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Friday, September 18, 2015

US State Department Confirms the New Consular Fee for Expatriation

The US State Department has finally responded to those of us who took exception to the rather extraordinary rise in the fee to renounce US citizenship.  It now costs $2,350 USD for an American citizen to exercise his or right under international law to expatriate.

Does this fee constitute a barrier to exercising that right?  The State Department doesn't think so.  I disagree and it's not just the fee that's the problem, it's the entire process which is cumbersome, time-consuming and, yes, costly for everyone - renunciants and State Department alike.

A US citizen wishing to renounce or relinquish citizenship must travel to the nearest US consulate which may be in a city far from where he or she actually lives.  There can be more than one interview required which means multiple trips.   Some of the paperwork is complex enough it would be wise to consult a lawyer before filling them out and filing the tax and bank account declarations.   All of these things taken together make that high consular fee another burden laid on top of the others that already exist.  The onus should be on the State Department to show that these burdens are legitimate and necessary.

In the State Department response they offer their justifications for the fee raise and answer those of us who sent comments.  For this they have my thanks.  I and others have answered other agencies' requests for comments on matters concerning Americans abroad, and never received the dignity of a reply.  I may not like the answers but I appreciate that they took the time.

State argues that there is no burden, no restrictions on the right to expatriate and there is nothing punitive about the fee raise.   It is, they say, a matter of money.

"Rather, the fee is a cost-based user fee for consular services. Conforming to guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), federal agencies make every effort to ensure that each service provided to specific recipients is self-sustaining, charging fees that are sufficient to recover the full cost to the government."

A perfectly reasonable argument if we were talking about something like, say, camping in a national park.  Not so reasonable when it concerns a fundamental human right guaranteed by national or international law.  It certainly costs money for US civilians and military to vote from abroad, but could we really argue that the FVAP and the local consulates should start charging overseas voters for providing services like the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot?

That analogy is not perfect but the underlying principle is the same.  There are things that government does for which it has both a monopoly and a duty to provide services to its citizens in the exercise of their rights.  Voting is not just another service , and neither is expatriation.

 My take on this is that there should be no fee for renunciations, relinquishments or requests for CLNs.  The first two concern a fundamental human right for which I contend cost should never be an issue.  As for the last, the CLN, this is a necessary document, the only one that exists to prove that one is no longer a US citizen and is often required by states that do not allow dual citizenship. 

If that's not possible then I'd propose an option to waive the fee if the renunciant can demonstrate that it would be a financial hardship to pay it.  That would be a very reasonable compromise and one that would be more consistent with what State claims is their goal:  protecting a US citizen's right to expatriate.


Blaze said...

On top of all of that, there is a huge waiting line at some U.S. Consulates. The last I heard, it was about 10 months in Toronto.

There should be a simple solution. Do like Canada and many countries around the world do. Allow renunciation via mail for a small fee. I think the Canadian fee is $100.

Oh wait. The United States of Arrogance does not understand simple.

Tim said...

One of the issues is the US State Department is actually on record as saying there is NOT a fundamental right of expatriation under Customary International Law. From the standpoint of the US the right of expatriation is simply something created by Congress and that can be taken back or modified by Congress at any time.

This view of expatriation also appears to be supported by many European lawyers who went to France's and Europe's finest schools from the looks of the latest document dump on FATCA I have seen come out of Brussels.

Anonymous said...

All these problems seem to be created by the current adminstration. It is supposed to be about "change" and "transparent". Now Take a good look at the secretive Health Care bill, Iranian deal. And also FATCA hidden in Hire Act.
No wonder Trump is popular as we can't seem to trust any good old professional politicians.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Blaze, State is argues that US citizenship law is very complex and that the US court cases have created this requirement that the the US government must go to great lengths to ensure tht the renunciation is done voluntarily. The first is simply not true - citizenship law is very complex in many countries and can be a bizarre mix of jus soli and jus sanguinas laws which are refined or changed again and again. Colonies, wars and border shifts make it even more problematic in some places. France is a good example - they've tried damn near everything- and there are others. Now the requirement that the renunciation be entirely voluntary is exceptional - most countries just take your word for it and don't ask too many questions. Why can't State do that? I don't know and I would love to have some insight into their reasoning and how that has been instantiated in the process - two interviews and so on.

@Tim, Do you have a link? I would love to do a follow-up post on how State views expatriation.

Yep, support for "perpetual allegiance" is still around.

@Anonymous, One EU MP calls that policy laundering. Politicians hide what they want to do by slipping it into another bill or holding a vote when the public is looking the other way. That way it never comes up for public debate. And this means that ignorance of the law is not an exception, it's the rule.

Anonymous said...

On the related topic of FATCA, see that FATCA IGA Model 1 countries do NOT have to send the FATCA data until September 2016 now.

"FATCA Update: Treasury Relaxes September 30 Deadline for Model 1 IGA Jurisdictions to Exchange Tax Information
Posted on September 18, 2015 by Matthew D. Lee

With less than two weeks remaining until many countries are required to exchange tax information with the U.S. pursuant to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), the U.S. has agreed to provide partner jurisdictions with more time to implement information exchange systems. Today, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2015-66 which relaxes the September 30, 2015, deadline for countries which have signed Model 1 Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) to hand over information regarding accounts held by U.S. taxpayers......"

The catch? Your country has to request the extension, it isn't automatic.

So, bombard your government with demands that it request the extension. Otherwise, your government is willfully turning it over BEFORE it has to.
See also;

Anonymous said...

FATCA One Year On: 48% Of Americans Abroad Want A President Who Would Repeal It

Sick and tired said...

Fees and more fees. Bigger fees are always needed to feed the bigger government. Take a look at the recent big taxes increase in Chicago. Who wants to live there except those who are trapped.

Pope needs to know real works and real business risks are needed .Who pays for the Pope's visit ?
Nothing in life is equal and cannot be equal. If everything is equal, there will be no nature, there will be no civilization.

Anonymous said...

Fatca is destroying Americans and privacy.
It just made that Ccommunity Organiazer looks good.