Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship by persons claiming right of residence in the United States

Section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that “the term ‘national of the United States’ means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.”  Therefore, U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals.  Non-citizen nationality status refers only individuals who were born either in American Samoa or on Swains Island to parents who are not citizens of the United States. Section 349(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481) governs how a U.S. citizen shall lose U.S. nationality. Section 349(a) states: 

A person who is a national of the United States whether, by birth or naturalization, shall lose his nationality by voluntarily performing any of the following acts with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality:

(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; or

(6) making in the United States a formal written renunciation of nationality in such form as may be prescribed by, and before such officer as may be designated by, the Attorney General, whenever the United States shall be in a state of war and the Attorney General shall approve such renunciation as not contrary to the interests of national defense.

Renunciation is the most unequivocal way in which a person can manifest an intention to relinquish U.S. nationality. Since nationality is a status that is personal to the individual U.S. national, it cannot be renounced by a parent or a legal guardian under any set of circumstances. Those contemplating a renunciation of U.S. nationality should understand that renunciation is irrevocable, except as provided in Section 351(b) of the INA, and cannot be cancelled or set aside absent a successful administrative or judicial appeal. Put another way, renunciation cannot be “taken back”, and it does not merely “suspend” nationality but irrevocably relinquishes it. Consequently, renunciation of U.S. nationality is not a step to be taken lightly and should be understaken only after serious thought and reflection.

Pursuant to Section 358 of the INA, the renunciation of one’s U.S. nationality does not result in one’s expatriation until the Department of State approves a Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States (CLN).   

In order for a renunciation under Section 349(a)(5) of the INA to be effective, all of the conditions of the statute must be met. In other words, an individual wishing to renounce U.S. nationality must appear in person and sign an oath of renunciation before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer abroad at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Section 349(b) of the Act provides that:

Any person who has committed or performed any act of expatriation is presumed to have done so voluntarily, but such presumption may be rebutted upon a showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the act or acts committed or performed were not done voluntarily.

In addition, please be aware that:

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Supreme Court have concluded that the intention to relinquish U.S. nationality required for purposes of finding loss of nationality under Section 349(a) of the INA does not exist where a renunciant claims a right to continue to reside in the United States, unless the renunciant demonstrates that residence will be as an alien documented properly under U.S. law.

Renunciations which are not in the form prescribed by the Secretary of State have no legal effect. Moreover, U.S. citizens cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail. Section 349(a)(6) provides for renunciation of U.S. nationality in the United States under certain narrow circumstances. Questions concerning renunciation of U.S. nationality under Section 349(a)(6) should be addressed to the Department of Homeland Security.

Persons who contemplate renunciation of U.S. nationality should be aware that they will experience a great deal of hardship unless they already possess a foreign nationality or are assured of acquiring another nationality shortly after completing their renunciation. In the absence of a second nationality, those individuals would become stateless. As stateless persons, they would not be entitled to the protection of any government. They might also find it difficult or impossible to travel as they would probably not be entitled to a passport from any country. Furthermore, a person who has renounced U.S. nationality will be required to apply for a visa to travel to the United States, just as other aliens do. If found ineligible for a visa, a renunciant could be barred from the United States. Renunciation of American nationality  does not necessarily prevent a former national’s deportation from a foreign country to the United States as an alien.

Persons considering renunciation should also be aware that the fact that they have renounced U.S. nationality may have no effect whatsoever on their U.S. tax or military service obligations. Nor will it allow them to escape possible prosecution for crimes which they may have committed or may commit in the future which violate United States law, or repayment of financial obligations, such as child support payments, previously incurred in the United States or incurred as a United States national abroad. Questions about these matters should be directed to the government agency concerned.

Individuals who have carefully considered the  consequences attendant to the renunciation of U.S. nationality, may contact a U.S. embassy or consulate for an appointment. Moreover, a person in possession of a U.S. passport who renounces U.S. nationality will be asked to submit that passport to the U.S. consular officer for cancellation. If the Department of State approves the CLN, the individual will be ineligible to receive a U.S. passport in the future unless he or she, like any other alien, subsequently naturalizes in the future as a U.S. citizen.

As previously stated, persons contemplating renunciation of U.S. citizenship are reminded that renunciation is irrevocable, except as provided in Section 351(b) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1483), and cannot be cancelled or set aside absent a successful administrative or judicial appeal.

Renunciation is the most unequivocal way by 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 are outside the United States and have any further questions regarding renunciation, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to you for more information. If you are inside the United states and have further questions about renunciation, please contact the Department of Homeland Security.