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In today’s article we are going to explain in a simple way the steps and procedures you must follow for your immigration to any country. Let us start with the obvious: Immigration is a rather cumbersome and bureaucratic issue in most countries. That is why, for many perpetual travellers, processing residency on paper (I say “on paper” because many of these travellers do not actually live anywhere) is one of the least desirable processes in their new life as a person freer from the burden of the state.

Luckily, in many cases, the residency issue can be solved in a week or two. In fact, the process can be simple and straightforward, at least if you have the right specialists supporting you (you know that in we can help you decide where to move to according to your situation and, in many cases, how to arrange a new residency).

In any case, if you speak the national language, have time, and are not easily stressed, you can also try to deal with the immigration paperwork on your own.

However, this is not always much cheaper than paying a lawyer or agency, especially if you consider your time investment. This is especially so in developing countries: It is essential to have good contacts, as without them you will often pay more for the paperwork (or have to wait forever).

While opening bank accounts and registering foreign companies can be done remotely, this is not the case for residency.

To emigrate to another country, personal presence is always mandatory. At least once, the immigrant must present him/herself in the country to which he/she wants to emigrate. The same applies to the spouse, children, or any other relatives. If they are also going to receive a residence permit, they must be there at least once. Powers of attorney can be signed to save some visits to the Administration, but as we said, they will not prevent you from having to present yourself at least once.

By the way, an aside: If you are interested in emigrating to another country, you might want to take a look at our articles on the different types of immigration. Of course, you might also want to take a look at our Emigration Encyclopedia, an eBook in which we explain the requirements to emigrate to the most interesting countries from a fiscal point of view.

And now, we continue with our explanation of the steps and procedures to emigrate to another country.

Documents and certificates

Apart from the fact that you are required to be present at least once in front of the authorities, there are not many similarities between the different countries.

In some cases, immigration is an unimaginable war because of all the paperwork involved, while in others it is quick and efficient.

Either way, there is one thing that is always repeated, the goal is to gather certain signed documents and present them to the appropriate people to move to the next level, until you get the final document that allows you to reside legally in the country.

Depending on where you are going to emigrate to, documents in English may work for you. In case you are not going to an English-speaking country, you should request the documents in your home country in a bilingual format (which is sometimes possible).

Depending on the case, the translations will have to be done by certified or sworn translators. You can contact such translators by inquiring at local embassies or you can hire the services of a translation agency that offers sworn translations.

Some documents will need to be legalized, apostilled or sworn. This includes the criminal record certificate and the international birth certificate.

There are 4 different types of certifications in the world that may be relevant:

Simple certification: generally, any authority and some professionals can certify the authenticity of a document. That is to say, you can go to the officials of town halls, public offices, and police stations, but also to lawyers, official accountants, and doctors. Authorities often ask you to certify copies of original documents in this way.

Notarial certification: This must be done by a notary. You may be asked to notarize copies of your passport.

Apostille: The apostille is the highest level of certification that can be requested. The signatory states of this convention recognize the apostilles of the other participating states as the highest form of authentication. You can get the apostille through a notary or agent (indirectly), at the courts… Generally, criminal certificates are apostilled.

Here is a list of countries that have signed the convention: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Belarus, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei, Darussalam, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Ireland, Marshall Island, Mauritius, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, Niue, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Seychelles, South Africa, Switzerland, Suriname, Swaziland, Tonga, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America and Venezuela.

Legalization: Not all States are party to the Hague Apostille Convention or do not recognize the apostilles of all others. In these cases, the only option you have is legalization. To legalize the documents, you will have to present them in your country of origin to the embassy of the country to which you want to emigrate. Depending on the case you can also legalize the documents directly in the country to which you want to emigrate.

You do not always need the certified documents. It is often sufficient to submit the original instead of a certified copy.

The documents you will be required to submit can vary greatly, but often include the following (in this order):

  • Passport
  • Birth certificate (international)
  • Criminal record certificate
  • Health certificate
  • Rental contract or registration in the land register
  • Resume
  • Proof of sufficient income (bank statement or similar)
  • Bank references
  • Total overview of finances
  • Written references (good conduct)
  • Cover letter

It is advisable to start collecting the documents you will be asked for as soon as possible, as some documents and the necessary certification may take a long time, depending on the case.

When you go to submit them, you should bring with you not only the originals, but also a certified copy.

Some documents can only be obtained in your home country, but most can also be obtained remotely, including, for example, an Interpol check or a medical health certificate, which should clarify that you do not have any contagious diseases such as HIV or similar.

Typical immigration conditions

In addition to the document requirements for a residence permit, many countries also require an immigrant’s income or property, as well as a requirement to use it. Other countries use point systems that also evaluate a prospective immigrant’s education, skills, and living conditions. While point systems are typical in high-tax Western countries such as Canada and Australia, most developing and emerging countries are more concerned with the applicant’s income and assets.

Retirement or pension declaration: Many states have immigration regimes that are particularly attractive to retirees and pensioners. It depends on the country, but as long as they can obtain a minimum pension of between $500 and $2,500 per month, they usually receive permanent residence visas. This is the case, for example, in Costa Rica ($2,000) or Nicaragua ($500).

If there is no pension, confirming that you have a guaranteed pension for life (for example through a life insurance policy) can always be an alternative, if you have paid the necessary sum.

Proof of income from unearned sources: There are higher hurdles than pensions for other types of income. Here, any income other than a salary is generally assessed. The threshold is generally above $2,000 and applies mainly to rental income, dividends, or other investments. A residence permit can be obtained in the Dominican Republic, for example.

Foundation of a local company: In some countries, creating a local corporation with a certain amount of share capital is the required ticket or one of the conditions for a permanent residence permit. This is typical for Panama under the “Friendly Nations Programs”.

Minimum turnover after company formation: In some countries, the establishment of a company is linked to the fulfilment of certain key economic figures. In the United States of America, for example, there must be a minimum turnover of US$500,000 and several local employees after one year has passed, otherwise the temporary residence permit expires.

Time deposits at the National Bank: In many countries, a deposit in the local currency at the National Bank is required. Depending on the country, this deposit is blocked only during the processing until a permanent residence is issued (Paraguay), or for the entire period the visa is issued (Philippines). Generally, these deposits do not earn interest, but may do so in exceptional cases (Malaysia). Withdrawals are generally only possible in person or when made by an authorized person.

Time deposits in domestic banks: In some countries, a local bank account must first be opened, to which a fixed sum must also be transferred as proof of assets. Although this opening often involves additional bureaucratic issues, the account can generally be used even after the residence permit has been issued and, thanks to the presence of online banking and cards, the money can also be used without being present. An example of this was Panama.

Real estate investments: some countries require the purchase of an apartment of a certain value to issue a permanent residence permit. This is particularly common in Southern Europe for non-EU citizens and is known as a “Golden Visa”. The purchase of a property between €200,000 (Latvia) and €500,000 (Spain) with some countries qualifies. In many other countries, real estate is a possible form of investment that applicants may choose in favour of local companies or state funds.

Rental real estate: in exceptional cases, it is not necessary to buy an apartment, but it can be rented. However, the choice of rental properties is often very limited, has its price and corresponds to the immigration office. This is the case in Gibraltar, for example.

Other investments: depending on the country, other forms of investment can be used instead of real estate investments. Usually, local companies or a state development fund are used. Money is not lost with this form of investment; in theory, there is even the possibility of making a profit. In most cases, however, it is only possible to invest in narrowly defined companies that need fresh capital precisely because they lose it quickly. Therefore, an investment is not a total loss, but is accompanied by losses rather than profits. An example is residency/citizenship in Vanuatu.

The multitude of documents, certificates required and conditions to be fulfilled can be confusing for those interested in emigrating. However, it may be worth taking the plunge and leaving the system in your home country. While other systems are not necessarily better, as an expatriate, you can actually enjoy the freedom of being properly structured in very attractive countries that you could only dream of when you were living in your home country.

Of course, can help you with its consulting service to bring light into the darkness and prepare you perfectly for an imminent immigration. On the other hand, if you prefer to start by just informing yourself about the most interesting countries, you could start with our eBook “Emigration Encyclopedia“.

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