Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US Green Card’

29th October 2010

In recent postings on this blog, the administration has noted that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is poised to raise some of the costs and fees associated with American Immigration. To quote directly from the official website of USCIS:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds customers that its new fee schedule goes into effect Nov. 23, 2010.  Applications or petitions postmarked or otherwise filed on or after this date must include the new fee, or they will be rejected.

USCIS published the new fee schedule in the Federal Register on Sept. 24, following a comprehensive review of public comments received after publication of the proposed rule this summer.

The new fee schedule increases application and petition fees by an average of about 10 percent but does not increase the naturalization application fee.

Although no one likes to see fee increases, there are some who argue that an increase in processing fees is a necessary consequence of both inflation and the rising cost of the services sought. It should be noted that USCIS recently posted a shortfall and the recent fee increase would seem to be one response to this issue.

The new policy will also usher in new fees that have not previously existed. As they did not exist before it is not really correct to call the new fees “increases,” but as they result in new overall costs, the term increase could be used since the fee was technically increased from nothing to the new fee. To quote from another page of USCIS’s website:

The final fee rule establishes three new fees, including a fee for regional center designations under the Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Pilot Program, a fee for individuals seeking civil surgeon designation, and a fee to recover USCIS costs to process immigrant visas granted by the Department of State. Additionally, the final rule reduces and eliminates several fees, including some for servicemembers and certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces who are seeking citizenship-related benefits. The final rule also expands the availability of fee waivers to additional categories.

It is interesting to note that one of the newly instituted fees involves the EB-5 visa (also referred to as an investor visa). There are those who posit that the EB-5 visa might become increasingly popular in the upcoming months as the American dollar remains somewhat low compared to other currencies. Therefore, some foreign nationals could invest in EB-5 programs at comparatively cheaper rates due to the current exchange rate with the dollar. This is a net benefit to the United States as influxes of foreign capital would likely prove beneficial in a monetary sense while the infusion of foreign investors with a stake in the American economy could prove to be a catalyst for future innovation, economic activity, and overall growth.

As noted in a previous posting, the USCIS fee associated with the K-1 visa is expected to decrease when the final rule in promulgated. Although, Department of State fees associated with the K1 visa interview have recently been increased.

For related information please see: EB-5 Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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17th August 2010

United States Citizenship is the highest lawful status that one can reach in the USA, from an Immigration perspective. Many people from around the world seek visas, travel documents, and permanent residence in the United States. Of the relative few who obtain lawful status in the United States, even fewer ultimately naturalize to US Citizenship. American Citizenship accords the Citizen with voting rights, work authorization, and virtually unfettered travel rights within the United States of America. That said, there are some situations where an American Citizen seeks to renounce their United States Citizenship. In a recent article from the New York Times it was noted that citizenship renunciation seems to be on the rise. To quote the article directly:

Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”

The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.

There are a significant number of American expatriates living throughout the world and it should be noted that not all of these individuals wish to renounce their US Citizenship. However the New York Times went on to point out:

Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

Increasingly, international banks and financial institutions are finding it difficult to deal with some American financial regulations. That said, most American expatriates (or expats) seem to be more frustrated by American tax policy rather than American financial restrictions. The New York Times went on to note:

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence, though they are allowed to exclude their first $91,400 in foreign-earned income.

One Swiss-based business executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitive family issues, said she weighed the decision for 10 years. She had lived abroad for years but had pleasant memories of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Yet the notion of double taxation — and of future tax obligations for her children, who will receive few U.S. services — finally pushed her to renounce, she said.

“I loved my time in the Marines, and the U.S. is still a great country,” she said. “But having lived here 20 years and having to pay and file while seeing other countries’ nationals not having to do that, I just think it’s grossly unfair.”

“It’s taxation without representation,” she added.

Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.

Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.

Even though tax considerations, for both individuals in the present and for those in the future, may be enough for some to renounce their United States Citizenship it would seem that many Americans feel as if renunciation of United States Citizenship is a very drastic measure that should not be taken lightly. Those thinking about giving up their US Citizenship are well advised to seek competent counsel from a US Immigration attorney in order to ascertain all of the relevant ramifications of such a significant decision. Those thinking of renouncing their United States Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) might also find it useful to seek the advice of a competent attorney who can explain the legal issues that arise as a result of giving up American LPR status.

For related information please see: I-407 or naturalization.

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