While we spent most of the last 25 years based primarily in the United States, we hail from different countries. Opposite sides of the world. The U.S. and Singapore. A few years ago, we started spending winters in Singapore. COVID paused that last year. Singapore doesn’t recognize gay marriage. That’s the main reason we didn’t go in 2020. Reggie could have entered the country alone. If we were a married straight couple, we could have entered Singapore after quarantining. But as an LGBTQ+ couple, we could not.
Singapore does not recognize dual citizenship, so Reggie has permanent residency which allows her to stay in the U.S. At the same time, the mood in the U.S. around immigrants and the Asian community has been less than welcoming.
Another issue in Singapore is that Sue is regarded as a tourist and subject to a maximum stay of 90 days in the country. So, retirement as an option in Singapore doesn’t work.
All of this got us thinking. Was there another place in the world where we could both live? A place that was LGBTQ-friendly, relatively inexpensive, politically stable, with good medical care, and that offered retirement visas? A bonus would be if it were easy to travel to from the U.S. and Singapore. This prompted our search for the best LGBTQ+ places to retire internationally.
Retiring in Europe
Since we were interested in being somewhere between Singapore and the East Coast of the U.S., we first began looking at European locations. We also liked the idea of ease of travel within Europe. Here’s what we found:
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2010.
We love Portugal and were happy to see it pop up on the list. While we were hoping to avoid winter entirely, Portugal has a Mediterranean climate and has very mild winters. The country is historical, full of charm, progressive, and affordable.
Portugal makes it easy to apply for a resident visa. There is a non-habitual resident program with no tax on foreign pensions and other retirement incomes. A reasonably priced private health care insurance is required to access the top-notch health care system. The cost of living is low in much of the country (Lisbon is more expensive) and you can live comfortably on less than $1,500 a month. In major cities and certain parts of the country like Douro, Lisbon, and the Algarve, English is widely spoken.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005.
Spain is another of our favorite countries. Like Portugal, Spain has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters throughout most of the country. There are tons of historical and cultural attractions to keep you busy.
The country has a non-lucrative visa and initial one-year residence permit also known as the retirement visa. The residence permit may be renewed for 2 years twice after which you will be eligible for the long duration residence. Income requirements are a little higher with higher assets ($40,000) and proof of minimum monthly income of roughly $3,467, health insurance, and sometimes, an executed lease for accommodation. Cities outside of the major ones will have lower cost of living.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2017.
Malta is a small archipelago with only five islands located in the Mediterranean off the southern coast of Italy. The ancient historic islands, many of which house UNESCO World Heritage sites are surrounded by pristine crystal-clear waters.
Like Spain, Malta requires a net worth of between $40,000-$45,000 and an annual income of over $27,000. You need to have a clean criminal record to be eligible to be interviewed for a permanent resident permit.
English is widely spoken, and Malta is one of the safest countries in Europe. Public health care is ranked fifth in the world by WHO, and if desired, private health insurance is very economical. You are only required to pay taxes on capital gains and any income derived from Maltese sources.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2017.
Sharing borders with Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary, Slovenia is a beautiful country with many castles and caves. From its Adriatic shores to the mountains and cities, this central European country is fast becoming a retirement destination. The dollar goes a long way with prices being at least 20 percent lower than in the U.S. Rents outside of major cities are even lower. The country is largely Roman Catholic.
Retirees can apply for a one-year temporary residence permit renewable annually for 5 years, after which you can apply for permanent residence. You will only need to prove income equal to Slovenia’s basic monthly income of $1,000. Slovenia is part of the European Union and has decent healthcare. All taxpayers are covered by the country’s mandatory health insurance scheme, though you may choose to purchase private insurance to see your own physician and pay for prescriptions.
Pro Tip: Unfortunately, a downside to retiring in Slovenia is that residents are taxed globally. We recommend consulting with your tax accountants about the implications before making any plans.
Latin and South America
There are many possibilities in Latin and South America. The region is very easily reached from the U.S. Hurricane season was one drawback in this area.
Same-Sex marriage was legalized in 2020.
Costa Rica is an excellent place for LGBTQ+ retirees. It is one of the hottest travel destinations in the world, with everything from beaches to volcanos to wildlife and other adventures. The Pensionado program allows you to live in Costa Rica for three years as long as you can show that you have $12,000 in yearly income for the rest of your life (social security or a pension satisfies this requirement). After three years, you can apply for permanent residency. They also offer a Rentista program, which requires that you deposit $60,000 in a Costa Rican bank or show $30,000 yearly income for two years. Costa Rica has affordable private healthcare, and the cost of living is much lower than in the U.S. and most of Europe.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013.
Located between Brazil and Argentina, this modern, progressive yet laid-back country is very LGBTQ+ retiree friendly. Its rentista program can be converted into a passport for longer stays. You only need to show proof of $18,000 annual income which reflects its low cost of living. High-quality affordable private health care, a low crime rate, and a temperate climate round out the other criteria.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2019.
Ecuador is another of our favorite countries. Located on the west coast of South America, this country known for its eternal spring climate, has the Andes Mountain ranges, tropical rainforests, and beaches to offer.
The entry requirements are simple: a pensioner visa showing just $10,000 in income and being in possession of private health insurance. Alternatively, you may be entitled to stay in Ecuador as a real estate investor spending as little as $25,000.
The U.S. currency is widely accepted, and the cost of living is low. Ecuador offers many seniors’ perks, including subsidized public transport. You’ll need to speak (or learn) Spanish to get around easily in Ecuador.
Other possibilities in South America include Mexico, Chile, and Peru.
There are a number of countries in Asia that have retirement visas, Including Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Unfortunately, many countries in Asia have anti-LGBTQ+ laws or other political issues that knocked them out of consideration.
Taiwan was the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019. Unfortunately, Taiwan does not offer retirement visas and the cost of living is like the U.S. While healthcare is ranked amongst the best in Asia, it does not come cheap to ex-pats. We also had concerns about China’s relationship with Taiwan and its implications.
Some Popular Countries That Did Not Make The List
There are a number of LGBTQ+-friendly countries and best places to retire that did not make this list mainly due to the lack of retirement visas or recognition of gay marriage. We also didn’t research any countries in Africa because of the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment/laws and the travel difficulties.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in France in 2013.
One of our favorite destinations in Europe, France is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Europe if not the world. Art, culture, food, history — France has everything. One drawback… not the most economical place to retire. Be prepared to learn to speak French if you don’t already. France does not have a retirement visa, so this knocked it off the list.
Another LGBTQ+-friendly country, Israel also doesn’t have a retirement visa. If you are Jewish, there are some routes to retiring in Israel.
This article is just to get you thinking and imagining. The visa requirements that we list are current as of now but could change in the future. Attitudes and laws pertaining to LGBTQ+ lives may also evolve. Hopefully, for the better, and we will be able to add more countries to this list.
Make sure to consult immigration lawyers and tax accountants before making any moves to retire internationally.
Or, just have fun imagining and let your mind go on a journey. We did.
It’s important to vacation in places where locals are welcoming and friendly: