When Vibeke Arentz and her husband, Jeff Kacirk, decided to move from the San Francisco Bay Area to the south of France four years ago, it was an opportunity for the couple to immerse themselves in a place that fascinated them. They have not been disappointed.
“The culture, the history, the cuisine, the landscape, the affordability, exploring the variety of the different regions of France, learning and speaking French, how friendly and helpful the people here are and the amazing community of friends we have developed here in such a short time are exciting,” says Arentz, 58.
They bought a house in Carcassonne and converted it into three apartments: they lived in one and rented the other two to supplement their retirement income. “We love exploring France and are also happy to have all of Europe within walking distance,” she says.
While several Caribbean and Central American countries have programs specifically geared toward attracting American retirees, older Americans are increasingly looking to move to Europe, according to Kathleen Peddicord, founder and editor of Live and invest abroad, which produces books, newsletters and online guides on moving and doing business abroad.
Today, “Europe makes much more sense, since the dollar is stronger against the euro,” he says. “The other thing is that in the last five or seven years, Europe has also started to make residency easier.”
If you’re considering such a move, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of establishing legal residency, purchasing property as a foreigner, and obtaining health insurance, such as Medicare generally does not cover healthcare outside the U.S. “You have to prepare and come fully aware of what the challenges are,” Peddicord says.
Lief Simon, Live and invest abroad‘, real estate editor, recommends hiring an immigration attorney in your destination country, preferably one who speaks English and has worked with other Americans, “to make sure you don’t skip any steps that could end up costing you money.”
You’ll want reliable advice on how money moves, such as buying a home, could affect your tax situation. “The first thing is to talk not to the tax person in the United States, but to find a tax person in the country,” says Doris Speer, president of the Association of Americans Living Abroad.
Here are the basics for settling into eight popular European destinations for American retirees.
French culture, history, fine cuisine and world-renowned wine are the main attractions, as are landscapes ranging from mountains to medieval villages and stunning coastal towns.
Home: “The best visa category for an American retiree is a long-term visitor visa,” which is required if you plan to be in the country for more than 90 days, says Daniel Tostado, an immigration lawyer in France. You will have to provide proof of retirement income that is at least equal to the French minimum wage, which was just under €20,000 a year in 2022, according to Expathetica resource site for English-speaking expats.
The French government website has information in English about long stay visas. One of these visas, called VLS-TS, also functions as a residence permit and is validated by the French immigration authorities within the first three months in the country. With other visas, you may need obtain a residence permit within two months of arriving at the prefecture or government office in the area where you live.
Property purchase: There are no restrictions on foreign retirees buying property, according to online real estate market Suitable star. However, getting a mortgage from a French bank can be complicated for Americans.
Health care: Once you have established your residency, you can register for France’s national health insurance system, L’Assurance Maladie.
Dotted with ancient monuments, picturesque towns and sunny islands, and with the longest coastline in the Mediterranean basin, Greece offers “a low-cost Mediterranean lifestyle,” according to Live and Invest Overseas.
Home: Go to the Nearest Greek Consulate in the US Apply for a long-term visa, which allows you to stay in Greece for up to one year. Once in the country, you can apply for a residence permit, which requires proof of income of at least 2,000 euros per month.
Property purchase: Foreigners can buy real estate. The Golden Visa program allows anyone who buys property worth more than 250,000 euros to apply for residency without having to come to Greece first.
Health care: Foreign workers who pay social security contributions can join the public healthcare system, but as a retiree, they will need to purchase private coverage.
Many Americans feel an ancestral connection, but the Emerald Isle’s quaint rural towns, spectacular rugged coastlines, and deep musical and literary traditions are appealing regardless of heritage.
Home: Ireland has financial requirements for people who want to settle there, to ensure they can support themselves. You will need to provide documentation, certified by an Irish accounting firm, demonstrating an individual income of at least €50,000 per year and access to additional emergency savings, generally of at least €100,000.