My family moved from the U.S. to Canada in 1966. My parents’ dream was to farm, and that was simply not affordable for them in Texas. However, homesteading was possible in Alberta in the 60’s, so we packed up and moved over 4,000 kilometers to a new life, which I’ve certainly never regretted.
In 1974 my mom obtained Canadian citizenship because she wanted to be able to vote and to take part in local politics. My sister became a Canadian in 1977. I obtained my citizenship as a minor, in 1976, because I had the opportunity to go to France through school, and we were told it would be faster to get my Canadian citizenship and passport than it would be to get a U.S. passport. To my surprise, however, I found that while my primary motivation was expediency, once I became a Canadian citizen, I was very proud of being Canadian. Giving up my American citizenship (as I thought at the time) didn’t bother me, because by then I’d lived here for ten years, arguably my most formative years, and truly felt Canadian.
My dad and brother didn’t see any compelling reason in their lives to go through the process and they remained U.S. citizens. So, we’ve been a mixed lot, which I suspect is similar to a lot of other families that have immigrated to Canada. Most of our relatives still live in the United States, and we’ve visited back and forth over the years.
We were never told that there would be any need to report on our income to the U.S. while living in Canada, and in fact, I really thought I was no longer considered a U.S. citizen. So, imagine my surprise – and yes – outrage, when I just recently discovered that I am still considered a U.S. citizen and that there is a burden on me to file income taxes to the IRS and to report on financial accounts. And, that because I haven’t complied with a law I had no way of knowing affected me, the IRS can penalize me.
The reality is that this situation affects every member of my family, as well as our spouses, our children, both our financial well-being and our emotional well-being. It’s not easy living under the threat of having huge penalties levied against you – potentially for tens of thousands of dollars, or even much more.
It’s tempting to stick my head in the sand and hope it goes away. It’s not realistic, though. Hence this blog, my first. Somehow we have to get the attention of our government about not only the financial impact this will have on Canada, but also the need for Canada to protect it’s citizens from a foreign government.