There are two ways loss of US citizenship can occur: first, a naturalized US citizen may lose US citizenship by revocation or otherwise known as de-naturalization and second, a natural born or naturalized US citizen may lose his or her US citizenship through voluntary relinquishment or renunciation of US citizenship. This page will focus on the voluntary relinquishment of US citizenship through renunciation at a US Embassy or Consulate.
A native-born or naturalized US citizen may lose his or her citizenship by voluntarily performing any of the following expatriating acts with the intention of relinquishing citizenship:
- Obtaining naturalization in or taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state after the age of 18;
- Entering or service in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the US or serving in any foreign army as a commissioned or noncommissioned officer;
- Accepting, serving in or performing duties of any office, post or employment of a foreign government;
- Making a formal renunciation of US citizenship before a diplomatic or consular officer on a US Department of State form (see the process to formally renounce US citizenship at a US Embassy or Consulate below) or making a formal written renunciation whenever the US is in a state of war; or
- Committing an act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow or bearing arms against the US.
Formal Renunciation of US Citizenship at a US Embassy or Consulate
Those who wish to formally renounce their US citizenship may do so only outside the United States by appearing in person before a US consular or diplomatic officer and signing an oath of renunciation. Once this is completed, the US Department of State will issue a Certificate of Loss of Nationality along with the person’s cancelled US passport as evidence of the renouncing. The particular process and the timing will vary depending on the US Embassy or Consulate where the renunciation takes place.
Issues Related to the Renunciation of US Citizenship
Renouncing US citizenship is an irrevocable step and cannot be reversed absent a successful administrative or judicial appeal. As initial inquiry, the following should be considered prior to renouncing US citizenship:
- Dual Nationality & Risk of Statelessness: Persons intending to renounce US citizenship should be aware that, unless they already possess a foreign nationality, they may be rendered stateless and, thus, lack the protection of any government when renouncing.
- Travel to the United States: Once a person has renounced US citizenship he or she will be subject to US immigration and nationality law just as any non-US citizen would be. This means that to gain entry into the US, the person will need to obtain a US visa or demonstrate he or she is eligible for admission into the US pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program. Those who are ineligible for entry into the US for prior convictions for certain offenses (even if the conviction occurred while they were a US citizen) will need to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility prior to entry into the United States. Those who renounced US citizenship for tax purposes on or after September 30, 1996 are inadmissible to the United States although the regulation upon which this inadmissibility is based is, in practice, difficult to enforce and a 2003 Congressional report acknowledged that this rule is unworkable.
- Renunciation of Minor Children: A parent may not renounce US citizenship on behalf of their minor children. If a person under the age of 18 wishes to renounce US citizenship he or she must convince the US diplomatic or consular officer that he or 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 or her US citizenship.
- Irrevocability of Renunciation: The act of renunciation is irrevocable and cannot be set aside absent a successful administrative or judicial appeal. An exception exists if someone is renouncing US citizenship before the age of 18 he or she may have that citizenship reinstated if he or she makes that desire known to the US Department of State within six months of attaining the age of 18.
Do you need the help of a US immigration lawyer?
The Law Office of Janice Flynn is able to guide you through the process of renouncing your US citizenship at a US Embassy or Consulate.
Note: The Law Office of Janice Flynn does not provide US tax advice but is able to refer you to a US tax professional, if required.