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Giving up Citizenship on Your Mind?

The Washington Post has an interesting look at famous people who have given up US citizenship. Rock ‘n roll icon Tina Turner recently gave up her citizenship at the US Embassy in Bern, Switzerland.

A recent Wall Street Journal article stated that in 2013, 2369 US citizens expatriated according to figures released from the US Department of Treasury. Intentional renunciation of citizenship is a solemn process that must be voluntarily and knowingly made before a US consular officer. The US State Department administers “Statements of Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Citizenship” under Section 349 (a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The application can take several months and the consular officer may request several interviews to make sure the person has given a good deal of thought to their decision. Of paramount concern is that the individual be doing so voluntarily and with sound mind.

Perhaps less known is that once a US citizen renounces citizenship, he or she becomes an “alien” and is subject to the usual visa and green card requirements as well as grounds of inadmissibility and removeability if coming to the US in the future. There is a specific ground of inadmissibility if one renounced US citizenship for the purpose of avoiding US taxes under Immigration and Nationality Act section 212(a)(10)(e):

Former citizens who renounced citizenship to avoid taxation.–Any alien who is a former citizen of the United States who officially renounces United States citizenship and who is determined by the Attorney General to have renounced United States citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxation by the United States is inadmissible.

In some cases, a discretionary waiver for temporary admission may be permitted. In addition, mere renouncement does not necessarily avoid future US taxation as there may be exit and other taxes due. Because renunciation has so many ramifications concerning taxation, health care, future visits to the US, the potential for statelessness if not a dual national at the time of renunciation, and more issues, getting counsel from a range of professionals is highly advisable before taking such an important and irrevocable action.