Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

Getting out of the USA

Posted by alifinmath on January 23, 2008

As life becomes ever more difficult in the USA, an increasing number of Americans will be looking to emigrate. Indeed, in my travels abroad, I frequently stumble across expatriate or wannabe-expatriate Americans who have left the USA for one reason or another. The reason is occasionally economic, occasionally political, and frequently a sense of inchoate general unease which is difficult to dissect into constituent elements.

A couple of books have been published in the last couple of years directed at Americans who want to get the hell out of a sinking ship (er, sorry, emigrate from the US).

First, there is Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America, by Mark Ehrman. There are a couple of copies at Mayday Books , in the Seven Corners neighborhood (in fact right opposite the Carlson Business School, and adjacent to a U of M carpark). I’ve looked at the book a couple of times but always been faintly disappointed: it doesn’t grapple with the tricky business of getting residence visas and permits. This is no easy matter when most worthwhile countries have slammed the door on primary immigration — except for those either extraordinarily skilled or inordinately wealthy.

A second one, and one I haven’t yet had a chance to look at, is: Leaving America: The New Expatriate Generation , by John Wennersten. From the book description:

Today more than ever, large numbers of Americans are leaving the United States. It is estimated that by the end of the decade, some 10 million of the brightest and most talented Americans, representing an estimated $136 billion in wages, will be living and working overseas. This emigration trend contradicts the internalized myth of America as the land of affluence, opportunity, and freedom. What is behind this trend? Wennersten argues that many people these days, from college students to retirees, are uncertain or ambivalent about what it means to be an American…. The greatest irony in America today may well be that while argument and discord prevail in the edifice of American democracy about diversity, economic justice, equality, and the Iraq War, many of the most thoughtful citizens have already left the building.


8 Responses to “Getting out of the USA”

  1. Chris Prouty said

    So where would an American go? You’ve skewered the UK several times too.

  2. alifinmath said

    Yes, I’ve skewered the UK, and in any case, it’s a crowded isle, with increasingly decrepit public services, and broken down (and partially privatised) public transport. In any case, its fortunes are too closely tied to those of the USA: that’s partly why we speak of the “Anglo-American model.”

    But quite a few Americans (such as yourself?) are Nordic types. If you are ethnically German, the German government has a long-standing policy of having to admit you to Germany. Indeed, when I was in Kazakhstan in 1994, there were 1 million ethnic Germans there, many of whom were applying for entry to Germany (Stalin shipped them to Kazakhstan). If you have one grandparent who was born in the UK, you can claim “patrial” status, and be admitted to the UK as an immigrant, eventually become a British citizen, and move to somewhere else in Europe. If you have one Nordic parent (e.g. Norwegian or Swedish), I think you can apply for immigration to Norway or Sweden, respectively (but check the details, as I’m not on sure ground).

    Even if you intend to continue living in the USA, there’s no harm in having a little insurance policy in case TSHTF (which seems a plausible scenario).

  3. Chris Prouty said

    My heritage is Irish, Scottish, and English. No luck…

  4. alifinmath said

    But how far back? I think Irish policy is the same as British: one grandparent who was born in the old country is all you need. If you have but one grandparent born in Scotland, England, or Ireland, you’re in luck.

    Alternatively, Ireland has been booming as a software nexus for over ten years now. In the recent past (don’t know about now), it’s not been too difficult to get an offer of employment as a programmer and get a work permit. How the work permit could be trasmuted into an indefinite residence permit, I don’t know.

    For that matter, Germany has also been complaining about skills shortages for quite some time. Politicians have put forward proposals to allow more programmers and engineers into Germany, but the public has balked at allowing more Indians (say) in, and so nothing has come of these proposals. But a clean-cut Anglo-Saxon type like you would be a different kettle of fish. Take my word for this: no European country will want to throw you out, and if rules and regulations are invoked, it will be most reluctantly. I’m reminded of the 1984 Olympics, when the British wanted a (white) South African girl to represent them in the 100-meter dash; despite the fact that laws proscribed her receiving residence rights, she was made a full British citizen in ten days. Goes to show. 😉

  5. Chris Prouty said

    For better or worse my grandparents were Appalachian and West Virginian hill people. I guess I’m stuck here.

  6. mark ehrman said

    I’ve never responded to anything written about my book before, but I couldn’t let this pass. I’m wondering how much of the book you’ve looked at since there’s an entire section devoted to visas and citizenship. Also, the countries section lists that information, as well. Many of the questions of birthrate discussed in this thread are dealt with there. I’m not saying it’s easy. What the book does explain is that some places are easier than others and that a lot depends of your age, skill-set and yes, income. The book tries to help you match who you are with what you want and what is possible. Just as an example, as a self-employed person, I’ve had NO trouble staying here in Germany and can pretty much stay as long as I want. Indeed, your comment about countries “slamming the door” on immigration doesn’t take into account a double-standard that tends to apply when the applicant is from a First World country as opposed to the Third World. If you need a work permit, it’s a bit more difficult, but the book outlines suggestions for that, as well (just as an example, of the thousands of English teachers here, only a few have work permits) as well as countries that have more a more liberal attitude toward foreign employment (UAE, Canada, Australia, NZ). Anyway, if you don’t like the book because of the way it’s written, the way it’s laid out, or because of the approach it takes, that’s fine. You’re welcome to your opinion. But to criticize it for some not containing something that is actually dealt with quite prominently is simply wrong. Perhaps you’re looking for something that will magically transport you to a life in another country. If so, I suggest to you that you will find that any resource you investigate will disappoint you.

  7. mark ehrman said

    I meant to say birthright, not birthrate.

  8. alifinmath said

    I didn’t say I didn’t like the book, merely that there are some lacuna — something you would surely not deny(?), as this is inevitable in any first attempt. I will have to look at the book more closely with regard to visa and entry permit information. As we know, general information is of scant use: it varies from country to country. I looked up the countries of interest to me (i.e., places where I’ve resided) such as Britain and Latvia, and looked particularly for work permit and resident visa information. Perhaps I missed it. In passing, I also looked for countries such as Sweden and Norway (which I’m interested in at the moment), but don’t seem to have found them: again, not your fault, as you’re not writing a comprehensive encyclopedia.

    You are right that there are double standards: if a person appears to be of European extraction, the rules will be applied most reluctantly.

    I don’t wish to discourage your fledgling efforts: there is a need for books such as yours.

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