U.S. citizenship is what gives a person as many rights as the U.S. has to offer under their laws. Some examples of such rights include, but are not limited to:
- The right to vote;
- The right to petition for other family members to immigrate to the U.S. in order to become citizens; and
- The right to live in other countries without losing their right to return back to the U.S.
Becoming a U.S. also gives citizens many rights and privileges according to applicable federal and state laws. Conversely, citizenship also imposes a number of obligations on a person, such as serving on a jury when ordered to do so and paying taxes.
A person can be or become a U.S. citizen in the following ways:
- You are born in one of the United States or its territories, such as Guam;
- Your parents are both U.S. citizens at the time of your birth;
- You are naturalized to apply for and become a U.S. citizen; and/or
- Both of your parents are naturalized when you are a minor.
What Is Renunciation?
Renunciation is the voluntary process of giving up your U.S. citizenship. There are many reasons why a person may renounce their U.S. citizenship, including the following:
- They wish to run for public office in a foreign country;
- They enter military service in a foreign country;
- They apply for citizenship in a foreign country, paired with the intention of giving up their
- U.S. citizenship; and/or
- They committed an act of treason against the United States.
Another reason for renouncing U.S. citizenship would be that some countries do not allow you to be a citizen of more than one country at once. As such, if you want to become a citizen of such a country, you must renounce your U.S. citizenship. Other countries allow dual citizenship, which means that you will not have to give up your U.S. citizenship in order to be a citizen of the other country as well.
In order to renounce your U.S. citizenship, you must be in a foreign nation and fill out the proper forms in front of a U.S. diplomat. This is usually done at a U.S. embassy, and will relieve you of all of the protections and duties associated with being a U.S. citizen. It is imperative to note that the renunciation process is permanent.
Additionally, keep in mind that renouncing your citizenship does not get rid of any debts or obligations that you made while living in the U.S. as a citizen. For example, if you move to a foreign country and have federal student loan debt, then you will still owe on the loan(s). It is important to note that if you had a cosigner on your loans, then they will also still be liable on the loans.
What Else Should I Know About Renouncing U.S. Citizenship?
If you were to renounce your U.S. citizenship before acquiring citizenship of another country, you will be considered “stateless.” People who are stateless have no government protection, and therefore no obligations to any country. However, they often experience difficulty when traveling.
Renouncing your U.S. citizenship comes with consequences that should be carefully considered before making any decisions. Additionally, renunciation can only be undone under especially limited circumstances. Some examples of the consequences of renouncing your U.S. citizenship include, but may not be limited to:
- Giving up all of your rights and responsibilities as a U.S. citizen;
- Needing to become a citizen of another nation, or risk becoming “stateless,” as previously mentioned; and
- You may need a visa in order to visit the United States.
As previously mentioned, once you renounce your U.S. citizenship, you will no longer need to pay U.S. taxes. However, it is important to remember that the U.S. government charges a fee of $2,350 to relinquish citizenship. There may also be exit taxes depending on how you qualify.
There are some differences between a “surrendered” and “relinquished” U.S. citizenship. “Surrendered” is not a defined term in the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”), nor the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). The term is casually used to describe those who gave up their U.S. citizenship, regardless of the method used to do so.
Those who are said to have relinquished their U.S. citizenship are those who perform an “expatriating act.” This is performed with the intention of relinquishing their U.S. citizenship. Common examples of expatriating acts include:
- Acquiring another country’s citizenship, as previously mentioned;
- Being a state worker for another country; and
- Joining the military of another country, as previously mentioned.
Other examples are listed in Section 349 of the INA.
What Is The Renunciation Process?
In order to renounce your U.S. citizenship, you will need to have a second passport, or citizenship of another country. You must bring this with you to the renunciation appointment, as the State Department will deny anyone the right to renounce their U.S. citizenship if they do not bring a second passport.
You must fill out form DS-4079 prior to your appointment, which is a questionnaire for determining the possible loss of U.S. citizenship. According to law, if you wish to renounce your U.S. citizenship, you will need to do so in person by visiting a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
Some examples of necessary documents to renounce include, but may not be limited to:
- Evidence of your U.S. citizenship, such as your most recent U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate if you do not possess a U.S. passport;
- U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad, if applicable;
- Bio-pages of all current foreign passports;
- Certificates of Naturalization for any country, including the United States, if applicable;
- Certificates of Citizenship for any country, including the United States, if applicable;
- Evidence of any name changes, if applicable, such as your marriage or divorce certificates, court orders, or deed polls
- Completed form DS-4079;
- Completed Loss of Citizenship Questionnaire; and
- Completed Informal Loss of Citizenship Acknowledgement, which must be signed and dated and sent as a scanned document.
It is important to note that while there are many benefits to renouncing your U.S. citizenship, it is not without consequence. It is permanent, final, and irrevocable. There are no temporary renunciation avenues, nor are there any options to reacquire your U.S. citizenship. Once you have renounced your U.S. citizenship, you can never resume your U.S. citizenship.
Do I Need An Immigration Attorney?
It is advised that you consult with an experienced and local immigration attorney if you are considering renouncing your U.S. citizenship. An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine the immigration and citizenship process for another country, and guide you through the renunciation process.
Additionally, an attorney can also inform you of possible consequences and alternatives to renunciation. An immigration lawyer can also help prepare you for any tax consequences associated with renouncing your U.S. citizenship.For instance, you will not be eligible for the Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion, along with other programs geared at helping international U.S. citizens. Additionally, your immigration attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.