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State Department Substantially Increases Fee for Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship

Us-passport.jpgThe U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced a significant increase in the fee it charges to process renunciations of U.S. citizenship. The DOS states in its Interim Rule, published in the Federal Register on August 28, 2014, that processing expatriations is both costly and complicated, requiring extensive investigation by consular officials overseas, followed by final approval in Washington, DC. Under the new fee structure, which took effect on September 6, 2014, the processing fee has increased from $450 to $2,350.

The number of renunciations of U.S. citizenship, also known as expatriations, has reportedly shown a sharp increase in the past two years: 932 in 2012, nearly 3,000 in 2013, and more than 1,500 in the first half of 2014. The specific reasons people choose to renounce U.S. citizenship probably vary widely from one person to another, but U.S. tax policy seems to be a common reason. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which took effect in March 2010, targets concealment of offshore assets by U.S. citizens. It requires citizens, including those living abroad, to disclose offshore financial accounts and other assets to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The DOS requires that a person seeking to renounce citizenship appear in person before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer to sign an “oath of renunciation.” This must take place in a foreign country, usually at a U.S. Embassy or consular office. 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(5). Attempts at expatriation that do not meet these criteria have been ruled invalid by U.S. courts. The DOS must investigate the renunciation to confirm that it is truly voluntary, which includes confirmation that the person understands that renunciation is, with very limited exceptions, irrevocable.

The consequences of renouncing one’s U.S. citizenship includes the loss of any right to visit or return to the U.S. except as an immigrant or with a nonimmigrant visa. A person who renounces U.S. citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxation, as determined by the U.S. government, is deemed inadmissible and may be refused entry by immigration authorities. 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(10)(E). A person who has renounced U.S. citizenship is also prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing a firearm. 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(7), 27 C.F.R. § 478.32(a)(7).

In some circumstances, a person may believe that he or she has lost U.S. citizenship by means other than formal renunciation, commonly known as “relinquishment.” The DOS may also seek a determination of relinquishment. Acts resulting in relinquishment of U.S. citizenship might include becoming a naturalized citizen of another country, formally declaring allegiance to another country, or serving in another country’s armed forces during hostilities against the U.S, military. See 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a). A person may also be deemed to have relinquished citizenship if he or she is convicted of treason against the U.S. or a similar offense. 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(7), 18 U.S.C. § 2381 et seq.

Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger practices in the New York and New Jersey areas. We help immigrants obtain visas and green cards, and we advise families and businesses on how to help immigrants come to the U.S. To schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced advocate, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Government Grants Naturalization Petition After Initially Denying It Based on Conscientious Objector Status, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 28, 2014
Senate Bill Targets People Who Allegedly Renounce Citizenship to Avoid Taxes, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 7, 2012
Study Finds that Citizenship Test May Not Be Reliable, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 15, 2012
Photo credit: By Mkt3000 dot com (Photograph taken by Robert Rexach [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.