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Four ways to save money on consular assistance to Canadians abroad

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Senior bureaucrats are advising the federal government to consider scaling back the consular assistance it provides to some Canadians abroad.

The suggestions to save money come after a string of recent crises, including one recent 15-month period in which Ottawa helped Canadian citizens – some of whom are seen as maintaining "citizenship of convenience" – in 50 international crises in 36 countries.

Here are some options:

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Residency requirement: The Canadian government could decide to limit consular services to Canadians who have lived abroad for shorter periods of time. For instance, Ottawa could opt to provide assistance only to expatriates who have been away for less than five years, which is the same rule for overseas voting.

Tax status: Ottawa could tie consular assistance to expats' tax status, which is based on residency, a determination that includes whether those living abroad keep homes in Canada, Canadian drivers' licences or Canadian bank accounts.

Passport choice: The government could provide fewer services for dual nationals who choose to travel or live abroad on another country's passport.

Non-resident tax: Observers have previously advocated introducing a new tax for Canadians who have been living overseas for a longer period of time, such as charging $500 for a passport.

With a report from Steven Chase.

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