From an article last week in a South Korean newspaper, I was able to get a lead on some statistics I’d been trying to find for a while: the number of U.S. green card holders who reside in South Korea without making declarations of permanent return (which would require them to cancel their green cards). I’m still working on gathering all the earlier statistics from government yearbooks, but after the jump I translated the article itself, which provides some interesting insight into South Korea’s diaspora policy and how they are reforming it to cut unnecessary red tape and adapt to the reality of a globally-mobile population.
To summarise: right now there’s more than thirty-five thousand green card holders who are recorded as living in South Korea, up by about 30% since they started keeping track in 2005. These are distinct from the 1,991 people who made declarations of permanent return last year; the latter had their green cards or U.S. citizenship cancelled and their residents’ registration restored, whereas the former still have green cards and so face certain restrictions on financial transactions and real estate purchases in South Korea.
A newly-proposed reform plan would remove the requirement to give up foreign permanent residence or citizenship in order to restore South Korean resident registration. This is good news for the Korean diaspora, though the reform plan probably also means that the South Korean government will stop keeping statistics on how many of its citizens give up U.S. green cards.
‘2015년부터 영주권자에 주민등록증 발급’
안행부, 6일 국무회의서 국외이주민 주민등록 개선안 보고
‘Issue resident registration cards to people with overseas permanent residency beginning in 2015’
Ministry of Security and Public Administration’s 6 [August] State Council report on reform plan for resident registration of overseas emigrants
|박상석 기자, 2013.08.07 10:40:10||Reporter Park Sang-seok, 7 August 2013, 10:40:10|
|오는 2015년부터 국외로 이주해 영주권을 취득한 재외국민에게도 주민등록증을 발급하게 된다. 사진은 지난 6월 25일 국회의원회관 제2소회의실에서 새누리당 재외국민위원회 주최로 열린 새누리당맞춤형동포정책 토론회.||Starting in 2015, overseas residents who moved abroad and obtained permanent residence will be able to receive [South Korean] resident registration cards. The photo is from the “Transforming Diaspora Policy” Forum, hosted by the New Frontier Party on 25 June in Conference Room #2 of the National Assembly Building.|
First, a word about the source. The Dongpo Shinmun (동포신문; 同胞新聞) is a South Korean newspaper founded in 2003 that focuses on diaspora issues; the name literally translates as “Compatriots News”. It circulates all over the world, and features reprints of articles from “ethnic media” in Korean emigrant communities around the world as well as content written by South Korean reporters. This is one small facet of a larger reality: the South Korean diaspora has far more influence in South Korea than the American diaspora has in the U.S., both in terms of “soft power” and political power.
One recent example of the importance of the diaspora to South Korean politics was when Los Angeles real estate agent Chris Nam moved back to South Korea to become the head of the Overseas Residents Commission of the Grand National Party (now New Frontier Party) — roughly speaking, South Korea’s equivalent of Republicans Abroad. It was later discovered that he illegally held dual citizenship; in South Korea, like in Germany or the Netherlands, dual citizenship is mostly only legal for people who were born with it, with a very limited range of other exceptions. However, instead of resigning Nam even went as far as to renounce U.S. citizenship to try to preserve his position, and showed up in the Q2 2012 Federal Register list. It didn’t help, so the party appointed his successor: a sitting legislator, and not just some freshman nobody either, but the chairman of the National Assembly’s Defence Committee.
That’s not to deny the existence of anti-diaspora prejudice in South Korea — witness the nomination of Korean American businessman Kim Jeong-hoon to be Innovation & Science Minister last year, which was derailed by inane rumours that the CIA wouldn’t let him renounce U.S. citizenship — but the diaspora has a professional platform from which to fight back.
Overview of policy reforms
|오는 2015년부터 국외로 이주해 영주권을 취득한 재외국민에게도 주민등록증을 발급하게 된다.||Starting in 2015, overseas residents who moved abroad and obtained permanent residence will be able to receive [South Korean] resident registration cards.|
|현행 주민등록법은 해외이주를 포기해야 주민등록증을 발급받을 수 있도록 규정돼 있다. 때문에 해외 영주권을 갖고 있으면 한국 국적이더라도 주민등록증이 말소됨으로써 국내에서 활동할 때 경제ㆍ금융활동에 제약을 받고 거소신고를 해야 하는 불편을 겪어야 했다. 또 5년 시효마다 잦은 여권번호 변경으로 직간접적인 피해가 커 재외국민들의 개선 요구가 끊임없이 제기돼 왔다.||Under the current Resident Registration Act, the rule is that you must cancel your emigration if you want to receive a resident registration card. As a result, if you hold overseas permanent residence, even though you hold Korean nationality your resident registration card will be confiscated, you’ll face limitations if you’d like to make any economic or financial transactions in the country, and you’ll have to make a Declaration of Domestic Residence, resulting in inconvenience. Furthermore, with the direct & indirect harms from passport numbers expiring and changing every five years, registered emigrants have continued to raise demands for reforms.|
The U.S. remains steadfast in its refusal to amend its laws and strip out all the horribly-out-of-date early-20th-century assumptions about the nature of immigration & emigration and life abroad in general. South Korea, in contrast, realised a while ago that its 1962 Overseas Migration Act — written by the Park Chung-hee junta in an age when some migrants were still leaving the country by ship (often with the goal of permanently getting as far away as possible from Park Chung-hee) — made insufficient provisions for emigrants who gained permanent residence overseas but then returned to South Korea temporarily or without knowing if their return would be temporary or permanent.
The result was the 1999 Overseas Residents’ Entry/Exit and Legal Status Act. The Act ensured that emigrants & their descendants, whether they were South Korean or foreign citizens, could have a way to live in South Korea that’s less final than the Declaration of Permanent Return that can be made under the 1962 Act. This was the origin of the Declaration of Domestic Residence procedure mentioned above, and of the F4 “diaspora visa” that I’ve mentioned elsewhere. I’ll translate the relevant sections of the law in my next post.
The most sensitive part of South Korean diaspora policy is, naturally, the military service requirement. Under the current system, men who emigrated before age six are exempt from conscription even if they never acquired foreign citizenship, as long as they lived overseas until age 18 (with the exception of up to three years attending a school in South Korea), haven’t made a Declaration of Permanent Return. Those who were dual citizens at birth are similarly exempt. They can return to South Korea for visits or to attend school; military service is only a requirement for those who seek to start a career in South Korea.
Government bureaux get together to eliminate red tape
|안전행정부는 외교부·법무부 등 관련부처와 함께 재외국민용 주민등록증 발급과 관련한 제도적인 문제들에 대한 협의과정을 거친 뒤 관련법안 등 시행계획을 마련해 6일 국무회의에서 이를 보고했다.||The Ministry of Security and Public Administration (MSPA), along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and other relevant departments, had a series of discussions on the systemic issues in issuance of resident registration cards, and then prepared an implementation plan and presented it to the State Council on 6 [August].|
|안전행정부가 국무회의에서 보고한 내용을 보면, 앞으로는 모든 국외이주 재외국민의 주민등록은 말소되지 않고 계속 유지하도록 바뀐다. 이에 따라, 새로운 제도가 시행되기 이전에 주민등록이 말소되거나 없는 국외이주국민은 30일 이상 국내에 거주하기 위해 입국할 경우, 주민등록을 재등록하거나 신규등록하게 된다.||According to the contents of the report the MSPA gave to the State Council, resident registration of any registered emigrants who move overseas in the future will not be cancelled, but instead they’ll be able to maintain it. Along with this, until the new system is implemented, if a citizen who emigrated overseas plans to enter [South Korea] and remain for more than 30 days, whether or not he had his resident registration cancelled, he’ll be able to register for residence again under the new system.|
|17세 이상 재외국민에게 발급하게 되는 주민등록증은 현재 내국인이 사용하는 주민등록증과 모양이나 형태는 같으나 국외이주 재외국민임이 표시돼 발급된다. 이렇게 발급된 주민등록증은 현재 우리 국민에게 발급되는 주민등록증과 효력이 같아 정부기관은 물론 금융거래, 부동산 거래, 임대차 계약에 있어 차별을 받지 않게 돼 재외국민들이 국내 활동 중에 겪어야 했던 그동안의 불편함이 크게 해소될 전망이다.||The resident registration cards which will be issued to registered emigrants aged 17 or older will be identical in shape and form to those of domestic residents, but will have their status as overseas citizens indicated on it. Resident registration cards issued this way will have the same validity as resident registration cards currently issued to our citizens, and government departments will not make any distinction between the two in financial transactions, real estate transactions, or rental contracts, so it is expected that the inconvenience experienced by registered emigrants in their activities in the country can be alleviated.|
|안전행정부는 또, 그동안 국외 이주 시 따로 하던 외교부의 해외이주신고와 안행부의 국외이주신고를 한 번의 신고로 간소화할 계획이라고 밝혔다.||The MSPA also revealed, they plan to simplify the MFA’s Declaration of Overseas Migration and the MSPA’s Declaration of Migration Abroad that must be made when moving abroad into a single declaration.|
It’s good to know that at least one government somewhere in the world is concerned about getting rid of pointless duplicative paperwork instead of coming up with lame excuses about how important it isto fighting money laundering & drug trafficking. Can you imagine State, Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice — and let’s not even dream of Treasury & the IRS — getting together to look at all the problems they’re causing overseas American residents? PATRIOT Act closing U.S. bank accounts? Demanding that dual citizens use a U.S. passport to enter the U.S., meaning that they have to keep on paying for a passport they never use anywhere else?
South Korea had its very own “Kenneth Dart moment” in 2001, just two years after the 1999 Act mentioned above, when pop star Yoo Seung-jun fled to Los Angeles and naturalised as a U.S. citizen instead of living up to his pledge to cancel his green card and serve in the army. And the national conversation on the rights & responsibilities of the diaspora in the aftermath was often characterised by ugly, xenophobic stereotypes; a few defended Yoo, but on the other side the most extreme commentators called Korean Americans thieves stealing from two countries, moving to the U.S. to evade the draft in South Korea while hiding their wealth in Kangnam real estate and pretending to be poor in Los Angeles so they could get U.S. welfare, food stamps, and SSI. To their credit, however, South Korean lawmakers and government officials rose above the fray to ensure that measures to deter bad actors did not put undue burdens on genuine emigrants & overseas-born Koreans who wanted to maintain their links to the country.
In contrast to the Korean diaspora whose politicians promoted real reform instead of giving a platform to domestic venom, the American diaspora gets Lloyd Doggett claiming that we “discover one day that the Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda is their hometown, that they have new citizenship”, William Proxmire calling us “mink-swathed, high-living jet-setters living at the taxpayer’s expense”, and Jack Reed & Chuck Schumer threatening to turn us into permanent exiles. And let’s just say we’re not holding our breath for the day that any political party in the U.S. would even admit that there is such a thing as a U.S. diaspora policy that needs to be reformed, let alone hold a public meeting about it in the Capitol and get Congressmembers to act on their findings. Carolyn Maloney can barely find co-sponsors for her bill to create a powerless Commission on Americans Living Abroad.
Bipartisan support for reform and simplification
|이런 개선안과 함께 국외 이주 국민의 권리와 의무를 명확히 부여하기 위한 거주관리 강화 방안도 된다. 안행부는 주민등록이 된 국외이주민이 국내에서 생활하기 위해 30일 이상 입국할 때는 국내거주자와 동일하게 전입신고를 하도록 하고, 국외로 90일 이상 출국해 재외공관에 재외국민등록신고를 하면, 신고 사실을 통보받아 주민등록상으로 관리할 방침이다.||Along with this reform plan, there are also plans to strengthen the residence management [system] in order to make clear the rights and duties vested in citizens who have migrated overseas. The MSPA’s policy will be that citizens who have undergone resident registration and then migrated overseas who enter [South Korea] in order to live there for more than 30 days will make the same Moving-In Declaration as domestic residents, and when leaving the country for more than 90 days will make a Declaration of Overseas Citizen Registration to an overseas diplomatic missions, and upon receipt of notification of the declaration they’ll be entered into the resident registration system.|
|안행부는 새누리당 재외국민위원장인 원유철 의원이 대표발의하는 의원입법 형식으로 주민등록법을 개정하고, 새로운 제도 시행에 따른 혼란과 불편을 최소화하기 위해 법무부ㆍ외교부 등과 태스크포스팀(TF)을 꾸려 오는 2014년까지 시스템을 연계 구축하는 등 준비 과정을 거쳐 빠르면 2015년부터 국외 이주국민에게 주민등록증을 발급할 계획이다.||The MSPA had National Assembly member Won Yoo-chul, head of the New Frontier Party’s Overseas Citizens Commission, introduce a bill to amend the Resident Registration Act, and in order to minimise confusion and inconvenience with regards to the implementation of the new system, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have assembled a task force team, will build links between systems and work on other preparatory procedures in 2014, and beginning in 2015 plan to issue resident registration cards to citizens who have moved overseas.|
|새누리당 재외국민위원장인 원유철 국회의원은 이와 관련 “우리 민족의 큰 자산인 국외 거주 동포들의 국내활동 불편을 최소화하고 편익을 증진시킴과 아울러서 이분들이 조국의 발전에 기여할 수 있는 기회를 확대하는 획기적인 계기로 보고 적극 환영하며, 조기입법화를 위해 최선의 노력을 다 하겠다”고 밝혔다.||National Assembly member Won Yoo-chul, head of the New Frontier Party’s Overseas Citizens Commission, stated in relation to this, “The proposal to decrease the inconvenience faced in domestic activities by overseas compatriots, who are a great asset for our nation — I see it as a groundbreaking opportunity to give them the chance to contribute to the development of the homeland and bring benefits to it, which I strongly welcome, and I will make all efforts on behalf of the preliminary legislation”.|
|민주당 세계한인민주회의 수석부의장인 김성곤 국회의원도 “이번 이주국민 주민증 발급안은 재외국민들에게 매우 유익한 제도로 적극 환영한다”고 말했다.||National Assembly member Kim Sung-gon, chairman & vice-president of the Democratic Party’s World Korean Democratic Association, said as well, “This plan to issue resident cards to citizens who have migrated is a very beneficial system for overseas citizens, and I strongly welcome it”.|
The primary beneficiaries of the South Korean reform will probably not be U.S. green card holders — who have other reasons to rid themselves of their U.S. status as soon as possible. Rather, as a human-interest story from a few days later (link in Korean; machine translation here) in the opposition-leaning Hankyoreh newspaper makes clear, Koreans born in Japan are most enthusiastic about the proposed reforms; they live right next door, making it much easier for them to circulate between the two countries if they wish, and Japan doesn’t impose any ridiculous paperwork or life-altering fines on citizens or permanent residents who leave the country.
Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945. While Koreans who moved to Japan in that era weren’t entirely equal with Japanese, they did get the same voting rights. After World War II, the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco deprived Korean and Taiwanese residents in Japan of their old Japanese imperial subject status. Afterwards, those who could not or did not want to apply for naturalisation could register for citizenship with whichever half of their ancestral country they supported ideologically or they could remain effectively stateless, while being sort of grandfathered-in to the Japanese immigration system under what was eventually codified as “special permanent resident” status.
This status interacts unfortunately with South Korean law: under the current system, Koreans in Japan who took South Korean citizenship can’t get resident registration in South Korea unless they’re willing to give up their “special permanent resident” status and cut off their links to Japan, the country where they were born. As a result, they can’t exercise any of what are misleadingly referred to as “the rights of citizenship”. Most of these, such as the right to purchase rural land, aren’t particularly attractive to people who don’t plan to live in South Korea. However, up until the most recent election they didn’t have voting rights in South Korea either; this was a particularly pernicious deprivation, since it left Koreans in Japan with nowhere at all to exercise the franchise. (Japan does not let non-citizens vote in local elections, though there have been proposals to change this; South Korea, like European Union & some British Commonwealth member states, has extended the vote to some foreign residents since 2005.)
It’s worth noting that this puts Koreans in Japan — some of whose families have not lived on the Korean peninsula for five generations — ahead of many members of the second generation of the American diaspora. The U.S. voting system is based on residence in a state: if you’re born abroad and never lived in the U.S., you have no right to vote unless your parents’ state passed a law allowing the overseas-born children of former state residents to register there. Half of U.S. states have not even done so.
|정부의 관련 통계를 보면, 올 6월 현재 대한민국 국적 외국 영주권자는 115만여명이며, 재외국민 중 국내 거소신고자는 지난해 말 기준으로 7만 1,000명이다. 또, 국내거소신고 재외국민 중에서 미국 영주권자가 3만 3,900명으로 가장 많으며, 이어 일본이 1만 1,500명, 캐나다가 1만 1,400명, 뉴질랜드 5,300명, 호주 2,500명 등 순이다.||Looking at the relevant government statistics, in June there were 1.15 million South Korean citizens who held overseas permanent residence, and by the end of last year there were 71,000 registered emigrants who had made Declarations of Domestic Residence. Among registered emigrants who had made a Declaration of Domestic Residence, U.S. permanent residence status holders formed the largest group with 33,900 people, followed by Japan with 11,500 people, Canada with 11,400 people, New Zealand with 5,300 people, and Australia with 2,500.|
The article apparently quotes 2011 statistics; the 2012 statistics state that they now number 35,244 people. Anyway, if I were a green card holder in South Korea, I’d be very worried: even if you closed your “non-resident’s freely-remittable won deposit” account and opened a new account at a different bank which knows nothing of your “American indicia”, the South Korean government still knows that you are a U.S. Person (even if they don’t think of it in those terms) and has you on a list somewhere.
Right now that list is probably just sitting there on an Immigration Service computer, going relatively unnoticed and unused, but lists have a strange tendency to get shared and abused for purposes other than that for which they were intended. And FATCA wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. government used census or registration data — whether their own or that of other countries — to track down people based on their group identity & punish them. Not only was the 1940 Census used to find Japanese Americans so they could be interned, the U.S. government pressured neutral Latin American countries into rounding up their Japanese immigrants and shipping them off to the U.S. to live behind barbed wire.
Well researched and well done! With 50 million people and long and deep military, commercial and personal ties to US, Korea is important to this issue.
Green card holders come up at the end of this August 17 Wall Street Journal Article:
“…under complex treaty provisions the U.S. has with some countries, years when a green-card holder lives abroad might not be included in the eight-year tally. So careful planning can help some holders stay under this threshold. ”
Does anyone know more about this? Any idea which countries the US has these treaties with re green card holders? Anyone know of a list?
Thank you for catching that but I’m afraid I don’t really know what it means. Anyway I don’t plan to tally anything for anyone in the United States of Arrogance so it’s just curiosity which makes me ask anyone here if he/she can explain that excerpt and how it might relate to my situation. I came back to Canada almost 20 years ago after 12 years of living in the USA. I then declared to the IRS that I was “formerly a resident alien” (they never challenged that) which in their jargon should mean “non-resident alien”. I sent an I-407 to USCIS last year with an explanation that I had actually abandoned my green card almost 20 years ago and that I simply had not been aware that there was a form required to do this. (As everyone here is probably sick of hearing … I got no response from USCIS to make my I-407 official.)
I am trying to get an immigration lawyer to confirm my situation. Do you have any suggestion?
I tried to get my MP constituency office to determine my I-407 status. The Canadian government can do nothing about this but the US government is able to demand info on our bank accounts.
I also asked an immigration lawyer how long the freedom of information on immigration file will take no answer.
Do you ever plan to cross border?
I absolutely will not cross the border. The last time I did was 1997. I have neither reason nor desire to go to Mordor over the Border. How bizarre that the NSA has our information re: I-407 status but we can’t FOIA them. USCIS has not responded to my snail mail requests so I’m just going to leave it at that. I’m prepared to take my money out of the bank here if it becomes a problem for them to deal with someone who refuses to surrender information about her tenuous past ties to the USA.
Thank you for all that excellent work @Eric.
The more we can place in the public sphere about the situation for the US diaspora, expatriates and ex-greencard holders in various countries, the better. The US and mainstream media can choose not to write about this, but I doubt that they can continue to say that there is no information or issues to pursue – the information is here being researched and dissected here at IBS. Surely they have even more resources if they decided to use them.
@Gordian: AFAIK the WSJ is simply wrong about this. If you are a green card holder, you will be deemed to abandon your green card in the first year that you file Form 8833 to try to take the benefits of a tax treaty as a resident of a foreign country, and that triggers the exit tax. I don’t know of any tax treaty that overrides the “eight out of fifteen” rule, either for the number of years or for determining whether you held a green card in a given year.
The only possible “out” I can see is that the “saving clauses” the US insists on cramming down its treaty “partners'” throats (the “silly rabbit, tax treaties are for corporations, not for actual US human beings living abroad” clause) don’t cover green card holders, only citizens. That might let a green card holder avoid the exit tax entirely.
Found my wife Kate still had her green card late last year. Thought we’d given it up 32 years ago after returning to Australia from the US. Sent the I-407 form along with the card to the consulate 9 months ago but have not heard a word. So now I see that non response is true to form. Have no plans to ever return to the US, have assets worth less than a million and live on a lean income so I’m in hopes that the FATCA intrusion will not touch Kate or her modest bank accounts. It just seemed to add a hopeful note if the WSJ article was correct. Making like brer fox and lying low.
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