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Thursday, August 28, 2014

US Citizenship Renunciation Fees to be Raised 422%

The rumours over at the Isaac Brock Society are confirmed.  This morning in my mailbox was this link from a lovely lady in the UK.

Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship About to Get More Expensive: From $450 to $2,350

That is, as the blogger points out, a 422% increase.

And the State Department's justification for this rather outrageous fee raise?

Well, it's a complicated labor-intensive procedure:
"The CoSM demonstrated that documenting a U.S. citizen’s renunciation of citizenship is extremely costly, requiring American consular officers overseas to spend substantial amounts of time to accept, process, and adjudicate cases. For example, consular officers must confirm that the potential renunciant fully understands the consequences of renunciation, including losing the right to reside in the United States without documentation as an alien. Other steps include verifying that the renunciant is a U.S. citizen, conducting a minimum of two intensive interviews with the potential renunciant, and reviewing at least three consular systems before administering the oath of renunciation. The final approval of the loss of nationality must be done by law within the Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C., after which the case is returned to the consular officer overseas for final delivery of the Certificate of Loss of Nationality to the renunciant."
And demand for this service is strong (yep, they say that).  450 USD, they say, was already below cost and they are just raising the fee in order to not lose (more) money on the service.

Now I'm just an old lady and I don't pretend to be the brightest crayon in the box but if the goal here is to "break even" then they are looking at this all wrong.  Read the outline of the procedure again. Does that sound efficient to you?  Just the assumption that any US citizen showing up to renounce his US citizenship doesn't really understand what he/she is doing and has to have it explained ad nauseum (intensive interviews?) and then be sent off to a corner like a little kid to reflect on it before being allowed to come back and do the deed, is just ridiculous.  Right there I'd say just treating people like adults and assuming that they do know their own mind would save a lot of time, money and hassle all around.

And the narrative that will come out of this fee raise is not likely to focus on "cost recovery" at US consulates around the world but on what is going to be perceived as a punitive act on the part of the US government.  It looks like they are so embarrassed by the renunciation numbers and the lines to renounce at the US consulates that they are looking for ways to reduce or slow down the demand.  Think about that.  Has the state of US citizenship in the world really come to the point where the US government thinks that Americans have to be actively discouraged from renouncing?  

That is what people are likely to take away from this news.  That the United States is trying to keep it's citizens captive by finding quasi-legal methods to interfere with their right to expatriate under international law.

(And there is a very good post and a lively discussion (as always) over at the Isaac Brock Society here.  79 comments already as I type this. )


allou said...

Yes Victoria once again you are spot-on. I will say that the service when I renounced was fairly efficient. First I had sent a letter (yes an old-fashioned one with a stamp) explaining why I felt my allegiance was no longer shared with the US and my other country. Then the oath part was straightforward with no questions aside from the necessary ones on the form. Very polite. And then the long wait for the CLN - 8 months. I know others who renounced the same consulate - they are still waiting after 10 months. So there has been an obvious slow-down and it is very tempting to believe that yes - there is some sort of message from higher up to the consulates, or else at the offices issuing CLNs to slow down the process.

AtticusinCanada said...

It is interesting they state it requires a mimimum of two intensive interviews. They have not been doing that at all. They have been accepting one visit and I'd hardly say the appointment I had included even one "intensive interview" The time i spent with the consular officer was less than ten minutes total.

Anonymous said...

We see it here again that the US is a very punitive society.
It strikes me the stupidity of the people who make such decisions.
1) They are betting on the fact that no one is going to complain that this is becoming a violation of international law, when the fees become prohibitive for a lot of people.
2) They are giving the Canadian people who initiated the lawsuit against the government of Canada the silver bullet to strike the IGA down.

Just plain stupid...

They need like in France, a reshuffling of their government.

Anonymous said...

Well, not much attention was given to the fact that the exit tax is an unconstitutional barrier to the exercise of the right to expatriate, or that it is fundamentally wrong to punish US people because of the expatriation of their relatives (section 2801), so I don't hold out any hope that this latest, substantial, deterrent to the exercise of the right to expatriate by people more humble than "covered expatriates" will be changed anytime soon.

P. Moore said...

Another way to look at it is from a demand perspective. To renounce Canadian citizenship, the fee is CAD100.00. Also, you simply have to complete a form and send it in along with your receipt number for the 100 bucks. Now the price of a US renunciation is 25 times higher and the process much more onerous. Clearly the demand is much greater. America should hang her head in shame.

Blaze said...

As a wise person (I don't remember who)said in the early stages of Brock, the United States used to punish people for becoming citizens of other countries by stripping them of U.S. citizenship. Now they punish them by trying to force U.S. citizenship on them.

Michael Putman said...

Don't buy their explanation at DOS. It costs much less even to apply for citizenship in the first place, still less for a passport. Either should require more care and paperwork on their end than simply taking back an old passport and a signed affirmation and typing up a CLN.

This is clearly a bureaucratic obfuscation a la East Berlin.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Just for fun I went looking for the reverse process - the one where one applies to prove that one is a US citizen.

I found one. The document is called a Certificate of Citizenship (US). It's a pretty ghastly form, interviews are sometimes required, and the fee is...

600 USD (unless one is a veteran).

I thought that was pretty steep but it's in line with the original 450 USD renunciation fee.

Granted we are talking about two different agencies: USCIS and State.

Still, seems to me that the two procedures should be roughly equivalent and so in theory cost about the same. What do you think?

Unknown said...

As you probably know, Green Card holders lose their US residency privileges if they remain outside the US for more than two years. However, they remain "US Persons" for tax purposes unless the formally give up their Green Card.

What is the fee for this?

Anonymous said...

The process in Toronto required only one session vs. the two the State Department is claiming in order to rationalize this unconscionable rationing of services and blatant attempt to slow the rate of expatriations or make money off the fees.

Disgusting and disingenuous attempt to raise a Berlin Wall to keep those already born and /or living outside the US as subjects forever.

I filled out the incomprehensible forms in advance. I had all my supporting documents ready. My expatriation was a slam dunk, but the consular official was needlessly abrasive and confrontational throughout - and wasted time trying to get me to say more than required. He acted as if I represented a personal affront to him, and he asked more than once "why now?". None of his business. Reasons not required. It is our universal human right to choose our citizenship, and we choose not to continue to be held in thrall by a nation whose representatives publicly abuse us with baseless claims that we are evading US taxes and that our local legal accounts are 'hidden' - despite being post-tax, and registered with our local tax number and subject to the layers of oversight and taxation that our own true home country provides.

The US is a bully who routinely abuses its might, and here is just another example - preventing people from expatriating who are already outside the US, use no US services, pay taxes in full where they live, work, and raise their non-US families - outside the US. Many born abroad, as citizens of other countries.

What shameful and low behaviour.

Who would want to retain even a symbolic and sentimental attachment to such an abusive nation?

Lesson to the rest of the globe:
If this is how the US treats those it claims as its own citizens, then how will it treat those who are not?

This latest baldfaced attempt to punish those abroad just makes the human rights violation even more obvious and compelling.

Anonymous said...

The ACA, AARO and other expat organizations need to acknowledge this latest affront to those abroad. If the ACA is silent on this because they don't want to acknowledge expatriations, then they lose credibility. Even if expats choose to try and continue to placate the US and retain US citizenship, they need to know that if necessary, if they can no longer afford the tax lawyers and accountants and inability to have a financial account where they live outside the US, and to save locally and have pensions, etc. they will need to know that the price won't go up again with no notice to 5,000. etc. There is no ceiling apparently. The State Dept. can do whatever it likes, as the IRS and Treasury already have. The Democrats and the President who promised in 2008 to listen to and to represent the interests of ALL Americans - including those abroad remains obdurately silent though we have written to him repeatedly as well as to our representatives. That means that what we have endured is okay with him - he has given his tacit consent - along with all the fellow Democrats who also do not speak up, and who voted for FATCA under the HIRE Act.

What an empty promise that was in the official 2008 platform naming Americans Abroad as a 'group of special interest', and there was not even a token trace of any such 'special interest' in 2012, or now. Convenient at the time in 2008, and apparently inconvenient and of no interest and no importance after winning the election.

What fools we were to believe what was promised and to vote accordingly.

Anonymous said...

I just contributed USD 500 to FATCA Legal Action. No problems whatsoever using their online donation portal.

I will contribute another CAD 500 to ADCS-ADSC next week.

These law suits are going to set me back some. But I simply cannot allow a totalitarian government to get away with such wanton abuse without doing my part to fight against it.

Thank you ADCS-ADSC and thank you Republicans Overseas for making these lawsuits happen.

But most of all, a big thank you to all the brave souls (plaintiffs and witnesses) who are putting themselves directly in the line of fire from the meanest bully on this planet.

A big hat tip of respect to each and every one of them!

Anonymous said...

The complaint recently made to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is a very important step.

Another front really needs to be opened with a complaint made to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.