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Overseas Americans Struggling to contact their US Elected Officials
The American magazine has found contacting US officials is more complicated for US Citizens residing overseas
The American magazine has recently contacted Senatorial offices in the US after it emerged that some overseas Americans are struggling to contact their elected officials to raise concerns over issues that affect them.
The question was first raised on Twitter when a constituent of Senator Debbie Stabenow noticed that the Michigan Senator’s website contact form says "Because of the large volume of mail I receive every day, I can only respond to my constituents from Michigan, which is why I require your postal address in all e-mails sent to my office."
During research, The American found that almost all Senatorial websites contain a web form which requires a postal address to be included – however the majority of these forms only allow constituents to input a US address, a restriction which has the potential to confuse and deter overseas Americans from contacting their elected Senator. Some of the web forms do allow for addresses based on overseas Military locations, although the inclusion of these is inconsistent.
The American presented these findings to all Senatorial offices recently, and we received responses from 13 Senatorial offices (out of 100 Senatorial offices). The general consensus among these responses is that US Citizens residing overseas should use their last US based postal address for these forms, or in the event that a US Citizen has been born outside of the US, their parents’ last known US based address. We’ve included some of the responses we received below.
Although these responses answered some questions, it’s important to note that the web forms remain unclear on these guidelines, and the absense of clear information for overseas Americans contacting their elected officials is an understandable impediment to overseas Americans having their chance to raise key issues such as FATCA, Citizenship Based Taxation, Visas and other matters that affect them.
We would particularly like to thank the offices of Senator Cassidy (Louisiana) and Senator Isakson (Georgia) which both indicated that they would review ways of altering their web forms to address this problem.
Although the responses we received indicate that US Senators would encourage overseas Americans to contact them, we at The American would highlight the importance of updating web mail forms and providing clear guidance to avoid overseas Americans feeling that they’re getting a dose of “taxation without representation.”
Office of Senator Van Hollen (Maryland)
"as the son of a Foreign Service Officer, Senator Van Hollen cares deeply about American citizens living abroad – he welcomes their correspondence enthusiastically."
Office of Senator Leahy (Vermont)
"Senator Leahy encourages all Vermonters, no matter where in the world they are living, to contact him about the issues that they care about. He considers all constituent inquiries and suggestions and is engaged on a wide range of global issues. U.S. citizens should use the address that they use to vote in his online form, or if they have never had a U.S. address, the one that they most associate with."
Office of Senator Warner (Virginia)
“Virginians – whether living in the Commonwealth or overseas – are highly encouraged to write to Sen. Warner using our website. Our office in particular has an efficient constituent mail process that closely examines and identifies a constituents individual mailing address, no matter what part of the globe they write-in from. Depending on the type of correspondence – whether it’s an email to share a concern on an issue, ask a question or request assistance with a federal agency – we will have a response to the constituent within a month. I do want to note that while Sen. Warner would love to address the concerns of all Americans, we prioritize the correspondence of Virginians”
Office of Senator Cruz (Texas)
"Our office reviews all comments and concerns received, whether or not they are from Texans. We provide assistance to those we are able to help, and forward communications to other US Senators as appropriate, should the constituent consider another state their home. The Senator’s website gives constituents the ability to fill out a form with their concerns or send our offices email communications or phone calls. We strive to make sure we completely accessible to the 28 million Texans living in the state, and those living across the nation and abroad ... With regard to your specific technical question, while our prepared form does require an address somewhere within the United States or military base, there are also emails and phone numbers provided for our various offices, with which anyone in the world may contact us with their concerns."
Office of Senator Kaine (Virginia)
"Our office frequently communicates with constituents located overseas. To share their opinions, ask a question, or get help with a federal agency, constituents abroad can fill out the online form to the best of their ability; inputting their most recent U.S. address or “n/a” in the address fields will get them in touch with us, and they can later clarify their foreign address if need be."
Office of Senator Enzi (Wyoming)
"We certainly welcome communication from all folks from Wyoming regardless of where they are currently living. For Wyoming constituents who are living overseas, we would ask that they make it clear they are from Wyoming – whether that is stating it in their message or by entering their former Wyoming address. I would note that we are unable to send official mail overseas unless they are on a military base, but we can respond via email."
Office of Senator Grassly (Iowa)
"Anyone can call or email from anywhere as long as they identify their last U.S. address to verify that they are a constituent."