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Renunciation of U.S. Nationality

A. THE IMMIGRATION & NATIONALITY ACT

Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5)) is the section of law governing the right of a United States citizen to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship. That section of law provides for the loss of nationality by voluntarily

"(5) making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state , in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State" (emphasis added).

B. ELEMENTS OF RENUNCIATION

A person wishing to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship:

  1. appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer,
  2. in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and
  3. sign an oath of renunciation

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. Because of the provisions of Section 349(a)(5), U.S. citizens cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while in the United States. In fact, U.S. courts have held certain attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.

C. REQUIREMENT - RENOUNCE ALL RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

a person seeking to renounce U.S. citizenship must renounce all the rights and privileges associated with such citizenships.  In the case of Colon v. U.S. Department of State , 2 F.Supp.2d 43 (1998),the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Colon’s petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to approve a Certificate of Loss of Nationality in the case because he wanted to retain the right to live in the United States while claiming he was not a U.S. citizen. 

D. DUAL NATIONALITY / STATELESSNESS

Persons intending to renounce U.S. 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. They may also have difficulty traveling as they may not be entitled to a passport from any country. Even if not stateless, former U.S. citizens would still be required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States, or show that they are eligible for admission pursuant to the terms of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP).  Renunciation of U.S. citizenship may not prevent a foreign country from deporting that individual  to the United States in some non-citizen status.

E. TAX & MILITARY OBLIGATIONS /NO ESCAPE FROM PROSECUTION

Persons who wish to renounce U.S. citizenship should be aware of the fact that renunciation of U.S. citizenship may have no effect whatsoever on his or her U.S. tax or military service obligations (contact the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Selective Service for more information). In addition, the act of renouncing U.S. citizenship does not allow persons to avoid possible prosecution for crimes which they may have committed in the United States, or escape the repayment of financial obligations previously incurred in the United States or incurred as United States citizens abroad.

F. RENUNCIATION FOR MINOR CHILDREN/INCOMPETENTS

Citizenship is a status that is personal to the U.S. citizen.  Therefore parents may not renounce the citizenship of their minor children.  Similarly, parents/legal guardians may not renounce the citizenship of individuals who are mentally incompetent.  Minors seeking to renounce their U.S. citizenship must demonstrate to a consular officer that they are acting voluntarily and that they fully understand the implications/consequences attendant to the renunciation of U.S. citizenship.

G. IRREVOCABILITY OF RENUNCIATION

Finally, those contemplating a renunciation of U.S. citizenship should understand that the act is irrevocable, except as provided in section 351 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1483), and cannot be canceled or set aside absent successful administrative or judicial appeal. (Section 351(b) of the INA provides that an applicant who renounced his or her U.S. citizenship before the age of eighteen can have that citizenship reinstated if he or she makes that desire known to the Department of State within six months after attaining the age of eighteen. See also Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations, section 50.20).

Renunciation is the most unequivocal way in which a person can manifest an intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Please consider the effects of renouncing U.S. citizenship, described above, before taking this serious and irrevocable action. If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please contact:


Regular Mail

U.S. Department of State
CA/OCS/L
SA-17, 10th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20522-1710

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