Prince Harry is ‘exercising freedom’ claims expert
Harry and his wife Meghan Markle have settled down in California, the state where the Duchess grew up and where her mother and “best friend” Doria Ragland still lives. The couple hightailed out of their Canadian getaway and across the border to the US in March last year, just before COVID-19 travel restrictions kicked in. They spent a brief spell in Malibu, LA, staying at a friend’s house before splashing out on a mansion in the community of Montecito, in Santa Barbara.
While the two are reportedly blissfully happy with their post-royal life — and are not looking to renegotiate the terms of their exit with the senior royals back in the UK — there could be one significant obstacle to the Sussexes’ new life on the horizon.
Meghan was born in the US and so has always been an American citizen, but Harry is a British citizen — meaning he is only entitled to stay in the States for 182 days in any 12-month period, even if he has a visa.
Without a visa, he would only have been permitted to remain in the US for up to 90 days.
Furthermore, once a foreign national spends 183 days or more in the US, they are considered a tax resident for that year.
Harry is believed to have stayed with his wife and his son, Archie, in California since last March.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle now live in the US
Harry and Meghan in their new California home
Questions have subsequently been raised as to how the Duke of Sussex has managed to do so, especially as reports claim he has not yet filed an application for an American passport.
However, according to tax and immigration advisor David Lesperance, Harry may be utilising a new clause in the US visa rules related to Covid restrictions while he considers his options.
As Mr Lesperance told Express.co.uk in an exclusive interview, although the 182-day cut-off point is still in place, there are “certain exceptions”.
He said: “There are certain exceptions to counting days, such as if you commute from a contiguous territory such as Canada.
“There’s also ones for medical exemptions — if you take ill in the US and you spend the day in the hospital, well, that day does not count.
READ MORE: Meghan and Harry now ‘multi-millionaires’ and richer than Cambridges
Harry and Meghan’s romantic timeline from their first date to their royal departure
“You can claim that you didn’t intend to be in the US, and that you are only there for a medical reason.
“Now, do you need to catch Covid or do you just need to have a potential lockdown situation?
“Interesting question — clearly if you catch Covid and you get a doctor’s report, but even if you’ve had Covid is there a test available to you?
“I would suspect that Harry could probably find a doctor somewhere who could give him a test.”
It must be noted that the Duke of Sussex has not disclosed whether he has contracted the virus at any point throughout the pandemic.
Mr Lesperance continued: “It becomes a real [concern] that, despite the fact that he probably spent most of 2020 in the US and depending on what his previous years’ calculations were, he may trip up that substantial presence test.
“He may not have some of those days count because of Covid.
Queen’s serious blunder in handling of Meghan and Harry’s royal exit [INSIGHT]
Princess Anne’s blunt critique of life in public eye [EXPLAINED]
Meghan Markle has ‘serious book deals on table’ [EXPOSED]
Harry news: The Duke reportedly does not intend to give up his UK citizenship at the moment
Harry and Meghan have bought their first home together in Santa Barbara
“There has been an exception to visitors who are ‘trapped in the US because of Covid’, so there are extensions given on that.”
But, as Onlinevisa.com explained, the US has recognised that overseas visitors may end up being forced to remain in the States due to a range of factors.
It explained: “Nonimmigrant foreign nationals are advised to apply for an extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS) in advance of the expiration date of their US visa.”
If the application for an extension has not been processed by the time the visa expires, this is not “usually regarded as unlawful presence in the US”.
To extend a stint in the US, a request must be filed with US Citizenship and Immigration Service.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been in the US with their son for almost a year
It is not yet clear what Harry’s future plans are, considering the Sussexes have clearly laid down permanent roots in California after purchasing their first house together.
Commentators have also claimed that the couple’s output, such as their ‘Holiday Special’ of their podcast series is evidently aimed at a US audience — yet another sign Harry has no intention of returning to live permanently in the UK any time soon.
Current entry into the US from the UK is suspended for any foreign nationals, although these travel restrictions do not apply to US citizens, legal permanent residents and most immediate family members of US citizens.
Harry is expected to attempt a UK visit this summer for the Queen’s 95th birthday, Prince Philip’s 100th birthday and the unveiling of the Princess Diana statue on what would have been the royal’s 60th.
Meghan and Archie are reportedly not intending to join him.