For any number of reasons, many people consider retiring to another country. A foreign country may offer a lower cost of living, which can be important to retired adults with limited retirement savings. Some countries may have particularly appealing climates. Or, people may simply have fallen in love with a country they once visited and vowed to themselves they would one day retire there.

For a person planning to settle down permanently in a foreign country, it is typically necessary to become a citizen of that country because it simplifies matters such as opening bank accounts and owning property. Some may choose dual citizenship, obtaining a second passport, while others may prefer to drop their U.S. citizenship altogether and become citizens of their new home country. Some countries allow dual citizenship, and some do not. Many wealthy Americans, perturbed by what they consider oppressive U.S. taxation, have chosen to renounce their U.S. citizenship in favor of becoming citizens of nations such as Singapore or Chile.

Factors to consider in terms of new citizenship and a second passport are whether your new passport allows visa-free travel, taxes and other potential obligations, and financial freedom such as the ability to open a bank account or establish a business. There is also the question of whether a retirement destination is welcoming to ex-pats who wish to become citizens. It is relatively easy to obtain citizenship in the following five countries.

Key Takeaways

  • Retiring to another country typically requires obtaining citizenship in the chosen country so that the resident can own property and a bank account.
  • Dual citizenship is an option for U.S. citizens retiring to some countries.
  • Potential ex-pats should check whether their desired passport status allows visa-free travel, financial freedom, and how it would affect their taxes.

Dominican Republic

Retirees can obtain citizenship in a reasonably short period in the Dominican Republic. The basic requirement is that a retiree document a stable retirement income of at least $1,500 per month from a source outside the Dominican Republic, plus $250 per each dependent. Non-retirees have to show a minimum monthly income of $2,000 per month plus $250 per dependent. The term dependent refers to a spouse or children under the age of 18.

Provided this basic requirement is met, an individual can apply directly for permanent residency. After holding the permanent residency for two years, an individual can then apply for citizenship. The whole process takes about three years.

The citizenship process also requires an interview conducted in Spanish (questions and answers can be reviewed in advance) and a medical exam. Dual citizenship is permitted in the Dominican Republic.

Ireland

A person can qualify to become a naturalized citizen of Ireland by living there for one year, plus four years cumulative residency over the eight years preceding the one year.

The Irish government may even be willing to waive part of the residency time requirement if you can sufficiently document Irish ancestry or other associations with Ireland. If you happen to have a provable Irish grandparent, you may be able to become an Irish national by virtue of your ancestry. Ireland does permit dual citizenship. Keep in mind that obtaining citizenship does not automatically shield you from obligations of citizenship in another country (for example, paying taxes in both homelands).

Peru

Getting a residence permit for Peru is not too difficult for individuals who are willing to attend school, start a business in Peru, or prove that they earn more than $1,000 per month in investment or pension income. Those who meet one of these criteria can have Peruvian citizenship in approximately two years. There is a language and history test in Spanish that passport applicants must take unless they marry a Peruvian. 

It is advisable to go through an agent who can guide you through the process of applying for residency at a Peruvian embassy. Applicants may also need to change their name to the Spanish style of having surnames from both their mother and father. Unlike some countries that require you to renounce your previous citizenship to become a citizen, Peru allows dual citizenship.

Singapore

Singapore offers a simple route to citizenship. Anyone who establishes a business in Singapore obtains employment there, or marries a citizen of Singapore can obtain permanent residency. After two years of residency, individuals can apply to become a naturalized citizen. Opening a business, however, can be a costly enterprise: check carefully for the latest financial requirements; it's not just simply depositing a certain sum in a Singapore bank.

Cautionary note: Singapore requires National Service from its male citizens. If you are of retirement age, you are likely safely outside the age window that obligates you for national service. A male permanent resident can apply for citizenship after completing National Service. Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. Applicants must renounce their prior citizenship to become a citizen of Singapore.

Canada

Canada also offers a simple path to citizenship. Unless you have a job in Canada, you need proof of other income to obtain residency. To meet the residency requirement, you must be physically present in Canada for at least 730 days (two years) in every five-year period, according to Settlement.org. For example, an individual needs $12,960 (CAD), as proof of funds to immigrate as a skilled immigrant. After becoming a permanent resident, you can apply for naturalization as a Canadian citizen after four years. There are interactive questionnaires you can take to deliberate if relocating to Canada is right for you.

The Canadian immigration authorities are very strict about enforcing the requirement that you physically reside in the country before applying to be a citizen. You must have been physically present in Canada as a permanent resident for at least 1,095 days during the five years immediately before the date of your application, according to Settlement.org. You also must have filed your taxes for at least three years during the last five years, and any income tax you owe must be paid.

Other requirements include: If you're 14 to 65, you must send documents proving that you can speak and listen in English or French, and you will need to pass a citizenship test. If you wait until you are older, these requirements will not apply. Canada does permit dual citizenship.

The Bottom Line

Try vacationing or staying on a short stay visa before applying for a residency visa. It is important to get a feel for a country and its ex-pat community before committing to a big move.