AARO was founded in 1973 by a group of Americans concerned about the way the US government treated its citizens abroad. We have played an important role in enabling overseas Americans to freely exercise their right to vote. We have also helped to improve and protect citizenship rights for children and grandchildren born overseas to Americans living abroad.
AARO has worked to change laws and policies to ensure that Americans abroad receive the same benefits and protection as citizens in the US Together with other international groups, we have campaigned vigorously for:
- The right for Americans abroad to vote, by streamlining the registration and voting process. AARO worked energetically to push through the landmark Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Rights Act of 1976. AARO's founder, Phyllis Michaux describes what happened (The Teabag Campaign). We also worked hard to ensure passage of the 2002 Voting Reform Bill, which improved and unified absentee voting procedures for Americans abroad.
- The right of children who are US citizens at birth to maintain this status for their lifetimes, even if they were born overseas. Strenuous AARO advocacy helped to abolish in 1978 the law requiring that a child born abroad to a US citizen married to a non-American reside in the US for a specified period of time in order to keep the American citizenship the child was born with. In 1986, largely through our efforts, the period of residence in the US required to transmit citizenship to children born abroad was reduced from ten years to five.
- Equitable tax laws for Americans abroad. Unlike almost all industrialized countries, which tax on the basis of residence, the US taxes its citizens wherever they might live, thereby subjecting them to potential double taxation. We recently succeeded in convincing Congress to repeal a double taxation situation concerning the Alternative Minimum Tax "foreign" tax credit.
- Enabling overseas Americans to apply for local-hire positions in US embassies and consulates. With AARO's aid, the law barring local Americans from such positions was abolished in 1991.
Today AARO's goals have expanded to include new issues while protecting those rights already achieved:
- Raising the profile of Americans overseas in Washington by participation in the annual Overseas Americans Week and letter campaigns, to increase the political clout of the 6.6 million Americans abroad.
- Securing Medicare coverage for eligible Americans resident overseas.
- Repealing or reducing the Windfall Elimination Provision to avoid undue penalties on Americans contributing to a US and a foreign pension system during their careers.
- Protecting gains in the citizenship and naturalization process for children of an American parent.
- Working for further relaxation of US tax liability on foreign income.
- Continuing the effort for mutual recognition of US state driver's licenses by foreign countries.
- Further facilitating voting from overseas.
- Continuing to provide AARO members with a comprehensive health insurance program with worldwide coverage.