Friday, January 6, 2012

Renouncing your citizenship

For many people who wish to leave the US (I couldn't say for other countries), I often hear of them talking about "renouncing their citizenship". Invariably, this is a political thought rather than a "I want to see the world" thought and something I usually hear in association with fairy tale expat fantasies. For Americans living abroad, though, it's becoming a more common topic. With the CEO of the Luxembourg Banker's Association now referring to Americans as toxic liabilities due to FATCA, Americans being denied banking overseas, and how many expats are double-taxed (depending on your income sources, this is easy to have happen even if you don't make a lot of money), I'm seeing more Americans on expat boards, Facebook expat groups and other places openly discussing renunciation.

Or maybe you love your new country, want to stay there, but you have to apply for citizenship to do so. As many countries don't allow dual citizenship, you wouldn't be "renouncing" your citizenship as much as exchanging it (depending on your point of view, you could also say "upgrading" or "downgrading").

Sooner or later, many expats are going to ask themselves whether or not they should give up their original citizenship, but they're not aware of the process.

I take no stance on whether or not you should give up your citizenship. It's a very personal decision and I couldn't possibly be one to judge, but if you do wish to give up your citizenship, you'll be happy to know that there is now a comprehensive citizenship renunciation guide on the Web. I've read through it and double-checked a lot of the information and it looks solid.

Here are a few key points:

  • You do not have have citizenship in another country to renounce (but you'd be an idiot not to).
  • You have to apply at an appropriate foreign consulate.
  • You do not have to have your taxes paid (but the IRS will come after you later).
  • You can't get your citizenship back unless you go through the same painful process as all other immigrants
  • You will not be denied reentry to the US, but only to the extent that your new citizenship allows it

Be aware that this is a drastic step. For those who foolishly consider "renouncing" without having another citizenship, that just means you'd be stateless and have nowhere to go.  In fact, I'm only aware of two Americans in history who have ever voluntarily become stateless, Mike Gogulski and Garry Davis. It's generally not a pretty position to be in.


  1. Just in the way of information sharing.

    Are you aware of this blog in Canada who is trying to educate all Canadians about the issues of US Citizen taxation issues? There are also discussions of the Renouncing your citizenship.

    You might want to read some of the posts and comments there...

    Also, if you are in the OVDI, I hope you are reading Jack Townsends Blog. Here is the homepage...

    If you are not, I would encourage you to go through the archives and have a read.

    Best wishes..

  2. A couple of interesting and somewhat pertinent articles from the Economist on the issue of dual citizenship...

  3. I'm not sure whether or not I'm being called a fool here, but no matter -- I've certainly been called worse. As to the "nowhere to go" bit, in my personal situation, my cage is the Schengen treaty's visa-free travel area. Not too shabby a cage, in my view.

  4. @Mike: You appear to have thought carefully about what you're doing and why. While I wouldn't choose the same route as you, I think most people who would consider are definitely being foolish because they don't know what they're getting into.

    You appear to have clear reasons for what you're doing and while I certainly would not choose to be stateless, I commend you for having the courage to live up to your convictions!

  5. Some more great info on renouncing: