As an expatriate, I was really hoping for interesting questions and dialog about the expatriate life; that is, best practices in getting settled with a new culture, how to balance the responsibilities of dual citizenship, even how to approach renunciation, or alternately how to vote remotely, etc.

Instead, nearly every question is about immigration and generally, how to become an expatriate or worse, how to game the host country's laws or customs in order to immigrate.

It is my opinion that the Expatriates experiment is unsuccessful and to make it good, we should first consider creating an "Immigration" question board to offload all these questions which are uninteresting from the perspective of ex-pat life.

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    As StrongBad says in his answer, I think the best way to change this would be if you'd ask some interesting questions yourself!
    – drat
    Feb 5, 2016 at 2:15
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    I've been a transnational for more than ten years now. I would rather answer questions for others. BUT: I am not an immigration lawyer. Feb 5, 2016 at 13:18
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    Immigration is a huge huge piece to the puzzle of being an expat. If you've ever had the experience of working in another country, the laws and the amount of paperwork you must create, compile, photocopy, collate, print, staple, sign, and stamp can be staggering, especially in India. With that said, I'd be interested in information on how to vote remotely because that will be something that will come up with me. So if you don't ask it eventually, I will. :)
    – jmort253
    Feb 6, 2016 at 4:40
  • Hi jmort253, you need to register in a state that believes you are still a resident somehow. vote.usa.gov Feb 6, 2016 at 13:45
  • I'm having trouble understanding your proposed solution, and feel like I'm missing something that you might be able to spell out better. You feel an almost-empty site would be more welcoming for interesting questions than one containing boring questions?
    – Dan Getz
    Feb 7, 2016 at 2:05
  • Dan that's a very good question. If I could get to the heart of it, I am here because I have learned a lot in the years since I left my home country, and I would like a chance to help others by answering questions. But, I am unqualified qualified to answer 100% of immigration questions; and I can only offer helpful advice in a narrow 0.1% (*). I think that immigration questions - unless our site is full of immigration lawyers willing to give advice for free - are going to attract low quality answers based on guesswork. Feb 11, 2016 at 12:40
  • (*) where the asker's situation is identical to mine, and I know for a fact that the law underlying the question has not changed (in my country, the immigration law is redesigned with every new government change) Feb 11, 2016 at 12:41
  • @jmort253 actually, as a US expat you are supposed to vote in the state you last lived in. The state does not need to "believe you are still a resident." But that's off topic for meta. Ask on the main site!
    – phoog
    Feb 25, 2016 at 6:54
  • @phoog - I didn't ask on meta, I said I'd be interested in asking, as an example of an on-topic question. ;) If I have time, I may ask on the main site. Time is not something I feel I have a lot of at the moment. Cheers.
    – jmort253
    Feb 25, 2016 at 8:05
  • Yeah, how can we get rid of all these brown “immigrants” and their visa problems and all these newcomers who want to partake in our lifestyle?
    – Gala
    Sep 3, 2016 at 10:43
  • Note that asking a question to be able to post your own answer is perfectly fine (if that question follows the guidelines).
    – Gala
    Sep 5, 2016 at 8:57
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    I've seen a few instances where questions like "how does this particular thing in the French healthcare system work" are voted to be closed because it's not about emigrating. Except that these are, I feel, the kinds of questions this community is about - maybe you don't know the local language or the local administration very well because -- you've guessed it -- you're an expat. Surely that's on topic! But I've been surprised here more than once. Jun 13, 2018 at 22:00
  • I'd like to follow up on my observation from two years ago. Apparently, Travel.stackexchange.com ALSO sucks now, for the same reason. I just scrolled through a page of 30 travel questions, and all but 19 of them concerned visa applications, including multiple people asking how to make the best of their situation after having violated the immigration rules of their host countries. I think it is a sign that people are transnational now, and governments have really not caught up with this trend, except for the occasional minor panic about a "migrant crisis". Jul 2, 2018 at 12:43

3 Answers 3


While "dialog" doesn't work well in the SE Q/A model, questions that go beyond immigration and getting settled would be great. You should ask some.

We are already a small community and doing things to actively make us smaller would be a bad idea.

  • Why does the community need to be large? I think it would be more important to be focused; this would in turn lead to better quality content. Feb 5, 2016 at 13:21
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    @DouglasHeld we do not need to be large, but there is a minimum size that a community needs to be to be viable. Currently we are averaging 2.6 questions per day. That is pretty small and we should be looking for ways to grow and not shrink. I do not see immigration and expat life questions as being in competition with each other. We just do not get too many expat life questions.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 5, 2016 at 20:33
  • @DouglasHeld In practice, there are three reasons why we need a larger community: (1) to have enough high-rep users to complete basic maintenance tasks like voting to close questions in a timely manner without too much burden on the moderators or a handful of key users, (2) for new questions to have any chance of reaching an actual expert (that's what this site is about, not free-wheeling discussion in which everybody can in principle participate) and (3) to avoid dying down and being closed (SE won't let a site with a question a day and nobody to edit them go on forever).
    – Gala
    Sep 5, 2016 at 9:05

I find it a bit annoying to see people who don't have this kind of problems complain about, in effect, having to see a handful of questions they personally don't find interesting. Java questions do not prevent anyone from talking about Excel or Python on Stackoverflow. And we have a lot of great answers to visa/residence permit questions, it's not like they create special difficulties as your comments would seem to imply. Objectively, that's the one expertise we do have at the moment (at least for some part of the world).

It's true that we could do with more questions about other aspects of life in another country but I have not seen many good questions or answers about that. One very clear requirement of the Stackexchange platform is that we don't want to turn this into a forum. "Dialog" is not what we want and the best questions should in principle have an objective answer (a solution to a problem, not various opinions on a topic). That's why questions about dealing with a foreign culture are actually more problematic than visa questions.

Most importantly, what we have is clearly too few rather than too many questions, what actual problem would yet another split solve? Visa and immigration questions are explicitly on-topic and this site was created in large part to handle them (because travel.SE did not like them). Anybody who wishes for something else is free to go through the usual site-creation process and see if they can get anything done but why should people who are interested in visas and the like take care of this or let you hijack this site? I don't think getting rid of the bits that actually work is going to make it any better.

Incidentally, questions about voting abroad, dual citizenship, etc. are in fact very similar to visa questions in that they require some legal expertise (or at least raise legal problems) and we actually have plenty of those! In practice, the ones that we don't really know to handle right now are questions about taxes and running a business between two or more countries.


Questions can be closed when "it's not about an issue a local wouldn't have as well.". I guess this partly explains why immigration is one of the most common topic here, since many non-immigration questions that expats would ask can be closed under that reason.

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    Yes, it's frustrating that so many non-immigration questions attract close votes. See meta.expatriates.stackexchange.com/q/42/2037 for more discussion.
    – Dan Getz
    Apr 6, 2016 at 20:59
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    The policy on this is incredibly confusing and is the reason I've never even tried to use this site. That question suggests non-legal questions are okay, but this one suggests they're not, and (as always) people vote based on the strictest, most pernickety interpretation. I don't use this site, despite being an ex-pat and a keen SE user, precisely because life is too short to waste time grovelling and begging for permission and re-open votes every time I want to ask an ex-pat question that's not about visas. I'm sure I'm not alone. Jul 7, 2016 at 10:55
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    An issue a local wouldn't have is not allowed? That would eliminate not only immigration questions, but many others. If I don't ask my immigration questions, I'll never get there to have other questions. And if I can't ask how to cope with how things work there just because it's how things work there, .... last but not least is the frustration of Travel telling me it's an Expat question and vice versa.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 7, 2017 at 7:54

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