What Americans Need To Know About Living Abroad
by Ryan C. Fuhrmann
There are many benefits to being a U.S. citizen. The right to vote is paramount, as is the right to be part of one of the most robust and vibrant job markets in the world. Freedom to travel overseas is also largely free from restriction, as is the ability to move overseas for an extended period of time. Moving outside of the U.S. permanently is also possible, though it is a bit more complicated. Below are some of the more important considerations to make.
Retired individuals residing overseas can breathe a sigh of relief as it is possible to receive Social Security payments outside of the U.S. All that is required is to show up monthly at a nearby U.S. embassy to receive the payment. There are certain restrictions though. The Social Security office states it isn't currently possible to receive benefits in Cambodia, Vietnam or parts of the former Soviet Union. A big positive concerns having children abroad. In the vast majority of cases, a child born outside of the U.S. to parents who are U.S. citizens can automatically qualify for U.S. citizenship when born. The Department of State recommends heading to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible to get the proper documentation. This can be important for obtaining a passport or other documentation that is necessary for the child to eventually make it to the U.S.
Voting is also possible while living abroad. There are differing options for U.S. military personnel from citizens living outside the U.S., but options exist to vote as an absentee. The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP.gov) lists the options in detail and includes online resources to register to vote, request ballots and track the activity once it is completed. It is important to note that voting differences exist among the last state of residence, so be sure to check with each state individually.
It can be tricky to obtain medical assistance overseas. Medicare benefits are not available outside of the U.S. However, many countries have less restrictive healthcare systems and will openly accept non-citizens.
Uncle Sam is also a stickler when it comes to taxes. Generally, the same rules that apply inside the U.S. apply outside of it, meaning U.S. citizens are responsible for the paying of all taxes and amounts, regardless of where they live. This can be a big disadvantage because in many cases a U.S. citizen may also be responsible for paying taxes in the country he or she is currently residing in. However, the U.S. does have tax treaties with dozens of other countries that can help reduce, or even eliminate, the disadvantage of double taxation.
U.S. consular offices state they cannot perform marriages abroad, which means a U.S. couple must return stateside to get hitched. Divorces are a bit trickier and depend upon individual state requirements to determine whether getting unhitched overseas will be valid. Getting pets overseas is also quite complicated, though possible. A pet health certificate is required to make sure the pet is free from disease, parasites or anything else that cannot be brought to another country. Some European countries now even require the implanting of a microchip, which tracks vaccination records and the whereabouts of a pet while overseas.
Work and travel visas can be the trickiest component to living abroad for extended periods of time. Individuals lucky enough to be sent as part of an existing job will likely have all the essentials taken care of. For citizens that are retired or traveling on their own, it is necessary to look at the specific requirements of each individual country.
The Bottom Line
Overall, it is possible to permanently move overseas and still keep many of the benefits that come with U.S. citizenship. Of course, there are strings attached. For many, the opportunity for adventure, or to pursue gainful employment abroad, may far exceed the negatives.
by Ryan C. Fuhrmann - Ryan C. Fuhrmann, CFA, has a background in portfolio management, overseeing assets for high-net-worth individuals and covering a broad array of industries from a generalist perspective. An active student of investing, he focuses on communicating his ideas as an investment writer and learning from the financial community. Ryan is also actively involved with the CFA Institute. Feel free to visit his website at www.rationalanalyst.com.