#FATCA Accidental Americans ask US to cut fees for renouncing citizenship

More on FATCA and renunciation fees:

The Accidental Americans Association (AAA) has written a letter to the US Secretary of State, asking the country to reduce the costs of renouncing American citizenship.

Many accidental Americans would like to give up their US citizenship to avoid having tax obligations to a country most have never even lived in. However, the waiver procedure alone costs $2,350 and the final sum could run to thousands of dollars since they also need to pay the Internal Revenue Service any tax obligations from the previous five years.

“$2,350 is an exorbitant sum and does not correspond at all to the real cost of the procedure,” Fabien Lehagre, president of the Accidental Americans Association wrote in the letter addressed to Mike Pompeo.

$2,350 is an exorbitant sum and does not correspond at all to the real cost of the procedure”

According to a recent report by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of the Executive Office of the President, State Department calculations show the cost of the procedure is just $20.25 per person.

“Therefore, on behalf of the accidental Americans I have been representing around the world for the past five years, I would ask you to kindly instruct your administration to reduce the costs associated with the renunciation procedure drastically, so that accidental Americans can get rid of their unwanted [American] nationality if they so wish,” Lehagre added.

The EU has urged the US to cut the $2,350 (£1,785) bill for renouncing American citizenship, and to simplify tax filing requirements.

The US is the only country aside from Eritrea that taxes non-resident citizens on their global income.

Accidental Americans is the name given to individuals who are citizens of countries other than the United States, but who are deemed also to be a US citizen, by virtue of the fact that they were born there to non-American parents, but typically only discovered this fact recently, as FATCA came into force.

FATCA was passed in 2010 and forces banks wanting to operate in the US to report any assets held by American citizens overseas. While the measure is aimed at tax avoidance, it has created problems for many American expats and dual nationals who have been rejected by retail banks seeking to avoid hassle and risk.

Dutch banks have started freezing the accounts of dozens of ‘accidental’ Americans in the Netherlands because they have failed to provide them with their US tax information numbers (TINs), a requirement under FATCA.

French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire has said that failure to comply with the FATCA TIN requirement is not cause for banks operating in the country to immediately close the accounts of French-American taxpayers. However banks are nervous about what to do.

It is estimated that over 9 million Americans live overseas, not including accidental Americans.

Source: Accidental Americans ask US to cut fees for renouncing citizenship

Despite coronavirus, Canada needs immigrants

Suspect with travel restrictions and fewer international flights, may be harder for IRCC to meet this year’s target levels. Citizenship numbers will most likely drop given the cancellation of citizenship ceremonies:

Last week Canada announced its 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan as the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis was escalating.

Indeed, the announcement was overshadowed by the major economic and social turmoil that the coronavirus is having in Canada and abroad.

Here at home, Canada, just like most countries, appears headed towards a recession. COVID-19 has led to a price war between major oil producers globally, and the collapsing price of oil will have negative ramifications for Canada’s economy.

Moreover, weakened economic activity will hurt nearly every sector with certain ones in particular such as tourism and hospitality bearing significant blows.

To stymie the blows, the Bank of Canada announced an emergency cut to its overnight interest rate, just one week after it had already cut the rate. They may not be done, as some analysts forecast more cuts may be needed to help Canada’s economy weather the storm.

Overseas, we have seen the likes of states of emergency, travel bans, and other exceptional events such as stock market crashes.

Why 2020-2022 Immigration Levels Plan makes sense despite COVID-19

As such chaos engulfs the world, it is understandable that Canada’s decision to welcome over one million additional immigrants over the next three years is not the focus of attention at the moment.

Nonetheless, the COVID-19 crisis can help us understand why immigration will be so crucial to Canada’s economy moving forward.

Yes, Canada’s economy looks set to contract in 2020. As such, one could make the argument that increasing immigration at this moment is not ideal since newcomers will be arriving in Canada at a time when the labour market will struggle to absorb them.

However, current events serve as a reminder that Canada’s immigration policies are largely proactive in nature, and since the late 1980s, the decision of the number of immigrants to welcome has been largely detached from economic conditions on the ground.

While Canada welcomes immigrants to help fill immediate job vacancies, its immigration policies are also meant to strengthen the country’s economic standing years and decades from now. This means that even if newcomers arrive during an economic downturn, Canada expects the same newcomers to be catalysts for economic growth in the future.

A major reason for this is that all of Canada’s nine million baby boomers will reach retirement age by the end of this decade. Since Canada has a low birth rate, it is relying on immigration to drive the majority of its labour force growth.

Labour force growth is one of two ways to grow the economy, with the other way being to use the labour force more productively.

Hence, it still makes sense to admit high levels of newcomers even during periods of economic distress. While immigrants arriving in Canada in 2020 may face more difficulties than usual in finding work that aligns with their skills, education, and work experience, they will soon face the prospects of working in a country where the supply of labour will be significantly constrained as more baby boomers leave the workforce. This means that such immigrants will likely see more employers competing for their services, which would result in much better employment outcomes and salaries.

“Tap on, tap off” turned off in late 1980s

The proactive measure of welcoming high levels of newcomers even during recessions is a fairly new one in Canadian history.

Up until the late 1980s, Canada utilized a “tap on, tap off” approach to immigration levels. It welcomed higher levels of newcomers when the economy was strong, and reduced immigration during recessions. However, it moved away from this approach in the late 1980s after determining it needed to sustain high levels of immigration to alleviate the economic and fiscal strain that was soon to come due to its rapidly aging population and low birth rate. Since then, Canada has maintained high levels even during several recessions including the major one that occurred in 2008-09.

It can also be argued that a short-term benefit of welcoming immigrants during periods such as what Canada is experiencing today still helps the economy in the short-run since newcomers will help to stimulate demand in Canada through the purchase of goods and services which will help to relieve some of the economic stress being caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Announcing an ambitious immigration levels plan during such a crisis may not have appeared to be ideal timing on the surface, however, in practice, the timing of the announcement will prove immaterial.

Today’s higher immigration levels, even though we are experiencing a coronavirus crisis and economic pain, will result in greener economic pastures tomorrow as the influx of newcomers contributes to Canada’s economy as workers, consumers, and taxpayers.

Source: Despite coronavirus, Canada needs immigrants

How COVID-19 is altering our conception of citizenship – EUROPP

Some possible implications on the balance between human rights and health issues, muddied by the actions of some governments. Canada has included permanent residents in its travel and evacuation measures, a more inclusive approach than others:

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has wrecked human mobility, and profoundly disrupted the daily lives of millions of people worldwide. Its effects are mirrored in policies such as evacuations from affected areas or spaces, travel restrictions, and confinement in quarantines, but also in social and behavioural practices ranging from panic-shopping to the alteration of greeting customs that entail physical contact. These occurrences show how profoundly the virus has cut into the relationship between citizenship as a guarantee of the state’s responsibility for the well-being of its citizens, on the one hand, and human rights and practices of solidarity, on the other.

A thin line between responsibility and human rights

States have a responsibility towards their citizens abroad. This responsibility is brought into relief at times of natural disasters or conflicts, requiring emergency responses, such as evacuations and other types of en masse consular assistance. Karen Tindall has noted that in these instances, even though the disaster is located abroad, the emergency response involves the state’s citizens and is thus considered to be a domestic emergency.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there have been 39 evacuations of foreign nationals from the city of Wuhan in China. While most of these evacuations concerned nationals of the countries that performed the rescue operations, Australia, New Zealand and several Pacific Islands organised a joint operation for their respective citizens. France, Germany and the UK facilitated the removal of EU citizens, while emergency responses by India, Iran and Ukraine also included nationals other than their own.

Despite being envisaged as rescue operations, evacuations can be rather problematic in the context of human rights. This becomes evident in at least two domains. First, even though the right to family life has been recognised in article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a number of multinational families were at risk of being divided by evacuations.

China does not recognise dual nationality, which had originally prevented the Australian and British citizens with a Chinese passport from being eligible for evacuation. The Australian government authorised the evacuation only of those who used this country’s passport to enter China. The UK authorities could not assist dual nationals as they had “no power to get involved in mainland China”. In a number of cases, such individuals included Chinese spouses or partners and the children of Australian and British nationals. This prompted a public outcry over splitting families, with foreign embassies pressing the Chinese authorities to allow the dual nationals and their dependents to be evacuated.

Second, in 21 out of the 39 cases mentioned above, the evacuated individuals have been placed in quarantine, a historically widespread practice of limiting freedom of movement to curb the diffusion of infectious diseases. While the international human rights instruments, such as article 12 of the ICCPR, nowadays guarantee liberty of movement within a country, under international law it is possible for states to impose limitations to passage in order to safeguard public health.

Quarantines following COVID-19 evacuations – such as placing the citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands on Christmas Island, or placing US citizens on a marine base – have raised important human rights concerns. Confinements of large crowds in limited spaces without adequate medical facilities may have indeed reduced the risk of contracting the virus outside the quarantined areas. Yet, they amplified the possibility for spreading the virus among the quarantined individuals, and limited the right to a healthy and safe environment for all those affected by a lockdown. In such cases, the line between the responsibility of governments and an infringement of human rights has become very thin.

And a yet thinner line exists between prevention and discrimination

As of 16 March, a total of 125 countries worldwide have imposed travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Most of these limitations target passengers who live in or have visited the countries affected by the virus. That is, entry is denied to individuals who have travelled to places where the epidemic is widespread, including mainland China, Italy, Iran or South Korea. These restrictions tend to target entire countries rather than viral hubs such as Emilia Romagna, Lombardy, and Piedmont in Italy; the provinces of Hubei, Jiangsu, Zhejiang in China; or the metropolitan cities of Cheongdo and Daegu in South Korea.

In the most recent wave of travel bans, starting on 13 March, the United States announced that it would not allow entry to foreigners who were physically present in the Schengen Area in the two weeks preceding their entry, unless they are permanent US residents or their family members. The US administration justified the application of the ban to the 26 affected countries by references to the abolition of internal border controls, which “makes the task of managing the spread of the virus difficult“. The UK and Ireland were later added to this list (for a visualisation of the international travel restrictions implemented during the outbreak, see here).

The right to return is commonly guaranteed to a country’s own nationals, permanent residents and resident diplomats, provided that they self-isolate for two weeks.1 This type of policy is in place in countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Belize, Guatemala, India, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, and New Zealand. While generally being the least exclusionary form of a travel ban, such restrictions have adversely affected contract and seasonal workers, as well as students, all of whom are normally holders of temporary residence permits.

Even so, the travel ban will also have a negative impact on the holders of the Overseas Citizenship of India status, a quasi-citizenship granted to Indian diaspora, who will not be able to make use of the right to enter the country freely between 13 March and 15 April. These examples show how disruptive admission constraints are for increasingly dense global mobilities. However, they are driven by two motivations – preventing the spread of disease domestically and guaranteeing the state’s responsibility towards citizens abroad seeking to return.

Upholding this guarantee is far from straightforward, especially when states impose travel bans only for foreign nationals seeking admission after a stay or transit in the areas affected by the epidemic. For instance, Angola, Bangladesh, and Fiji admit their own citizens unconditionally, but deny entry to all other passengers arriving from the countries where the COVID-19 epidemic is on the rise. Such an approach shuns responsibility towards foreign residents.

A handful of governments put in place stricter policies, targeting citizens of particular countries. Iranian nationals are not allowed to enter Hungary. Iraq does not admit Iranian and Chinese citizens. Chinese nationals are also barred from entering Kosovo unless possessing a medical certificate that proves they are not infected. Citizens of China, Iran and Italy can enter Oman only if in possession of a resident visa. The Russian Federation applies the same approach to Chinese and Iranian nationals. The policies of Singapore and South Korea target Chinese nationals with passports issued in Hubei province.

While is it illegitimate to exclude people on the grounds of their nationality, it may be legitimate to target individuals who have been present in a country rather than in an epidemic affected area within that country. The latter may be justified if the country as a whole has been declared an emergency zone (e.g. Italy) or if the government of the country has been concealing information regarding the epidemic and is inadequately applying the necessary measures (e.g. Iran). Hence, unlike denials of entry to individuals who have physically been in areas affected by the virus, immigration restrictions based on nationality rather than an individual’s physical presence in a virus-affected area are discriminatory. The former target individuals who pose a real risk to public health in their destination country; the latter represent an arbitrary mechanism of exclusion.

Ironies of thick and thin citizenship

Further to safeguarding public health inside countries by acting externally through evacuations or travel restrictions, in recent weeks there has been a sharp increase in policies that curb movement internally, and – in some instances – limit social and cultural interaction.

In some European immigration countries, forms of social interaction that are now considered as unhealthy have been made mandatory in the context of efforts to secure the adaptation of Muslim immigrants to European ways of life. For example, handshaking has been made obligatory in naturalisation ceremonies in Denmark since 2018. As Danish authorities have now recommended that people avoid shaking hands, the mayor of Ringsted, a city in Eastern Denmark decided to cancel the naturalisation ceremony. Postponing ceremonies for applicants who have met all other citizenship requirements, including 9 years of residence, learning the language, being financially stable and loyal to Denmark, reinforces the exclusionary effects inherent in the thickening of conceptions of citizenship that raise the bar for certain categories of immigrants.

At the same time, an increasing number of individuals who hold multiple nationalities can make strategic choices as to which citizenship offers better possibilities against the restrictions brought about by COVID-19. In some cases, a second (secondary or dormant) passport may secure mobility that the original one no longer can. For example, a dual national of Italy and Argentina, who had so far benefitted from the ample visa-free travel granted to Italian citizens, may well purposefully opt for using her Argentinian passport during the epidemic. Such an approach indeed reveals a rise in the instrumental use of passports and a ‘thinning’ of citizenship for dual nationals.

COVID-19 has infected citizenship, too

The recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus shows the role citizenship plays in the context of public health responses to emergencies, including evacuations and quarantines, travel and socio-cultural constraints. In none of these cases is this role unproblematic. If evacuation is a necessary response to a pandemic, citizenship determines precisely which state is responsible for evacuating whom. Yet, the line between protecting the public health of citizens abroad and violation of their human rights can become rather blurred if otherwise healthy individuals are evacuated only to be exposed to a disease through confinement.

Mobility restrictions may well be justified if they target those who may have physically been present in the contaminated areas, but they become a powerful tool for discrimination if their primary target are nationals of particular countries, regardless of other factors (e.g., residence, point of departure, length of stay). Avoidance of handshakes is perhaps necessary to contain the virus, but is it enough of a justification for postponing the conferral of citizenship for those who have met all other conditions? All of this underlines that COVID-19 has infected the uses and meanings of citizenship, too.

Source: How COVID-19 is altering our conception of citizenship – EUROPP

‘Anchor babies’: the ‘ludicrous’ immigration myth that treats people as pawns

A different situation than that normally captured by the term “birth tourists” without the abuse implied by those visiting only to give birth for the purposes of obtaining citizenship for their child:

Daira García wakes up at 5.50am. She takes out her dog, then tries to eat some breakfast before boarding the bus that gets her to school by 7.26 in the morning.

After class, she heads back home, where her parents, Silvia and Jorge, watch Noticiero and sip mate (she sometimes tries the drink as well but admits she’s never quite gotten used to it). They eat something, talk. When Daira goes off to finish her homework, she forgoes the desk in her room to curl up in her parents’ bed.

“It’s more comfy,” she quips.

Daira, 17, has a fairly standard routine for an American teenager: school, homework, family time. But unlike most kids, the schedule she’s come to rely on each day could easily be disrupted at any point.

Silvia and Jorge traveled from Argentina to the United States as 2001 became 2002, and with a new year came their new life in an unknown country. Daira’s big brother was just an infant then; now a college student, he doesn’t even really remember the place where he was born. And yet he’s only shielded from deportation because of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca), an Obama-era program the Trump administration has been trying to end for years. Silvia and Jorge, meanwhile, have no protection and could be picked up by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) at any time.

Daira begins to cry just thinking about it.

“We’ve never had a plan for it if it happened,” Silvia says in Spanish. “Maybe we don’t give much thought to that because we think it’s healthier.”

An estimated 4.1 million US-citizen children lived with at least one undocumented parent in recent years, according to the Migration Policy Institute. They’re kids who anti-immigrant groups disparage as “anchor babies”, a derogatory term that insinuates these children are little more than pawns used by their immigrant parents to get a foothold in the US and eventually become citizens themselves.

Source: ‘Anchor babies’: the ‘ludicrous’ immigration myth that treats people as pawns

Birth Tourism: Considering the Enhanced Drivers Licence Approach

When the then Conservative government considered limiting birthright citizenship to those born to Canadian citizens or permanent residents in 2011-12, two options were considered: the federal government citizenship certificates to those entitled or incorporating citizenship information in birth certificates.

The latter option was preferred given the prevalence of birth certificates for identification purposes. My earlier article outlines the opposition to this proposed change (What the previous government learned about birth tourism).

This somewhat in-the-weeds piece looks at the earlier successful experience the federal government had with respect to the incorporation of citizenship information in drivers licenses in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec (which later ended issuing Enhanced Drivers Licences given low demand), and what lessons that might have should a future government decide on curtailing birthright citizenship to children born to citizens and permanent residents..

What intrigued me in researching the matter was that the EDL experience did not appear to inform the subsequent birth tourism consultation and policy processes, even if it was the same group, my former team at IRCC, that was responsible for both.

The other interesting aspect was that governments over-estimated the demand for EDLs and thus provincial governments are essentially subsidizing their EDL programs and yet only Quebec cancelled their program.

Birth Tourism – The Enhanced Drivers License Example

Departmental Plans: Canadian Heritage (multiculturalism), IRCC (citizenship)

Relevant highlights from the departmental plans. No real surprises.

The campaign and mandate letter commitment to eliminate citizenship fees is worded as “to bring forward a plan to eliminate fees for citizenship for those who have fulfilled the requirements for obtaining it.” This suggests that it will take some time which the financial projections, which do not include any impact from elimination of fees, confirm.

The previous mandate commitment to revise the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, remains part of the plan:

Canadian Heritage (multiculturalism) Planning highlights

Canadians value diversity.

In 2020-21, the Department will undertake the following activities towards achieving this departmental result by:

  • Supporting the new Anti-Racism Secretariat, which will demonstrate leadership in overseeing a coherent whole-of-government approach on combating racism and discrimination, ensuring comprehensive and coordinated actions with measurable impact, and fostering continuing dialogue with provinces, territories and our diverse communities.
  • Implementing a new data and evidence approach to promote a better understanding of the barriers faced by racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples; and collecting data and information and conducting research as a means of informing policy and program development and performance reporting on “what works” in anti-racism programming.
  • Delivering more targeted community-based projects to communities, which address systemic barriers to employment, justice and social participation for Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities and religious minorities.
  • Consulting civil society representatives of LGBTQ2 communities to lay the groundwork for an LGBTQ2 action plan that would guide the work of the federal government on issues important to LGBTQ2 Canadians.

Youth enhance their appreciation of the diversity and shared aspects of the Canadian experience.

In 2020-21, the Department will undertake the following activities towards achieving this departmental result by:

  • Supporting projects, exchanges, and forums that allow youth throughout Canada to connect with one another, have a better understanding of what they have in common, and learn new things about Canada’s diverse cultural expressions, history, and heritage, with special emphasis on reconciliation, diversity and inclusion, and official language minority communities.
  • Working towards breaking down barriers to participation and providing more opportunities for diverse youth, such as youth from official language minority communities, racialized and Indigenous communities, and rural, remote and Northern communities.
  • Advancing the government-wide priority of inclusivity by involving young people in federal decision making through its work in 2020-21. For example, the Youth Secretariat will continue to manage the operations of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, including the recruitment of a diverse and representative cohort of new members in 2020; as well as working with the Privy Council Office to implement the commitment to have 75% of all Government of Canada Crown Corporations include a youth member, as mandated by the Canada Youth Policy.

Planned spending is about $130m. Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/corporate/publications/plans-reports/departmental-plan-2020-2021.html#a4d

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (citizenship) Planning highlights

Departmental Result 7: Eligible permanent residents become Canadian citizens

In 2018–2019, more than 207,000 people were granted Canadian citizenship, an 84% increase over the previous fiscal year. A significant reason for this increased demand for citizenship was the coming into force of Bill C-6, which amended the Citizenship Act to make it easier and give more flexibility to permanent residents in becoming Canadian citizens. In 2020–2021, the Department will continue updating the citizenship grant operating model and client service tools with the aim of reducing processing times, improving service delivery and client experience, and enhancing system efficiency while maintaining program integrity. The Department will also bring forward a plan to eliminate fees for citizenship for those who have fulfilled the requirements for obtaining it.

The Department remains committed to revising the citizenship guide and Oath of Citizenship to better reflect Canada’s diversity and, in particular, to include more Indigenous perspectives and history. In 2020–2021, the Department will continue to engage with stakeholders, including Indigenous organizations, minority populations, women, Francophones, LGBTQ2 individuals and persons with disabilities, on the content of the revised citizenship guide to support newcomers in studying for the citizenship test. IRCC also remains committed to completing the legislative work on changes to the Oath of Citizenship to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

IRCC will engage in a proactive communications campaign to encourage eligible permanent residents to become Canadian citizens by showcasing the value and pride of Canadian citizenship and highlighting the benefits of active and engaged citizenship to all Canadians, especially young Canadians.

Citizenship funding

For the citizenship component, resources are mainly used for assessment activities, administration of tests, criminal record checks, activities to detect and prevent fraud, citizenship ceremonies and development of tools such as citizenship tests and guides. Citizenship planned spending from 2020–2021 to 2022–2023 ranges between $69.2 million and $71.7 million.

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/departmental-plan-2020-2021/departmental-plan.html#core3

Japan’s ban on multiple citizenship outdated, unconstitutional: expert, plaintiffs

Will be interesting to see results:

Japan’s Nationality Act, which forbids multiple citizenship, is again in the spotlight after tennis player Naomi Osaka selected Japanese citizenship over American nationality in 2019. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing legal battle being waged by plaintiffs arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Over 70% of member states of the United Nations permit their people to have more than one citizenship. In a world where it’s become quite common to see individuals from diverse backgrounds and for people to compete on the global stage, some experts are demanding that Japan do the same.

The Japanese Nationality Act stipulates that a child born to a Japanese parent is legally Japanese. Meanwhile, some nations have a system where a child born in such countries to a Japanese parent becomes a dual citizen of that place and Japan.

The Japanese law requires anyone who was born with or obtained multiple nationality before the age of 20 to pick one of them before their 22nd birthday. Those who acquire citizenship of another country after turning 20 must decide which one to keep within a two-year period.

Naomi Osaka held both Japanese and U.S. citizenships but decided to keep her Japanese citizenship before she turned 22. Her choice has been seen as an indication of her desire to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics as a Japanese tennis player.

But because individuals who choose to keep their Japanese nationality are only “obliged to make an effort” to give up other citizenships, there are people in Japan who continue to hold two or more passports. According to a 2018 estimate by the Justice Ministry, about 925,000 Japanese have multiple citizenship.

Furthermore, foreigners wanting to acquire Japanese nationality are required to submit a certificate showing they have forfeited their original citizenship. But those from countries without renunciation procedures can also become dual citizens. On the other hand, Japanese people who choose a foreign nationality “of their own will” automatically have their Japanese citizenship revoked.

Hitoshi Nogawa, 76, a businessperson from Switzerland, is one of eight plaintiffs who have filed a suit against the Japanese government arguing that “depriving people who obtained foreign nationality of Japanese citizenship against their will is a violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to pursue happiness and other privileges.”

Nogawa, who effectively lost his Japanese citizenship for acquiring Swiss nationality, said, “I identify as Japanese, but it feels like I’ve become half a person. I feel bad for my ancestors and, in the current situation, I don’t plan on being buried with them.”

Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, Nogawa moved to Switzerland in his 20s and established a trading company. In order to bid on a public works project, he needed Swiss citizenship, which he obtained in 2001. He did not encounter any trouble until 2013, when he was told by the Japanese Embassy there, “If you don’t choose one (nationality), it’s going to be a problem.”

The request is based on the Nationality Act, which stipulates that people who acquire foreign citizenship lose their Japanese nationality, and requires them to submit a citizenship renunciation notification.

For Nogawa, giving up his Swiss nationality would have posed a problem for his work and discarding his Japanese citizenship would have meant losing his identity. Caught in a dilemma, he refused to respond to the embassy’s request and did not submit the notification. In 2015, he tried to renew his Japanese passport but was rejected. To this day, he has not been able to renew it.

Nogawa and seven others living overseas filed a suit with the Tokyo District Court in March 2018. Six of the plaintiffs, who have already acquired citizenships of different countries, are demanding confirmation that they are in possession of their Japanese citizenship, and two others who seek to obtain foreign nationality are looking for confirmation that they will not lose their Japanese citizenship when they do so.

The stipulation in the Nationality Act that bans multiple citizenship has not been revised since it first went into force under the Meiji Constitution, Japan’s prewar and wartime supreme law. Teruo Naka, a lawyer of the plaintiffs’ legal team says the law “does not correspond to the flow of the times.”

In contrast, the government argues that “people having multiple citizenship could cause friction between nations depending on which country’s protection they come under” among other counterarguments. The Justice Ministry, which enforces the Nationality Act’s provisions, explains that “the withdrawal of Japanese citizenship is not a deprivation, and reacquisition is allowed if necessary.” The suit is proceeding at the district court.

As of 2019, around 150, or 75% of United Nations member states, permit multiple nationalities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

Teru Sasaki, professor of transnational sociology at Aomori Public University, conducted an online survey of Japanese citizens in 2019, in which around 60% of the 3,171 respondents supported the option, “Japanese citizens who obtain a foreign nationality should not have to lose their Japanese citizenship.”

The study results suggest that “society is tolerant of multiple nationalities, and there is a gap between the sense of ordinary citizens and the legal system,” said Sasaki.

Employment regulations for some civil servants, including Diet members, require that they have Japanese citizenship, and people who have foreign nationality cannot become diplomats. To permit multiple citizenship, discussions on job restrictions may also be necessary.

Source: Japan’s ban on multiple citizenship outdated, unconstitutional: expert, plaintiffs

UN seek to join legal challenge against India’s citizenship law

Of note:

The U.N. rights chief sought to join efforts challenging the anti-Muslim citizenship law in India’s highest court, after mounting international criticism for failing to protect minority Muslims. Responding to the U.N. move, the Ministry of External Affairs in India, issued a statement, calling the issue of citizenship amendment law “an internal matter.”

“The High Commissioner seeks to intervene as amicus curiae (third party) in this case, by virtue of her mandate to inter alia protect and promote all human rights and to conduct necessary advocacy in that regard, established pursuant to the United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/141,” the application said.

Last week, the U.N. High Commissioner had voiced “great concern” over India’s amended citizenship law and reports of “police inaction” in the face of communal attacks in Delhi, urging political leaders to prevent violence.

In December, the U.N. human rights office condemned the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) for being “fundamentally discriminatory in nature.”

The Indian capital, New Delhi witnessed the killing of Muslims and the arson of mosques by Hindu mobs during days of violent riots last week. The sectarian violence came as a result of the government’s ongoing anti-Muslim policies. As more than 30 people were killed in New Delhi’s streets, there is fear and anger among Muslims as to why they were punished while prudent Hindus are astonished as they are aware that the sectarian escalation may lead to unwanted results.

Revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the anti-Muslim citizenship law and the building of detention camps for Bengalis in Assam are the first steps of the current Indian government to create a purified India based on Hindu identity.

Source: UN seek to join legal challenge against India’s citizenship law

India: UK expresses concerns over potential impact of Citizenship Act and it’s effects

Contrast with Trump administration:

The UK government has reiterated its concern over the potential impact of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and said it is continuing to follow the events in India closely.

In response to an urgent question on ‘Recent Violence in India’ tabled by Pakistani-origin Opposition Labour Party MP Khalid Mahmood in the House of Commons on Tuesday, UK’s Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Nigel Adams said the UK engages with India at all levels, including on human rights, and also referred to the country’s “proud history” of inclusive government and religious tolerance.

“The UK government also have concerns about the potential impact of the legislation (CAA),” said Adams, the Minister for Asia who was standing in for UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is on a visit to Turkey.

“It is because of our close relationship with the government of India that we are able to discuss difficult issues with them and make clear our concerns where we have them, including on the rights of minorities.

“We will continue to follow events closely and to raise our concerns when we have with them,” said the minister.

While Mahmood, who had tabled the urgent question for an FCO statement, described the government response as “facile”, another Pakistani-origin MP Nusrat Ghani called on the government to relay the UK Parliament’s concerns to the Indian authorities.

British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi said the violence had brought back “painful personal memories” from the 1984 Sikh riots while he was studying in India and fellow Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill also referenced 1984 in her intervention.

Other MPs sought to highlight the steps taken by the Indian authorities to restore “peace and tranquillity” in Delhi.

“He will be aware that it is not just Muslims who have been killed; Hindus have also been killed as part of the riots,” said Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman.

Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Alyn Smith sought the UK government’s intervention to share best practice around countering the online disinformation campaign being used in India to “inflame tensions”.

“We are in constant contact on these issues, and we know how important this is to Members of Parliament and their constituents, who may have family in the area,” said Adams, in his response.

Source: UK expresses concerns over potential impact of Citizenship Act and it’s effects

FATCA: U.S. tax rules raising the stakes for Canadian residents with American citizenship

The ongoing saga of compliance with US tax law and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) following the end of the grace period January 1:

Many Canadian residents with U.S. citizenship could risk fines or the closure of their banking or investment accounts in the coming months if they don’t provide financial institutions with U.S. identification numbers, officials warn.

Experts say that in some cases, financial institutions may close accounts rather than face fines for not providing U.S. social security or taxpayer identification numbers for clients who could be subject to U.S. income tax, such as dual citizens.

That means the stakes are about to get higher for those who haven’t been filing returns and for “accidental Americans” — Canadians with U.S. citizenship (from being born in the U.S. or to an American parent) who did not realize that, as American citizens, they’re obliged to file U.S. tax returns.

The changes won’t affect those who are already filing income tax returns to both Canada and the United States and who already have provided their financial institutions with U.S. identification numbers.Unlike most countries, which levy income tax based on where taxpayers live, the United States requires all those with U.S. citizenship to file income tax returns, regardless of where they live or how much time they’ve spent in the U.S.

The Canada Revenue Agency, not the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, will be enforcing the requirement and levying any fines.

How FACTA works

In 2010, the United States adopted the controversial Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in a bid to curb offshore tax evasion. Under FATCA, financial institutions outside the United States are obliged to search their files for customers who could be subject to U.S. income tax and report information about those accounts.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government negotiated an agreement that tasks the Canada Revenue Agency with collecting that information from financial institutions for the IRS.

In September 2019, the CRA sent 900,000 financial records belonging to Canadian residents to the IRS — nearly a third more than it sent the previous year. The records were for the 2018 tax year.

The arrangement with the IRS included a ‘grace period’ that allowed financial institutions to send on records that were missing valid U.S. social security numbers or taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) without being fined. That grace period ended Jan. 1.

The CRA says it expects the records it receives from banks, mutual funds, credit unions and other institutions for the 2020 tax year to include that information. Those records will be sent to the IRS in September, 2021.

CRA has authority to fine

If the social security or taxpayer identification number is missing or invalid, the IRS would flag it to the CRA and the CRA would notify the financial institution, which would have 120 days to get the information. The CRA has the authority to levy fines for non-compliance, although it can also exercise discretion. Officials said that there would be an 18-month delay before the CRA issued a notice of non-compliance to a financial institution.

Canada Revenue Agency officials held a meeting Jan. 29 with more than 200 representatives of financial institutions to discuss a proposed guidance document on how they should proceed. Some industry insiders said they expect that guidance, which should be out by the end of March, to say financial institutions can close accounts if they can’t get the information after making reasonable efforts.

No one seems to know how many Canadian residents’ tax files are missing the relevant information. The CRA says it doesn’t know how many files it has transmitted to the IRS without the identifying information and that its compliance efforts are in the early stages.

The CRA and financial institutions are not obliged to inform account holders before their records are shared with the IRS. That means many Canadian account holders may not know that information about their banking or investment accounts is already in the hands of the IRS.

Higher stakes in Canada

Mathieu Labreche, spokesman for the Canadian Bankers Association, said the association is waiting for more information from the CRA before commenting. He said the banks send to the CRA only what Canadian law requires.

Alexandra Jacobs of the Canadian Credit Union Association said the association is working with stakeholders to ensure that credit unions meet their compliance obligations.

Grace Pereira is senior counsel with the BLG law firm in Toronto, specializing in advising investment funds. She said the stakes are higher in Canada than in many other countries.

“We did have the largest number of accounts with missing TINs,” she said. “I think we’re in this lull where we don’t know what is going to happen to those particular account holders.

“I have a lot of empathy for the financial institutions because, at the end of the day, how can they force somebody to get a Taxpayer Identification Number? … Which is essentially sticking up your hand and saying, ‘Yeah, I’ve not been complying for all these years.'”

Kevyn Nightingale, a partner with the accounting firm MNP, said his contacts in financial institutions have told him that they’re already implementing the new rules. He said he expects banks to start refusing to open accounts for those who may be subject to U.S. income tax but who can’t provide a taxpayer identification number.

“The big guys, to my understanding, have not turned people away yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s ultimately where they go because it’s just easier to do that than deal with the hassle of a recalcitrant U.S. taxpayer,” he said.He said some institutions could accept a client while remitting money to the IRS on the account holder’s behalf, said Nightingale.

While income taxes paid in Canada usually wipe out the taxes due in the U.S., Nightingale said the two systems have different provisions and individuals sometimes still end up owing U.S. tax.

“The choice is now down to either lying about your U.S. status to the financial institutions that you deal with or telling the truth,” he said. “If you tell the truth and don’t provide a social security number, you’re either going to have withholding or they simply won’t accept you. If you provide a social security number, then eventually you’re going to get letters from the IRS that will become gradually more and more insistent.

“And if you continue to ignore those, then it may no longer be feasible to enter the United States.”

Nightingale said the IRS has a program for those who didn’t realize they were supposed to file U.S. income tax returns. Under the program, a taxpayer can come back into compliance by filing three years worth of tax returns and six years of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts reports.

Source: U.S. tax rules raising the stakes for Canadian residents with American citizenship