Support H.R. 6263: Commission on Americans Living Abroad Act

Submitted via PopVox

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Dear Rep. Vern Buchanan:

Congress is endlessly clueless about Americans living abroad and is unknowingly passing way to many laws which are causing Americans overseas unnecessary harm. As a result of this, more Americans abroad are renouncing their US citizenship than ever before in US history. The current situation is horrible. It is disgusting. It is unacceptable. Congress can only be ashamed and disgusted with itself. Congress, you have failed Americans living abroad. Under existing conditions, if you want to do anything good for Americans living overseas, then recommend that they liberate themselves from the faults of your leadership. Sadly, that is the least that Americans living abroad can request from Congress under the existing circumstances.

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No response

Letter to Staff of Congressman Vern Buchanan, requesting recommendation to renounce US citizenship

Sent via email (since, I’ve updated the latest bank situation in this post)
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Dear staff of Congressman Vern Buchanan,
I’m a middle class American citizen and US veteran registered to vote in your district, who has been living abroad in Switzerland since 2001. I moved to Switzerland to escape unemployment in the US during the Dot-Com crisis. In 2006, I was lucky enough to be able to get a mortgage to finance a condo which will need to be refinanced in February next year.
In the last few months, the situation here has deteriorated dramatically. Several weeks ago, I walked from one bank to the next only to be told that they will not refinance my mortgage simply because I am a US citizen, even though I am also a Swiss citizen. GE Moneybank, an American bank, also stated that I may not open an account with them simply because I am an American. Currently, the following banks have informed me that they will not refinance the mortgages of Swiss-US dual citizens in Switzerland:
  • GE Money Bank (US bank.  Doesn’t finance mortgages but refuses to provide banking services to Americans)
  • Raiffeisen (might finance Swiss citizens who live in the States)
  • Bank Coop
  • AXA Bank
  • Migros Bank (unless the minimum account balance is $250’000 or the mortgage is above $700’000)
  • NAB
  • Valiant Bank AG
  • Rothschild Bank AG (probably not, but unsure)
  • SwissLife (investment products, mortgages)
  • Hypothekarbank Lenzburg (see signature on every web page)
  • Swissquote Bank
  • FinanzZentrum Jungfrau AG
  • Vontobel (Doesn’t finance mortgages, but US persons are prohibited from accessing the web page)
  • Bank Sarasin, finances under the condition that the mortgage is matched with assets (US persons are prohibited from accessing the web page)
  • Julius Baer (refuses to provide financial services to US citizens, but may refinance a mortgage for dual citizens with a minimum investment of 500’000)
  • Zuger Cantonal Bank
The following banks have not yet decided if they will finance the mortages of Swiss-US dual citizens in Switzerland:
The following banks have stated that they will still provide some services to Swiss-US dual citizens, for now, but many refuse to provide banking services to American citizens in Switzerland:

  • Basler Cantonal Bank (refuses to provide financial services to  US citizens)
  • Vaud Cantonal Bank (waives foreign account fees for Swiss citizens living or working abroad)
  • Aargauische Cantonal Bank (closing the accounts of US persons)
  • St. Galler Cantonal Bank (closing the accounts of US residents)
  • Zürcher Cantonal Bank (does not finance mortgages for Swiss citizens who live in the US)
  • Credit Suisse (refuses to provide financial services to  US citizens)
  • Hyposwiss Privatbank (As long as W9 is completed)
  • UBS (Baden branch, but American citizens are being denied banking services)
  • Postfinance (does not provide credit to Swiss citizens living in America). It’s partners, Valiant and Münchener Hypothekenbank don’t want US persons.
  • SwissLife (insurances)
  • AMFIE (according to CERN)
  • Credit Mutuel in St. Genis-Pouilly (according to CERN)
  • VP Bank (Lichtenstein, will have cut all ties to US customers by the end of 2012 but will finance mortgages for dual citizens if they invest around 50+k)
I have written my representation in the States on this issue, but they did not respond and took no action. I feel terribly unrepresented. Obama, Romney, Senator Bill Nelson and Vern Buchanon ignored the situation and took no action. Yet, the cause of the situation is US policy. Swiss banks are responding to US pressure.
In the United States, it is a federal crime to deny a person a mortgage based on their national origin, and yet the US government is pressuring banks to deny American citizens mortgages simply because they are US persons. I created a complaint with HUD on housing discrimination, but HUD deleted my complaint (see attachment). I called the Veterans Administration but was told that they do not help veterans who live overseas.
Yet, I’m not the only American citizen who is suffering from US policy. The US embassy in Bern stated that I was one of the lucky few who still has a bank account. I am in contact with two other American citizens who are being denied by banks the ability to refinance their mortgage. This problem is not only limited to Switzerland and is likely only going to get worse around the world.
I’ve blogged the letters to my representation and summarized the responses here: https://expatami.wordpress.com/
Americans abroad have been fighting to improve the situation for decades, but the situation has only grown worse. Since my representation has not responded, I am not going to wait for my representation to do nothing. Thus, I am working my way up my chain of representation to request a letter of recommendation to renounce my US citizenship. Sadly, this is the least that I can request, the most that America is willing to provide its citizens living abroad and it is the only way that I can ensure that my mortgage will be refinanced in February.
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Was informed on the 4th of September that the matter would be discussed, but heard nothing since.

Requesting letter of recommendation to renounce US citizenship from Congressman Vern Buchanan

Submitted to house.gov/buchanan using Swiss address in street address and Florida zip code

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Dear Vern Buchanan,

I just finished speaking with Keith Fitzgerald’s staff on this important issue.  I’m a US citizen living abroad who is registered to vote in your district.

Currently, the following banks are refusing to refinance my mortgage, as well as that of two other Americans, simply because we are US citizens and as a result of US policy:

Raiffeisen, Bank Coop, AXA Bank, Migros Bank, NAB, Valiant Bank AG, SwissLife, Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, Swissquote Bank, FinanzZentrum Jungfrau AG

I’ve written my representation concerning issues facing American citizens living abroad, and received no response.  I also contacted VA loans and the US Department of Housing on housing discrimination but was told that they don’t help American veterans living abroad.

While it is understandable that the US government will not help Americans who do not live in America, it is not understandable that the US government pressures banks abroad to refuse to refinance the mortgages of American citizens.

As such, I am requesting from you a letter of recommendation that I renounce my US citizenship since such is currently the only means that I can refinance my mortgage with many banks.  If you have any better suggestions, then let it be heard.  Keith Fitzgerald’s staff claimed that they would take unspecified action on this if they had your job, and thus I’m writing to you to see which action you may be willing to take.

Sincerely,

[ExpatAmi]
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No Response.  Received an unpersonalized, generic automated e-mail response, but that’s more than nothing.

Letter to Congressman Vern Buchanon on H.R.6263

Dear Vern Buchanan,

On the 30th of July 30, 2012, I wrote to you that banks were refusing to refinance my Mortgage simply because I’m a US person living abroad.

As you must know, it is a federal crime to refuse to finance a mortgage based on national origin. In other words, it is illegal in America to deny an American a mortgage simply because they are an American citizen.

As mentioned in my previous letter, American citizens are being denied mortgages for being Americans as a result of US policy. It is thus my assumption that US policy, which causes the mortgages of US persons to be denied, is illegal under US law.

Being my representation in America, you must certainly be aware that Rep. Carolyn Maloney sponsored H.R.6263 to establish a commission to study how Federal laws and policies affect United States citizens living in foreign countries.

Please cosponsor and support this bill since it simply cannot be that American citizens are denied mortgages simply because they are US Persons.

Sincerely,

[ExpatAmi]

PS. Please update your contact page so that Americans abroad can contact you using their home address.

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Received a generic response not addressed to me, and with no mention of anything that I wrote, but that’s more than nothing.

Letter to Congressman Vern Buchanan

Dear Congressman Vern Buchanan,

I’m a voter in your district, a US veteran and middle class American living abroad.  Some of my ancestry came to America on the Mayflower and were pioneers to the West, helping to build America, creating great cities such as Dallas.  Over a decade ago, I became unemployed and went to work in Europe instead of collecting unemployment checks or economy stimulus handouts from the US government.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been learning that banks have been refusing to provide me with services simply because I’m identified as being a “US person”.  This is unreal.  It is shocking.  Today, I walked from one bank to the next, only to be told that I cannot bank with them simply because I am a “US Person”.  I called the US embassy and they told me that they could do nothing because their hands were tied.  This is like living in a fantasy.  I’ve never experienced anything like this before.  Years ago, when I was a child living abroad, I was loved for being an American.  I was respected and I proudly told them that “I’m an American”.  Today, they are telling me to go away because of US policy.  I was advised to write to my representative and, well, that’s you.

I honestly don’t believe that you will take notice of this letter.  I’m one of 6 million Americans living abroad whose vote is diluted among the 50 states.  There are not enough Americans abroad voting in any one location to influence an election or catch the interest of a political representative.  I’m probably the only American abroad in your district and thus my voice is lost in the popular vote.  Nevertheless, I’m told that you represent me and that you are the only person who can make a difference in American politics as far as my situation is concerned.

Thus, I must ask you, are you willing to listen to Americans abroad?  Can you hear our issues and concerns?  Could you join the American Abroad Caucus?  Or, could you at least modify your contact page so that Americans abroad with a foreign address can contact you?

I realize that your time and resources are limited, that your priority is the interests of those residing in your district and that you may have little or no ability to influence America’s foreign policies.  Yet, if you could at least indicate that you heard an American abroad, you would do more for Americans abroad than many American politicians are willing to do.

 Sincerely,

[ExpatAmi]

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Received a generic response not addressed to me, and with no mention of anything that I wrote, but that’s more than nothing.