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Where are Americans emigrating to and why?

What’s happening?

The U.S. government doesn’t formally track how many Americans leave the U.S. but the most recent estimate puts the figure at nearly nine million. This figure represents a doubling of the 1999 figure, placed at 4.1 million. The number of expats has more than doubled in the last fifteen years — a number growing faster than the rate of the U.S. population itself.

After the 2016 U.S. Presidential election many Americans said that they would leave the country, though no figures exist to show whether a significant up-tick has occurred.

Where are people going?

So where are these American expats going? According to the Association of American Residents Overseas (AARO), US expats can be found in more than 160 countries:

  • 40% opt for the Western hemisphere — Canada, Central and South America.
  • 26% move to Europe.
  • 14% head to East Asia and the Pacific — think Australia and New Zealand as well as China and Japan.
  • 14% head to the Middle East.
  • 3% travel to Central or South Asia.
  • 3% choose Africa.

In 2015, the most popular countries for expats of all nations to move to are:

  1. Ecuador
  2. Mexico
  3. Malta
  4. Singapore
  5. Luxembourg
  6. New Zealand
  7. Thailand
  8. Panama
  9. Canada
  10. Australia

Why are Americans emigrating?

Just as many immigrants arrive in America seeking a better quality of life, many Americans are leaving for the same reasons. For many, this means economic reasons — sometimes tax, sometimes work opportunities. Many Americans retire abroad and some end up meeting and marrying partners while on foreign assignments.


The 2015 Expat Insider study by InterNations described Ecuador as “everyone’s darling” — a popular destination for expats of many origins. American citizens make up more than half of Ecuador’s expat population. Ecuador’s appeal is down to its relatively low cost of living, personal finances and quality of life (including the amount of leisure time) as well as the welcoming nature of its people.

China and Singapore

Generations of Americans have followed their entrepreneurial spirit to place around the globe — relocating or starting families in their new homes. As such China and Singapore have been receiving large numbers of Americans as their economies grow and opportunity follows — especially Singapore with its thriving financial centre, multinational banks and professional services firms. Head to our destination guide for an insight into Singaporean life.

Latterly, China has become a growing draw for Americans as the Chinese government allowed increasing trade with the outside world. This has not only created opportunity for American firms, but put Western skillsets in high demand in Chinese multinationals.

But the Chinese gold rush has already slowed in parallel with Chinese economic growth. As the bright lights of opportunity dim, many Americans have decided that money alone will not keep them there and many expats are leaving citing air pollution in major cities as a major turn off.


One in four Americans leaving the U.S. moves to Europe. The small nation of Luxembourg may seem an obscure and esoteric choice but as well as being a hub for professional services and banking industries, it is also home to the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and other major organisations.

Language barriers

As well as career, culture is an important draw, and an obvious pattern is the number of English-speaking nations in the top countries, from Canada and the UK in the top ten destinations, to New Zealand and Bermuda further down the list.

Bottom of the table

The nations with the smallest American expat communities include Kuwait, Greece and Nigeria. The reasons for these small numbers show concern around economic and even military, civil or governmental insecurity.

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