AARO was founded in 1973 by a group of Americans concerned about the way the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. citizen married to a non-American reside in the U.S. for a specified period of time in order to keep the American citizenship the child was born with. In 1986 through our efforts, the period of residence in the U.S. required to transmit citizenship to children born abroad to one American parent was reduced from ten years to five, of which two years must be after the age of 14. For children whose U.S. parent could not fulfill that physical presence requirement, we obtained in 1995 a facilitated naturalization procedure. To be eligible the child must be under age 18 and have a U.S.-citizen grandparent who can satisfy the physical presence requirement.
- Equitable tax treatment for Americans abroad. Unlike all industrialized countries, which tax on the basis of residence, the U.S. taxes its citizens wherever they might live, thereby subjecting them to potential double taxation and costly filing and compliance requirements. We have over the years succeeded in reducing these burdens in certain situations such as aspects of the application of Alternative Minimum Tax ‘foreign’ tax credits and the application to foreign small businesses of the GILTI and Transition Tax regimes introduced in the 2017 tax reforms.
- Enabling overseas Americans to apply for local-hire positions in U.S. 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 (OAW) and year-long letter campaigns, to increase the political clout of the estimated 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 U.S. and a foreign pension system during their careers.
- Protecting gains in the citizenship and naturalization process for children of an American parent.
- Continuing to advocate for the elimination or at least significantly reducing the cost, administrative burden and anxiety occasioned by Citizen Based Taxation (“CBT”) and supporting advocacy and litigation efforts to eliminate the application of Transition and GILTI tax to small businesses.
- Advocating changes to FATCA to reduce the administrative burdens it imposes on Americans abroad. Fighting against Americans abroad exclusion from credit and financial investment opportunities by educating Congress, the EU and foreign governments of these issues and intervening with banks to find solutions to stop the practice.
- Continuing the effort for mutual recognition of U.S. 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.