I just stumbled across a fascinating article in which a professor at the University of Chicago proposes that US citizenship could be sold for between 50,000-100,000 dollars. The article estimates that around a million people received permanent residency in the US and that that could have produced 55 billion dollars in revenue.
It is still possible to literally buy citizenship in Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis. The price tag ranges at about 75,000 for Dominica and about double that for St. Kitts and Nevis. No residency required. You don’t even have to ever visit or ever live in either country. Citizenship in this case is reduced to an econimic good with no emotional or political attachments. It merely serves as a travel document or as a right to work somewhere and nothing else in this sense.
This is, of course, controversial, but if governments really did govern in the peoples’ names, and that that entailed that we also literally owned our own citizenship? A US Embassy spokesperson in the recent posting from a French-language article from Switzerland recently claimed that “people from every corner of the globe” are dying to get into the US. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t even bothered to sell my US citizenship. If there were less of a demand I would even be willing to pay someone to take US citizenship from me.
A more interesting trade though would be if we could simply swap citizenships with someone. I would love to have a Swiss passport since they do not list the place of birth, but rather place of origin in their passports, so I would no longer have to be ashamed or worried every time that somebody opens up my passport since any mention of the US wouldn’t be there. I’d also swap US citizenship for Canadian, New Zealand, Australian, Brazilian or others. For a bit of added fun to our hypothetical question, I’m going to add a poll with some country choices. Would you be willing to sell or exchange your citizenship, and, if so, which passport(s) would you want in return? What do you think that the value of US citizenship is if you were to sell it? The US currently places that value at 450 dollars..
Please note that this is entirely hypothetical and that I am not literally advocating a black market for the sale of citizenship – This is done in jest!
Multiple choices are possible – I chose Switzerland, Canada and Brazil!
I wish I could have sold my citizenship for $100k. To put it in perspective, it takes less than six days for the United States Federal government to burn through 55 billion dollars.
@DomPomodoro, be sure and keep us informed as votes pour in. Since I am 80 and live in the US I really am past making a choice, but the 7 years we lived in Brazil were magnificent.
A citizenship market would become impossibly corrupt in practice, unfortunately, and a system for free goodwill transfers would become a market in practice.
I would very much like to give my US citizenship to a downtrodden Ecuadorian who could make better use of it, but the system isn’t set up to allow for that.
Failing that, a better system would add a naturalization for every renunciation, so that someone who wasn’t going to become a US citizen because of being outside some quota would be able to. I suspect many of us would feel better about our renunciations if it worked that way.
The other day as I was grocery shopping I was thinking about this very issue, what value can you place on U.S. citizenship? And I came to the conslusion that you can’t really assign it any value at all. Now my logic may be flawed but here is why I came to this conslusion.
Reason number one is that if you live in the U.S. and are a citizen there is really no value to U.S. citizenship because the majority of people in the country share citizenship with you and the over whelming majority of them received their citizenship for free- by birth. This fact lowers the value of citizenship also to 0. Therefore the cost of citizenship is determined by the costs associated with processing the paperwork.
If a U.S. citizen resides outside of the U.S. the value of his citizenship becomes no greater than the value of the competing citizenships the other nations that share the global market. Think of it in terms of the value of your house, which is dependent upon the value of the other houses in your neighborhood. No matter how much may be the value of the improvements that you make on your house its value will always be determined by the condition of the surrounding houses. This is why the value of an American life in Afganistan is no greater than the value that is given to the life of native Afgan, Canadian, Italian etc. U.S. citizenship gives us no special rights when living in another country.
Ths U.S. Constitution is useless outside of U.S. jurisdictions. Which means that if we cannot live under the U.S. Constitution when residing outside of America that we have no obligations to remit taxes to America, since our citizenship is of like value with that of our country of residence.
I await your comments and if I am wrong I would like to hear about it. These were just some of my ponderings on the issue.
I chose Brazil, HK, and Switzerland.
It just occurred to me how ironic it is for the U.S. to be talking about selling its citizenship while at the same time enacting legislation that makes U.S. citizenship UNACCTRACTIVE to the people who are able to pay such a price.
No one who has that kind of money to spend is going to want to live in a country that has more draconian tax reporting rules and taxation policies than the country he/she is leaving. These non-citizens would have multiple bank accounts around the world and, as we can attest to, FATCA, DATCA, FBAR and citizenship based taxation actually prohibit wealth accumulation. If you become an American citizen you would be obligating yourself to live only in America, to live any where else is to expose yourself to an IRS witch hunt.
This just goes to show how little understanding the U.S. has of the world and of itself.
@recalcitrantexpat, if you have to pay $450 to give up US citizenship then that right there says it isn’t worth squat, at least to people who have lives in other countries.
If I travel in South America with an American passport, I will have to pay “reciprocity” fees in most countries (around $150 USD). How’s that for ya! The fees add up. Add in the necessity to file complex forms, and ON TOP OF THAT the FATCA, and being a 2nd class citizen, having a US passport is not worth it.
Unless the US moves away from citizenship based taxation, I think FATCA and DATCA will eventually fail and to punish expatriates they’ll probably enact a law that says you’ve lost your US citizenship (again!). Make sure you all get your Certificate of Loss of Nationality this time so they don’t change the law and make you retroactive citizens again.
@Dom – really brillant idea. I voted for France, of course 🙂 with Brazil a close second (geeez is starting to have a real influence on me…)
@recalcitrantexpat – Peter Spiro makes a very similar argument. Really interesting – his book is called Beyond Citizenship. Given that naturalizations in the US are at an all-time low of 37% I think that indicates that a majority of people agree that it just isn’t worth it. And these are people living in the US.
@Don, actually, there is already the US Investor program whereby someone invests $500k into some pools of money. They can get residency and citizenship from this.
@Victoria, Brazil is a good place, depending on where you live. I wouldn’t accept ANY job in the big cities. People here go out of their way to be polite to people- literally!
I should mention that citizenship was for sale in Roman Antiquity, both that of Rome and of other cities. One way a person could gain citizenship was to become a benefactor of a city by providing a gladiatorial game or some other show in which blood was spilt, either that of people or some noble animal like an elephant or lion.
Where there are bureaucrats, everything has a price. This is the way of the world.
There was supposedly a scam a few years back where people could get Bulgarian (and thus EU) citizenship through some corrupt officials there. They would produce fake grandparents and the relevant ancestry and birth certificates and citizenship could be acquired for around 700 Euro. Whether or not this was true or widespread I don’t know. Bulgarian citizens still can’t legally work in most EU countries yet though due to transition rules.
Don’t kid yourself Canada sells citizenship they just don’t advertise it too much in the US. To be fair a lot of these people do help the Canadian economy and you find many of them like to educate their kids in Canada for a few years increasingly in areas that are predominently European-Canadian so to speak. I found it amusing when Stanley Ho who essentially founded the Macau gambling syndicate sent one of his wives and their kids to grow up and be educated in Toronto. Then after Ho died they kids moved from Toronto back to Hong Kong to take over the family business.
My Mom’s cousin and her husband did that too. They lived and owned a business in Hong Kong (originally from India). Then they moved to Canada, started an electronics store, and when he found he couldn’t make as much money here he went back to Hong Kong while the family stayed here and their son was educated in private schools. The son eventually got an engineering degree in Toronto, opened up another electronics store, found it not too exciting. Then the whole family decided to join the Dad and moved back to Hong Kong.
People in Hong Kong seem to like having another country to escape to and often choose Canada.
If you are Cuban, coming to the US is still a far better alternative than staying there, and you don’t need a visa to do it. if you come on a raft or make it to Mexico and then on north and cross the US border and touch US territory, you are immediately given permission to work, a Social Security number and are guaranted a green card one year later. If you have been to Cuba, as I have, you probably noiticed that nobody there has an overweight problem from overeating.
But for people elsewhere it is no longer the wonderful dream it used to be. I read recently of an Romanian resident in Norway who won in the US visa lottery. But he did his homework and decided not to accept it. He discovered that all the fruits of having lived in Norway for a few years would be immediately subject to US control and taxation. The US consulate kept calling him because he had come by to pick up his visa and was totally flabbergated when he turned it down. That had apparently never happened before, but as the news spreads it is likely to become a common occurrence.
@tim- giving people citizenship in exchange for a required level of investment isn’t a bad thing if it is done honestly. In the case of America though I am not sure that it will be able to sell its citizenship when it is understood what U.S. citizenship entails. In many ways the investment and disclosure rules that the U.S. now places on its citizens is now worse than that of the countries from which these rich people would come.
Also as has been already mentioned, the down side of buying citizenship is that it really isn’t a commodity that YOU own and therefore are free to trade. Therefore once you have bought your citizenship its value immediately falls to 0. Therefore it is what your citizenship allows you to do that makes it valuable. I believe that the U.S. has just destroyed what ever value its citizenship may have had for those who have the money to pay the dictated price. This is because of the restrictions that U.S. citizenship places on a person’s economic activity and personal freedoms.
I can’t cite a particular case offhand at the moment but they have been Cubans who have made it to Canada and choosen to stay and apply for permanent residency or go through the refugee system. I agree most go to the US but there are some Cuban Canadians and in fact the Cuban Embassy and Consulates in the last year or two has started to try reach out to these people in order to try to build a less hostile relationship.
@tim, Canada has maintained much closer relations with Cuba than the US and has not burned all its bridges like the US has. US policy toward Cuba has been a collosal failure, but the likelyhood of it changing is very small. When we went to Cuba we flew to Cancun on Mexicana and then to Havana on Cubana de Aviacion. I made the Cancun-Havana reservations wtih Cubana’s office in Toronto by phone and paid with a US credit card; something I could not do anywhere in the US They sent me the tickets from Toronto via FedEx..
There are some 680,000 Cubans resident in Floirida alone. Many lost everything they owned except the clothes on their backs when they left in the early days after the revolution. But those coming today have nothing to leave behind.
Canadian tourists are an importrant source of hard currency for Cuba, and are treated very well. With the pressure being placed on Canadians by the IRS I would not be surprised if more Canmadians chose the beaches of Veradero over Miami Beach, Disneyworld and The Grand Canyon.
The United States itself has established the value of US citizenship: – $450 = the official new base cost to bust the shackle to the ball-and-chain. Then factor in the nonmonetized detriments of a year (or who knows?) of waiting. And for some, the thousands that must go first to lawyer/accountant to become “compliant” with the jailer. Not to mention mordida for the prison owner. O Freedom Where Art Thou?
“Freedom is never dear at any price. It is the breath of life. What would a man not pay for living?”
– Mahatma Gandhi
The Indians especially who came in the 90’s and later with
engineering degrees and settled in CA have been hit pretty hard.
A good majority are double degree holders or physicans/doctors who had invested in India in land/flats/stock market. Incidently india also has opened up to its NRI’s etc. Land values in many of the indian metros’ have gone up 20 to 50 times in the past 20 years. Most are tax compliant in India and majority are FBAR
non compliant. Not sure how many of them are considering the OVDI.
@mukul — yes, same thing has happened in lots of immigrant communities and it is generating quite a bit of negative press. I keep reading stories in Korean newspapers about Korean wives who came to the US with their kids for their schooling, while their husbands stayed behind in Korea at his job. The husbands kept investing in real estate and property and putting the proceeds in a joint account. Then the IRS hits the wives with back taxes and an FBAR fine on the maximum value of the account.
In case anyone has any trouble reading the results so far:
UK (4 Votes)
FR, DE, IT or ES (5 Votes)
Switzerland (6 Votes)
Any other EU or EEA (2 Votes)
Canada (12 Votes)
AU or NZ (8 Votes)
Brazil (5 Votes)
Hong Kong (4 Votes)
Japan, Singapore or SK (4 Votes)
Russia (1 Vote)
Any other country (3 Votes)
Nobody voted to keep their US citizenship…
Just vote for US as a brand new US citizen. From Chinese to Canadian and now American, I am riding a one way train of no return.
I do look up to US — just for recent historical view..
If it were not US in the Pacific war, China would be totally taken/ruled by Japan. Europe would have been ruled either Nazi Germany or Soviet.
And we all know the cold war era — the role of US.
Folks, without US, there would have been no today’s Japan, UK, France, and China etc..