How to Relocate to the Highest Ranking Countries for Expats

Are you someone who vacations in the same place each year? Do you go to the same restaurants, cafes, and stores? We bet it feels like a home away from home. But what if you could make your dream holiday destination your permanent residence?

If moving abroad has been a lifelong dream for you, it’s time to make it a reality. Like 258 million other individuals worldwide – that’s one in every thirty people – who are living outside of their birth country, you could move to your favorite location and set up a new life.

That’s what this article is all about. We’ll include tips on how to prepare mentally and financially for the move, while, most importantly, figuring out the logistics of it all. We’ll answer questions like, how hard is it to get accepted in (X) country? And provide specifics about three of the highest ranking expat countries – Singapore, Australia, and Canada.

These three nations have all earnt a top spot on HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey’s league table for being some of the highest ranking places for expats to move to. The scores take into account factors like economic, family, career, social and wellbeing ratings – so it’s worth taking a look at the leaderboard in more detail.

Visit the Location More Than a Handful of Times

Visiting your chosen location before moving is a no brainer for most people, and if you are someone who decides to vacation in the same place annually, it should be no problem. But visiting the place you plan to move to multiple times is the best way to be certain you want to move to a given destination.

Not only will you have a good understanding of the country’s culture, but you might also pick up some of the language if the nation is non-English speaking. At the very least, you’ll know your way around with a basic map. Traveling to and from the same country might also make you realize the distance and cost involved in visiting your American hometown once you gain permanent residency. Places like Australia can incur a hefty flight price of over $1,000, so if you want to visit your home country for an occasion like Thanksgiving, you better start saving.

Although frequent visits aren’t always necessary to be able to make the move legally, they are the best way to prepare for the trip psychologically. As this guide on moving to Cuba shows, you often need certain documents to submit your application – in the case of Cuba, you need to show proof of residence and of a Cuban bank account – things you can technically acquire while overseas. While it’s legal to do this, we think it’s a risky business when it comes to your mental welfare.

If you’re serious about relocating your entire life to a foreign country and becoming an expat, we suggest visiting your chosen country upwards of ten times. It can also be helpful to take different people with you on trips to your chosen location – such as family members and friends – to make sure the destination is a good cultural fit.

Bear in mind that although plenty of people are migrating around the world, there are plenty of reasons why expats return home – mostly linked to psychological factors like feeling homesick.

Build a Business That Can Move with You

Most people apply for jobs to obtain permanent residency in the country of their choice. After all, a nation is never going to accept your application without the reassurance that you can financially support yourself. To gain overseas employment, you’ll most likely need a skill that’s in demand such as engineering, computing, or in a government-led sector like teaching other than the usual skills to adapt with diversity, equity and inclusion norms in the country.

If your resume isn’t looking too promising, one of the quickest ways to show a country you can contribute to its economy is by owning a profitable business. This not only shows that you as an individual will be in stable employment, but it also infers you’ll be able to provide further jobs for the community. A win-win situation.

If you’re looking to move to a place like Denmark, you’re in luck as they favor entrepreneurship. If you own a startup, you’ll be welcomed into Denmark for two years and have access to Denmark’s world-leading health and welfare systems. You’ll receive a two-year working visa and will essentially be on a probationary period to see how your business performs in the Danish economy.

The real question is, how can you build a business which you can move overseas with you? Rather than developing a physical business which complicates the moving process, we suggest developing a virtual one. Otherwise known as a remote company, this is a business that’s got global potential from the get-go.

When building a remote business, you’ll have to rely heavily on software – to store information, communicate with others, and deliver your service or product to customers without making a physical transaction. Most of these issues will likely be solved by advancing technology. As well as investing in a solid project management system to organize work files and tasks, you’ll need to purchase a virtual landline number so you can access a professional number on your mobile. Finally, you’ll need to research what industries are best for this type of work to make sure your business idea is feasible. We’ll give you a hint, anything to do with technology is a strong start – services like digital marketing, coding, or graphic design are often the focus of flexible firms.

Check the Visa Requirements for Each Country

Let’s get into the real “how-to” of this article. You might be mentally and financially prepared, but what you need to know is how to get the golden ticket – otherwise known as a visa – to live in your chosen country as a permanent citizen.

Of course, visa requirements differ, with some countries stricter than others, so we’ll go through the most desired expat spots individually.


The most common visa application in Australia is for a Skilled Visa. This is a visa which focuses on the individual’s occupation – and as we noted previously – is restricted to roles that require technical or medical skills.

Occupations such as “Biomedical Engineer” and “Agricultural Scientist” make the approved jobs list – unfortunately, Beautician and Barista do not.

When filling out an Australian Skilled Visa application form, you’ll need to provide information such as age and native language. As this visa application focuses on skills, you will also need to undergo several assessments, including:

  • A health assessment
  • A character assessment
  • A skills assessment

Don’t panic yet – you can also apply for a Business Visa to enter Australia. For this type of visa application, you must fit into one of four categories. These include:

  • Business Owner
  • Senior Executive
  • Investor
  • High Calibre Business Owner

Depending on which group you belong to, the application will stipulate what type of business visa you’ll be eligible to apply for and whether or not you’ll be likely to receive provisional or permanent residence.

For example, if you’re lucky enough to be a high caliber business owner, the chances are you’ll receive permanent residence. If you own a startup – and ultimately end up applying for the business owner option – you’ll probably be on a provisional residency until further notice.

Australia might be one of the first places to come to mind when dreaming of relocation. White sandy beaches, a twelve-month summer (by American standards) and a stable economy make Australia a firm favorite. With that said, many expats with experience living in Australia have come back feeling disappointed.

One expat recalls how unexpected factors such as longer working hours and translation issues got the better of her and forced her to return home to the UK. This doesn’t mean some expats don’t still champion Australia, despite its difficulties. But it is worth being aware of them before you make the move.

We suggest doing your research before moving to Australia and diving head first into the complicated visa system.


When applying to live in Canada, you must go through a two-step process. If successful, you will be granted permanent residence before going on to become a Canadian citizen.

The two status’ may sound similar, but they do have a few differences, including stipulations about how long you must remain in the country over a five-year period and your passport status. Permanent residence is a temporary status until you’ve proved your worth to become a fully fledged citizen of Canada.

This process isn’t uncommon, and it happens in many countries (such as Denmark).

Much like Australia, Canada has a few different visa options named “Pathways.” These pathways include:

  • Economic Immigration Programs – Canada’s equivalent of Australia’s Skilled Visa. This visa is designed for individuals who boast relevant work experience or education. The government sees these types of applicants as good prospects for contributing to the Canadian economy.
  • Business Immigration Programs – This pathway encompasses all types of business people from self-employed persons to investors. Applicants to this pathway are likely to be given an “accelerated permanent residence.”
  • Family Sponsorship Programs – This unique program attempts to reunite family members – including spouses, dependents, and grandparents who may not have Canadian citizenship. Of course, to be eligible for this visa, you must have a legitimate relative already living in Canada.

While there are plenty of options when it comes to relocating to Canada, it might not be so easy. The nation has picked up some bad press for being one of the worst countries for immigration. According to this article, it could take several years to gain access to Canada and several months of intense vetting – in fact, the author of this Atlantic article makes out that Canada chooses you, rather than the opposite way around.

According to this report, Canada’s visa policy ranks 120th worldwide – a score that indicates this popular pick for relocation is more difficult to enter than you might have first thought.

Despite this, Canada ticks the boxes for most expats looking for a long-term place to live overseas. It’s high level of safety, temperate environment, and excellent healthcare facilities make the country a popular option. These factors (and more) make Canada an attractive choice for foreign applicants.


HSBC granted Singapore the top spot on its leaderboard. It’s not hard to see why, as Business Insider writer, Harrison Jacobs tells us, Singapore is the world’s top-rated expat spot for good reasons. Hint, it’s because of Singapore’s high quality of life and strong economy. Singapore is a diverse country known for public order and efficient transport systems – a truly liveable location.

But is it easy to snag a permanent residency here? We’ll find out.

Like Canada and Australia, there are several ways to apply for residency in Singapore. These are:

  • Singapore Citizenship – As with the two-part process in Canada, the Singaporean government is likely to grant citizenship if you have been a resident of Singapore for more than two years – so you will need permanent residency first. You can also be granted citizenship through marriage or education status.
  • Permanent Residence – Usually an expat’s first port of call, this visa type is reserved for specific members of society. These include the spouse of a Singapore citizen, an unmarried child, aged below 21 who’s either been adopted or connected through parental marriage with a Singapore citizen, an aged parent of a Singapore citizen, holder of an employment pass or S pass, students studying in Singapore or a foreign investor in Singapore. As you can see – unlike both Australia and Canada – Singapore lumps all categories into this singular visa application.
  • Pre-Marriage Long-Term Visit – As the name suggests, this visa type is reserved for non-resident couples. This isn’t a permanent visa as the pre-marriage visit exists to allow the Singaporean government to assess the relationship. The visa lasts for a total of one year.
  • Long-Term Visit Pass – This isn’t a visa designed for permanent relocation, but it is worth mentioning. There are a variety of reasons a non-Singapore citizen might apply for a long-term visit pass, including seeking permission to give birth in Singapore or being a family member who wishes to visit a person studying in Singapore.

It’s clear that as a first-time expat in Singapore, you’ll most likely be looking to apply for permanent residency, in the hope of scoring citizenship further down the line. So what does this specific visa application entail? Unless you’re related to a Singapore citizen by blood or marriage, you’ll need to pick up a relevant pass. Detailed information on different Singapore passes can be found on Guide Me Singapore. Below we’ll give a brief outline of each pass.

To bag an employment pass, you’ll need to either be a skilled employee or company owner. This pass is Australia’s skilled visa, and business visa merged into one. The only difference is Singapore takes into account monthly salary, stipulating a holder of this pass must earn more than $3,600 per month on a fixed salary.

Other than this, you can also opt for the entrepreneur pass, which is similar to Denmark’s startup scheme. Your company will need to be less than six months old to qualify.

On the other hand, a personalized employment pass is where an individual commits to seeking employment from a third party. If you enter the country with this pass, starting your own business is strictly prohibited, and you’ll have to ensure you’re not unemployed for longer than six months.

Don’t quite earn $3,600 monthly yet? The S Pass might be right for you. This pass requires an entry-level monthly salary of $2,200, but the applicant must have a relevant degree or diploma to back it up.

In rare circumstances, individuals might be able to apply for the miscellaneous work pass scheme. This is only suitable for particular occupations, including foreign religious workers, foreign journalists, or individuals working for a short period at a conference or similar event activity.

If you manage to fit any of Singapore’s lengthy criteria, you’ll likely be happy here. The only real con of living in Singapore is it’s so expensive, but the chances are you won’t bag a residency visa if you don’t earn enough anyway. Everything from car rental, housing, and leisure activities has a raised price, but with a superior quality of life to match it.

Becoming an Expat – in Summary

When becoming an expat, it’s worth checking out other people’s views on the topic. While choosing a country to relocate to is a very personal decision, historical data and common opinions can help you form a judgment.

As well as studying personal blogs, you should also pay attention to key data. Sources like HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey give aspiring expats an insight into the big picture of living abroad. Sites like Internations have a whole catalog of reports to reference to, including specific data sets which refer to career opportunities, family life, and cost of living by nation.

If you’ve used these sources to whittle down a dream destination, make sure you visit the location frequently. Get the opinions of trusted family and friends and see the real implications of moving there.

  • Is there a language barrier you need to address?
  • Do you think the location is a good cultural fit?
  • Is it affordable to return home now and then for a visit?

Recognize that every country has downsides which need to be weighed up in advance. Moving to a new country can be exciting, and helps you avoid those “what if” feelings, but even so, you shouldn’t decide to become an expat lightly.

Once you’ve made an educated decision on where you’d like to live in theory, it’s time to put the idea into practice. If you don’t work in a technical, medical, or otherwise skilled field, building a business might be your best bet. Remember, when building a business, you need to make sure it’s easy to transition to your new residence. You can do this by creating a business that’s virtual and not physical.

Truthfully, nobody said becoming an expat was easy. Nor is it by any means quick as the process is likely to take years of work and preparation. Finally, if you do meet the outlined criteria, do some further research on visa applications and then take the plunge.