The Crowd: Jumping Borders [259]

Hi Crowd

Borders are crazy things. I've talked about them for years, often from the position that they are outdated ideas that serve no good purpose in the modern world where everyone is going everywhere. In fact I'd argue that while they are still very real legal things they are already quite fluid idealogical things. Some borders are cultural, for the Americans in the house try to explain in a universally accepted way where "The South" or "The Bible Belt" starts and ends, but even borders which you'd think are much more concrete like countries get messy when you start talking about places like Taiwan or Palestine. It's exciting to see places like Canada, Italy and now Japan join the growing list of countries (61 currently) that offer digital nomad visas. This would have been my dream come true 15 years ago when I was writing about being a technomad. I believe we'll continue to see more of this, and I think that's a good thing, and can envision a future where people are generally more free to move around places and live wherever they choose. So at face value this is great.

Of course nothing can be taken at face value, and this creates openings for other things to become bigger problems. Not the least of which is that citizens of a country often have more rights, privileges or protections than permanent residents, short term visa'd residents and certainly tourists. So if the trends continue to shift and at some point citizens of a place become the minority, that effectively creates an elite class ruling over the masses. Here's an example: In Japan police can stop and question any visitor for any reason, and arrest or fine people for not having proper identification, but are forbidden from stopping and questioning Japanese citizens without a justifiable reason which has caused problems for naturalized Japanese citizens who don't look Japanese and understandably feel discriminated against when police stop and question them and then don't believe them when they explain they are Japanese, asking them for proof is a violation of their rights. Now consider that Japan prohibits dual citizenship and how that causes problems for Japanese citizens who live abroad, perhaps in a country where their spouse and children are citizens. Residency can be revoked, Citizenship can't. If you are planning to live somewhere long term with your family and don't want to risk getting kicked out of the country because of a new unexpected law or not being allowed back in after a trip somewhere, getting local citizenship can be advantageous. So if you are Japanese and lose your Japanese citizenship by getting citizenship elsewhere, now suddenly it becomes harder (potentially impossible) to eventually move back to Japan or visit family there.

That's one example that is pretty straightforward, a much more complicated example is Israel which has a number of different classifications and policies for people with different types of citizens having different rights, which dictates even where and how people are allowed to move, who they are allowed to marry and what rights extend to their spouses and families. In some cases a naturalized Israeli citizen might have more rights than someone who held citizenship from birth.

All this is to say that I continue to think borders are an outdated idea which often cause more problems than they solve, and while I'm glad to see increased permeability it's important for us to keep thinking and talking about what visas, resident status and citizenship mean and how they relate to each other. As a US Citizen who hasn't lived in the US for a long time and has no immediate plans to move back, holding that citizenship might actually be considered a liability (US tax law is unreasonably aggressive for expats and a surprising number of international financial services prohibit US Citizens from signing up because that's easier than complying with US law). When I moved to Canada I was advised not to disclose my US citizenship unless necessary as it's not uncommon for houses and vehicles of US Citizens to be vandalized, and generally around the world I've often had to explain that being a US Citizen doesn't mean agreeing with US International policy, even though my taxes fund it. Dual citizenship is an option for me, but amusingly the places I can get that are not so much places I want to live but places I want to be able to go back to. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I still haven't even decided where I'm going next.

Of course if any number of global pressure cookers hits the boiling point and wars break out and countries collapse, none of this might matter. Maybe this time next year I'll be talking about if I should keep Western US, Eastern US, Southern US or Cascadia citizenship.

Hope you and yours are well in whatever location you've drawn some imaginary lines around.


Collect this post to permanently own it.
Just Another Crowd logo
Subscribe to Just Another Crowd and never miss a post.