The election results are in, and the world sits in shock. I’m sitting here in shock too. It wasn’t long before the common phrase started popping up everywhere: “I’m moving to Canada now.” America’s northern neighbor has always been the fallback plan if an election doesn’t go your way. I’m pretty sure I still have Mapquest directions (does Mapquest even exist anymore??) to Thunder Bay, the nearest Canadian city to Minneapolis, from 2004 when George W. Bush ended up being elected.
Canada is great. It’s a wonderful country. I believe they have their shit together far more than the US does (clearly). I love Tim Horton’s. But as someone who actually just moved to another country, this really upsets me. Because YOU CAN’T JUST MOVE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY.
There are borders. There are rules. There are visas, work permits, residence permits, and (of course) the glue that holds it all together—paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. You can’t just up and pack your bags.
I’m not saying that you should leave. The US needs good people to fight—and this fight will be a long one. The people who can “get out” generally are the most privileged, and it is important to speak up for those in America who can’t do so. I say this as a person who is extremely privileged, who has moved abroad and feels extremely guilty because I’m “safe” now. And while I may be “safe,” my family, friends, and fellow Americans aren’t. The most marginalized will need help in the days, weeks, and years to come. But despite all of this, if you are a US citizen and want to leave the country following this election, here are 10 ways you can do so:
1. Working Holiday Visas
If you are a young person (between age 18-30) and/or if you are currently enrolled in university or have recently graduated from university, you may be eligible for a working holiday visa in several countries. These visas are temporary (typically 12 months) and give you clearance to work in that specific country as a means of funding your trip. Australia and New Zealand are two of the most popular locations for US citizens, as they have the most relaxed restrictions. You simply need to be between ages 18 to 30, and have proof of funds for your trip (so you’ll need to have a fair amount of money saved up before you apply).
Ireland, South Korea, and Singapore also offer working holiday visas to college students or recent grads. Generally, you have to either be enrolled in a university, or have graduated less than a year ago. US citizens may also be eligible for a working holiday in Canada under the International Experience Canada (IEC) initiative for a working holiday (up to 12 months), as long as you have organized your trip with a specific company. (And although it’s not a working holiday visa, college students or recent grads can intern/work in the United Kingdom for up to 6 months through BUNAC! More info here.)
Working holiday visas are excellent ways to travel abroad, gain immersion through work experience, and earn more money to travel farther! This is a great resource for working holiday visas for US citizens, Go Overseas.
2. Teach English abroad
One of the most valuable skills that so many Americans take for granted—the English language! There are opportunities EVERYWHERE (seriously, everywhere) around the world for English teachers. This has become a very popular gap-year or post-grad scheme, and extremely popular in many Asian countries—Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand, and more. Some programs might require you to do TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification before you go, some only require a college degree, some will pay for your flights and visas, and almost all programs will be different. But teaching English is an easy way to move and work abroad on a semi-permanent basis (and hopefully to help fund more travels and keep you on the road longer).
There are so many organizations for volunteering abroad. Perhaps the most well known is the Peace Corps, which will send you to one of roughly 60 countries to work on grassroots projects in a community for up to two years at a time. Outside of the big name organizations like Peace Corps, there are lots of other volunteer organizations (just google “volunteer abroad” and you’ll be overwhelmed) that could use your help. Make sure you do thorough research about your organization before you apply and make sure it’s legit and has honorable intentions before you send off any fees.
4. Au Pair
If you like kids (or if you can tolerate them for long periods of time), consider being an au pair abroad. Not only can you create meaningful connections with a family, you can fully immerse yourself in a new country (or language) and still be paid while having very few expenses (or none at all). While every situation and placement is different, most au pairs live with their family (room and board are therefore covered) and receive a small stipend. Although time off can be difficult to manage—as a live-in au pair, you can be on call more or less 24/7—you can still live and work in another country without major expenses. This is one of the most popular ways to live in Europe for an extended period of time. But don’t forget, some countries will require a specific au pair visa, so make sure you do your research and arrange a visa before you go! AuPairWorld is a great resource to get you started.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a global organization that links volunteers with organic farms. Although every situation is different, WWOOFing typically involves volunteer work on a farm in exchange for room and board. This is much less of a commitment than joining the Peace Corps or volunteering abroad through a specific organization! While each host varies in their offer (some may include accommodation but not food, etc.), WWOOFing is great way to immerse yourself culturally with locals and live somewhere different without (many) expenses. There are hosts all over the world so you’ll have plenty of choices! But again, check if you’ll need a volunteer visa before you make plans. You can visit their website here.
Similar to WWOOF, HelpX is another global organization for volunteers. However, in addition to farms (organic or otherwise), HelpX includes opportunities to volunteer at hostels, B&Bs, and other hospitality venues. Again, each situation will differ, but many will offer room and board, or at least a room. Some volunteer stints are organized based on working a certain number of hours per week, while some are more flexible. Either way, HelpX is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture and minimize your expenses while abroad. As always, check visa requirements beforehand. Check out their website here.
7. Study Abroad
This is by far one of the “easiest” ways to move abroad—student visas are very common and straightforward! So many universities in the US have some kind of study abroad program, or at least someone to help you navigate the program-specific study abroad opportunities out there (IES, CIS, CIEE, AIFS…). The length of a study abroad can vary, anywhere from 1 week to 1 year, and can take place just about anywhere in the world. Many study abroad programs involve a lot less work than your college back home, meaning you have lots of free time and the ability to travel. Studying abroad also has some structure in place, as well as a safety network if things go wrong, which can make international travel a lot less stressful (especially for first-timers). It is also SO. MUCH. FUN. Studying abroad was one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made. Check out your options for your school and consider spending part of your college years abroad!
8. Ancestry citizenship
If you have a parent or grandparent (or even great-grandparent in some cases), you may be eligible for ancestry citizenship in many countries around the world. You can gain citizenship (therefore a new passport), the right to residency, and the ability to work in another country. This isn’t quite as easy as it sounds though—every country will have different rules and regulations, and you’ll need to track down lots of paperwork and documents. But if you’re hoping to move abroad long-term, it’s something you should look into. This article lists 5 countries that are the best to get ancestry citizenship, and check out this excellent article about gaining EU ancestry citizenship here.
9. Save up your money, backpack around the world
So many Americans believe that traveling is insanely expensive and completely out of reach. And when you’re fed information about all-inclusive resort packages, 5-star hotels, fancy restaurants every night, than yes—that type of travel is insanely expensive. But it doesn’t have to be like that! You can always travel on the cheap. You can travel in cheaper regions and possibly live at a lower cost than you would at home in the US. Southeast Asia, Central America, and Eastern Europe are particularly affordable regions. You can read about 5 ways I save money for travel, and 10 little ways to save money on the blog.
10. Meet a foreigner, fall in love, get married, and move to their country
I’m leaving this last because I believe it’s the most difficult of all of these options. But this is, more or less, what I’ve done. I met Adam over three years ago, and today here we are! To be honest though, I wouldn’t advise it. Maintaining a long-distance relationship (especially on different continents) is so hard. Combine that with the incredibly stressful visa process, and the difficulties of your life when you actually (finally) get there—it’s just not something I recommend. I can imagine this would be even more difficult if you moved to a country with a greater culture shock, and especially if you didn’t speak the local language. The fact that England is familiar to me, I’ve already lived here, people (generally) speak the same language, and that I have a support system both back home and here in England, makes the transition easier and less drastic. It’s never an easy decision and it’s not an easy change. But this is still one way to leave the country!
Have you ever moved abroad or traveled long-term like this?