When considering retirement abroad it must be understood that winning the right to reside permanently in a country is much more complex and time-consuming than organizing a temporary visit as a tourist. The experience of obtaining a tourist visa if one is needed will be useful when the application for permanent residency is made because it will have afforded some insight into how a government thinks, acts and assesses applications from foreigners.
Applying for permanent residency anywhere requires the provision of much more detailed proof of identity compared with tourist visa applications. Rules and regulations are stringently applied. As an example of such detail it may be noted that the authorities of the United States of America need to be advised of every address at which a person has lived for a period in excess of six months since the applicant reached 16 years of age. The supply of documents such as birth and marriage certificates must be from the originating authorities. Proof of good character in the form of police clearance certificates must be provided from all countries where the applicant has resided for six months or more. A rigorous medical examination by a prescribed medical practitioner will also be necessary. It should be remembered that documents such as police clearance certificates are good on the day of issue only. Usually they are acceptable up to six months after the date of issue but if allowed to expire new ones will have to be obtained at additional expense. Anyone who has travelled to many parts of the world for career purposes may have to obtain police clearance certificates from several places. Difficulties can be experienced in getting such certificates from Third World countries and the employment of courier services may be necessary. To comply with all of these requirements takes time, is usually not free and often has to be done from outside of the destination country.
The well-known immigrant encouraging countries often do not have a programs specifically for retirees. Such countries include Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.A. It is possible to emigrate to these countries as a retiree but initiating action has to be taken by a qualifying relative who is already a resident or citizen. Canada recently suspended the issue of family reunion visas although only temporarily. The time necessary to process applications for permanent residency can be as long as a few years.
Many smaller countries actively encourage the settlement of retirees. Such places provide good-low cost social and medical services and tax concessions in addition to having low costs of living. Unfortunately there is little mitigation of the documentary requirements mentioned above and an added complication may be the need to have everything translated into the local national language. This alone can be costly. Additionally some countries require that documents must to be “apostilled”. This is similar to local notarization by recognized authorities or qualified persons but is an international authentication process adopted by signatories to the Apostille Treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on International Private Law in 1961.
Application details for permanent residency can be obtained from the relevant embassies or consulates. As much as is possible of the formalities and obtaining of certificates should be undertaken by prospective migrants themselves. There are many organization that will help but all charge fees. Unfortunately in some cases applications are only accepted by government authorities from local lawyers. Comprehensive country specific advice is available on the internet and if only for economic reasons such information should be sought.
Many countries will issue residency rights to those who can make large financial contributions to local industries. Such visas are not usually of interest to retirees. Not all residency conditions lead to the right to apply for local citizenship. Again this is not necessarily a concern for retirees. Applicants for permanent residency in any country must understand and be prepared to comply with the very demanding administrative requirements of the government as described above. Retirement abroad is often only achieved with stamina and tenacity.