U.S. citizenship, no matter where you roam, you are obliged to report your income and earnings to Uncle Sam.

2. Do I need a passport to retire overseas?

You need a passport to travel anywhere in the world, no matter how long you intend to stay.

3. Do I need to let the U.S. government know that I’m leaving the country?

No. You can register your presence in your new country with the local U.S. Embassy if you like, but you are not obligated to do so. In my experience, most retirees overseas don’t register.

4. Do I need any vaccinations?

It depends where you’re going. Some countries require you to have specific vaccinations before you’ll be permitted to enter. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a good section on its website discussing the question of which vaccinations might be advisable, depending on your current state of health and where in the world you intend to spend time. Take a look.

5. Can I drink the water?

It depends where you’re going. The tap water is potable in France, for example, of course, but it tastes funny because of the chemicals it’s treated with. The tap water is generally not potable in Ireland, but it is in Panama City and other parts of Panama. The easiest strategy (the one I follow) is to drink bottled water

6. Can I still receive my U.S. Social Security payments?

Yes. If you’re eligible for Social Security, you can even have your monthly check direct-deposited into your account in some countries. See this link for a list of countries where this is possible.

7. Will Medicare cover me living overseas?

No. No exceptions. As an American abroad, you need to make another plan for covering your medical expenses overseas. I recommend, though, keeping your Medicare as a major medical backup.

8. Will my computer work in another country? My cell phone?

Your laptop computer will work anywhere; all laptop AC adapters should be dual current, meaning they should work with 110V and 220V electrical systems. You may need a plug adapter to be able to plug your computer cord into the outlet,. Most of Central and South America uses the U.S.-type plug. In Europe, Asia, and Argentina, you’ll need a plug adapter. You can find adapter sets in shops in most international airports.

Your cell phone may or may not work. First, find out if your current carrier has coverage where you’re traveling. Second, check with your carrier to find out if your account allows roaming in the country where you’re going. Even if it does, roaming is an expensive option. The solution is to buy a local SIM card, which is easy in most of the countries we recommend and typically costs less than $10.

9. Can I drive on my home country’s driver’s license?

Yes, typically for the first 30 days to one year that you’re resident in a new country. After this time, most countries require you either to qualify for a local

10. Can I get a job?

Probably not. To work in a foreign country, you’ll need a work visa. This is not easily obtained unless you’re sponsored for a job by an international employer and relocated to the country with its help. The one exception to this general rule right now is Panama. This country’s Friendly Nations visa program bundles the possibility of a work permit. Ecuador and the Dominican Republic allow you to work by just obtaining legal residency. Belize allows you to work if you go the permanent residency route rather than QRP.

In many places in the world, however, you can start your own business. The easiest is a laptop-based enterprise.

11. Will my credit and debit cards work overseas?

Yes, they should. Before you use them, though, research what fees you’ll be charged. Some credit card companies impose such onerous fees when their cards are used in foreign countries that it can be worth switching to another group before you move. Charles Schwab, Capital One and Chase, for example, all offer cards with zero foreign transaction fees.

12. How will my friends and family be able to stay in touch with me?

Through services such as Email, Skype and WhatsApp. The Internet Age has made it possible to retire overseas and communicate with friends and family on a daily basis.

13. How much does it cost to move overseas?

How long is a piece of string? If you pack up a couple of suitcases and head on out, your total cost could be as little as the cost of your plane ticket. If you’re moving to Mexico, your total cost could be gas and tolls.

However, if you want to establish formal residency in a country, you should expect to spend $1,000 to maybe $3,000 per family member (between attorney and government fees) for your resident visas. And if you decide to ship a container-load of your household goods, figure another $10,000, more or less, depending where you’re moving from and to.

14. Can I continue to vote in U.S. elections from overseas?

Yes. And your vote doesn’t count any less than if you voted from the States. One vote is one vote, no matter where it’s cast.

By Kathleen Peddicord
Kathleen Peddicord is founder and publisher of Live and Invest Overseas

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