How to Voluntarily Give Up (Renounce) U.S. Citizenship

If you've assessed the pros and cons and want to give up your U.S. passport and citizenship, here's how.

U.S. citizens (or nationals) who choose to formally give up (renounce) their U.S. citizenship (nationality) may do so for a variety of reasons. Whether they are binationals with no history of contacts to the U.S., or recent expatriates wishing to be relieved of their obligations to the U.S. government, would-be “renunciants” – as they are called – need not express any particular motive for their decision, although U.S. officials may inquire to make sure that the renunciation is voluntary and intended.

Children under 16 and incompetent dependents will be presumed not to have the requisite intent to renounce their nationality, and, at any rate, minors who turn 18 after an act of renunciation will be given six months to change their mind. (Note also that parents and guardians will not be allowed to renounce the U.S. nationality of their minor child or incompetent dependent.)

Qualified would-be renunciants should, however, very carefully consider the likely consequences of their intended course of action before proceeding.

Consequences of Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

The act of renunciation, with the above-mentioned exception for minors, is irrevocable – meaning that renunciants do not get to change their mind or to otherwise regain their U.S. nationality after taking this step.

Renunciation carries a number of negative consequences: It triggers an expatriation or exit tax for certain high-income or high-net-worth citizens, requires that the renunciant’s identity be made public, and limits future access to certain goods and opportunities which the former citizen may have once taken for granted.

Moreover, renunciants who are found to have been motivated by tax-avoidance purposes (which the U.S. government used to presume in certain high income or high net worth cases in the past) will be permanently barred from returning to the U.S. in any status.

At the same time, the desired consequences of renunciation may fail to live up to the renunciants’ expectations: They may find that their tax burden, as well as their (potential) military obligations or other liabilities to the U.S., have not changed as quickly and as significantly as anticipated. (Their financial and other obligations to private parties such as banks will remain the same.) In addition, if they have failed to secure citizenship in another country, they might find that their act does not prevent them from being removed (deported) back to the U.S. in another status.

Nevertheless, for those would-be renunciants who have carefully weighed all the pros and cons, this article aims to clarify the procedures that must be followed in order to reach their goal.

Procedures for Formally Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

If you wish to renounce your U.S. nationality, you would be well-advised, first of all, to obtain a document confirming that you hold citizenship in another country (in order to avoid becoming stateless).

Then, once you are ready to proceed, you will need to appear in person before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer abroad. (You may pick any embassy or consulate, whether in a foreign country where you reside or not.)

You will be given two interviews. At the initial interview, the officer will attempt to inquire as to your intent and inform you of the consequences of your intended course of action – he or she will hand you various brochures. You will need to express your acknowledgement of this information by signing Form DS-4081, Statement of Understanding Concerning the Consequences and Ramifications of Relinquishment or Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship, available from the Official Forms page of the State Department website.

At your second interview, you will be administered an oath, which you will endorse by signing State Department Form DS-4080, Oath of Renunciation of the Nationality of the United States. You will be required to pay a nonrefundable fee of $2,350 for processing the form.

After accepting your form, the consular officer will forward a Certificate of Loss of Nationality, with a written report, to State Department headquarters in the U.S. (The report will include the officer’s observations regarding the circumstances of your appearance there.)

It will then be up to the State Department to approve your Certificate, which will later be forwarded to you or your representative. (There is currently no clear procedure for appeals of the agency’s decisions; but you could request an internal review if you do not obtain your desired outcome.)

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