I have been hearing a lot of talk in the media about “If Trump wins I am leaving the country” or “If Sanders wins I am leaving the country.” This has become popular rhetoric in election years, and it needs to stop.
First, here are the tales of two couples:
A friend of mine has UK citizenship, but he fell in love in South Korea and got married to a South Korean citizen. They have a son now, and he wants more than anything to stay with his family. However, it is very difficult and expensive to immigrate to South Korea, and he has very little chance of being able to do it.
And yet, if he wanted to bring his wife and son back to the UK, the cost would be many times what they have. To sponsor a spouse in the UK, you need to prove that you have tens of thousands of pounds just sitting in a bank account with no need to touch them for years, until the immigration process is complete. My friend is a teacher by profession, and so he will never have enough money to bring his wife back to the UK. However, due to the difficulty of immigrating to South Korea, there is a good chance that he will never be able to get citizenship there.
So where does this leave him? Well, renewing his visa every year and hoping that they let him keep working at his job. If they stop sponsoring him, he gets deported.
Now another friend of mine is a US citizen, and she met and fell in love with someone from the UK. They got married, and at first they tried to get her UK citizenship. When they found that they couldn’t afford it, they tried to get him US citizenship, and found out that it is about $20,000 more than they have for the process.
So what did they do? Well, they got visas to work in China, because if they want to be together, they can’t live in either of their countries.
If you think stories like this are unusual, you are wrong. The expat community is rife with the tragic results of people who fall in love across country lines, and then find out that immigration is really only for the rich. If you don’t have an average of $30,000 per person for application fees, medical exams, and immigration lawyers, you’re not going to be able to immigrate anywhere.
Now as you will notice, I said medical exams. So that means that you better hope you are in perfect health. If you have ever, for example, had cancer; you don’t have a chance in most countries of ever being able to immigrate. Mental health issues? Same thing. Any police record at all, even a ticket for jaywalking in 1996? Good fucking luck.
You may not realize this, but immigration is a very difficult process, and it’s not something that anyone can undertake lightly.
Meanwhile if you are a US citizen, it is even harder. The US is one of the few countries that changes a fee to renounce your citizenship, and it’s not cheap. Don’t want to renounce your citizenship? Well okay, but you are responsible for US taxes as long as you are a US citizen, no matter where you live. Bill O’Reilly famously said that if Bernie Sanders wins, he will move to Ireland to avoid paying taxes. What was funny about that, besides the fact that his taxes would be higher in Ireland, is that if he didn’t pay to renounce his US citizenship and give up the right to come back to the country, then he would actually have to pay Irish taxes and US taxes.
The point is, immigration is hard. You can expect to have to know the language, all of the country’s history, and pay through the nose. You can expect to be charged by immigration lawyers in the country you are moving to, and in the US to handle renouncing your citizenship there. And you must be healthy, educated, and prove that you are useful to your country. And before you say “The US should do that for our immigrants” you should know that we do. It is very difficult to immigrate to the US, even if you are married to a US citizen.
So you can say that you want to leave the county if so-and-so wins the next election, but you should know that unless you are rich, educated, and healthy, you don’t have a chance. Even Mexico won’t take you.
Know your facts!