Americans Helping Americans Abroad

In 1973, AARO was founded essentially under the impulse of a woman deeply concerned that Americans living abroad faced major problems in maintaining and transmitting their citizenship and, while they were subject to taxation by the IRS, did not have the right to vote in American elections unless they were also residents of the United States – Phyllis Michaux’s story about those first days is a dramatic one!

According to its statutes, AARO’s prime mission is advocacy:

Article 2 — Purpose

AARO’s purpose is to create and maintain ties among American citizens located in and/or residents of countries other than the United States, with no regard for their political preferences or party affiliations, in order to:

  • Unite their efforts to promote, assert, obtain and safeguard their social, civil and fiscal rights under U.S. law;
  • Undertake all actions, through all legal means, regarding the recognition of those rights of which they may find themselves deprived due to their absence from the United States;
  • Educate and inform (i) overseas Americans of their rights and responsibilities as American citizens and (ii) the American Federal and state governments about the nature of the American population abroad and about their needs and views.

The Association’s means of action are:

  • Lobbying Congress and the Administration about issues affecting Americans abroad;
  • Seminars, conferences and other events;
  • Research and publication of documents and news;
  • Collaboration with and membership in other organizations with similar purposes;
  • Undertaking all means of action that the Board of Directors should deem useful in the realization of its purpose.

AARO policy is discussed and voted on by the Board of Directors at their monthly meetings and the full membership is regularly consulted on important issues.

The new association’s first campaign was to fight for voting rights for the overseas community and since that time, it has taken up a series of new challenges which it has fought for with vigor, if not always totally successfully. It does have a number of successes to point to, however, and has, on many occasions, gone to Washington to speak on behalf of the growing numbers of Americans living and working abroad.

Since 2002, AARO has been an organizer of and participant in annual “Overseas Americans Weeks”, when representatives talk to legislators and policy-makers about issues directly affecting the overseas community. The issues listed in this section are those on which AARO has historically focused most closely.

We welcome new ideas, feedback and, just as importantly, new advocates!

If you are interested in participating in AARO’s work in any of these areas, by going to Washington or participating in letter-writing campaigns, doing background research, contributing articles, or in any of a number of other ways, please contact AARO (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or the committee chair in question (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - etc.).

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The Americans Abroad Caucus is a group of legislators in the House of Representatives who, by joining, show they understand and care about their overseas constituents. They value the contribution to their district of these internationally-based citizens and understand the importance of overseas markets.

Launched in February 2007, the Americans Abroad Caucus grew from its early membership of six to over twenty in the last Congress. Members include Republicans and Democrats.

The Caucus has long been chaired by Congresswoman Maloney (D-NY), a long-standing champion of overseas voters, who has since 2017 sponsored legislation, the Commission on Americans Living Abroad Act of 2017 H.R. 2710, to create a bipartisan federal commission to examine how U.S. laws and policies effect overseas Americans which AARO strongly supports and hopes will soon be enacted.

Recently, Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV.) who both bring enthusiasm and dynamism to the recently re-invigorated caucus have accepted to serve as co-chairs.

AARO salutes these Members of Congress and will continue to work with them to bring the concerns of America’s global population to the attention of the U.S. Congress.

AARO supports all their initiatives to improve the lives of Americans abroad, in such areas as the lessening the burdens of taxation, ensuring access to banking, citizenship and voting.

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In recent years Americans living outside the United States have increasingly encountered problems opening and maintaining financial accounts both inside and outside the United States. These problems have related both to access to the payments systems and to the ability to open and manage savings vehicles.

The source of these problems has almost always been legislation or regulatory measures which are new or have recently been reinforced and add to regulatory burdens or legal risks for financial institutions. This leads them to discriminate against “U.S. persons” or some subgroup(s) of them, notably those living outside the United States, to minimize costs and risks.

The Banking Committee has been created to work to mitigate these problems by focusing on both advocacy and, without endorsing any identifiable financial institutions, such practical support as we can provide.

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Members of the Association of Americans Resident Overseas are U.S. citizens who reside throughout the world. The cross-border flow of capital, goods and people under the laws of the United States and the jurisdictions where we reside, as well as under the rules of bilateral and multilateral agreements, is of crucial importance to our members.

With a new U.S. government in 2017 certain to re-evaluate U.S. participation in multilateral agreements and agencies, the future of U.S. participation in the Asian Development Bank, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and the World Trade Organization demand the utmost vigilance by overseas Americans.

AARO monitors cross-border business facilitation issues that impact our worldwide members who are executives and employees of American and multinational companies, as well as overseas-based American citizen entrepreneurs. AARO maintains an ongoing dialogue with U.S. government agencies and personnel with regard to business facilitation issues.

Together with other relevant stakeholders in and outside the United States such as trade associations, chambers of commerce and American citizen social organizations throughout the world, AARO is a leader in seeking positive reform when needed.

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When AARO was founded, children born abroad of an American parent married to a foreigner were denied U.S. citizenship because of unfulfilled residency requirements. Young adults lost their U.S. citizenship because of similar residency requirements. Americans who acquired another nationality were being stripped of their U.S. citizenship.

AARO has advocated successfully over the years to change these citizenship laws, eliminating the last two (in 1978 and 1991), reducing residency requirements for transmitting citizenship to children born abroad (in 1986 and further in 1994) and facilitating citizenship for minor children whose parents cannot satisfy the reduced residency requirement (in 1994 and 2001).

Today, AARO works to protect these gains in citizenship whenever legislation to weaken them is proposed in Congress, to inform Americans abroad about citizenship and visa regulations, and to help members with their own or their children's citizenship issues.

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Follow up reports from AARO's events.

The enactment of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in 2010, has had a significant impact on the ability of Americans living outside the United States to open and maintain financial accounts. It has increased the burdens on reporting of financial assets held outside the United States, including those located in the jurisdiction of residence of the U.S. citizen.

AARO is committed to bringing the real challenges of Americans living overseas to the attention of our governmental representatives. AARO advocates for simplifications to FATCA reporting that do not detract from the law’s stated goals, such as exempting financial accounts in the country of residence of the taxpayer from FATCA reporting requirements. Together with our banking committee, we work to address the challenges created by FATCA for Americans living overseas and to propose and promote more fair laws and policies.

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AARO Special Report: The Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR)

What it is (and why no American expat can afford not to know about it)

As Americans around the world are beginning to file their 2021 tax returns, AARO reminds you not to forget to file your FBARs as well.

Because the fact is that not enough American expats know what an FBAR is, let alone that they may need to file them.

For this reason, AARO – working with London-based American journalist Helen Burggraf, who edits the American Expat Financial News Journal – has prepared this four-part Special Report on FBARs (aka “Foreign Bank Account Reports”).

We urge those who aren’t familiar with FBARs to at least read the beginning of this first article, because you don’t have to be rich to find you’ve fallen foul of the FBAR regs. (And since FBARs are not a tax form, they often aren’t always dealt with, or even mentioned, by U.S. tax preparers.)

This Special Report on FBARs consists of:

  • The main story, “The Foreign Bank Account Report (FinCEN Form 114) at 51”.
  • A list of suggestions experts have said could improve the FBAR implementation, “Ways Experts Say FBAR Could be Improved” .
  • How we got here from the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act “How We Got Here: an FBAR Timeline”.
  • And finally, some data showing (to the extent that we were able to ascertain, given how little has officially been published) how many people file FBARs “FBAR Filing Data by Year”.

We’d like to add here that we were given considerable support in producing this material by Jack Townsend, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based offshore tax (and FBAR) expert, for which we’d also like to say a heartfelt thanks.

And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, about FBARs or anything else, do get in touch with us here at AARO, via this form.

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AARO members from around the globe share stories and perspectives, from economic analysis to human interest. Their reports tell us about the unique challenges they face and the inventive solutions they find their host countries.

We welcome contributions from members everywhere! If you would like to share a story, a lesson learned, an obstacle overcome or a new challenge on the horizon, please use this form to contact us.

We are also interested in articles that appear (preferably in English) in your local press giving more information or new perspectives on issues that AARO is following closely. Feel free to send us links to such articles and, where possible, we will post them for others to read.


 

Americans who reside abroad may have complex relationships with the two major U.S. “entitlement” programs, Social Security retirement benefits and Medicare.

An employment history in the U.S. and one or more other countries may create eligibility for pensions in one or more of these countries. This is complicated by the fact that only a couple dozen countries have bilateral agreements with the U.S. that may permit reciprocal recognition of employment in both countries to decide whether a pension has been earned.

The U.S. pensions also provide for spouse, dependent and survivor benefits, but these vary according to the citizenship and/or U.S. residence periods of non-American family members.

The taxation, or not, of U.S. pension income may depend upon bilateral agreements as well.

U.S. Social Security pension amounts reflect average lifetime U.S. earnings and are calculated without knowing the existence of the foreign earnings. Since the pension amounts are not a fixed percentage of these earnings, but instead are progressive, U.S. law currently requires a reduction in the U.S. pension (the Windfall Elimination Provision) to offset this computation anomaly.

With rare and precise exceptions, Medicare provides no health coverage outside the U.S., but anybody with 10 years of contributions to Medicare may receive Part A (hospital costs, excluding doctors) while in the U.S., without premium charges. Part B can be purchased, but enrolling after age 65 incurs a permanent 10% penalty per year of delay except in some cases of accepted employment-related coverage abroad.

AARO's mission is to inform members of the conditions for accessing Social Security and Medicare and to lobby for appropriate changes to that access for Americans living abroad or who return to the U.S.

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Due to the combination of citizenship-based taxation and complex United States tax rules applicable to non-US assets and income, Americans living outside the United States face particular tax burdens and compliance costs.

The mission of the AARO tax committee is to (1) remain current on tax matters of concern to Americans living abroad, (2) present information on topics of relevance to the community of Americans living abroad through our publications and conferences throughout the year, and (3) actively pursue redressing inequalities before our governmental representatives by raising awareness of laws and legislation which disproportionately burden Americans abroad and proposing and promoting more favorable laws and policies.

When AARO was founded in 1973, Americans living abroad without a residence in the United States did not have the right to vote in U.S. elections.

In 1975, two members of the AARO board, Phyllis Michaux and Sonja Minçbère, thought up what would become the “teabag campaign”, which was ultimately picked up by scores of American organizations around the world.

In response to the floods of teabags being sent to Washington with a cover letter urging support for two bills, Congress passed the needed legislation and on January 2, 1976, President Ford signed the law giving overseas Americans the right to vote.

Since then, AARO has worked with its partner organizations and with Congress to improve voting legislation and expand voting rights for the overseas community.

Today, thanks to sophisticated technology, it is easier than ever for overseas voters to exercise their rights, but organizations like AARO have to – and do – remain watchful. The Federal Voting Assistance Program has estimated that overseas citizens represent over 3% of the total vote, and we all know that elections can be won by far less than that!

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Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

Here are the responses we have received from candidates in this state. We encourage you to read these responses and consider them when selecting your candidate to support. If you have any questions or comments about these responses, please contact the candidate directly at their website. AARO has provided these responses as we received them, and we take no position or responsibility for their content.

Please visit the Overseas Vote Foundation to confirm your voting district:
https://www.usvotefoundation.org/vote/CandidateFinder.htm

Candidate Responses

From the list below choose one of our FAQs topics, then select an FAQ to read. If you have a question which is not in this section, please contact us.

Reaching out to the wide community of Americans residing abroad is AARO’s mission. These motivated members explain how they use their own skills to facilitate life outside the United States for other Americans.