Your Money - Bucks Blog - NYTimes.com

April 27, 2009

By TARA SIEGEL BERNARD

American expatriates are having a more difficult time living and working abroad, a recent Times article found, causing a small but growing number of them to renounce their United States citizenship.

But there’s another group of Americans who could be adding to that tally: same-sex couples.
Many same-sex couples who decide to leave the United States head for countries that recognize their unions. In fact, when we wrote a story about the extra costs same-sex couples face here in America, we learned that many leave because of immigration obstacles.

Several readers left comments stating that they could not sponsor their same-sex partners for American citizenship — so they decided to migrate to places like Canada, where it’s easier to gain permanent resident status for couples since only one partner has to qualify. Besides, gay marriage is recognized there.

Not all same-sex couples who move abroad will ultimately renounce their citizenship, of course, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

David Cohen, a senior partner at Campbell Cohen, an immigration law firm in Montreal, said he had seen a significant increase in the number of same-sex couples who emigrated from the United States to Canada over the last 10 years.

The couples head north for many reasons, he said, including “what they view as a prejudicial tax system, or they don’t feel they are entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual married couples, or they feel there is more tolerance,” Mr. Cohen said. “And there have been a fair number of Americans who can include their same-sex partner in the application. Only one member of a couple has to qualify for permanent residence status to come to Canada.”

The following readers, who commented on our October story about the costs of being gay, echoed those sentiments:

Rich and Luis, of Vancouver, wrote:

Heterosexuals can sponsor their partners to become U.S. permanent residents; same-sex couples cannot. My now-husband and I had to move to Canada to stay together. We were both professionals in our native countries. Now my husband, a medical technologist, is working at Staples, and I’m making $25,000 less annually with poor benefits at a temporary job with no job security, although at least the job is in my field. It was expensive to become permanent residents, and the move was expensive, as are trips back to see my family.

Megan, of Canada, said:

Try being a bi-national gay couple. We have paid over $70,000 to be together. My partner is Indian and I am American and yet we have to live in Canada if we are to be together.

And Rebecca, of New Jersey:

My wife and I have been together for 5 years and I am in the process of becoming a Canadian permanent resident so that we can live in the same country. It has cost nearly $10,000 so far.

Mr. Cohen said he did not know whether any of his same-sex couple clients ultimately renounced their American citizenship. American transplants may be less likely to do so in Canada because of a tax treaty between the two countries, which lessens the burden of double taxation that many American expats pay in other countries, he added.

Many of the renunciations cited by the Times article were attributed to the issue of double taxation, which has irked many expats for years. Another big reason expats have renounced is because it’s becoming more challenging to keep an American bank account because of new banking regulations aimed at curbing tax evasion and preventing money from flowing to terrorists.

The article says that 502 expatriates gave up their United States citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009, the largest quarterly figure in years, and more than twice the total for all of 2008. There were 743 renunciations last year.

How many of those renunciations do you think might have been same-sex couples? What choices do couples with noncitizen partners have — and what are the costs?

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