Where do they go and why?

signs to citiesTraditional expat Destinations

The largest populations of Americans abroad are in Mexico, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Israel and Australia (John Wennersten, “Leaving America”, 2008). Interestingly, while Mexico is the #1 country of immigration to the US, it’s also the #1 destination of emigration from the United States, with over 2 of the 6 million American expats residing there. Canada is an obvious choice for cultural and geographic proximity, and Europe has always been a major destination of American expats. Israel attracts Jewish Americans for primarily religious and cultural reasons. Australia also attracts a large quantity of Americans due to growing economic opportunities and relatively easy access to visas.

Emerging expat destinations

In addition to these more traditional destinations, in recent years we’ve seen new currents of American emigration, especially towards Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

Urban Professionals in Asia

Urban destinations in Asia are experiencing an immigration boom of American bankers and other professionals in search of work opportunities that they’re not finding in the US. Singapore and Hong Kong are both considered excellent destinations for highly qualified immigrants due to high earnings potential. For example, in Hong Kong, half of the highly qualified immigrants that live there earn more than $200,000 dollars a year (Forbes Magazine, 2008).

Educators in the Middle East

The Middle East is becoming another popular destination of Americans seeking professional opportunities in the oil industry, industries related to war, and the academic industry. In fact, the Middle East tends to have the highest salaries for native English teachers compared to all other regions of the world. Americans with PhDs are also flocking to the Middle East for university teaching jobs to escape the oversupply of Americans with Doctorates in the arts and social sciences in the United States.

Entrepreneurial high-tech havens in the developing world 

While these movements towards major Asian cities and the Middle East hinge on professional and economic motives, other destinations –primarily underdeveloped countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe- have shown up on the radar for different reasons.

Americans tend to choose these destinations in the context of personal, cultural, social or educational reasons. And while professional or economic motives do factor into their decision, this tends to happen in a very different way: for remote workers and business owners (as well as retirees) these destinations offer lower living costs, which means their salaries, earnings and pensions (in dollars) go further. In fact, young American entrepreneurs are opening up a record number of businesses in these areas of the world due to lower start up, operational, and living costs.

So, it seems that the destinations of American expats are numerous, and expanding, and they tend to choose these destinations for a combination of personal, cultural, linguistic, educational, professional and economic reasons. It’s also important to mention that many Americans are also heavily influenced by their family and social networks, and often choose their host country accordingly.

But above all, the trend of American expatriation to urban destinations is the most notable, especially to “global cities” where they find international lifestyles, cultural opportunities, diversity, excitement, and of course growing urban expat communities.

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