How to Renounce Citizenship USA
The following guide looks at what it means to renounce citizenship as a US citizen, including what US citizenship means and the legal implications of giving it up, whether your decision to renounce citizenship is irrevocable, your reasons for giving up rights as a US citizen and the legal process to do so.
What does US citizenship mean?
US citizenship is a unique bond that unites people around civic ideals and a belief in the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the US Constitution. It serves as a unifying identity to allow persons of all backgrounds, whether native or foreign-born, to have an equal stake in the future of the United States.
A person may derive or acquire US citizenship at birth, for example, where they are born in the USA or born to US citizens outside the USA. Alternatively, persons who are not US citizens at birth may become so through naturalization.
The process of naturalization is the conferring of US citizenship after birth by any means whatsoever. Although in some cases a person may be naturalized by operation of law, in most cases, a person may not be naturalized unless he or she has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.
Deciding to become a US citizen is one of the most important decisions an immigrant can make. Naturalized US citizens share equally in the rights and privileges of US Citizenship, offering immigrants the ability to:
- Vote in federal elections
- Travel with a US passport
- Run for elective office where citizenship is required
- Participate on a jury
- Become eligible for federal and certain law enforcement jobs
- Obtain certain state and federal benefits not available to noncitizens
- Obtain citizenship for minor children born abroad, and
- Expand and expedite their ability to bring family members to the United States.
What are the legal implications if I decide to renounce citizenship?
Abandoning citizenship has extremely serious consequences, where you must renounce all the rights and privileges associated with being a US citizen.
This includes giving up your voting rights, access to federal jobs, citizenship for children born outside the United States, government protection or assistance should you need help while overseas, as well as unrestricted travel into and out of the country.
As a former US citizen you will be required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States, or show that you are eligible for admission pursuant to the terms of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you are unable to qualify for a visa, or for visa-free travel under the VWP, you could be permanently barred from re-entering the United States.
You should also be aware that, unless you already possess a foreign nationality, you could be rendered “stateless”, thereby lacking the protection of any government whatsoever. This can create problems in travelling anywhere, as you may not be entitled to a passport from any country.
Furthermore, statelessness can create severe hardships, for example, the ability to own or rent property, to work, marry, or to receive medical or other benefits. Even attending school can be affected.
Will my decision to renounce citizenship be irreversible?
In the event that you are contemplating a renunciation of US citizenship, in almost all cases this is a process that is permanent. You cannot subsequently change your mind or regain your citizenship.
More specifically, save except as provided for in section 351 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), renouncing citizenship is an irrevocable act. Absent a successful administrative review or judicial appeal, the decision to renounce citizenship cannot be cancelled or set aside.
Section 351(b) of the INA provides that an applicant who renounced his or her US citizenship before the age of eighteen, or lost citizenship related to certain foreign military service under the age of 18, can have that citizenship reinstated if s/he makes that desire known to the Department of State within six months after turning 18.
There are, however, no other exceptions, Needless to say, therefore, it is absolutely imperative that you fully understand the nature of the consequences of any decision to renounce citizenship prior to taking any official steps towards giving up your rights as a US citizen for good.
Can I escape tax and other obligations by renouncing US citizenship?
Some US citizens may decide to renounce citizenship for personal or political reasons, such as opposing a war that the country is engaged in, while many others may decide to renounce their citizenship because of laws that require taxpayers to report foreign-held assets to the IRS, and to pay double taxes, both in the US and abroad.
However, in some cases, renunciation of US citizenship may not have the desired effect on your US tax obligations. Expert advice should always be sought here, as you may be giving up your rights and privileges as a US citizen without gaining any real financial benefit from so doing.
Further, the act of renunciation will not allow you to avoid possible prosecution for crimes that you may have committed, or may commit in the future, that violate United States law. You can still be deported to the United States in some non-citizen status.
You will also not be permitted to escape the repayment of financial obligations, including child support payments, previously incurred in the United States or incurred as a United States citizen abroad.
What is the legal process to renounce citizenship?
Under US law, citizenship can be terminated for various reasons, such as becoming a citizen of a different country, fighting in a war for a different country against the US or attempting to overthrow the US government.
However, to voluntarily “renounce citizenship”, certain procedural steps must be followed. By virtue of section 349(a)(5) of the INA, a person wishing to give up or renounce his or her US citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish US citizenship:
- Appear in person before a US diplomatic or consular officer
- In a foreign country, typically at a US Embassy or Consulate, and
- Sign an oath of renunciation.
There are several steps you need to take to initiate this process, including completing various forms, arranging an appointment at a US Embassy to sign the Statement of Understanding, the Loss of Citizenship Questionnaire and/or the Oath of Renunciation, in the presence of a consular officer.
Renunciation of US citizenship is a lengthy process that involves extensive paperwork, interviews and a sizeable fee, currently set at USD $2,350. Further, not least given what’s at stake, prior to proceeding it is always advisable to seek expert legal advice from a specialist in immigration law and tax.
Please note, renunciations abroad that do not meet the conditions described above will have no legal effect. To renounce citizenship you must do so in person before a diplomatic or consular officer while in a foreign country. You cannot proceed by mail, electronically, through an agent or third party, or while in the United States.
If you are outside the United States and have any further questions regarding renunciation, you will need to contact the US Embassy or Consulate nearest to you for more information. If you are inside the United States and have further questions, you should contact the Department of Homeland Security. You may also want to seek legal and/or financial advice.
NNU Immigration specialize in US immigration matters. If you are considering renouncing your US citizenship, we can talk you through the immigration implications and renunciation process, including preparing and submitting the required documentation and liaising with the embassy on your behalf.
As a London-based team, we regularly handle renunciation applications at the US Embassy in London, bringing in-depth knowledge and understanding of the process and policies for applications made in London. We will also identify and resolve any issues relating to your case, and advise on travel to the United States post-loss of U.S. nationality.
For advice with your renunciation application, contact us. Please note we do not offer tax advice.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.