A lot of European countries, particularly the United Kingdom have a long tradition of their Citizens becoming expats. What is an expat? Well, it is somebody like me, a person who goes and lives in a country other than that of which they are a citizen of. Americans, like me, don’t do this with nearly the frequency that our British cousins do. Because of this, there is a lot of misunderstanding among Americans about how to do it, whether it is legal and such. I get questions about this from Americans very often.
One of the most misunderstood things in this realm is whether or not you will lose your American Citizenship if you go live abroad. A lot, lot, lot of Americans tell me regularly that if you leave the USA and remain outside the country for more than 6 months, your US Citizenship will be revoked. My friends, nothing could be further from the truth!
Can I lose my US Citizenship if I remain outside the USA too long?
The answer is simple. NO. You cannot lose your US Citizenship no matter how long you remain outside the USA. I have been residing in the Philippines for ten years (almost), and I remain a US Citizen. In the past 10 years I have not stepped foot inside the USA, yet I remain a Citizen.
The truth is that it is actually very, very difficult to shed your US Citizenship, if you should be inclined to do that. If you were to decide that you no longer wanted to be a US Citizenship, it is a hard process to complete. In fact, you would have to report, in person, to a US Embassy, or to the Department of State in Washington D.C. and renounce your Citizenship, in writing. Upon your submission of the renunciation, the US Government would require you to go through a number of hoops before they would grant you your wish. The fact is that the US Government does not want you to give up your Citizenship. Why? Because they want to keep collecting taxes from you, and if you are no longer a Citizen, and do not live in the USA, they cannot collect taxes from you any longer. Because of this, they will do all they can to make sure that you remain as a Citizen of the United States.
Is it illegal for a US Citizen to live outside the USA?
Over the years, I have gotten a number of e-mails from people telling me that I am breaking the law by living outside the USA. It always gives me a good chuckle, because that is simply untrue. No matter your citizenship, a person can live anywhere in the world that they wish, provided that the host country has given them permission to live there. For example, in my case, so long as the Philippine Government has given me permission to live here, I can live here. In 2000, the Philippine Government granted me a 13(g) Resident Visa, which allows me to live here as long as I like, or until the Government of the Philippines should revoke that Visa. To date, my Visa is in good standing, and thus I can continue to live here legally as long as I wish. The US Government has no problem with me living here, and there is no law disallowing me from doing so.
Do I have to get permission from the Government to live abroad?
A number of people, over the years, have asked me who they should go to in the US Government to get permission to live abroad. My friends, you don’t have to ask anybody for permission. The United States is not a dictatorship that limits your travel (except to a very few places such as Cuba, which is outside the scope of this article). You do not need to do anything at all or talk to anybody in advance to be able to go live abroad. What do you need to do? You need to get the proper Visa from the country where you want to live, then buy an airplane ticket and get on the airplane to take you to your new home. It is that simple.
But, won’t I lose my US Citizenship?
Stop being so nervous and read the beginning of this article. No, you will not lose your US Citizenship, no matter where you choose to live. No matter how long you remain outside the USA, you will always be a US Citizen unless you actively take steps to abandon that Citizenship, and that is not easy as I said above.
But, how can I do it?
As I’ve already said, get a Visa from the country where you want to live, and hop on a plane. It is that easy. In the case of the Philippines, you have a number of options. You can come and stay here for up to 16 months on a tourist Visa. After 16 months you take a trip back home, or go to Hong Kong or Thailand (anywhere you want to go, really) and come back to start a new 16 month stay. Secondly, you can get a Balikbayan Visa if you qualify, which will allow you up to 1 year of stay here. Thirdly, you can get a resident visa, 13(a) or 13(g) as long as you have a spouse who is a Philippine Citizen or former Philippine Citizen. Fourth option is that you can get a Special Retiree’s Resident Visa (SRRV). There are still other options, but for the vast majority of us, these are the choices available to you.
So, quit worrying. If you want to live in the Philippines, or anywhere else in the world, your Citizenship is secure and you have nothing to be sleepless about. Just do it!