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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Want to Renounce? Join the Queue....

Patrick Cain of Global News has some new information about U.S. citizenship renunciations in his recent article,  Want to shed U.S. citizenship? Get in line.  He's reporting that the U.S. embassy in Toronto, Canada has so many requests for renunciation interviews that the first available appointment is now late January 2015.

For months now rumours have been floating around that such and such U.S. embassy's renunciation appointment calendar is filled up (Paris, for example) but this is the first hard evidence I've seen and it comes from a country that has one of the largest U.S. citizen populations in the world. Canada is estimated to have around a million U.S. citizens (that includes duals) while the American "colony" in Paris probably does not exceed 100,000.  But even in Paris there is anecdotal evidence that the embassy is struggling to meet the demand.  When a French citizen was outed as a U.S. citizen by his French bank earlier this year, Le Figaro had this to say:
"Désarçonné, le Franco-Américain, qui n'a aucune attache outre-Atlantique, envisage alors de renoncer à cette pesante nationalité. Mais renseignement pris auprès de l'ambassade américaine, le délai est bien trop long (plusieurs mois)."
("Flabbergasted, this Franco-American, who has no attachments on the other side of the Atlantic, thought to renounce this unwanted nationality. But after inquiring at the American embassy, the delay [to renounce] was too long (several months).")
Phil Hogden's commentary on the Cain article is quite good.  His last point in particular which is about the official renunciation procedure which went from one appointment to two appointments and is now back to one.  Why it went to two in the first place is any one's guess (and furthermore it does not seem to have been consistently applied in all U.S. embassies worldwide) but, yes, it does look like an attempt to slow down the process and get people to reflect (perhaps change their minds?) before the deed is done.

And how many of those renunciations actually end up on the Name and Shame list in the Federal Register is any one's guess.  What we do know is that there are individuals out there who have publicly renounced and for some reason their names were never included (or were included many months after the deed).  Some of them are quite miffed about it.

Renunciations are not, however, the whole story.  To appreciate the magnitude of this "rush to the exit" phenomenon and its impact on U.S. citizenship, I suggest that two other numbers should be looked into as well.

1.  Certificates of Loss of Nationality.  There is renunciation and there is relinquishment and the latter is often touted as an easier, softer, cheaper way.  Maple Sandbox has a good explanation of the difference here but, in a nutshell, a U.S. citizen just has to commit an expatriating act with the intention of giving up U.S. citizenship to be halfway out the door.

One of those acts is taking on another citizenship.  So  what can happen is an American citizen who became a Canadian citizen in 1972 and never renewed her US passport or voted (or any other act that might imply that she wanted to remain an American citizen) can file papers with the local consulate documenting the act and the intent and requesting a certificate of loss of nationality (CLN) backdated to 1972 when the relinquishing act was performed.

And what works for her will also work for someone who took on, say, Italian citizenship a few days ago.  He can go to the local U.S. consulate and file the same papers and then wait for the CLN to come in the mail.   Not all cases are as simple as these two but hopefully you get the gist.

But what that means is that the most accurate number of U.S. citizenship renunciations/ relinquishments is not the count in the Federal Register but the number of Certificates of Loss of Nationality issued (renunciations + relinquishments = CLNs).

2.  Consular Reports of Birth Abroad:  U.S. citizens abroad can go to the local consulate in the host country to report the birth of a new US citizen (a child born abroad to parent(s) who fulfill the requirements to pass along their U.S. citizenship to their offspring).  The purpose of such a pilgrimage to the local consulate is to get a determination that the child was indeed born an American citizen and acquire the documentation necessary to, say, apply for a US passport.

But here's the kicker - this is entirely voluntary.  No American parent abroad has to make such a report and furthermore reporting or not reporting the birth makes no difference whatsoever in the status of that child:  if his parent(s) fulfilled the requirements for passing along US citizenship then that child is a US citizen by birth, albeit an undocumented one.  Nothing prevents that child from claiming US birthright citizenship later in life.  It's just a matter of gathering the right paperwork.

So put yourself in the position of an American abroad with a new baby.  Do you report the birth and get the passport/social security number right away? Or do you wait until the child can make up his or her own mind whether he wishes to claim US citizenship or not?

There is anecdotal evidence that the latter is becoming more and more common and that would make sense.  But is it true?  No one knows.

Both of these things should be looked into by an intrepid, inquisitive soul in order to get a much better perspective on the state of US citizenship today.  A simple Freedom of Information Act request should suffice.

(And before I forget, there are rumours that the current US citizenship renunciation fee will be raised from 450 USD to 2 or 3,000 USD.  No idea where it came from but welcome to an Internet world, folks, where information flows fast and furious and where a US cit with news in China can pass that info along to a US cit in Germany in minutes.  And that is also something to look into - the new American abroad networks which connect American communities around the world.  Something to watch and frankly I am amazed that more migration experts in the US haven't clued into this yet...) 


USCitizenAbroad said...

Nice post. How about adding this:

There are two kinds of relinquishments.

1. There are the relinquishments as defined by U.S. law in S. 349(a) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (whether documented or not). The view of the United States is that it has the right to determine one's citizenship.

2. But, many people are practicing "citizenship self help". These people make the decision to have no further contact with the U.S. This is a much larger group. They have made the decision that they neither consider themselves to be nor will allow the anybody else to consider them to be U.S. citizens. In other words, they are just vanishing.

Hardly a surprise when the most frightening question for a person living outside the United States today is:

"Are you or have you even been a U.S. citizen?"

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Very good point. Peter Spiro has talked about the possiblity of Secret Americans (put the passport in a drawer and forget about it) on Opinio Juris and one of his latest posts about it is well worth reading

So how could this phenomenon be measured? What would be the indicators? Passports not renewed? Any ideas, anyone?

Rowan M. said...

I had to laugh at the irony of the US gov't spending so much in time and resources deporting undocumented illegals in the country but then so unwilling to let go of the undocumented legals outside the country. (I know you were making a different point, but a country that can't figure what its immigration policy is for illegal residents doesn't stand much of a chance resolving the complexities for emigration of legal nonresidents.)

Anonymous said...

As Anonymous1 said above, reports on IBS from the Vancouver and Calgary consulates that consular staff said the fee was about to go up.

'Renounce now with this limited-time offer! (Some conditions may apply.)'

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Rowan, you are absolutely right. Oh the irony! :-)

@Badger and Anonymous,
That is just inadmissible - utter bullcrap. Raising it to four figures? Just because people are exercising their right to expatriate under international law? No way. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I find it funny that it is so hard and expensive to renounce citizenship. Why do they care, really?

Unknown said...

this is one of the services we get with the tax money


Anonymous said...

Get your CLN now before the price goes up 500%.

Uncle Sam is so desperate to grab expats' money he's stooped to the level of CLN scalping.

Such a sorry state of affairs. America's founders are rolling in their graves.

Kirk said...

About relinquishment; US citizens have been allowed to have dual nationality for decades. I have it, and the US has no problem with it. Why is this act now considered to be a potential relinquishing act?

Kirk (who is now looking for a way to become a non-American)

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Kirk, getting naturalized in another state used to be an expatriating act that got you stripped of US citizenship. That changed in the 1990's and now it's only potentially expatriating.

It's all about "intent". A US cit can take on another citizenship with the intention of becoming a dual OR with the intention to give up US citizenship. If you do the latter then you have to be careful. You cannot, for example, become a citizen of Spain, renew your US passport, vote in US elections and then turn around and say, "I never intended to keep my US citizenship." Your actions, they will say, prove that your intent was to be dual. In that case you cannot relinquish, you must renounce.

But if you take on, say, Korean citizenship then you march down to the US consulate right away and document your intent: "I became Korean with the intent to give up US citizenship" that will get you your CLN tout de suite.

In between those two cases are the hard cases. Let's say you believed that you lost your US citizenship years ago and now you see FATCA on the horizon and you want it documented that you are NOT a US citizen. There's a form to file: DS 4079. Request for determination of possible loss of US citizenship and that is where you make your case.

I seem to recall on Brock seeing at least one where the individual did renew a US passport after taking on another citizenship but nonetheless was given a determination that he relinquished and he was given his CLN.

Any Brockers in the hall who can confirm that?

Pacifica said...

@ Kirk,

The key word is “potentially” relinquishing act. If depends on if the person has the intention of relinquishing US citizenship by performing the act or not.

Eg, if a person naturalises in a foreign country, they can do so with the intent of simultaneously terminating their US citizenship or they can do so with the intent of retaining their US citizenship and being a dual citizen. The administrative presumption for the past approx 30 years is that the person had the intention to retain US citizenship. It’s a rebuttable presumption, though.

Intent, being in a person's mind, generally can’t be proven, only inferred. So if a person is applying for a Certificate of Loss of Nationality based on a past relinquishing act, the answers on one’s form DS-4079 questionnaire (do you vote in the US, what passport do you use, etc …) can illustrate the person’s intent from their behaviour after the date on which they claim to have relinquished. There are also questions such as did you perform the act with the intent to relinquish; if so, please explain, etc. (If a person is planning to naturalise – or perform any potentially relinquishing act – in the near future, they could also prepare a statement in advance, stating that they will be performing such act with the intent of relinquishing their US citizenship, and submit that statement with the CLN application as well.)

I used the example of naturalising. There are several other potentially relinquishing acts. Potentially relinquishing acts and the requisite conditions for them to be effective are listed in Immigration and Nationality Act, s. 349(a).

DS-4079. Request for Determination of Possible Loss of US Citizenship.

Catherine said...

I'd be curious to see the renunciation rate country by country. Wouldn't that be fascinating?

Anonymous said...

Glad I expatriated when I did. Should have done it sooner. Wish I hadn't remained a US citizen, and delayed taking citizenship where I live because for decades, both countries forced me to give up one or refrain from the other. Should not have tried to keep what was a symbolic and largely sentimental status of birthplace - which has turned out to be a significant threat to the wellbeing and security of my non-US family and myself.

So sorry that I tried to retain my birthright and connection.

The US didn't deserve my loyalty or my emotional attachment.

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