Roger Ver and America's Emigration Dilemma

Last week Roger Ver revealed that the United States Embassy in Barbados has denied his requests for a visa to attend some Bitcoin related conferences in the United States. As reported by Ver his requests for a visa are denied because in the Embassy's determination he lacks sufficient connections to his new homeland of St Kitts and Nevis to prevent him from overstaying his visa and essentially immigrating back into the United States illegally. This incident highlights a number of ways in which the United States acts on the international stage not as a peer state with others, but as a rogue state.

The large deviance, the one that earns the United States a reputation as the gravity well, an astronomical feature more safely observed at a distance than visited is in its regressive approach to expatriation. In spite of one of the substantial motivations and results of the 1812 war1 between the United States and Britain being the right of citizens, in this case of Britain to expatriate and renounce their citizenship and its obligations. Further, in spite of this fact being commonly recognized at the turn of the 20th century2 in the United States as a fundamental right of persons, the United States is deviant in compelling increasing burdens on expatriating citizens. Or that in 1868 the United States explicitly in law rejected the English legal tradition of perpetual allegiance.

One aspect of United States government policy from the international norm is that while most states attach tax burden to where a person's body is physically residing. In contrast to every state actor other than Eritrea, the United States demands its citizens and "permanent residents" continue paying taxes to them in addition to taxes paid in their new place of residence. Still further taxes are demanded to be paid for years after formally renouncing citizenship.

A trap laying in wait for present and future expatriates from the United States is the Reed Amendment passed during the Clinton years which in law establishes an entry ban on certain classes of former United States citizens. So far it hasn't been enforced due to its extreme vagary, but in the unstable environment of applied United States law. With the sudden resurgence of threats to invoke the All Writs Act reentering the public discourse in late 2014 it becomes difficult though to determine what silent traps of law wait to be sprung. Of course if actual enforcement of the Reed Amendment fails to survive court a draft bill known as the Ex-Patriot Act was revealed in 2012 when early Facebook investor Eduardo Saverin renounced his United States citizenship to populist applause, and the passage of the EX-PATRIOT act or a similar measure in the future remains a possibility.

A heuristically softer behavior of the United States is the one that tripped up Roger Ver. In spite of nominally agreeing to a number of treaties that allow for Visa free travel between states the United States in screening visitors operates on a default assumption that travelers will immigrate instead of returning home. While most civilized states merely require proof of onward travel in a form as simple as a plane ticket to a destination outside of their borders, United States consulates in making determinations however evaluate applicants "holistically" with an emphasis not on forward travel for potential visitors, but on return specifically to their country of residence.

While Visa free travel is nominally in the letter of agreements signed by states supposedly a reciprocal phenomenon, the United States in its practice disregards any commitments in letters it may have made to honoring reciprocity, though it may perhaps offer other government some other considerations in lieu of actual reciprocity. Not that Roger Ver would have been eligible for visa free travel to the United States as the St Kitts and Nevis passport holders require a visa.

When expatriating the United States, it would be prudent to consider how important eventual travel to visit the United States is before formally surrendering a United States passport. It also is important to consider the value of the passport which will be replacing it when you consider how and when to surrender a United States passport. Various economic citizenship programs of the sort Ver participated in may be a faster way to acquire a replacement document, but in terms of monetary cost and avoiding travel restrictions based on soft heuristics, a country with a more traditional naturalization process may offer a greater long term value.

  1. New International Encyclopedia, 2nd edition. New York: Dodd Mead. Volume 8 (1915) p. 274  

  2. Henry Brannon. A Treatise on the Rights and Privileges Guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Cincinnati: W. H. Anderson (1901) p. 21  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>