Retiring Overseas Cost: How Much Do You Need To Get A Retirement Visa?

Yen Joon

Yen Joon

Last updated 04 October, 2022

With rising cost of living and more elderly residents working in their old age to sustain themselves, retiring in Singapore is becoming an arduous task. Not surprisingly, some Singaporeans dream of retiring overseas, often in a place that they deem to be more affordable so that they can stretch their money and live a more comfortable life. 

Whether you want a different experience in a foreign country, or if you want to retire in a place that has a lower cost of living, here’s what you need to know about the various retirement visa abroad and retiring overseas costs.

But first, what happens to your CPF savings if you leave Singapore?

Since our CPF savings make up a large bulk of our retirement funds, one of the biggest concerns before we move overseas is what will happen to them.

According to the CPF, you can withdraw all your CPF savings if you’re leaving Singapore and West Malaysia, and renouncing your Singapore Citizenship or Permanent Residency (PR) for good. You must also be 55 years or older. 

Malaysians who want to leave Singapore but live in West Malaysia may also withdraw all their CPF savings

Your CPF savings (Ordinary Account, Special Account, and MediSave) will be transferred to your bank account, less any unpaid MediSave premiums and unpaid taxes. You can apply to withdraw your CPF savings here

If you’re under CPF LIFE, your policy will be terminated and any unused premiums will be refunded. You can choose to retain your CPF LIFE policy and continue to receive monthly payouts, but must have either a Singapore personal or joint bank account. 

Finally, if you made any investments under the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS), your investments will be transferred to your Central Depository Account (CDP) first before you can liquidate them. 

Working out the visa requirements

Another important factor to consider before deciding which country to emigrate to is the visa requirements. 

If your goal is to leave Singapore indefinitely and retire in another country, then your best bet is to obtain a long-term visa, including becoming a permanent resident or citizen of that country. 

Obtaining citizenship or even permanent residency status would allow you to enjoy all/most of the associated benefits as a resident of that country, including subsidies for homes and healthcare, as well as the right to remain in that country indefinitely.  

Each country has its own rules and regulations for foreigners moving into the country. For instance, Australia offers citizenship by descent; you could be eligible for Australian citizenship if at least one of your parents is an Australian citizen and if you were born overseas.

But if you don’t, you may stand a higher chance if you had previously lived in that country prior to applying for citizenship/PR, or if you have family members who are citizens or PRs in the country. 

However, if citizenship or permanent residency isn’t an option (yet), then there are also visas that allow temporary residency. But if you're on a short-term visa, one of the downsides is that you can’t remain in that country for a long period of time and would need to reapply for a visa to extend your stay. 

So without further ado, let's take a look at how much a retirement visa costs in these countries.   

Visa for retiring in Australia

According to a 2016 census, there are over 54,000 Singaporeans living in Australia. And it’s not hard to see why. 

Australia is known to have an easy-going and laid-back culture. It’s home to some fantastic beaches and natural destinations.  

What’s more, it’s also a diverse and multicultural country with a large community of Asian people. 

Previously, the best way to obtain a PR was to apply through the Investor Retirement Visa (Subclass 405) and the Retirement Visa (Subclass 410). However, both are currently closed to new applicants.

There are a few visa pathways if you want to live permanently in Australia. The three most common ways are:

Visa type

Who’s it for

Family-steam permanent visa

If you have partners, children, parents, or grandparents who are Australian citizens, or PRs of Australia or eligible New Zealand citizens

Work-stream permanent visa

If you’re a worker of an Australian employer

Business or investor-stream permanent visa

If you plan on starting a business or investing in Australia

However, there are also other visa options if you want to become a PR in Australia, such as the Former Resident Visa, Global Talent Visa, and Retirement Visa

Since we’re on the topic of retirement, let’s explore the Retirement Visa option.

Previously, the best way to obtain a retirement visa in Australia was to apply through the Investor Retirement Visa (Subclass 405) and the Retirement Visa (Subclass 410). However, both are currently closed to new applicants.

Likewise, the Parent Visa (Subclass 103) and Contributory Parent Visa (subclass 143) aren’t available for application at the moment.

But hope is not lost. If you plan on starting a business or investing in Australia, you can consider applying for the Investor Visa (Subclass 891)

With this visa, you can stay in Australia permanently, apply for Australian citizenship, and continue with your business and investment activities in Australia.

The three main requirements for this visa are that you must be a holder of the Investor (Provisional) visa (Subclass 162), have A$1.5 million (S$1.4 million) for four years, and have lived in Australia for two of the last four years. The cost of this visa starts from A$2,570 (S$2,391). 


Visa for retiring in New Zealand

New Zealand is the more laid-back version of Australia. If you’ve ever visited the country or have watched The Lord of the Rings films, then you know that New Zealand is known for its breathtaking natural scenery. 

It’s also a country with a low population density, heck, even its most popular cities and towns are considered quiet compared to Australia.

Similar to Australia, New Zealand has four seasons, so the weather isn’t as hot and humid as Singapore’s. There’s also a huge Asian population — over 16% of the population is of Asian ethnicity, and while not as significant as the sheep population, that’s still a large number. 

There are two retirement visa programs that allow you to retire and live in New Zealand permanently: The Parent Retirement Resident Visa and The Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa

Visa type

Length of stay

Who’s it for

Investment needed

Parent Retirement Resident Visa

Indefinitely

If you have a child who’s a New Zealand citizen or resident 

NZ$1,000,000 (S$930,460) invested in New Zealand for 4 years

Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa

Up to 2 years

If you’re 66 years or older and have an annual income of at least NZ$60,000 

You need to invest at least NZ$750,000 (S$697,845). Additionally, you must have NZ$500,000 (S$465,230) in settlement funds

As you can see, retiring in New Zealand isn’t cheap. However, the saving grace of applying for the Temporary Retirement Visitor Visa is you don’t have to move your funds to New Zealand; the settlement funds can remain where they are. 

For instance, if you have a house in Singapore, you can nominate it as settlement funds and don’t have to sell it. 

Beyond the two visas mentioned above, there are also other visa programs that help you live permanent in New Zealand. For example, if you’re 55 years old or below, you can apply for the Straight to Residence Visa, or Investor 1 and 2 Resident Visa, the latter requires you to have a lot of investments in New Zealand.

Visa for retiring in Malaysia

You don’t need to venture to a faraway country to retire; in fact, you can cross the border and retire in Malaysia.

Malaysia is comparable to Singapore in terms of culture, language, and food. But what the country also offers are breathtaking sceneries, beautiful beaches, and a low cost of living. In fact, based on a survey by International Living, Malaysia was voted as the third best country to retire in. 

The best way to retire in Malaysia is through the My Second Home (MM2H) programme. The MM2H is a government initiative that allows you to stay in the country for 10 years via a long-term social visit pass. You can also bring your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 as dependents. 

Oh, and you’re also allowed to own freehold landed properties and won’t need to pay inheritance tax or withholding tax when you dispose of the property after 5 or more years. 

If you’re 50 years and below, you must:

  • Have RM500,000 (S$153,954) worth of liquid assets
  • An offshore income of RM10,000 (S$3,079) per month

If your visa is approved, you must also open a fixed deposit account of RM300,000 (S$92,373). You can withdraw up to RM150,000 (S$92,372) after the first year, but must maintain a minimum balance of RM150,000 throughout your stay in Malaysia. 

If you’re 50 years old and above:

  • Have RM350,000 (S$107,768) worth of liquid assets
  • An offshore income of at least RM10,000 per month

Aside from that, you must also open a fixed deposit account of at least RM300,000 upon your arrival. You may withdraw up to RM150,000 in your second year but must maintain RM150,000 from your second year onwards and throughout your stay in Malaysia. 

 

Visa for retiring in Indonesia

Indonesia is another popular country for Singaporeans to retire. The Indonesian archipelago is made up of several thousands of beautiful islands, with the most notable one being Bali.

Indonesia is also a country of diverse culture, beautiful landscapes, and low living expenses.

The only visa that’s available for Singaporeans to retire in Indonesia is the Temporary Stay Visa for Retirees, or KITAS. This visa is specifically for those who are 55 years and wish to retire in Indonesia. 

With this visa, you’ll get to enjoy several perks such:

  • Obtaining a local driver’s license
  • Buying and registering a car under your name
  • Opening an Indonesian bank account
  • Receiving a Multiple Exit Re-Permit (MERP), which allows you to leave and enter the country as many times as you want 

However, there are several drawbacks to this visa. Firstly, it’s only valid for a year and can be renewed up to five times. 

Secondly, you’re also not allowed to work in the country. This means that you would need to sustain yourself financially in Indonesia through other means, such as your pension income. 

Your retirement income must be at least US$1,500 (S$2,145) a month, or US$18,000 (S$25,743) a year, even if you’re applying as a married couple. In other words, both of you must have a minimum monthly income of US$1,500 per individual. 

Aside from that, you’ll also need to hire a domestic helper or driver during your stay and also have accommodation in Indonesia. 

 

Visa for retiring in Thailand

Like most Southeast Asian countries, ‘The Land of Smiles’ is another popular retirement destination due to its array of beautiful beaches, delicious food, and a low cost of living.

Like Indonesia, there’s only one type of visa for people looking to retire in Thailand: the Non-Immigrant O-A Visa (Long Stay/Retirement). Note that it’s only granted by the Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore to Singaporeans and Singapore PRs only. 

Here are the eligibility requirements:

  • You must be 50 years old and above 
  • A minimum deposit of 800,000 THB (S$30,488) in a Thai bank account
  • You can’t be employed during the duration of your visa
  • You don’t have a criminal record in Thailand or in your native country/country of residence
  • A medical certificate to prove that you don’t have any prohibitive diseases
  • A health insurance prooving that you’re well-insured throughout your visa
  • You’re not prohibited from entering Thailand

The main kicker of getting the visa is that you need to report to immigration every 90 days. Also, the visa only lasts for a year. 

 

Visa for retiring in Vietnam

Vietnam is a country rich in culture, diverse landscapes, friendly people, and delicious food. It’s also known for having a low living cost.

However, unlike most other Southeast Asian countries, there isn’t any retirement visa scheme in Vietnam at the moment. 

So, the path to living in Vietnam for the long term is to get a Vietnam Investor Visa or Vietnam Business Visa.

The Vietnam Investor Visa, or DT Visa, is only available if you’re an investor in Vietnam, which means you’ll need to have a business in the country. 

There are four DT Visa categories:

Visa type

Investment requirement

Duration of visa

DT 1

Foreign investors with a capital contribution value of at least VND100 billion (S$5,983,897) or invest in a business with initiatives

Five years

DT 2

Foreign investors with a capital contribution value between VND50 billion (S$2,991,948) to less than VND100 billion

Five years

DT 3

Foreign investors with a capital contribution value between VND3 billion (S$179,516) to less than VND50 billion

Up to three years

DT 4

Foreign investors with a capital contribution of less than VND3 billion

One year

Obviously, the Vietnam Investor Visa requires a lot of money; so if you’re unable to get it, don’t fret, because you may still apply for the Business Visa, or DN Visa.

Similar to the DT Visa, the DN Visa is an investor visa but only lasts for three months. You’ll need to apply for a work permit to renew it. However, if you’re planning to retire in Vietnam, you can start a business with a Vietnamese partner and be on the company’s payroll so that you can enter Vietnam.

If you don’t plan on starting a business or working, there is another way to retire in Vietnam: marry a Vietnamese spouse. This will allow you to stay in Vietnam for five years, but you would need to prepare the necessary documents such as a marriage certificate, identification documents, and more.

Read these next:

Parents Don’t Have A Retirement Plan? Here’s How You Can Help
How Much Do You Need to Retire in Singapore? A Grounded Approach to Estimating Your Budget

In my past life, I was always broke because of a lack of financial literacy. Now, I publish a few posts every week* on personal finance to help you manage your money better. *I mean, I’ll try