Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘American Resident Abroad’

9th August 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that some media outlets are noting the comparatively positive aspects of the economies which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In order to provide further insight to the reader it is necessary to quote directly from the official website of The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com:

JAKARTA—Investors and companies should look to Southeast Asia as they seek shelter from the world-wide markets meltdown, said the secretary general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Surin Pitsuwan noted that Southeast Asia is growing, it is nestled between India and China and it dealt with its own scary debt problems over a decade ago, making it an attractive alternative amid the global volatility triggered by concerns about how the U.S. and Europe will deal with their debt, as well as whether the U.S. economy will slide into recession again. “If they are looking for a safer haven, this is it,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “The Chinese and the Japanese that are worried will want to look around for better prospects for their investments and this is one of the hopeful regions…”

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to read this well written article by Eric Bellman in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the ASEAN region as a whole, and the component jurisdictions therein, have shown tremendous economic strength in recent months. Meanwhile, these jurisdictions are believed by some to have substantial economic potential in the future. There has been some discussion in recent weeks regarding the prospect of a possible ASEAN visa not unlike the Schengen system currently employed in Europe. Whether such a program will ultimately be implemented remains to be seen. In any case, there is certainly strong evidence to support the inference that the ASEAN jurisdictions will be increasingly important in a geopolitical and economic context moving forward.

In news pertaining to the continuing struggle for LGBT Equality in the United States, it recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States appears to be refusing recognition of same sex marriages, even those legalized and/or solemnized in an American State jurisdiction. To provide further information this blogger is compelled to quote directly from the official website of MSNBC at MSN.com:

For all those same-sex newlyweds in New York, Lawrence S. Jacobs has a message: Enjoy the Champagne and the honeymoon, but expect no gifts from the IRS. Jacobs, a lawyer in Washington, specializes in estate planning for same-sex couples — and in delivering the bad news that their unions aren’t legal in the eyes of the IRS, a policy that will cost them time and money during tax season.Same-sex couples in Washington, which last year legalized gay marriage, must fill out a federal return to make calculations required for their D.C. joint return. But then they must set that work aside and fill out separate federal returns because the IRS doesn’t regard their union as legal, Jacobs says. “You just spent decades getting your marriage recognized, and now the feds say, ‘No, you’re not,’” says Jacobs, who as a partner in a same-sex marriage has firsthand experience of the problem.

The administration of this web log strongly encourages interested readers to click upon the hyperlinks noted above to view this story in detail.

Frequent readers may recall that the issue of same sex marriage has been a “hot button” issue in recent months as Senate Judiciary hearings have recently been held to scrutinize the Constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in light of proposed replacement legislation in the form of the bill colloquially referred to as the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA). In an immigration context, the issue of federal recognition of same sex marriage is of substantial importance since agencies such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and each and every US Embassy or US Consulate overseas is legally compelled to disregard a same sex marriage when adjudicating family visa matters pursuant to the provisions of DOMA. Therefore, bi-national same sex couples cannot obtain a travel document such as a K-1 visa, CR-1 visa, or IR-1 visa in the same manner as their different-sex counterparts. Meanwhile, there is some hope that this current legal discrimination will be overcome as some US Courts have ruled that DOMA’s non-recognition, at least at the federal level, of State licensed same sex marriage is Un-Constitutional. Concurrently, the United States Bankruptcy Courts have begun allowing joint bankruptcies for same sex married couples.

It remains to be seen whether same sex couples will ever be accorded the same benefits as their different-sex counterparts in the eyes of American law, but the overall situation appears to be gradually improving.

For related information please see: Americans Resident Abroad.

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2nd June 2011

Frequent readers of this web log may have taken note of the fact that the administration routinely posts the holiday closing schedules of the various US Missions in Asia as a courtesy to the public-at-large. To quote directly from the official website of the United States Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan:

DATE                                 DAY                           HOLIDAY

January 2*                 (US)  Sunday  New Year’s Day
January 16*               (US)  Sunday  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
February 15              (AF)  Tuesday  Liberation Day
February 16**           (AF)  Wednesday  Prophet’s Birthday
February 20*              (US)  Sunday  President’s Day
March 21                   (AF)  Monday  Nawrooz (Afghan New Year – 1390)
April 28                      (AF)  Thursday   Victory Day
May 29*                    (US)  Sunday  Memorial Day
July 3*                      (US)  Sunday  Independence Day
August 1**                (AF)  Monday  First Day or Ramadan
August 18***             (AF)  Thursday  Independence Day
Aug 31 – Sept 2**      (AF)  Wednesday – Friday Eid ul-Fitr
September 4*             (US)  Sunday  Labor Day
September 8***          (AF)  Thursday  Martyrdom of National Hero Day
October 9*                 (US)  Sunday  Columbus Day
November 6-8**          (AF)  Sunday – Tuesday Eid-e Qurban
November 10*             (US)  Thursday  Veteran’s Day
November 24               (US)  Thursday  Thanksgiving Day
December 6**             (AF)  Tuesday  10th of Muharram (Ashura)
December 25               (US)  Sunday  Christmas Day

Notes:

*    American holidays marked with an asterisk (*) are observed on a different day than in the US.

**  Afghan holidays marked with double asterisks (**) are based on the Islamic Calendar and depend on sightings of the moon.  As a holiday approaches, adjustments to this schedule may be made based on local practice and Afghan government announcements.

*** Afghan holidays marked with triple asterisks (***) are observed one day earlier.

Those wishing to visit the official homepage of the United States Embassy in Kabul are encouraged to click HERE.

It may sometimes prove necessary for an American Resident Abroad or an American traveling abroad to acquire documentation (US Passport, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, Notarized affidavit, etc.) which can only be obtained from an American Citizen Services section of a US Embassy or US Consulate overseas. Americans seeking such documentation are well advised to contact an American Citizen Services Section with appropriate Consular jurisdiction.

Those seeking an American non-immigrant visa (such as a B-1 visa, B-2 visa, J-1 visa, or F-1 visa) are likely to see their visa application processed at a non-immigrant visa section of a US Embassy, US Consulate, or American Institute abroad. Meanwhile, those seeking an immigrant visa such as a CR-1 visa or IR-1 visa (for purposes of Consular Processing, the K-1 visa; although a non-immigrant US fiance visa, is treated in much the same way as immigrant visa categories for processing purposes) are likely to see their visa application processed by an Immigrant Visa Unit abroad. Immigrant visas such as those noted above are likely to only be granted pursuant to an initial adjudication of an immigration petition at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Those seeking visas such as the EB-5 visa or the L-1 visa are well advised to take note of the fact that it is unlikely that a visa application will be adjudicated by a US Post abroad until after an initial immigration petition is approved by USCIS.

For related information please see: Legal.

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30th April 2011

Over the years this blogger has seen large numbers of tourists flock to the Kingdom of Thailand as well as the neighboring nations of Laos, the Union of Myanmar (referred to by some as Burma), Malaysia, and the Kingdom of Cambodia. At the same time, this blogger has also witnessed the metamorphosis of some of these tourists into entrepreneurs by remaining in some of these countries (as well as other jurisdictions in Greater Asia such as Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Nepal, Macau, India, and Sri Lanka; to name only a few) in a business context for many years and; for some, even decades or a whole lifetime. Whatever the circumstances of those Americans Resident Abroad remaining in the region of economies increasingly being labeled by both the mainstream and alternative media outlets by their affiliation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) one thing is clear: the economies of Asia are set to expand at an incredible rate by relative historical comparison. Therefore, it stands to reason that there are likely to be more Americans doing business in these jurisdictions. This state of affairs is occurring at a time when the potential of the internet and the World Wide Web first noted little more than a decade ago is beginning to become fully realized by businesses large and small. As e-commerce becomes an evermore ubiquitous facet of virtually every enterprise’s business strategy it is becoming more clear that many business functions are increasingly being performed by businesses of all sizes online and, in some cases, these businesses are even being maintained from an entrepreneur’s home.

This phenomenon is interesting for this blogger to note from the perspective of an American who is resident in Bangkok, Thailand as the Thai shop-house business model of maintaining a residence and business premises within close proximity has lead to a thriving small business community in the vast metropolis that is Greater Bangkok. This thriving business community, coupled with many of the other positive factors associated with doing business in Thailand, has lead to a vibrant economy that remains conducive to further foreign investment by entrepreneurs and businesses seeking to derive economic benefits both in Thailand and throughout the Asian markets. Of possible importance to Americans resident abroad or those thinking of residing abroad are the issues noted above as well as those associated with ownership of Thai property or Thai real estate especially in the form of a Thai Condominium.

In Thailand, as well as throughout many jurisdictions in Asia, there are restrictions placed upon foreign ownership of real estate. Although there are provisions allowing for foreign ownership of Thai property in many cases it is difficult, if not impossible, for a foreign national to secure freehold title (referred to as Chanote title in Thailand) in Thai real property such as land. However, it may be possible for a foreign national in Thailand, such as an American Citizen, to conveniently secure freehold title to a Thai Condo if the provisions of various laws and regulations on this issue, such as the Thai Condominium Act, are adhered to. Meanwhile, a foreign national who owns a Condo in Thailand may be qualified to receive a Foreign House Registration Booklet (referred to as a Tabien Baan for Thais or a Foreign Tabien Baan, or Yellow Tabien Baan for foreign nationals). Taking the aforementioned factors into consideration, in conjunction with the fact that for American Citizens and American Companies in Thailand there may be benefits pursuant to the provisions of various legal instruments such as the US-Thai Treaty of Amity which may provide the privilege of virtually 100% ownership of a Company in Thailand with “National Treatment” for certain business undertakings, one is left with little doubt that there are tangible legal benefits which could be accrued to the favor of Americans resident in Thailand conducting business in the ASEAN region as well as the regions of Greater Asia. Therefore,  investing in what this blogger would refer to as a “Thai Pad” (which non-literally alludes to the IPad-like gadgets allowing for increasingly easy real time access to the internet as well as the exponentially beneficial combination of privileges accruing to owners of Thai property registered on a Yellow Tabien Baan in conjunction with the advantages which may be had for Americans resident abroad utilizing a Thai company certified under the US-Thai Amity Treaty) could prove to have been prudent by future analysts in both tangible as well as intangible terms.

For related information please see: US Company Registration.

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9th March 2011

In turns of events that may have seemed fantastical even 4 years ago, the Anglo-American socio-political, economic, and legal spheres are evolving at a rapid rate with little end in sight. This blogger recently discovered that a group in a county of the United Kingdom has arrested a judge invoking ancient rights granted pursuant to Magna Carta. To quote directly from the WirralGlobe.co.uk:

Protestors have “civilly arrested” a judge at Birkenhead county court…Made up of people from across the UK, the marchers say they are exerting their “ancient right to lawful Rebellion under Magna Carta…”The crowd, although largely peaceful, is chanting “freedom” and “arrest that judge…”

This blogger highly recommends that those so interested click upon the above links to view an in depth report on this interesting state of affairs. This blogger would also suggest clicking on this link to see what appears to be a video documenting these events happening in real time. In any event, the affairs mentioned above are notable in that it is not all the time one sees the British Citizenry engaged in such endeavors. The current propensity toward unconventional tactics and methods in the political and legal spheres is having an impact upon currency in the United States and around the world as the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and the nations comprising the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are all encountering political pressure resulting from economic forces acting upon these nations. In an effort to gain leverage over an increasingly difficult economic situation the House of Representatives in the sovereign State of Utah has passed legislation which would promote gold and silver as legal tender within the jurisdiction of the State of Utah. To quote directly from the website TalkingPointsMemo.com:

The Utah House of Representatives has approved a bill that allowing gold and silver coins to be used as currency, though unlike similar bills in other states, it doesn’t force anyone to accept gold or silver as legal tender. House Bill 317 was introduced by state Rep. Brad Galvez (R) last week, and passed the House by a vote of 47-26. It will now head to the state Senate for a vote. [sic]

Clearly the political winds of change are blowing across North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. How events will unfold as the stories above play out are anyone’s guess, but those Americans resident abroad in Asia as well as other expatriates and Citizens of nations such as China, Thailand, Indonesia, India, and the ASEAN member nations are likely watching some of these events unfold with a keen eye as modern history has shown that events occurring in one location can have reverberations of a global magnitude.

For related information please see: Integrity Legal.

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17th February 2011

As an American Resident Abroad, this blogger finds a certain sense of comfort in watching the lead up to the 2012 Presidential Election. For those who have been reading this blog with any kind of regularity it may have been noticed that the posting have become more centered upon issues arising in an American political context. To be clear, this blogger truly feels that the events transpiring in the United States can have a significant impact upon Asia as a whole and Southeast Asia in particular. This blogger has personally witnessed the way in which United States policy can impact the Kingdom of Thailand, for good and for ill. Clearly, what happens in Washington D.C. and on the campaign trail leading up to the 2012 election can have a tremendous effect upon the economies and polities that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the broader Asia-Pacific region. Bearing that in mind, the reader should note that the administration of this blog is tracking the lead up to the 2012 election out of mere curiousity and will try to remain unbiased regarding the candidates themselves.

In politics, as in many other areas of life, “perception is reality”. This colloquialism is often interpreted to mean that a candidate’s portrayal in the media has a direct impact upon his or her chances of attaining national office. In many respects, this has been true in the past. The Michael Dukakis tank/helmet incident is a prime example of the way in which a public figure’s image can be portrayed in the media in such a way that it damages that candidate’s chances at the polls.

It would appear that the “Mainstream Media” outlet Fox News has been taking criticism for their portrayal of the recent victory of Representative Ron Paul at the CPAC straw poll. To quote directly from AAyles on the website twirlit.com:

A new video released today via YouTube shows footage from 2010 where Ron Paul was booed after winning the CPAC. So what’s the big deal, right? Well, the footage from 2010 was presented in a manner that made it seem as though it was from 2011.

Firstly, this blogger greatly encourages readers to click on the links above to watch the full video as it would appear that Fox News did indeed use footage from the previous CPAC straw poll which did show a less enthusiastic reception to the Ron Paul victory (to be clear, Ron Paul won both the CPAC straw poll in 2010 and the straw poll in 2011, but by a much wider margin in 2011). To quote further from AAyles on twirlit.com:

The video pretty much explains everything very clearly but the message we want to get across is that, despite what Fox News reported, Ron Paul was not booed when he was announced as the 2011 CPAC winner. Not at all, actually. As you can see in the video, there was nothing but loud cheers when Ron was announced as the 2011 winner.

It is interesting to note this apparent manipulation of the reporting of the Ron Paul CPAC victory as it shows how influential the “Mainstream Media” can be in the realm of political perception, but the incident also shows something else: the “Mainstream Media” may be in danger of losing their hold over key sectors of their audience. This is not to say that Fox News will discontinue their operation anytime soon. On the contrary, it would appear as though National News organizations will continue to thrive, but machinations once used to influence the audience are being exposed so quickly through the “Alternative Media” (namely, websites, blogs, the blogosphere, social media, youtube, etc) that there is a sort of grassroots “blowback” (to borrow a phrase from the intelligence community) that occurs following incidents such as the one described above. It stands to reason that anytime a media outlet is discredited it will have an adverse impact upon the way in which said outlet is viewed by the public-at-large in the future. The issue for mainstream media is one of survival, in order to maintain relevance in an increasingly “Alternative Media” saturated society “Mainstream Media” outlets must guard against being portrayed as “taking a side” in an issue lest their viewers choose to seek their news and information via other channels. The fact that Fox News was so quickly vilified for their portrayal of the CPAC straw poll outcome goes to show how tremendously effective the “alternative media” can be when it comes to disseminating information, especially information about “Mainstream Media” mistakes or misinformation.

In many ways, the upcoming Presidential Election will be interesting, not because of the outcome; but because it will showcase what appears to be a “Mainstream Media” heading into decline.

For related information please see: Patriot Act Extension.

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5th February 2011

One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and a true Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was once quoted as stating, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Truer words may never have been uttered as taxation and death seem as ubiquitous now as they likely did in the 1700′s. With that in mind, this blogger has recently noticed a great many American people outside of the USA who have misconceptions regarding the current state of American law with regard to taxation of Americans resident abroad. It would appear that there are those under the mistaken impression that individuals outside of the United States are not subject to American income tax. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth pursuant to current United States tax rules.

To quote directly from the official website of the Internal Revenue Service: IRS.gov:

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.

As can be seen from the above quotation, Americans working or earning income abroad are still subject to American taxation regardless of the fact that they are physically located outside of the jurisdictional confines of the United States of America. There are many who do not agree with the current tax policies regarding individuals resident abroad, but as the law currently stands Americans must pay taxes even on income earned outside of the USA. That said, from a practical perspective there are some benefits accorded to Americans residents abroad. To quote further from the same page of the Internal Revenue Service website:

If you reside overseas, or are in the military on duty outside the U.S., you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file your return until June 15. However, any tax due must be paid by the original return due date (April 15) to avoid interest charges.

Of further note to Americans resident abroad is the foreign earned income exclusion which may allow Americans resident abroad to obtain a exemption from paying taxes on earned income up to a certain specified level. To quote directly from the Internal Revenue Service’s web page regarding the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion:

If you are a U.S. citizen or a resident alien of the United States and you live abroad, you are taxed on your worldwide income. However, you may qualify to exclude from income up to an amount of your foreign earnings that is now adjusted for inflation ($91,400 for 2009, $91,500 for 2010, $92,900 for 2011). In addition, you can exclude or deduct certain foreign housing amounts.

It should be noted that “living abroad” should not be construed to mean short term periods of residence outside of the USA. In fact, one wishing to claim the aforementioned exclusion would likely be required to spend a substantial period of time outside of the USA. In fact, the IRS currently uses a Physical Presence Test in order to determine whether or not an American who has been abroad qualifies for the foreign earned income exclusion. To quote further from another page of the IRS.gov website:

You meet the physical presence test if you are physically present in a foreign country or countries 330 full days during a period of 12 consecutive months. The 330 qualifying days do not have to be consecutive. The physical presence test applies to both U.S. citizens and resident aliens.

This posting is merely intended to act as a primer for those interested in American tax issues and how United States tax rules impact Americans resident abroad. This posting should not be viewed as a complete or comprehensive analysis of an individual’s current tax situation. Those interested in obtaining advice regarding American tax matters are well advised to contact a licensed professional. At the time of this writing the Integrity Legal Network includes an American attorney licensed to practice law before the United States Tax Court.

For related information please see: Expat Tax Return.

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