“If Trump gets elected, I’m leaving the country.”
I don’t live in the US, but I have read comments like this on social media and in the news. Apparently, sometimes this isn’t just an idle threat. The Guardian cites a Luminoso survey which found that:
… about 4% of 4.5 million Donald Trump-related tweets contained threats to leave the country if the billionaire became president. Of those, 25,000 identified Canada as their intended destination.
Many speak of emigrating to Canada because it’s the closest and most similar to America. This article summarizes how that can be done. The short version is: it’s not that simple.
There’s a certain arrogance in assuming that other countries want “political refugees” from the US. The US has hardly been generous to war refugees recently, after all, accepting only 10,000 people from war-ravaged Syria.
Emigrate to the Netherlands?
As I pondered that assumption, I decided to look at what a US citizen would have to do to emigrate to the Netherlands. I put it all together in the following infographic. It’s my first attempt at writing one, so please forgive me its relatively amateurish look.
After you emigrate
Keep in mind that the US practices citizenship-based taxation rather than residence-based, like the rest of the world. An American who moves overseas is subject to a host of special laws designed to make sure you don’t avoid paying US taxes. If you earn less than about $100,000 a year, you’re unlikely to owe US taxes, but nevertheless, you’ll have to file every year, with extra forms on top of the 1040. You’ll have to pass on your financial information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and, just in case you’re hiding something, your bank overseas will also pass on your financial information to the US.
You will have trouble with banking in any case: banks don’t want the extra expense that Americans bring with them. You’ll find it hard to find any way to invest money or to borrow for a mortgage or any other purpose.
Don’t expect to invest in the US either. Without a US address, you can’t.
If you come to Holland, you’ll have to retake the driving test (much harder than American tests!), and probably re-qualify in your field of expertise. Expect to spend some years working below your training level while you get re-certified according to Dutch requirements. If your training isn’t available in English, you’ll have to learn Dutch before you can even start. It took me several years to get back into teaching, even though I already had a teaching credential and a Masters in Education.
How it feels to emigrate
What I can’t express in an infographic is how you’ll feel if you move to another country. My friend, Karen, described her experience when she first emigrated to Holland as “being a five-year-old again.” You don’t know the simplest things: how to behave in social situations, how to communicate, how to get things done. Even if you move to Canada, where communication isn’t a problem, you’ll be regularly stymied by the cultural and organizational differences you were not prepared for. And you’ll miss home more than you ever thought possible.
I’m not saying it’s all bad, of course. Two years ago, I wrote a post giving advice to “accidental expats”: those who move to another country for love. That advice would be a good start for anyone starting life in a new country, even those fleeing a Trump presidency:
- Learn the language.
- Find local friends.
- Be observant.
- Ask people how they do things.
- Keep working on your career path.
- Make sure to save money to visit home.
- Raise your kids bilingual.
- Celebrate your favorite holidays.
- Assimilate as much as you’re comfortable with.
- Get citizenship.
- Accept that you will never fully fit in.
- Appreciate the place.
My point, though, is simply that it’s not as easy as it seems to just move to another country if you’re fed up with the US. And it’s arrogant to assume it is. We overseas Americans wince when we hear or read those sorts of comments, so don’t say it unless you mean it. And if you mean it, do your homework first!