For international travelers still able to cross borders amid an ongoing pandemic, using cryptocurrency to prove they have the means to sustain themselves abroad is a relatively new concept.
Many countries around the world are closed to visitors in an effort to protect their residents from COVID-19, but some have continued to allow students, retirees and others seeking medium- to long-term stays through immigration. Under normal circumstances, entrants are sometimes required to present evidence of funds, both to show they have the necessary savings to provide for themselves and are less likely to work illegally.
The definition of this “evidence of funds” or “proof of funds” can be fluid, but usually entails a bank statement, a line of credit, or simply showing an immigration officer cash holdings. However, of the 195 recognized countries on the planet, some have hinted they are open to accepting cryptocurrency as proof of financial sufficiency — as long as liquidity was established.
“In my 15+ years, I've never seen a consulate accept non-liquid financial documents, such as a holding portfolio, even if there are seven figures in the account,” said Evan James, chief operating officer of visa and passport processing company Peninsula Visa. “I do understand that crypto is liquid but I think it would need to present almost as a bank account [...] in the event an applicant would want to use a crypto account, the onus would be on them to make sure the consulate is comfortable with its liquidity.”
The United Kingdom's government website said that "Bitcoin savings" was unacceptable financial evidence for student visa applicants. One of the consulates from a Schengen member — which includes 26 European countries — told Peninsula Visa that it would only be willing to accept fiat bank statements at this time for proof of funds. However, other immigration departments hinted that there was nothing explicitly prohibiting travelers from using crypto to meet this requirement.
"There is no ban on using cryptocurrency as evidence of funds but applicants would need to provide evidence of the amount and ownership,” said Immigration New Zealand manager Marc Piercey. “Visa applicants are likely to find it easier to show more traditional forms of funds such as bank statements or credit card balances.”
Laura Bernard, press officer for the European Commission, reiterated that bank statements or proof of income was needed “in almost all cases,” but added that there wasn’t a universal policy for all EU member nations:
“As each visa application is assessed on a case-by-case basis, there is no one-size-fits-all rule regarding the proof of sufficient financial means. As a result, there could be individual situations where a consulate might also accept other proof of assets, such as crypto-assets, whenever this is justified by the particular circumstances of the applicant and the intended journey.”
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Cointelegraph reporter Brian Quarmby, a hodler who plans to relocate abroad, said he showed his crypto portfolio, salary history and “a tiny bit of cash” to a consular officer as part of his application for a spousal visa. At the time of publication, his destination is closed to short-term visitors and only recently reopened for a limited number of foreign students and business travelers.
"I presented a large chunk of my crypto portfolio as one way to provide a proof of balance to immigration," said Quarmby. "As I’m paid in crypto, I also had to show my transaction history and provide a spreadsheet showing the fiat value of the assets on the date the payments were received. From what my Visa/immigration Lawyer told me, my hodlings were substantial enough to get me over the line."