8 Signs that the US Government is Making it Harder For You to Become an Expat

Have the terrorists won?

One of the most common reasons for wanting to expatriate from the United States is the concern about government overreach. Many feel that the expansion of government in recent years has been chipping away at the freedom and liberty that the country was founded upon. What with more and more agencies, regulations, surveillance, and mandates, the right to privacy and self-determination is steadily shrinking right along with financial outlooks.

So, are you among the increasing number of people who feel that the only real solution is to get out of the country? Well, using the exact same tactics that are driving you away, the government appears intent on preventing you from leaving. Changes that have recently been put in place as well as proposals for future changes in rules and regulations might be intended to discourage. But they might also drive your resolve to take your destiny into your own hands and do whatever it takes to make your move overseas.

1. Escalating Cost of Passports

From $35 a few years ago the fee for a US passport has ballooned to today’s $135 for adults (16 and older) and $105 for minors. Renewals cost $110. If you need it in a hurry, there is another $60 expediting fee, and you have to provide a preaddressed prepaid express mail envelope, if you want it back in less than the 6-8 weeks required. The Passport Agency of the Department of State in 2010 issued 13,883,129 passports as well as 1,596,485 items of a new product called the “passport card,” which is good for reentry from anywhere within the Western Hemisphere. This product, which costs $55 for adults, $30 for previous adult passport holders, and $40 for all minors, was created at the behest of heavy lobbying by the cruise industry.

2. Proposed Biographical Questionnaire

In February 2011, the US Department of State proposed the use of a new biographical questionnaire “to supplement the DS-11 only when the applicant submits citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient to meet his/her burden of proving citizenship or identity.” The estimated burden to fill out proposed Form DS-5513 is 45 minutes, but such details as your mother’s places of residence one year before, at the time of, and one year after your birth are only the beginning of a long list of obscure information that it would be impossible to ascertain in that amount of time or possibly any amount of time. Despite the State Department’s reassurances that it is all about preventing terrorists and other treasonous individuals from gaining US passports, this is very problematic because an unapproved version of the form is already being used to deny passports to US citizens, and there are no set guidelines as to who will to be subjected to it.

3. Air Travel Difficulties

In their supposed pursuit of would-be terrorists and other criminals, the US authorities have overreached their jurisdiction. Recently they forced an international flight from Europe to Mexico to land in the US because one of the online gambling impresarios from Costa Rica was on board. But violation of international law and sovereignty has become an everyday occurrence.

In another recent case, a flight from Mexico to Spain was denied access to American airspace and turned back ninety minutes after takeoff because a Mexican citizen who was once accused of involvement in a guerilla uprising in Bolivia was on board. She suspects that she is on the infamous passenger blacklist. But it is kept secret, so there is neither a way for travelers to find out if they are on the list nor any way to clear their names.

4. Airport Security

One of the most glaring cases of government overreach is of course that of the highly invasive “enhanced screening procedures.” If having to remove shoes and belts to walk through metal detectors and being subjected to the Advanced Imaging Technology units were not degrading enough, “anomalies,” refusals to enter the unit, or metal detection alarms require further thorough pat downs that are justifiably upsetting.

But think twice about complaining. Behavior Detection Officers are stationed at the security checkpoints to watch for “behavioral indicators” such as stress or fear. Other indicators that they look for are attitudes toward security, so anger and resentment about having to surrender the right to privacy becomes the evidence for why your right to privacy should be surrendered. The circular reasoning is dizzying.

5. World wide of invasion of privacy

Whilst outrage over TSA airport screening has amplified the accusations of government tyranny, little is being said about the NSA’s continuing surveillance of electronic data – domestic emails, Internet searches, and social network activities. The USA Patriot Act also gives the NSA the power to conduct surveillance of domestic financial information such as bank transfers and credit card transactions as well as travel and telephone records, and the World Wide Web has globalized their reach. Some may excuse these unconstitutional invasions of privacy as being necessary in these dangerous times, where anyone who is not engaged in illegal activities should have nothing to hide. But again, the arbitrariness and the potential for abuse of power based on private information gleaned from all this surveillance can be yet another impediment to freedom of movement and the right of individuals, wherever they are on the globe, to conduct their lives without the constant fear of interference from Big Brother.

6. Taxation of foreign income

By taxing foreign income, the United States considers all citizens, wherever they are in the world, as subject to taxation. There are foreign earned income exclusions and foreign tax credits, but they only apply when you either spend 330 days abroad earning your income or you meet the bona fide residency test by proving that your principal residence is in a foreign country for at least one full tax year beginning on January 1.

A strangely named provision called the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act (TIPRA), enacted in May 2006, actually raised the amount of taxes due after the foreign earned income exclusion. The changes brought by TIPRA also capped housing allowances, affecting those in higher cost housing markets the most.

7. Financial reporting requirements

According to American Citizens Abroad, US requirements for banks both foreign and domestic have turned expats into “toxic citizens.” A law incorporated into the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE Act) has caused foreign banks and financial institutions to deny services to US citizens because of intrusions by the US government that make servicing those accounts too difficult and burdensome. The Foreign Bank and Financial Account Form (FBAR) calls for foreign institutions to submit account details of all Americans with a cumulative balance over $10,000 at any point during the year to the US Treasury or face major withholding penalties on their US assets. The result has been that many American’s accounts have been closed.

Yet, Title III of the USA Patriot Act, known as the “International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001” enacted requirements concerning how US banks verify their clients’ identities, making it more difficult for those without a permanent US address to maintain accounts from abroad.

The right to privacy in financial matters has been further invaded by new banking rules that the United States has been pushing for through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD compiled a blacklist of countries it deemed “uncooperative tax havens.” To be removed from the list, these countries were required to sign bilateral tax information-sharing treaties with other countries and adhere to an international taxation standard that is eliminating privacy in banking everywhere in the world.

Then there is the requirement to report the amount of money you are taking out of the country to the US government. Here is the text from the Customs and Border Protection website:

You may bring into or take out of the country, including by mail, as much money as you wish. However, if it is more than $10,000, you will need to report it to CBP. Ask the CBP officer for the Currency Reporting Form (FinCen 105). The penalties for non-compliance can be severe.

“Money” means monetary instruments and includes U.S. or foreign coins currently in circulation, currency, and travelers’ checks in any form, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form.

This requirement goes back to when President Nixon removed the last vestiges of the Gold Standard from the US currency in 1971. The explanation for it is that drug dealers were taking millions in illicit gains out of the country. Threats of fines work on institutions, but as for drug dealers, I can just see them declaring those suitcases of money out of fear of a fine.

This rule affects mostly people wanting to move abroad for a better and freer way of life. But when you fill in that FinCen 105, you immediately draw attention to yourself. If you want to take your fortune out in the form of cashier’s checks or bearer bonds, and you declare it, you will probably end up being detained while the CBP calls your accountant and your bank to have them send proof of it being legal and properly taxed.

All of these requirements, along with all the documentation necessary for expats to pay their taxes (the guide to the Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals is 39 pages long), constitute major bureaucratic hurdles to living and working overseas.

8. The IRS is becoming even more aggressive

The IRS was not satisfied with the power it already wielded over international financial institutions, so the government has recently been instituting and considering even more aggressive measures for collecting taxes on Americans who wish to live and keep their assets overseas.

One such measure being considered by the Justice Department is whether it can apply FBAR penalties on foreign banks and institutions that they determine to have violated US tax laws. While the $780 million in fines that Swiss banking giant UBS paid in 2009 were for selling illegal offshore financial products to Americans, the FBAR penalties would dwarf this amount.

Federal prosecutors are already going after a former Credit Suisse banker for $19 million in FBAR penalties for personally aiding and abetting American clients who failed to disclose their foreign accounts to the US government.

Another onerous tactic that the US government is considering is to deny passports from citizens with unpaid taxes.

A farewell gift

So if you have had enough of the US government imposing its will on you, treating you as if you were a terrorist, infringing on your rights and limiting your freedoms, enslaving you with its crushing debt, and impeding your ability to live and work abroad, and you have decided once and for all to renounce your citizenship, you will have to fork out $450 to the US government for this irrevocable privilege. But be aware that under Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, if the Attorney General decides that the renunciation was undertaken to avoid paying taxes, you are ineligible for a visa or admission back into the United States.

All in all, it appears that the terrorists of September 11, 2001, whoever they were, have won. You get to stay put in the US so they know where to come and get you next time.

About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com.  She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005.  She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home. [ send her an email ]

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  1. Jeff – Digital Nomad Journey August 30, 2011 at 7:49 am

    These are pretty depressing to say the least, but will just strengthen my resolve.
    Unreal the amount of reach this country can have , even across the globe.

  2. Monica Bialski August 30, 2011 at 8:11 am

    How about healthcare/medicare?

  3. Mark August 30, 2011 at 11:57 am

    My wife and I are US citizens looking to become expats in Mexico as soon as our house either sells or rents. But we have no desire to expatriate from the US. We simply want to be able to retire early and comfortably and cannot afford to do that in the US until Medicare, Social Security and my pension becomes available in a few years.

    I, therefore, find it offensive that you and others continue to bash the US, it’s government and corporations. Not everyone interested in retiring or working outside of the US harbors the same feelings as you portray in this article. You are certainly free to express your opinions as am I to respond to them, but those contrary opinions are driving me away from this website that otherwise contains some good information for us potential expats.

    I will not read anymore of your articles or those authored by Jamie Douglas.

    • Donatella October 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      To Richard Harris and ‘Mark’:

      Your discomfiture at reading what this country has become is telling; your response to ‘not read this anymore’ is also fascinating. It’s called ‘cognitive dissonance.’ Do you really think NOT learning, NOT amassing as much information as possible, both pro and con your own limited opinions, is a good idea?

      While you may see the author’s point of view as ‘unpatriotic’, it actually is extremely patriotic in the truest sense. She’s simply pointing out that what the US has become is not a democratic republic, but a plutocracy. As a trader recently shocked the media by saying, ‘Goldman Sach’s runs the country’.

      The truth of the matter is, the US is bankrupt and spiraling into a very deep hole, a problem that will not be resolved in most of our lifetimes. You can stay and fight it, (and make yourself a target of all the holier-than-thou DHS and IRS goons, who resemble that police sargeant that maced the protestors on Wall Street a few days ago), or you can leave and live a simplified life under the radar in another country.

      I’ve decided to do some of both.

      Good luck in your pursuits. May I suggest opening your mind to the various opinions out there, both pro and converse to your own; you just maybe will learn something new that way that will be very important.

  4. Richard Harris August 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I use to enjoy reading this and dreaming of places I would like to live but this article is just nonesense. Stronger airport security was implemented to keep people from being expats? Really? Does 9/11 ring a bell? This is just conspiracy craziness. FYI: You don’t have to dislike you country to want to live somewhere else just for the cultural, social experience. Geez.

  5. Ed Teach August 31, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Well no surprise here. Again the republicans have designed a program for their rich contributors, and damn the rest.
    While expat concepts may be beyond the working poor, the average person is still on the other side of the 8 ball.
    I think I’d still rather live poorly in any other country, at least I’ll get health care ….

  6. Nicole September 1, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Dear Susan Beverly,

    I am convinced restrictions for U.S. Citizens will increase with a possible financial and economic crash.

    I have been living in the U.S. for 8 years, have the green card based on my marriage with a U.S. Citizen and I have my own business. I am thinking about applying for my U.S. Citizenship while I would also keep my German passport.

    Reading your articles, I am not sure if it would be beneficial for me to have a U.S. passport with respect to my business and my ties to Germany and possible future restrictions we can not forsee. Can you give me any advise?

    Thank you!


  7. Randy B. September 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

    You err on the FBAR (TDF 90-22-1) Form: It is not foreign banks and financial institutions that are required to fill it out and submit it, but any U.S. person (citizen, resident, or U.S. company or partnership) that has foreign bank and/or financial accounts (or signature authority) which, in the aggregate, topped $10,000 at any given time during the year. Penalties for late filing can be severe, and for failure to file can include both civil and criminal penalties.

  8. paul September 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    If our founding fathers could see what we have allowed this country to turn into they would vomit. Was it not Benjamin Franklin that said those who give up liberty for security deserve neither…

  9. Eman Gregory September 1, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    What I want to know is, ” WHAT COUNTRY IS BETTER THAN THE U S of A ? ” considering everything !!!

  10. David September 12, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Don’t forget the government is destroying our currency and making the dollar weaker against other foreign currencies.

  11. john petrino October 2, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Outsmart the zionist IRS! Buy real estate in the other country.Rent,get paid in cash,keep a small local bank account,pay your local taxes and let that american titanic sink by itself.This is really ridiculus,double taxing it’s owm citizens.Truly the last throes of that murderous empire,america. P.S.,There are a million places that are a million times better place to live than your beloved paranoid US of A.

    • Expat… Martin Scott April 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      John Petrino,

      You are in fact 100% correct sir! The sad part is the sheep will all go to the slaughter house. The brain washed diehards would rather sink with the mother ship rather than see the writing on the wall. I give the big pig 20 years at tops, if it takes that long. The once great America will capsize by the hand of her own monster, CHINA. I called the lifting of China trade sanctions in 1992 and NAFTA in 1993 and I am calling this today in 2012, The great ROME has fallen… it is just that simple. I already knew we were in a recession the day Obama won the election and my business felt the impact before the day of his inauguration. I fired all the workers, sold what was left of a once very successful 17 year old business and closed the doors forever… What a shame it is to see what our country has become in such a short time.

      The Wolfs (EXPATS) are fleeing the country by the 100’s per day with their wealth, that which what they have left of it. America has a huge gaping hole in the side of her haul and is going down fast…NAFTA is the blame for you all losing your jobs to first Mexico and now the almighty powerful communist China, all in the NWO plans… go read about it, it’s all out there if you want to find it. It’s about power not parties for those who wish to comment without doing due diligence first, so go get educated. Maybe one of you youngsters can stop it, but I doubt it. China will not go away and America is feeling the results of her own corporate greed. Corporate America and the fascist pigs on Capital hill have given China the power to succeed….her own life blood, Manufacturing. Therefore she will never recover… The trade is lost and services are now in other countries as well (INDIA) so how do you now make money, this is the question.

      The sad part is that America controls you all to the degree that you have blinders on… here is a perfect example. I can get in my bank huge interest rates on my money and you get 1.05% to 1.80% for JUMBO certificates of deposits, for the layman here that is deposits of $100,000.00USD or more. Go and Google it and see what you can find… you will never see it in America, because Uncle Sam controls your internet traffic and does not want you to be educated or you to understand banking, because if you did you would move all your money tomorrow…! That’s a fact. Why do you think hedge funds exist any ways??? Here is a test for you that you can prove to yourself that what I am telling you is completely true. I learned this through many years of dealing with large money (my own) and through my own education. No one taught me this, I learned it all on my own… but I am sure the answers you will receive will be the same.

      Go ask your ohhh so smart banker (mine was and still is the vice president of a top 20 bank in America) tomorrow this simple question and see his tongue tripping response to your simple question…

      Hey Russ, (this really was my bankers name). I have found a place I can invest my money overseas that will pay me 8% interest on my money in a secured certificate of deposit… What is your opinion on this?

      Russ…Offshore Banking is not safe. Me… Why not? Russ… Because they don’t have FDIC Insurance and you don’t know who has your money. Me… Well a bank has my money, what do you mean? Russ… Well Offshore Banks are not really safe because you don’t really know who is getting or controlling the money you send to them and they don’t have the FDIC insurances that we do. Me… Russ your bank only insures deposits up to $250,000.00USD per customer and that still does not explain why they are not safe, why are they not safe again? Russ…Well say if you lost your money banking with them, through nationalization of the banks, you would not have insurance there to back up your deposits on hand and with us you have this insurance through our affiliation with FDIC and we cover $250,000.00USD per account holder. Me… So my 7 figures that I keep in your bank is only insured up to $250,000.00USD? Russ… I never said that. Me… Yes you did and you are also saying that your overseas affiliate bank is not secure? Russ… I never said that. Me… Then what are you saying that your overseas branches are not secure because they don’t carry FDIC Insurances at these locations? Russ… Well, I thought you were talking about moving your money to some other bank, Our banks are safe because we are very big and don’t have any problems. Me…Hmmm sounds like some B.S. to me. Russ… Well we have branches all over the world, but we don’t share this information with our customers. Me… I know this, or you would have been telling me about the investment opportunities they offer right? Russ… well a, I would have, but you know, I have a job that requires me to, ahhh a ahhhh … be a company man. You know what I mean don’t you…? Me… Sure my friend of 10 years, I know exactly what it means. You are taking care of number one and you are supposed to be my best friend and banker….hmmm.

      Needless to say, Russ and I are no longer friends, nor do I conduct business with them or any bank located in the good ole US of A. And for good reason….they all lie about everything and are not in the business of helping nor teaching you no matter what you may think your relationship is with them. I owned at one time over 100,000 shares of my banks stock, so you go figure out roughly what that was worth and the relationship was still hush hush Mr. Vice President, so what kind of treatment do you think the average Joe gets? There is some food for thought for those who think they are all that because they have a couple million in the bank.

      (For the record, I get much higher %, double digit to be exact and yes on secured certificates of deposits, than this after years of hard work and will not disclose this method to anyone who asks, so don’t… I am currently in the process of opening an online bank, FSP or Investment Club (not sure what direction I am exactly going yet, that is how I found this site and what a good site it is) that will allow you to get these high yield rates through my VIP banking relationship with my banks as well, so don’t be foolish and ask the typical… a where or I don’t believe you b.s… it will not work and I will not respond to you. So thanks in advance for being courteous, when I am up and running I will tell you. )

      I will visit here again soon, to advertise with EFAM a link to my new website for all whom are interested in high yield secure returns….

      EFAM keep up the good work, I look forward to your newsletter and have a great day.

      • Jason Paul October 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm

        Martin Scott I would like more information about what you speak of. Please help educate the masses who want to invest properly and get away from this scum bucket controlled corporate ran state. I already pulled my funds from my bank slowly over the last few years and would like to put them to work for me, not them.

  12. Cheryl October 2, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    For all those so down on the U.S. government, by all means, please leave. Thank you for your consideration.
    “Beliefs held in mind, reproduce in kind.” America needs your help, not your negativity.

    • TG November 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      The author’s paranoia over FinCEN Form 105 is unwarranted. Between 2006 and 2008, I probably completed that form at least 5 times and nothing ever happened to me — either at the airport — or with the IRS when I filed my taxes for those years.

      • Mike September 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm

        What you don’t get is what the form is for. Selective enforcement. Research historical authoritarian regimes and what they used such forms for. You’re not important enough, and nobody wants to give you a hard time – you get let through. It’s not for you. Stop assuming benign intent on behalf of something that resembles little more than a machine run by human beings who are fallible at best. Google “democide”. 250,000,000 human beings have been murdered, yes murdered by governments in the last 100+ years, and that’s NOT including military personnel. The whole global system of nation states and governments is a con, a scam to deprive you of liberty. The founders tried to set something up but unfortunately people were too dumb to keep it, as Franklin reportedly said “You have a republic ma’am, if you can keep it”. Fail!!! But the message and the philosophy of individual liberty is profound and predates America, England and was known by so called “savage” people far before the Magna Carta of 1215. Human rights are inalienable. The right to peace, clean water, to grow your own food as you see fit, to trade with others without involuntary involvement of third parties, the right to freely associate – with a state or not – with anyone else or not. The right to travel – who has greater claim over the common lands of the Earth than anyone else? No one who goes peacefully about their life. The right to decide ones own medical treatment, what they do with their body including experimenting with medicines and psychotropics – it’s their life, not the property of another. It was given to them by what – the Universe – “God” – or perhaps one believes it is simply naturally arising like a spring, still, it is the property of that individual. In reality it is today’s governments of the world who advocate anarchy – which means NO LAW. Because when you enforce law selectively (eg, George Bush and Obama may murder at will, but a normal person may not, You must pay 50% taxes, but Romney pays none) there is no law (says Plato). Law must be equal, or it’s not law. What the average person who is awake to the criminal nature of most governments wants is restoration of the rule of law – and what laws are most important – that it is unlawful – breaking of ones freedom and human rights – to steal, murder, rape, torture, coerce or force into trade or association, to hinder in travel, to deprive of peace, to assault. It’s not hard. It’s a maxim at law also that “ambiguity in law is a misery”. It means laws must adhere to the other maxim “ignorance is no excuse”. But when the law is millions of pages of gobbledegook, that not even an expert can understand more than his own area, and even then it is open to interpretation – that is to obfuscate the law, and so deny it’s protection to the average person – and that is the round-about way to anarchy, so intended by the law societies and other reptile organizations of the world.

    • UPSA June 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

      [Quote] For all those so down on the U.S. government, by all means, please leave. Thank you for your consideration.
      “Beliefs held in mind, reproduce in kind.” America needs your help, not your negativity. [Unquote]

      As if to say they’re reason is false ?

  13. Jon October 23, 2011 at 6:07 am

    What a lot of people don’t understand is that the US citizens get what they want. They want all this protection and safety with no responsibility whatsoever. That’s what they got.End

    But the fear mongering of the USA collapsing…..won’t happen. It may eventually, but the concept of fiat currency will not die. Fiat currency is a function of want; nature already provides you with everything you need. As long as humans want, there will always be fiat currency to support those wants. And Americans are extremely “want-y” and they have the military power to convince many parts of the world to believe that their USD will never fail.

    • someone April 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      I take offense that we got what “we” wanted. I didn’t want any of this! And I know lots of people who didn’t want it either. Oh and there’s this little thing called the BILL OF RIGHTS. Not that our government actually follows it. Where the US is going I don’t wanna be. The baby boomers and welfare bums say they want and want and they tax and tax and restrict our freedom to appease the unproductive citizens (who bitch alot and tend to vote more) of our nation. Now can anyone tell me why this can’t keep working?

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