Immigration is a hot topic these days. Watch the news and you’ll get bombarded with images of illegals and ‘refugees’ pouring across borders into the U.S. or Europe.
We rarely hear about the reverse situation though; where Westerners live illegally in other nations. But of course, people from the West can ‘go illegal’ too…
Now, I’m not saying you should live illegally in a foreign country. Obeying local laws usually the best thing to do.
But not always. Sometimes, it’s better to flaunt laws. Because by ignoring them, you’ll save yourself valuable time, energy, and money. And the risk can be low – depending on the country.
So what do I know about it?
Well, I’m an American guy who lived illegally in Colombia for five months in 2016…
Here’s what I learned:
1) Find A Lenient Country
First, you must pick a place with lenient immigration laws. Somewhere that’ll slap you on the wrist and just fine you for an over-stay. Avoid countries with harsh immigration laws – you don’t wanna be featured on ‘Locked Up Abroad’ or get banned for life.
2) Enter Legally
Don’t struggle across the border like a savage! Get your visa and passport in order, then enter the country legally. Get the longest visa available – likely ranging from 60 to 180 days.
3) Choose A Nice Neighborhood
Use Airbnb to reserve an apartment or house before your trip. Find space in an upper-middle class or wealthy neighborhood. You’re less likely to draw un-wanted attention when living in nicer areas.
4) Get To Know Your Landlord
Cultivate a good relationship with your new landlord right away. Because later on, when you’re illegal, you may rent from them again. When I was in Colombia, I stayed put in the same apartment for five months. And since I’d already established a good relationship with my landlord (while I was legal), he didn’t ask any questions. This important because getting to know your landlord, and then staying put, really minimizes the risk.
5) Let Your Visa Expire
Quietly let your visa expire instead of going to the immigration office to renew it.
6) Dress Well
If you’re gonna be illegal, it helps to camouflage yourself. You can avoid many problems with the law just by looking respectable and laying low. And the best way to do that? Be well-dressed at all times when you’re outside the house.
7) Have Outside Income & Savings
Having a job out in public, if you’re illegal, dramatically increases your chances of getting caught. It’s much better to work on your own, at home, under the radar. So ideally you should have outside sources of income – like an online business or investments.
8) Lay Low
Keep a low profile. Maintain a calm and relaxed attitude. Avoid problems or altercations, don’t get into any fights. Always better to just walk away. Don’t get too drunk or consume illegal drugs in public. And avoid spending time in areas with lots of police, immigration officers, or soldiers.
9) Minimize Travel
You obviously can’t travel by plane inside the country. If you do travel around, use a service like Uber. Subways and buses are OK, but be wary of places that check ID when you enter.
10) Never Carry Your Passport
Don’t carry your ID in public. Because if you’re stopped by the cops, and you do have your ID, it’s game over for you. So it’s best to not have your passport on you. Just be ready to explain why you don’t have it, if you’re every stopped and questioned.
11) Stay Cool If Busted
If you get busted by the cops while you’re illegal, don’t panic. It’s scary, but you can probably talk your way out of it. Tell them your ID is back at your apartment. Explain that you’ve only been in the country a few months, and that you’re already flying home next week. Be prepared to pay a bribe (in some places).
12) Visit Immigration
Eventually, it’ll be time to leave. First, buy your plane ticket back home. Then, one or two weeks before your flight, go to the local immigration office. Bring your passport and all relevant documents. Dress well, arrive early, and be polite. If you don’t speak their language, consider bringing an interpreter. Have enough cash or a credit card to cover any fines. Be humble, apologetic, and patient. If officers ask why you broke their laws, plead ignorance. Pay all your fines and fees without any arguing. And make sure you get receipts – you’ll need them when you exit!
13) Leave The Country
Arrive at the airport early on the day of your flight. Visit the immigration office at the airport, to double-check everything. If you’ve handled things right at the first immigration office, this should be a formality. And now you’re on your way back, home-free!
If you’re willing to chance it, living illegally is worth the risk.
Do it right and you’ll save valuable time, energy, and money.
Just be smart about it, plan ahead, and weigh the risk versus reward.
You may find that living illegally suits you just fine.
Have you ever lived illegally in a foreign country?