By J. DeVoy
One of the things holding recent and soon-to-be law grads back from expatriation — other than the global dearth of jobs — is the constant fear that they’ll be pulled back to the United States and have their lives ruined. This concern is reasonable, as the U.S. has a very broad global reach. The IRS can tax your income as a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world. The U.S. also bombs the shit out of people on the flimsiest of pretexts, so its power is not trifling. It is not, however, unlimited.
This map, pictured above, shows all of the nations the U.S. (purple) has extradition treaties with in blue. The grey nations have no formal extradition treaties with the U.S. The full list of nations that have extradition treaties with the U.S. can be found at 18 U.S.C. § 3181. For simplicity’s sake, Wikipedia has this awesome chart that appears accurate and up to date.
This map isn’t very inspiring. Is it worth leaving America to live in a failing kleptocracy like Russia? I’m relieved that our government had the foresight to sign such treaties with the fine, upstanding people of Nigeria, where everyone seems to have some claim to royalty. Even Lesotho, the ridiculous land-locked country embraced entirely by South Africa (which Invictus shows to be a highly functional nation) is in on the action.
Extradition treaties don’t mean everything, though. Where they do apply, the language of § 3181 is broad and sweeping, addressing mainly capital crimes, drugs, and parental kidnapping. Even where they don’t exist, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, allowing for international service of process, may ensnare a debtor on the run in its tendrils. Whether this can result in garnishment of wages, attachment of property, or other action may depend on other treaties between a target state and the U.S., and will require particularized research too consuming for a blog post.
On balance, though, the risk of extradition is low for student loan evaders. Whether or not one can be sent home for crimes has little bearing on whether Sallie Mae can chase after an errant grad through civil process, wielding her rolling pin of financial ruin.
To avoid civil penalties, there are other steps a potential ex-pat may take. First, simply disappear without telling anyone. When you arrive someplace new, claim to have amnesia. Taken to unlikely but logical extremes, it can be really interesting. In the alternative, fake your own death. Leaving the life insurance implications aside, this plan has substantial literary precedent. Even Krusty the Clown faked his own death — twice! Truly, there is hope for us all.