The Perks of Being a Part-Time Expat

The financial and lifestyle benefits of living, working, and retiring abroad are pretty obvious.

If you live in a place with temperate year-round weather and lower prices for food, transportation, rent, taxes, and real estate, you’re going to be more comfortable and save money. And if the healthcare is just as good and much less expensive than where you live now, you’re going to be doing even better.

But these benefits aren’t limited to people who live full time in the right overseas destination. They can be enjoyed just as well by folks who spent part of the year in the right place and part of the year in their home country.

In fact, part-timers are a growing segment of the expat population in many of the world’s best retirement destinations abroad. And they enjoy the best of both worlds—they can take advantage of great weather, a lower cost of living, and an exotic culture part of the year, and they can stay close to family and friends and the familiarity of home part of the year.

The considerations for part-timing aren’t much different than those for moving abroad full time. The most obvious difference is the need for a place to call home in two locations instead of one.

For people who own their own home in the U.S. or Canada, one half of that requirement is already taken care of. And that home can also become a source of income if it can be rented while you’re away part of the year, especially with options like Airbnb available to help with marketing and collections. Rental apartments that can be sublet can also be a valuable source of income in the same way.

This applies just as well to properties owned in popular expat destinations around the world. In fact, the lower prices for real estate abroad can make it possible to own two properties—one in each location. Part-timers can then get cash flow from both properties as they shift from one to the other during the year.

And you needn’t invest in real estate at all, if you’d prefer not to. Rentals, especially in the most desirable overseas locations, are numerous and, depending on your lifestyle requirements, can be very affordable. In a location with warm year-round weather and vibrant local culture, you don’t often need much more in a rental than a secure, comfortable place to sleep and keep your luggage. In fact, in many overseas destinations, the cost of eating out is so affordable that the size and quality of the kitchen isn’t a big concern. It could actually cost more to cook at home than to eat out.

Visa requirements for part-time living abroad vary from country to country, but in many of the most popular expat destinations, tourist visas are given to you on the plane and can be valid for up to six months…no need to even visit the immigration office. They can often be easily extended or renewed, either with a small fee or by leaving and then re-entering the country. In Costa Rica, for example, a weekend trip to Panama or Nicaragua gets you a new tourist visa when you return.

In other countries, such as Mexico, you can get temporary or permanent residency visas with a few trips to immigration and some basic financial requirements. And with a permanent residence visa in Mexico, for example, there are no limits on the amount of time you can spend outside the country each year…perfect for part-timers who also want to enjoy the benefits of Mexico’s public health insurance system, which is available to permanent residents.

And, of course, part-timers enjoy the same savings as full-timers from a location with lower costs of living, at least for the portion of the year they spend in their overseas home.

The number of U.S. and Canadian citizens who are part-time expats is large and growing all the time. It’s a smart way to take advantage of all the lifestyle and financial perks of living abroad while still keeping a foot on home turf.

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