Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship just in time to avoid a large tax payment essentially means he will not be able to re-enter the United States again, immigration experts tell TPM.
“There’s a specific provision of immigration law that says that a former citizen who officially renounces citizenship, and is determined to have renounced it for the purpose of avoiding taxation, is excludable,” said Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “So he would not be able to return to the United States if he’s found to have renounced for tax purposes.”
The provision of law isn’t usually enforced, added Williams, “however, this guy is so high profile that this is probably going to be the test case.”
Saverin’s only path back to living in the U.S., experts contend, would involve persuading the authorities that his decision was not about avoiding taxes — an argument the 30-year-old billionaire is apparently angling to make.
“This had nothing to do with taxes,” Saverin told the New York Times. “I was born in Brazil, I was an American citizen for about 10 years. I thought of myself as a global citizen.”
Two immigration lawyers said his explanation hardly passes the laugh test. Saverin’s move was timed to the initial public offering of shares of Facebook stock. The valuation of the Facebook IPO explodes Saverin’s stake in the social media company to some $3 billion, on which avoiding taxes could save him at least tens — if not hundreds — of millions of dollars. Nor does it help his case that he relocated to Singapore, which levies no taxes on those earnings.
Two senators mobilized Thursday to crack down on Saverin and other tax dodgers.
“He’s fucked,” said Adam Green, an immigration lawyer based in Los Angeles. “He must have gotten horrendous advice.”
It’s plausible that Saverin simply decided the money he’d save would be worth saying goodbye to the United States forever.
Or he may have made a savvy tax-dodging move without realizing the full consequences.
Under the law, immigration experts say, his only likely option would be to apply for a temporary visa under a waiver — permanent residency and citizenship are essentially out of the question. But even visiting would require him to first admit he renounced his citizenship for tax purposes.
And even if he confesses, Williams said, “it’s not clear the waiver would be granted.”