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ResourcesVisa & Immigration LawVisa NewsShould the US Embassy in Thailand Vaccinate American Expats?

Should the US Embassy in Thailand Vaccinate American Expats?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing whether the US Embassy in Thailand should vaccinate American Expats here. I did another video recently where I read from an open letter issued by the Chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy in Bangkok where they basically said look we don't logistically have the ability to vaccinate American Expats here in Thailand. They noted that to do so it wouldn't just be Thailand, they would have to do it around the world. This came on the heels of the French Embassy announcing they were assisting with vaccination of their Nationals through the Embassy and I have done another video on that but apparently that is what is going on.

I have had some interesting feedback about my video because I take the position that Expats, once you leave the United States, you are an Expat, you are not in the United States so the US probably isn't going to really do much other than issue a new passport or if you have a child abroad you may be able to get things like a CRBA, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, passport for a child or if you need assistance they assist with visas for a loved one, a spouse in particular, fiancé’s back in the US. 

But this notion that the Embassy is here to assist in this vaccination drive I personally on just a personal level, that's not really what I view as being in their bailiwick. The Chargé pointed out in his letter that it is the policy of the US Government that the US Government doesn't feel that way so why this video? Well somebody made a comment on that video and it brought up an interesting point in my mind. The comment reads and I quote: "America is one of the few countries where you still have to pay taxes even if you don't live there anymore. It would not be such a big logistical problem really. Have a country by country rollout and ask US citizens to register online for a vaccine if they live in a specific country. After all, the USA is letting millions of doses spoil or giving away millions of doses away to other countries. In the end what are we paying taxes for?" I think in the letter from the Chargé they did mention they had given or they were in the process of giving vaccines to the Thai Government. I can't remember that for certain but I tend to think that that is what it said. 

The point on this brought this that brought this to my mind and made me think on it a minute is the tax notion. For those who are unaware, and I don't think any American that lives abroad is unaware of this, but American citizens are liable for US taxes on their worldwide income despite where they live. The United States doesn't use a territorial system in the same way for example like the UK does or many other countries where as a citizen of that country, you are only taxable on your income if you are in that country. There are nuances to all of this. I am definitely overly generalizing that but long story short Americans yes we still have to file tax returns when we live abroad. We may be liable for taxes on our foreign earned income, foreign unearned income, capital gains, a number of different things, not to get too deep into that but one thing to note is what is called a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Fee (FEIE) which allows an individual to only need to pay taxes over a certain amount of money. For example right now, I think with the cost of living adjustment, it is like $106,000; if you make less than that abroad you still have to file a return but you don't have to pay taxes. So first of all, that does not exist for folks that live in America so they can't not pay taxes on anything they earn that is under $106,000 or whatever the current threshold presently is, I can't remember the exact number off the top of my head. So expats first of all there is that to think about.

It is an interesting point. We are liable for taxes abroad so therefore this came up, why not? However, I still kind of tend to see State Department's position on that and as noted I believe again in that letter, Americans can always get on a plane and return to the United States and get vaccinated that way. Now I know many people who are watching this video probably are doing a spit take if they are drinking water or something, say "well yeah, I can do that. Then I have got to go through quarantine to get back into Thailand or I got to go through the Phuket "Sandbox" which I have got to spend 14 days in Phuket if I want to come back." It is true. It is not an optimal set of circumstances. I do think folks do underestimate the logistical hurdles that would come from having to stock and roll out these vaccinations at every US Embassy and Consulate around the world; that would be a staggering feat. That would require a lot more man hours I think than the commenter, I think he kind of glossed over that aspect of it. 

That said it was an interesting point. It is the reason I made this video. Yes Americans are liable for their taxes on their worldwide income and they are liable to file tax returns when living abroad, again depending on circumstances. But again, I won't say that that connection is completely tenuous. I think it is something of a compelling argument but I think the response to that argument is "yeah and those expats they have the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion; that is something that folks that live in the US don't have so it kind of distinguishes them just in looking at it purely in line of that specific argument kind of goes ahead and mitigates against that argument being overly compelling to the point where they should roll out these vaccines worldwide.