Global Citizenry – Ruined By Red Tape

You’d think with so many people moving around the world, holding citizenship in more than one country and generally being planetary, the countries of origin would come to terms with it all and well, not put so many obstacles in the way.

I understand the need to (try to) regulate who comes in, especially if they end up receiving benefits having never paid into the system; (although one might argue many natives do the same). The UK is up in arms at the moment at the number of immigrants apparently claiming welfare benefits and living in free housing, although there are restrictions on this, as explained here. Possibly because of the number of EU citizens entering the UK, there are now tougher entrance requirements for non-EU citizens, including those married to Brits.In 2012, the British government raised the minimum wage a Brit must be earning before being allowed to bring his/her non-EU spouse back to the UK. As explained in this Gaurdianarticle, “There are two key features of the new rules: first, the Brit (and only the Brit) has to have an income of £18,600 before the visa can even be applied for; second, the probationary period before permanent residency is granted (“indefinite leave to remain”), increased from two years to five.” It should also be noted that there are additional income sums for each child in the family.

That means that for people like me, a Brit married to an American, I would have to find myself a job after being out of the corporate world for about 17 years, despite the fact that my husband would be able to continue his line of work in the UK. Rather than being a burden, we would be adding significantly to British coffers. In addition, the Brit has to have held that job for six months before applying to bring the spouse in; for many families, this has meant living apart to establish this eligibility. Ironically, other EU citizens with non-EU spouses are free to settle in the UK. Yes, that’s right; Brits have a tougher time bringing non-EUs into their own country than other EU citizens. Oh and Brits have to pay quite a lot of money but the visas for other EU folks? Free.

Another recent change in red tape expat Brits might want to know about concerns driving licenses. Here’s the link to a fairly clear explanation. For those of us who only have a paper license, it’s still valid and most (like mine) have a specific expiration date rather than having to be renewed every ten years. However, because we’re not resident, we can’t renew, change or upgrade them. It won’t affect most expats because we can usually use our host country driving license to rent cars; it would only be relevant if you’re relocating back to the UK.

Speaking of which, should my husband and I decide to live in the UK, once we successfully clear the immigration hurdle, we’d then have to deal with draconian US financial reporting legislation, which is causing an increasing number of American expats to renounce their American citizenship. FATCA, to be exact; otherwise known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which requires American expats to report on their earnings and assets outside of the UK, but also places considerable burdens on their foreign financial institutions. These requirements are so intrusive and burdensome to foreign banks that many are now refusing to allow Americans to bank with them. How bad could the situation be, you might ask. Rather than try to explain its complexity, I’ll hand you over to American-in-the-UK author Mike Harling who explains it concisely and hilariously at his blog.

Toni Summers Hargis has a new book – “The Stress-Free Guide to Studying In the States; A Step-by-Step Plan for International Students”. (Summertime). She is also the author of “Rules, Britannia; An Insider’s Guide to Life in the United Kingdom” (St. Martin’s Press) and blogs as Expat Mum.

Read Toni's other Expat Focus articles here.

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