When Vibeke Arentz and her husband Jeff Kacirk decided to move to the south of France from the San Francisco Bay Area four years ago, it was a chance for the couple to immerse themselves in a place that intrigued them. You were not disappointed.
“The culture, the history, the cuisine, the scenery, the affordability, exploring the diversity of France’s many different regions, learning and speaking French, the friendliness and helpfulness of the people here and the amazing community of friends we have here built up in such a short time, everyone is exciting,” says Arentz, 58.
They bought a house in Carcassonne and converted it into three apartments, living in one and renting out the other two to supplement their retirement income. “We love exploring France and are also lucky to have all of Europe close by,” she says.
While several Caribbean and Central American countries have programs specifically designed to attract US retirees, older Americans are increasingly looking to Europe, according to Kathleen Peddicord, founder and editor of Live and invest abroad which publishes books, newsletters and online guides on moving and doing business abroad.
Today, “Europe makes a lot more sense as the dollar is stronger against the euro,” she says. “The other thing is that in the last five or seven years, Europe has also started to make it easier to stay.”
If you are considering such a move, you need to understand the pros and cons of establishing legal residency, buying real estate as a foreigner, and getting health insurance, since Medicare generally does not cover care outside of the United States. “You have to prepare and you have to come with full knowledge of the challenges,” says Peddicord.
ran 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 miss steps that could end up costing you.”
You want trusted advice on how money movements like buying a home can affect your tax situation. “The most important thing is not to talk to your own tax officer in the states, but to find a tax officer in the country,” says Doris Speer, president of the Association of Americans Resident Overseas.
Here are the basics for settling down in eight of the top European travel destinations for American retirees.
French culture, history, fine cuisine and world-renowned wines are major attractions, as are landscapes that range from mountains to medieval villages to glittering beach towns.
Residence: “The best visa category for an American retiree is a long-stay visitor visa,” which is required if you plan to stay in the country longer than 90 days, says Daniel Tostado, an immigration attorney in France. According to Expatica, a resource site for English-speaking expats, you must provide proof of a retirement income at least equal to the French minimum wage, which was just under €20,000 per year in 2022.
The French government website has information in English on long-stay visas. Such a visa, called VLS-TS, doubles as a residence permit and is validated by French immigration authorities within the first three months in the country. For other visas, you may need to apply for a residence permit from the prefecture or government agency in your area of residence within two months of your arrival.
Buying real estate: According to online real estate marketplace Properstar, there are no restrictions on foreign retirees buying real estate. However, it can be complicated for Americans to obtain a mortgage from a French bank.
health care: Once you are resident, you can register with L’Assurance Maladie, the French national health insurance scheme.
Dotted with ancient landmarks, quaint villages and sunny islands, and boasting the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, Greece offers “a Mediterranean lifestyle at a low cost,” according to Live and Invest Overseas.
Residence: Go to the nearest Greek consulate in the US to apply for a long-term visa, which allows you to stay in Greece for up to a year. Once you have arrived in the country, you can apply for a residence permit, which requires proof of a monthly income of at least 2,000 euros.
Buying real estate: Foreigners can buy real estate. The Golden Visa program allows anyone who buys a 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 health care system, but as a pensioner you must take out private insurance.
Many Americans feel connected to their ancestors, but the Emerald Isle’s quaint rural villages, spectacular rugged coastlines, and deep musical and literary traditions are draws regardless of where you come from.
Residence: Ireland has financial requirements for people wishing to settle there to ensure they can support themselves. You will need to provide documentation, notarized by an Irish Chartered Accounting Firm, showing an individual income of at least €50,000 per year and access to additional emergency savings, generally at least €100,000.