The US IRS will begin certifying tax debts on January 22, 2018. If you have a “seriously delinquent” tax debt, your passport can be revoked. Likewise, the government can refuse to renew your passport if you owe more than $50,000. Here’s where you can travel without a passport after it’s been revoked by the IRS.
I’ve been writing about this since December 2015, and it’s finally come to pass. The IRS will begin targeting American expats who haven’t paid their taxes in the next few days. Once your passport is gone, your travel options will be greatly reduced.
Before I get to where you can travel without a passport, let’s consider the situation for a minute.
I suggest that this bill targets Americans living abroad because, unless you have a second passport in hand, the loss of your US passport will force you back to the United States to deal with the IRS. For most Americans living in the US, the loss of their “travel privileges” is of little concern. The ones who will be hit the hardest will be Americans living, working, and doing business abroad.
This is especially true for expats who don’t have permanent residency in a foreign country. If you’re traveling as a tourist, you’ll be forced back to the United States in a few days or months. If you’re a temporary resident, you’ll be required to return and account to the IRS when your temporary status expires. You won’t be able to apply for permanent residency status if your US passport has been revoked.
If you have a permanent residency visa, you should be able to remain in your country of residency. You won’t be able to travel or leave your country of residence without a valid passport. However, the IRS can’t easily force you home unless you lose your permanent visa status.
If you think you’ll have a tax issue in the future, or can keep the IRS at bay with an Offer in Compromise, you might apply for residency in a country like Panama. All you need to qualify is an investment of in this country’s friendly nations reforestation visa program. While there are many countries where you can get residency, Panama is the lowest cost quality jurisdiction for those from a friendly nation.
Of course, the question of where you can travel without a passport becomes mute if you purchase a second passport. So long as you have a valid travel document from a country like St. Lucia, the IRS can’t force you back by revoking your US passport.
But, once your US passport has been revoked, and you’re back in the United States, where you can travel without a passport? The following is based on a decade of experience. This article is not a statement of the law, but rather how things work at the border.
First, you won’t be able to fly to any country without a passport. No airline will risk allowing you to fly if you don’t have a passport. Remember that the airline is responsible for returning you to your home country if you’re denied entry.
So, that means you have only two options of where to travel without a passport. You can drive to Canada or Mexico. Because Canada can be quite picky about whom they let in, the safest port of entry is Mexico.
If you travel within the Border Zone (usually up to 20 kilometers south of the US – Mexico Border) or the Free Trade Zone (including the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora Free Trade Zone) no passport will be required by Mexico. However, if you wish to pass these zones, you’ll need a passport and, if you’re driving a US car, your auto will need a permit.
The maximum period of time you’re supposed to stay in Mexico without a formal visa is six months. However, when you arrive by land, there’s no entry stamp and no way for the government to know how long you’ve been in the country. In my experience, so long as you don’t cause any trouble, the Mexican government won’t bother you.
In order to return to the United States, you’ll need a valid US ID and your birth certificate. While many websites say you need a US passport, including official government sites, I’ve asked immigration officers and they say you can pass with a birth certificate and photo ID. The last time I inquired was 2 days ago, so this is recent information.
By the way, I’m assuming that the US IRS will revoke all travel documents if you owe more than $50,000. This means the loss of your US passport, your US passport card, and your SENTRI card. US passport cards and SENTRI cards are only valid at land crossings (Mexico and Canada).
I haven’t seen any statements by the IRS or immigration on passport and SENTRI cards. It’s possible they would remain in effect if you lost your passport.
With that said, I don’t see any practical reason a US person couldn’t drive from San Diego to Tijuana and live in Baja indefinitely without a passport. Your chances of having a problem with Mexican authorities is low and you should be able to return to the US occasionally without a passport.
Where you’ll have issues is opening a local bank account and getting an apartment lease. It would be best if you can get these done before losing your US passport.
With all of that said, the best place you can travel without a passport is Northern Mexico. Again, this is 20 kilometers south of the US – Mexico Border and Baja California. All of my experience has been in Baja, from Mexicali to Tijuana and Playas to Ensenada. In 10 years of travel in Northern Mexico, I’ve never once been asked for a passport.
I hope you’ve found this article on where you can travel without a passport to be helpful. For information on setting up an offshore structure while you still have your passport, or with Panama residency or purchasing a second passport, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (619) 550-2743. All consultations are free and confidential.