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Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship

Renouncing U.S. Citizenship is a big move. It is not just processing paperwork. This process involves parting from a set of responsibilities, rights, and connections with the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) outlines the processes for those considering renunciation of United States citizenship. If you are contemplating taking this path, it is crucial to understand the rules and what is at stake when you take on this process.

This article will give an overview of the intricate process of renouncing U.S. citizenship. It highlights not only the procedural aspects but also the consequences that could arise from this decision.

How to Renounce Your U.S. Citizenship

Renunciation of U.S. citizenship is performing expatriating acts to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Section 349 (a) (5) of INA governs the right of U.S. citizens to renounce his or her citizenship abroad. This law provides rules for voluntarily losing nationality and intending to relinquish nationality.

Steps to Renounce U.S. Citizenship

If you would like to renounce your U.S. citizenship, you should voluntarily:

  • Appear before a consular or diplomatic officer of the United States
  • Appear at a U.S. consulate or U.S. Embassy if outside of the U.S.
  • Sign a statement of understanding and an oath of renunciation

If these conditions are not met, the renunciations made in a foreign country will have no legal effect. Also, U.S. citizens can only renounce their citizenship by appearing before the U.S. consulate or embassy. Thus, any renunciation process done electronically, by mail, or through agents has no legal effect. Courts in the U.S. held certain acts as an ineffective way of renouncing citizenship.

If you have questions related to the renunciation of U.S. citizenship based on this section of INA, address them to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Other Ways to Lose Your U.S. Citizenship

The Department of State determines a person's nationality outside the United States. Section 101(a)(22) of INA defines the term “national of the United States." According to this section, a national of the U.S. is a citizen of the country or a person who owes permanent allegiance to the U.S. despite not being a citizen. Thus, U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals. There are specific acts where one could lose their U.S. Citizenship. Included among these acts are the following:

  • Entering the military in a foreign country intending to give up U.S. citizenship
  • Running for public office in a foreign country
  • Committing an act of treason
  • Applying for foreign citizenship with the intent to give up U.S. citizenship
  • Naturalized U.S. citizens face reversion of naturalization because of the commission of certain crimes

Renouncing Rights and Privileges of a U.S. Citizen

Renouncing citizenship also means renouncing all the rights and privileges associated with it. In the case of Colon v. U.S. Department of State, the District Court rejected the writ of mandamus filed by Colon directing the Secretary of State to approve the Certificate of Loss of Nationality. The Secretary of State rejected the petition because, even though Colon took an oath of renunciation, he still wanted to retain his right to live in the country while claiming he was no longer a U.S. citizen.

Dual Nationality or Statelessness

A person who renounced their citizenship may become stateless or without government protection. Thus, securing foreign nationality from another country or acquiring dual citizenship is best.

You might encounter specific difficulties if you renounce your citizenship without acquiring another. Included among them is the lack of protection of any government body. You may also encounter difficulty traveling while carrying your U.S. passport. Being stateless may also present various hardships, including difficulty in:

  • Owning or renting a property
  • Finding a job
  • Entering into a marriage
  • Attending school
  • Receiving U.S. government benefits

In addition, the U.S. may ask former citizens to acquire a visa to enter the country. Otherwise, they can also prove their eligibility to enter the country under the Visa Waiver Program.

Non-citizen status could permanently prohibit you from traveling to the United States without a visa. Complications may also arise in other cases. For instance, if the DHS found out that the renunciation of U.S. Citizenship is for tax avoidance purposes, that person will be inadmissible to enter the country under INA.

Note that renunciation of U.S. citizenship will not stop a foreign government from deporting the former U.S. citizen to the United States.

Legal Obligations That Still Apply to Expatriates

Renunciation of U.S. citizenship does not remove your duties with either the military's armed forces or the United States tax laws. Similarly, former U.S. citizens are still eligible to receive social security distributions.

However, the U.S. will still prosecute U.S. citizens who commit crimes, even if they renounce their U.S. citizenship. Furthermore, they might still be subject to exit tax. Thus, U.S. persons cannot escape their liabilities and responsibilities by revoking their nationality.

Form 8854 should be filed with the IRS to renounce tax citizenship formally. This form will be part of the final tax return you will file after renouncing your U.S. citizenship. You must catch up with all your tax law obligations before renunciation of citizenship. File your U.S. tax returns in the past five years. You will file your final tax return in the year of renunciation.

If you have federal tax obligations because of large social security distributions or received U.S. sourced incomes after renouncing your citizenship, you will still be required to file Form 1040NR or Non-Resident Alien Income Tax Return.

Tax Implications for Green Card Holders

Green card holders or lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the U.S. are subject to U.S. income tax on their global income. Moreover, some green card holders might have to pay an exit tax if they choose to relinquish their LPR status. This is the same with the tax consequences faced by U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship.

Can Minor Children Renounce Citizenship?

Citizenship is personal to the American holding that status. Thus, parents cannot renounce the citizenship of their minor children or those who lack sufficient capacity to do so.

However, a minor may renounce their U.S. citizenship by showing a consular officer that they are acting voluntarily without influence from their parents. The minor should also completely understand the consequences or implications of renunciation of U.S. Citizenship.

Minors under 16 years old are presumed not to have the required intent or maturity to renounce their citizenship. Thus, they are given additional safeguards in the process of renunciation. The Department also carefully considers their cases to examine their informed intent, voluntariness, and renouncing their citizenship.

Expatriation Is Permanent

If you consider renouncing your U.S. citizenship, remember that this act is permanent. Once you've renounced your citizenship, it cannot be set aside without a successful judicial appeal or administrative review. However, there are certain cases where the applicant can still have their citizenship reinstated. This applies in the following cases:

  • The person renounced their citizenship before reaching 18 years of age
  • The person lost their U.S. citizenship because of foreign military service while they were under 18

In these cases, the person may seek reinstatement of U.S. citizenship. The process may be done by showing the Department of State the desire to reinstate U.S. citizenship. This desire should be shown within six months after reaching 18 years old.

There are also specific sections related to the administrative review of prior determinations of loss of U.S. citizenship. This can be seen in Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations.

Renouncing Your U.S. Citizenship: Talk to an Immigration Attorney

Renunciation is a straightforward way of showing the intention of relinquishment of U.S. citizenship. Before beginning this irrevocable action, it is best to learn about the legal consequences.

It is recommended that you reach out to an immigration law attorney near you if you are considering becoming an expat. They can give you legal advice about your rights and obligations. This applies, in particular, to tax obligations you might have with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Their expertise can also help you understand the United States Code (U.S.C.), U.S. immigration law, and the rules surrounding renunciation of citizenship. FindLaw has a directory of immigration lawyers in every state.

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