1. Czech Republic Obtaining a one-year visa requires jumping though a number of hoops, but once granted it can be renewed for a two-year, long-term residence visa. After five years as a legal resident, the expat can apply for Czech citizenship and a Czech passport, which is an EU passport that allows them to live and work anywhere in the EU.
The first step is apply to join the "živnostensky" ("zivno") list, a trade license for any Czech resident who works independently, which will take a week at most. Then, with zivno in hand, expats can apply for a one-year, temporary residence visa. They must do this at a Czech Embassy outside the Czech Republic, and show they have a notarized lease agreement for housing for the full length of the visa. They will need a signed letter from their bank — translated into Czech — stating they have the equivalent of 125,000 Czech crowns on deposit (about $5,700), and an account debit card as proof that they can access the account. Finally, they will need a passport, an FBI criminal background check and an application form.
Hiring a local agency to help with the process should cost less than 15,000 crowns (about $685). The embassy fee is a separate 5,000 crowns (about $230).
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2. Panama Panama is the top choice for those who want to live and work remotely overseas but remain close to the U.S. Direct flights to Panama City come from nearly a dozen U.S. cities.
The country offers U.S. and Canadian nationals, as well as those from certain other countries, the Panama Friendly Nations Visa. This comes with a local ID card, a "cédula," which allows them to come and go as they please. Cédula holders can also request a work permit through the Ministry of Labor.
Applicants for the ID card need a passport and proof from the FBI of no criminal record, as well as $5,000 in a Panamanian bank account, plus $2,000 for each dependent. Those who want to obtain a work permit will need to set up a Panamanian corporation, which can be disbanded after one year.
3. Portugal Portugal has two visas. The D2 is for independent workers and entrepreneurs. It requires that applicants can support themselves as freelancers and can begin issuing Portuguese invoices on which the business will be taxed — at a fixed rate of 20% for 10 years. Expat freelancers from the U.S. will also want to apply for Non-Habitual Resident status, which will make income earned outside the country exempt from taxes and show U.S. authorities they are a tax resident of another country, which then helps trigger their eligibility for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.
The D7 will make sense for most expats, even non-retirees, as it is based on income. Applicants need only show they have 8,000 euros (about $9,700) in a local bank account and the equivalent of 30,000 euros ($36,400) in a bank account in their home country.
Both visas require expats to enroll in the Portuguese tax system and become a tax resident. A professional can walk them through the process and sponsor them for the tax number for between 1,000 and 2,500 euros (about $1,200 to $3,000). The process will take two to four months.
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4. Uruguay When speed is of the essence, expats can get a temporary cédula (ID card) on the day of their arrival in Uruguay or the next day if they land at the airport with the correct collection of documents and if they have a scheduled filing date with the immigration office. They will also need to show that they have the means to support themselves with a provable stream of income from anywhere in the world.
The temporary cédula will give them immediate access to the state health care system, or they can immediately buy access with a local private plan, which will cost $70 to $350 a month.
DIY expats can expect to pay about $600 to $700, but they will need to be proficient in Spanish, as none of the paperwork is in English. A quicker and more efficient route is to hire a lawyer, which will cost between $1,000 and $2,000.
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