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Think Before Renouncing Your US Citizenship

10th August 2011
By Paul Anderson in Immigration Law
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Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the ability of a US citizen to renounce his/her US citizenship.

A person wishing to renounce his/her US Citizenship should do so voluntarily and with intent to relinquish US citizenship, should appear in person before a US consular or diplomatic officer. He/she should do so in a foreign country (normally at a US Embassy or Consulate) and will be required to sign an oath of renunciation.

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no effect legally. US citizens cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while being in US. In fact, US courts have held certain attempts to renounce US citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.

Effects Of Renouncing US Citizenship

Renounce All Rights and Privileges

A US citizen who wants to renounce his/her citizenship cannot decide to retain some of the privileges of citizenship, as this would lead to logical inconsistency with the concept of renunciation. The Department of State will not approve a loss of citizenship in such instances.

Dual Nationality/Statelessness

If you are intending to renounce your American citizenship, you should be aware that, unless you already have a foreign nationality, you might be rendered stateless and will result in the lack of protection from any government. You will also experience difficulty while traveling as you may not be entitled to a passport from any country.

Even if you are not stateless, you have to get a visa to travel to the US, or show that you are eligible for admission pursuant to the terms of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP). If you are considered ineligible for a visa or the VWPP to come to the US, under certain circumstances you could be barred from entering the US. Nonetheless, renunciation of American citizenship may not prevent a foreign country from deporting you back to the US in some non-citizen status.

Tax and Military Obligations

Also, you should also be aware of the fact that if you renounce American citizenship, it may have no effect whatsoever on your US tax or military service obligations. Adding to this, renouncing American citizenship will not allow you to avoid possible prosecution for crimes which you may have committed in the US, or escape the repayment of financial obligations previously incurred in the US or what you incurred as a US citizen abroad.

Renunciation For Minor Children

You cannot renounce US citizenship on behalf of your minor children. Before an oath of renunciation will be administered, a person under the age of eighteen should be able to convince a US diplomatic or consular officer that he/she fully understands the nature and consequences of the oath of renunciation, is not subject to duress or undue influence, and is voluntarily seeking to renounce his/her citizenship.

Renunciation is Irrevocable

Another important fact to consider is that renunciation of American citizenship is irrevocable, except as provided in section 351 of the INA. It cannot be canceled or set aside. However, one who renounced his/her citizenship before the age of eighteen can have that citizenship reinstated if he/she makes that desire known to the Department of State within six months after attaining the age of eighteen.

If you are contemplating renouncing US citizenship, consider the effects of renouncing as described above before jumping to such a conclusion.
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