Europe is home to some of the best countries for retirees. Affordable healthcare, low costs of living, and excellent weather are just a few reasons people from across the world retire to Europe. From mountainous backdrops to expansive beaches, Europe offers a diverse range of locations that make for mainly peaceful retirements.
What are the best countries in Europe for retirement? Can U.S. citizens retire in Europe? How can family members visit retirees in Europe? Everything soon-to-be retirees need to know about Europe will be covered in this article.
Positioned between Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, this coastal country offers unbeatable weather, gorgeous views, and a vibrant culture sure to satisfy any retiree. One of the most popular places in Portugal for retirement is the southern city of Algarve.
The year-round sunshine in this region is perfect for retirees to enjoy the white sand beaches, 16th-century architecture, and over 40 golf courses. On top of all that, Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world.
Like many countries in Europe, Portugal offers free healthcare to retirees. That said, expatriates may need to register for private healthcare.
There are ways, though, for retirees to obtain residency to enjoy the benefits of Portugal’s highly-ranked healthcare system. The Golden Visa is one such way.
What Is a Golden Visa?
Several European countries offer residency by investment programs known as Golden Visas. These initiatives seek to bring foreign capital into their lands in exchange for living and many other benefits.
Portugal offers one of the most popular Golden Visa programs. In addition to free healthcare and visa-free travel throughout Europe, Portugal Golden Visa holders can extend residency to their families and enjoy many tax benefits.
Slovenia offers a geographical diversity that retirees can enjoy every inch of, bordering the Mediterranean coast and the Balkan mountain range. There are few other European countries where residents can relax at the beach and go skiing on the same day.
This makes Slovenia a perfect country for retirees who value nature and adventure. Adding to Slovenia’s appeal are its safety and low cost of living.
The capital city of Ljubljana boasts the lowest homicide rate in all of Europe. On top of that, Ljubljana offers affordable real estate compared to the rest of Europe and the United States, a walkable city design with 17th-century architecture, and a short distance to the beach and mountains.
A list of the best retirement locations would not be complete without Spain. In addition to excellent weather, action-packed cities, and a wealth of beaches, Spain has something for just about anyone.
Those after busy beaches and vibrant nightlife should look no further than Barcelona. Retirees who have a taste for the finer things will fall in love with Marbella. The northern town of Oviedo is perfect for anyone looking to replace large crowds with a more local feel.
An additional benefit to living in Spain is an excellent transportation system. Just about every major city is connected by train, meaning residents can enjoy the entirety of what Spain has to offer.
Railways connect Spain to Portugal, France, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. This makes Spain an excellent choice for retirees who want to travel throughout Europe.
How Can Retired Expatriates Obtain Healthcare in Europe?
Most European countries function so taxpayers can retire in Europe with a pension and accessible healthcare. So, where does this leave expatriates?
Unfortunately, those who never paid taxes in Europe will probably not be eligible for assistance or free healthcare. Exceptions like Golden Visas exist; however, non-EU citizens will likely need to pay for public healthcare or private insurance.
Spain, though, remains an excellent choice for expatriates needing healthcare. While expatriates usually need to purchase private insurance for at least their first year of residency, the cost is often lower than Medicare A and B, Medigap, and Plan D in the United States. After five years, all expatriates are welcomed into the public healthcare system.
There are few places better than Paris for retirees who want to fill their best years with fine art, food, and wine. This famous city is Europe’s cultural hub and offers over 130 museums, 140 theaters, and 44,000 restaurants.
Culture-seeking retirees will never be bored from Picasso exhibits to the Paris Opera. On top of that, Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world. It doesn’t get much better than taking twilight cruises down the Seine.
France is also an excellent choice for retirees who want to settle in the countryside. The Burgundy region features vast rolling hills and medieval architecture–perfect for retirees after a more rustic retirement.
Normandy offers the best of both worlds. On top of a sprawling beach and rich historical sites, the city of Normandy has excellent restaurants and plenty of cultures to take in.
Many retirees need to consider a city’s accessibility, and the highly-developed country of Germany offers many locations ideally suited for those with limited mobility or disabilities. Berlin is particularly well-suited in this area due to its relatively flat landscape and accessible public transport.
Throughout Berlin, all trams and city bus services are wheelchair accessible. The city also offers plenty of wheelchair-ready cabs and sites such as Museum Island, the Reichstag Building, and the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Also making Germany a desirable location for retirement is a stable economy and excellent healthcare system. Eighty-six percent of Germans choose national healthcare coverage over private. Germany is often ranked as one of the best countries for quality of life.
Central to the Rest of Europe
On top of its top-notch national accessibility, Germany’s central location makes it highly accessible to the rest of Europe. By train, Germans can travel to France, Czechia, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and Denmark, just to name a few popular destinations. Those who want to spend their retirement globe-trotting will love the accessibility that Germany offers.
How Can I Retire in Europe?
While retiring in Europe is an attractive option for many retirees, it’s not as easy as just showing up. Non-EU citizens can only stay in Europe’s Schengen Area for up to 90 days within 180 days. This means you will need to take additional considerations before planning to retire in Europe.
Several European countries offer a Golden Visa, allowing non-EU citizens to obtain residency for a sizable investment. While each country has different requirements, investment options often include residential real estate, making this an excellent opportunity for retirees who want to settle down.
On top of that, while Golden Visas do not offer immediate citizenship, they offer a path to full EU citizenship. Countries that offer a Golden Visa include:
- The Republic of Ireland
While requirements and benefits vary between countries, many Golden Visas offer visa-free travel throughout the EU, free healthcare, and tax benefits. One of the unique Golden Visas is provided by Cyprus, allowing foreign investors to obtain full EU citizenship in just six months.
While Golden Visas are valuable options, their minimum investment requirements are not well-suited for many retirees. Many countries, though, will grant long-term visas to applicants who can prove some financial stability.
Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Ireland, and Austria offer such programs. Requirements often include proof of steady income, proof of savings, and, in some cases, language tests.
EU Residence Card
For retirees whose family member is an EU citizen, an EU residence card can be the path to obtaining European residency, as long as they meet specific criteria. First, as each country regulates EU residence cards, the family member must live in the country where the applicant wants to obtain residency.
Additionally, the applicant must prove that they depend on the family member or that the family member is dependent on them.
What Does Retiring in Europe Mean for Family Members?
Retiring in Europe offers many benefits, such as excellent national healthcare systems, low costs of living, and excellent access to other travel opportunities. For these reasons, retirement in Europe is better for many people than retirement in the United States. One of the most significant drawbacks, though, is leaving family behind.
How Can Family Members Visit Europe?
For retired expatriates in Europe, there is no need to worry about family visitation. It is straightforward for U.S. citizens to travel throughout Europe for family visitation.
Currently, non-EU citizens, including U.S. citizens, can travel visa-free through Europe’s Schengen Area for up to 90 days within any given 180-day period. Starting in 2024, non-EU citizens must pre-register with ETIAS before traveling to Europe.
How Will ETIAS Change Travel Requirements?
ETIAS is an electronic visa-waiver program requiring all non-EU citizens to pre-register before traveling. While ETIAS requires an extra step in the travel process, it is not a visa but a visa waiver.
This means non-EU citizens can still travel throughout the Schengen Area visa-free for up to 90 days within 180 days. The only change to the travel process will be this quick online registration.
Does ETIAS Make It Harder for Travelers To Visit Family in Europe?
Those traveling to Europe for reasons of family visitation will need to apply for ETIAS. While this is an extra step in the process, registration is quick, approval is nearly instant, and validity lasts for three years. This means travelers do not need to register more than once within that three-year window.
On top of that, the purpose of ETIAS is to give EU border agents a digital database of each traveler they will encounter daily. This will expedite and enrich the identity verification process, making travel throughout the EU safer and more efficient.
Can Families of Retired Residents Also Obtain Residency?
This depends on the residency status of the retired resident. In most cases, family members of retired residents, or any kind of resident, are not entitled to any special provisions and will need to obtain residency independently. There are exceptional cases in which family members can obtain residency.
The easiest way for retirees to ensure their families can also become residents is to acquire a Golden Visa. Several countries with Golden Visa programs allow investors to extend residency to their spouses, children, and in-laws.
Other Golden Visa programs are most restrictive, though. Another way would be for the retiree to obtain citizenship upon establishing residency, making sure family members are eligible for EU residence cards.
The Next Step
Retirement in Europe can offer a wide range of benefits. Most European countries take great care of their retirees, offering benefits such as free healthcare, pensions, and excellent social programs. Retirees in Europe will also enjoy low costs of living and easy access to the entire continent of Europe.
Those considering retirement in Europe should consider their best route to residency. While residency can be obtained by proof of stable finances, the easiest path is to purchase a home in a country that offers a Golden Visa. This will allow retirees to enjoy many of the perks to which EU citizens are entitled.
Family members should look into ETIAS for future travel to visit their European retirees.
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