For centuries, people have migrated to seek a better future. Migration is an alternative to expatriation, especially when you are self-employed, unemployed or want to seek a new future.

The basic idea is to increase income, reduce taxes, reduce expenses, and find better opportunities. It is even better when you can combine one or all of the above with better lifestyle.

Why migrate?

  • Move to get a higher income. This works well when you move from a developing country to a developed one. Many migrants from poorer countries have moved to the U.S., Europe, and Australia to get higher salaries. Even if you are in a developed country, there are opportunities in other parts of the world. Example: An American moved to Penang in Malaysia and started the first chiropractic practice on the island. There were so many patients that he had to turn some away even though he charged much more than a general practitioner. He earned an excellent income, had low expenses, and saved a lot. Example: In Hong Kong, the orthopedic surgeon I used had moved from Sydney. Fees were higher and tax lower.
  • Move to reduce taxes. This works well when you are from a high tax country. Example: John Templeton, who founded a famous and successful mutual fund group in the U.S., became a citizen and resident of the Bahamas. Other popular destinations include Monaco, Bermuda, and Hong Kong . Even if you move overseas for a short stint, you could reduce your taxes back home since you (usually) can take advantage of the tax-free threshold in two locations. Example: A colleague worked in San Francisco for 6 months, then London for another half year, then Tokyo and Sydney.
  • Move to take advantage of opportunities. The opportunities you need might not be available in your country. Example: many Australians have moved to Hollywood for cinema opportunities. Example: many professionals from the U.S. and Europe have moved to Hong Kong to improve their chances of promotion.
  • Move to reduce expenses. Some people who have already accummulated a nest egg might choose to work less, and use their savings to fund some of their expenses. Under this scenario, it makes sense to live in a low-cost country. In my travels, I have met many foreigners using this tactic in Thailand and China.

When planning to migrate, consider the following.

  • Understand the difficulty of obtaining immigration approvals. It is much more difficult nowadays to migrate. Know the criteria and find ways to improve your chances of meeting them – through marriage, family, skills, or business. It might also be worthwhile to obtain a non-immigrant or temporary visa first
  • Get an internationally recognized qualification. If possible, study in the target country to improve your chances.
  • Let children or siblings pave the way. Parents can follow later. Getting married to a citizen of the target country is also an alternative.
  • Reduce risk. If possible, ensure that you get a job, or are ready to start a business, before you move over. Use your network. Consider temporary jobs.
  • Make use of government help for migrants.

Caveat: Consider non-financial factors, such as impact on spouse and children, distance from friends and family, availability of necessary things and services.

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