The US government has no time for people trying to renounce their citizenship

Originally published at: The US government has no time for people trying to renounce their citizenship | Boing Boing


I renounced back in 2016 from here in Amsterdam (it cost more and took longer to stop being American than it did to become Dutch). I had to wait about two weeks for my exit interview (which is baloney and takes 5 minutes). Already by 2019 or so - before Covid - the wait time had gone up to a year and the consulate was telling people they’d be better off flying to the embassy in London for their appointment.

It’s utter crap - especially given that when you acquire a nationality you’re often REQUIRED to renounce the original within a given amount of time.


On the other hand, the Biden administration has very quietly pumped the immigration engine up to full speed and poured nitrous in it, which is awesome.

For those who have never gone through the immigration process - it’s a long, expensive, nightmare. I know the narrative is often how people simply cross the border and instantly have a great paying job, a home, 2 Teslas and free cell phones, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s harder than you think to work illegally, and usually requires a very willing company.

Those who wish to go through the normal process have a long series of paperwork, waiting, interviews, screenings, and even health checks to get through the process. As the person who helps all of my family with their immigration stuff, I see this first hand. But it’s really great to see that Biden has turned up the speed on processing immigration stuff - which is one of the main drivers of illegal immigration. It used to be much easier to go back and forth, and only making it harder caused illegal immigration to go up.

In the Trump era, I filed for a renewal of a green card for one relative. They predicted it would take 9 months and it actually took 13. A filing for another renewal for another relative in February was listed as 6 months and it came up about that. I filed at Thanksgiving for another one, was given 4 month timeline but it actually was done in a month, with the card in hand (another random delay) 3 days after.

It’d be great if we can start processing this stuff faster and move people through the process. Then we can help the expats as well.


The U.S. isn’t going to give up that federal tax revenue (collected no matter if a U.S. citizen lives and works abroad) without making it an onerous process. If the GOP gets its way of establishing a one-party state similar to Putin’s it’s only going to get harder to renounce your citizenship in it.


Right, Once they are in charge Empty G wants us to pay a sin-tax for having disagreed with them.


If she ever gets in charge we’ll be seeing something like this as well:


Oh Fuck, I’m up shits creek then. Life long sinner here…


A sin tax? Dang, all this time I thought it was an Aisin tax, and I thought I was good as I’m more of a Tremec guy.

My Brother in law ponders relinquishing his citizenship every year at tax time.


Can understand (and empathise) with those that want a new citizenship but have to renounce their US citizenship.

I’m fortunate that NZ allows people who are bi… national.

Also the US requires US citizens to report any money held in foreign investments and bank accounts.

So some of my fellow migrant brothahs and sistahs might be tired of this annual rigamarole.

Personally, I don’t find filling out the forms too problematic.


US Immigration isn’t that hard, our green card marriage is still going strong 40 years later

Would you mind sharing what happens in an exit interview for nationality? Do they try to make you change your mind or want to know why you’re leaving?


No need to wait for an exit interview when you can just tell ICE you’re really Mexican and watch them give you a free one-way trip out of the country.

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Forcing people to get married and stay married to migrate doesn’t prove what you think it proves


Sure! I moved to NL in 1994 for originally a 2 year contract, and after 15 years it became obvious to me that I was staying, so I decided to be a responsible citizen and become Dutch. FATCA, which makes it very difficult for US people to have a financial life overseas, was also a contributing but not the main factor.

When I had the interview with the consul in Amsterdam, he asked why I was renouncing (keep in mind, this was just before the number of people renouncing started growing exponentially). I told him I’d decided I was going to be staying in the Netherlands, that I thought the responsible thing to do was to become a citizen, and that the Netherlands required me to renounce my original citizenship (you can keep dual citizenship here through marriage, but my wife’s Canadian / UK). He said it sounded reasonable, he understood, and they were sorry to see me go.

It was actually a really pleasant conversation!


You realize there’s a very similar law in place right now, right? This is from memory so the numbers might be wrong, but if you:

  • Didn’t file income tax for one of the past 10 years,
  • Had an income tax of 250K in one of those years, or
  • Had an income of over 2MM in one of those years,

They decide you’re renouncing for financial reasons and you have to pay, instead of 2K, capital gains on everything you own.

But the IRS will still be after you for taxes.
Because the US is the only country in the world that expects you to pay taxes even when you don’t live and work there.


There is currently a renunciation-related exit tax (section 877) on individuals with a net worth of $2-million+ or an annual net income tax liability of more than $165k or citizens living abroad who haven’t complied with US tax obligations for five years (with a couple of exceptions). It’s levied on unrealised net gains of over $713k at a “mark-to-market” rate. For those expats who don’t renounce but just don’t pay their taxes, the State Dept. won’t renew or issue new passports (which, while miserable, is not quite the same thing as revoking citizenship – one can still be a U.S. citizen without holding a passport).

There are significant differences between the current US law and the Reich Flight Tax, though. The latter (which pre-dated the Nazi takeover) was weaponised by the fascists against Jews and other members of persecuted groups who wanted to leave the country. It quickly went from a somewhat justifiable attempt to prevent tax evasion and significant flight of capital from a country that was already an economic basket case to an extension of the outright programme of theft from persecuted groups that was going on domestically.

The implementation of the exit tax was also very different, of course. In the U.S. currently, a person subject to the exit tax is likely already doing so from a position of relative comfort (in terms of wealth and immigration/visa status) outside the country. They’re paying a well-defined and non-arbitrary exit tax for the privilege of being able to travel back to the U.S. under their new passport at some point in the future.

Contrast that with the situation of a Jew trying to escape the German fascist regime in the period before Jewish emigration was cut off completely (several months before the Wansee Conference formalised the “Final Solution”). Not only were certain ethnic and political enemies targetted, not only was the duress they were under much greater, not only was the renunciation of citizenship effectively involuntary, and not only was the person leaving becoming a stateless person/refugee but there were procedural differences. A certificate of compliance with the exit-tax regime had to be presented at a border exit control (something that doesn’t currently exist in the U.S.). That tax regime was constantly changing, confiscation amounts constantly and rapidly increasing, and was in the hands of capricious bureaucrats of a sado-populist state.

tl;dr: while there is a current exit tax for wealthy people wishing to renounce U.S. citizenship, it is not all that similar in purpose or practise to the Nazi Reich Flight Tax (which is the model that Empty Greene and her ilk would implement given the chance).


When I obtained Japanese citizenship, I had to sign a pledge vowing to renounce all other citizenships “as soon as I am able to” (some countries, like Iran, have no process for renouncing citizenship, and that is why that proviso is in there).

I wonder if the hassle and cost of renouncing US citizenship rise to the level of “unable to.”


If you’re not wealthy enough to be impacted by the exit tax, it really comes down to whether or not you want to go through the annual paperwork rigamorole of getting a certain amount of your Japanese income exempted from U.S. taxes under the treaty or just want get it over with and go through the renunciation process. That pledge is rarely enforced or followed up on in most OECD liberal democracies unless you want a government or national security job or if you end up in trouble with the law.