How to move savings and investments to another country
June 26, 2022 5:52 AM   Subscribe

When one emigrates from the US to another country, how does one legally transfer savings and investments out of the reach of US authorities? Because The Lovely Mrs. Pardo is squeamish about such things, it needs to not involve suitcases of cash and securities.
posted by donpardo to Work & Money (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Out of reach, or out of knowledge? U.S. persons have to file an FBAR for any foreign financial accounts exceeding $10,000. So the IRS will always know.
posted by scruss at 6:16 AM on June 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

Yeah, can you explain more what you mean by "out of reach of US authorities?" You have a lot of options ranging from "leave your assets invested with US brokers/banks and make withdrawals as needed" to "hide it all in shell companies via complicated schemes involving the Cayman Islands and Vanuatu." (Although if it's the second one you probably don't want to be talking about it here.)
posted by mskyle at 6:27 AM on June 26, 2022

As far as exchange rates go, Wise (formerly Transferwise) is much better than banks.

If you happen to be US citizens, you will still have to file with the IRS, and even foreign banks will report your holdings, thanks to FATCA.
posted by dum spiro spero at 6:27 AM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It's not clear what your specific question is.

To be "out of the reach of US authorities," you have to renounce your US citizenship. A US citizen, no matter where they may live in the world, is within the reach of the US authorities, and you will pay US taxes (with certain offsets for local taxes you may have paid) and declare your non-US assets and accounts on the FBAR, as scruss notes. Renouncing your citizenship is a lengthy and not inexpensive process, and will require first that you are a naturalized citizen of another country and have a non-US passport issued to you. There are plenty of US resources about renouncing your citizenship, and you will need to look into immigration rules of the jurisdiction you relocate to.

If you are fully aware of all of those considerations, the simple answer about legal transfers is that you likely will make international wire transfers of your cash, and custody transfers of your securities. The specifics will depend on the laws of the jurisdiction you have relocated to, the policies of the sending and receiving institutions, and the terms of the securities you are trying to send (which may not be eligible to be custodied offshore, or may not be suitable for non-US persons, which you will be at that point).

If I had to guess, you might want to budget a decade or more to get this done, if you haven't started already. I can't start to guess what it might cost, but it will certainly involve lawyers and other service providers, and the cost will depend on prevailing rates in the local jurisdiction. Plus, you'll likely have complicated tax returns for the period when you are a US expat. Most of the professional people I know who live abroad have accountants that do the returns, since you may need someone (or a firm) that understands both the US and the local tax regime. That's not cheap, but there are certainly different price points, depending on how complex your returns are.

IANYL and this is not legal advice.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:30 AM on June 26, 2022 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah, can you explain more what you mean by "out of reach of US authorities?"

I mean that I don't want it held someplace that is under the jurisdiction of a US court. If we were to move to, say, Andorra, if the US were to want to seize the assets, I want them to have to go to court there to enforce any seizure.

To clarify, I am not doing anything illegal to get the money, looking to avoid taxes, or looking to obscure the ownership of the assets. I just want them held by a non-US entity. And this may be impossible.

In short, I would like to avoid having my assets stripped from us as was done to people who were fleeing Germany in the 1930s.
posted by donpardo at 6:35 AM on June 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Not impossible! But you will probably not be able to invest in the exact same securities you own in the US. The details will depend on the specific country where you're looking to invest the money and what you want to invest in, though. (Like, some countries make it very difficult for foreigners to purchase real estate while others encourage it; some overseas funds allow investment by US persons, others don't.)
posted by mskyle at 6:47 AM on June 26, 2022

Best answer: The easiest way to do this is to use the various banks that work with "visa by investment" schemes in various countries -- these banks will already be set up to deal with foreigners, will already have procedures for filing the necessary paperwork, and are domiciled in their respective countries (so seizure would have to go through local authorities).

There are both depositary and investment banks for these purposes; they typically will only do business in their home nation, with no branches or divisions located elsewhere. Historically most have been deposit-only (you have a literal box in their safe), but many now have investment operations -- note that they will tend to be set up to have you invest in THEIR specific funds, because those funds have been set up for access by foreigners. Some of them may not want to take custody of your existing investments.

So, do research on "golden visa" programs and look for ones that allow monetary investments (some require real estate purchases, others require you to just gift money to their government; these programs are worthless for your needs). Once you find those programs, research which banks work with them. You should expect to jump through a metric shit-ton of "know your client" paperwork -- if you don't have to fill out like twenty pages of stuff, you may want to reconsider which bank you're dealing with because their other clients might be cartel guys.

Alternatively, there are legal firms that can do this for you, but they will charge quite a lot of money -- starting at around $10K for basics, running up past $60K to actually do golden visa paperwork and application on your behalf. If you only want the banking side of things, not the residency permit, then of course you're down on the cheaper end of that.
posted by aramaic at 7:33 AM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Note that if you have tax-advantaged investment accounts, it may well be impossible to move that money beyond the reach of U.S. authorities, short of withdrawing it all and facing the whopping penalties.
posted by praemunire at 12:31 PM on June 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you’re considering renouncing your citizenship, it is my understanding that the US would still require you to report accounts with over $10K and file taxes annually for 10 years after you renounce.
posted by syzygy at 4:37 AM on June 28, 2022

Based on your update, I think this is actually pretty simple. If you hold assets outside of the United States, the U.S. court would always have to go through the local legal system to seize any property. As this State Department site notes, the United States doesn’t have any treaty or agreement with any other country to recognize or enforce jurisdiction (sorry can’t link on mobile):

So this question may be better put as “What’s the best way to transfer financial assets from the United States to x country?”
posted by exutima at 4:23 PM on June 28, 2022

So this question may be better put as “What’s the best way to transfer financial assets from the United States to x country?”

…and, in a FATCA/FBAR world, the easiest way to do that is to transfer to a bank that’s built to deal with foreigners. Your usual random bank may be extremely unwilling to deal with the paperwork unless they’re literally built to deal with foreign money. That’s the whole point of using golden visa banks — they know they have to jump through hoops to get your money and those are hoops they’re happy to jump through.
posted by aramaic at 8:02 PM on June 28, 2022

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