Roger Ver is a virtual currency millionaire who has been dubbed the Bitcoin Jesus because of his avid advocacy of the blockchain money, which includes his seeding many businesses that use it. Last year, the libertarian-anarchist became a citizen of the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis and renounced his American citizenship. Ver may be a bellwether of how the US plans to treat those who renounce their citizenship or who are otherwise inconvenient expats.
A frequent speaker at bitcoin events held in the US, Ver was meticulous about the process of renunciation and its implications. "I checked with lawyers very carefully before I renounced, and they clearly assured me that I will qualify for a visa to visit the USA. I would be fine with them denying my visa if it was for a valid reason.?
Ver also went through a mandatory ?one-week cooling-off period? and confronted such official questions as ?Did you know if you renounce citizenship, you won?t be able to serve in the armed forces?? Ver remembers thinking, ?darn,? before renouncing as fast as he could.
On January 6, he was denied a visa to attend the North American Bitcoin Conference, held from January 16 to 18 in Miami, a three-hour flight from St. Kitts and Nevis. (That passport allows for visa-free travel to 120 countries but the US is not one of them.)
It was apparently Ver's third attempt to re-enter America within an eight day period. The US Embassy in Barbados was happy to accept the $160 application fee each time it refused a visa. The stateside government had also willingly accepted his payment of a $325,000 tax bill just weeks before. Blood money, yes; entry, no. Ver cannot appeal the decision, only reapply and lawyers opine that each denial reduces the chances of future approval.
The official reason? The denial of entry was based on Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which is notoriously elastic. The Section states, ?Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status?? In short, this section of the INA presumes every applicant for a visa to America intends to eventually reside in America. It is the burden of each applicant to demonstrate that this is not the case??
The embassy's rejection letter stated: "One of the most common elements within the various nonimmigrant visa requirements is for the applicant to demonstrate that they have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning ... You have not demonstrated that you have the ties that will compel you to return to your home country after your travel to the United States." In short, America allegedly fears Ver will overstay his visa and become an illegal immigrant in the land of his own birth.
The official reason for denying a visa to Ver beggars belief. Do officials think Ver was 'just kidding' about renouncing his US Citizenship? Was the $350,000 he paid for the privilege to do so just a prank? As pointed out, ?It is strange...that Mr. Ver was denied by the US Consular [sic] General, Barbados, under a regulation that requires he prove his intent to depart the US when he appears to have already done so.?
The strong ties demanded by the embassy usually consist of a job, a house, a family, a bank account, a business, a history of residency... Although Ver's family resides in the United States, he is 'tied' to St. Kitts and Nevis by almost every other measurement of residency.
Moreover, Ver's primary residence is in Tokyo where he moved in 2006. In an interview, he told Coindesk that the Embassy officials refused to so much as glance at the documentation of the business he started in Japan or at ?the other nine years worth of history he has with that country.? Instead, "[t]hey wouldn?t even let me slide the documents regarding Japan through the slot in the window.?
The Embassy officials most likely used 214(b) (the "non immigrant intent" requirement) as a pretext for denial, which is a common practice when they need an elastic excuse. 214(b) is a pretext that expats may encounter with increasing frequency.
The real explanation for the border shutting to Ver is almost certainly political. It could be based on one of three circumstances but probably draws upon all of them.
1) In the aftermath of Waco ? the 1993 Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) siege of a Texas compound in which over 70 men, women and children died needlessly ? Ver took a hard line. While running as a Libertarian candidate for California State Assembly in 2000, he called the ATF ?a bunch of jack booted thugs and murderers.? ATF agents in the audience took umbrage.
?They began looking into my background in the attempt to find dirt on me,? Ver explained. One of his business ventures sold a product called a ?Pest Control Report 2000,? which was a type of firecracker used by farmers to scare deer and birds away from corn fields. The ATF called it ?an explosive,? instructed everyone else to stop selling them, and prosecuted Ver. He was imprisoned for 10 months with three years probation for ?dealing in explosives without a license.?
After the probation was over, Ver left to live in Japan.
2) In October 2013, the FBI arrested Ross Ulbricht on multiple charges of which he was indicted on four counts: Computer hacking, money laundering, narcotics trafficking and engaging in a criminal enterprise. Ulbricht was accused of being the pseudonymous Dread Pirate Roberts, who founded the Silk Road online black market. Ver posted on Twitter: ?I?ll give $10 to @Free_Ross for each RT (retweet).? Ver has donated over $150,000 to Ulbricht's defense, which cannot please the Department of Justice.
3) Ver founded a service called Passport for Bitcoins through which he assisted people who wished to obtain a St. Kitts and Nevis passport. The US Government could not have been amused. The site currently redirects to a Z?rich firm that specializes in ?residence and citizenship planning.? and Ver now forwards any second citizenship requests through "Passports for Bitcoins" to TDV Passports.
Ver is unlikely to set an official foot on American soil again. And, yet, he has recently been seen strolling the streets of New York City, handing out free bitcoins to bypassers. A headline in Coin Telegraph reported ?Virtual Roger Ver Spotted Handing Out Bitcoins in NYC.?
The man has done the next best thing to cloning himself. He used Double ? a remotely-controlled robot that featured a screen with his face and had the ability to interact in real time with people near it. The article explained, ?While enjoying the sun on a Caribbean Beach, Roger Ver simultaneously romped the streets of New York City, taking in the sights of the Financial District.?
It will take years for Congress to figure out how to deny entry to robotic Ver, especially if his ?parts? are manufactured in America. But his flesh-and-blood experiences are a cautionary tale to expats. Although he has traveled into the homeland in the past, Ver was denied entry this time. Like the Biblical Jesus, he was denied three times. Expats should secure their visas before buying non-refundable tickets.
Wendy McElroy is a regular contributor to the Dollar Vigilante, and a renowned individualist anarchist and individualist feminist. She was a co-founder along with Carl Watner and George H. Smith of The Voluntaryist in 1982, and is the author/editor of twelve books, the latest of which is "The Art of Being Free". Follow her work at www.wendymcelroy.com.