United States citizens lose or renounce their U.S. citizenship for a variety of reasons, but can the loss of U.S. citizenship generally be categorized into involuntary and voluntary loss. While the involuntary loss of U.S. citizenship is forced by the United States, voluntary loss of U.S. citizenship is a purposeful relinquishing of U.S. citizenship through a specific renunciation process. Below are details concerning the loss of citizenship and highlight issues associated with losing U.S. citizenship.
Involuntary Loss: Denaturalization
Loss of U.S. citizenship does not always have to occur through a voluntary relinquishment. There are several actions that may cause the Department of State (DOS) and USCIS to strip you of your citizenship to the United States. These acts can include:
- Naturalizing in a foreign state
- Taking an oath or declaration of allegiance to a foreign state
- Serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in a conflict with the United States or is an officer of any kind in the armed forces of a foreign state
- Being employed by the government of a foreign state if the person has the nationality of that state or took an oath or declaration of allegiance to that state in order to accept the position
- Providing false information to the USCIS or misrepresenting yourself during the naturalization process
- Refusing to testify in front of Congress about any involvement in subversive activities within 10 years of naturalization
- Being convicted of an act of treason against the United States
Voluntary Loss: Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship
United States citizens have the right to relinquish their U.S. citizenship at any time according to Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, though not before certain requirements are met. The United States requires anyone renouncing U.S. citizenship to do so in a foreign state. This means that anyone renouncing their U.S. citizenship is strongly advised to have a foreign passport in order to avoid being rendered stateless after the renunciation. The actual process of renouncing United States citizenship requires the preparation of several DOS documents, including:
- DS-4079 – Request for Determination of Possible Loss of United States Citizenship. This questionnaire gathers information to determine an applicant’s citizenship status and possible loss of citizenship. This is the only form that should be completed before your appointment for renunciation.
- DS-4080 – Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of the Nationality of the United States
- DS-4081 – Statement of Understanding Concerning the Consequences and Ramifications of Renunciation or Relinquishment of U.S Citizenship
- DS-4082 – Witnesses’ Attestation Renunciation/Relinquishment of Citizenship
- DS-4083 – Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States. This certificate will need to be approved by the DOS
A person wishing to renounce their U.S. citizenship must do so voluntarily and must do so in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer abroad. It is not possible to renounce your U.S. citizenship through the mail, through an agent, or while in the United States. Renouncing United States citizenship is a complete renunciation of all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship; it is also an irrevocable action and cannot be canceled or appealed under most circumstances.
Although parents cannot renounce U.S. citizens on behalf of their minor children under 18 years of age, minor children can renounce their U.S. citizenship by convincing a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer that they understand the consequences of renunciation and that they are not relinquishing their U.S. citizenship under undue duress or influence. Minor children can have their U.S. citizenship reinstated by informing DOS within 6 months of their 18th birthday.
Relinquishing U.S. citizenship does not exempt any person from tax or military obligations, nor will it allow a person to evade prosecution from any crimes committed in the United States or escape from financial obligations incurred as a United States citizen.
An increasingly common reason for relinquishing United States citizenship is to avoid taxation. Acts of voluntary expatriation have been on a rise in the United States recently and some speculate that this is because the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that taxes on citizenship rather than residency. This means that the U.S. taxes on worldwide income instead of only income accrued in the United States and even includes off-shore bank accounts and investments abroad. For this reason, many wealthy American citizens have renounced their citizenship in favor of citizenship in countries with residency-based taxation and lighter tax rates than the United States. Due to the increasing number of expatriates, the United States enacted an exit tax in 2008 and also enforces a variety of taxation regulations when a United States citizen renounces his or her citizenship.