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7 Reasons NOT to Renounce

This entry is part 12 of 23 in the series US citizenship

When I was considering renouncing US citizenship, and then, once I had decided to do so, I heard several arguments for why I shouldn’t renounce.

Reason not to renounce #1

But what if something happens where you are—an invasion or a natural disaster or something? The US would come and get you out!

Answer #1: They most likely wouldn’t. Generally what happens in such situations is that the US embassy sends out an alert telling US citizens to get out. They are left to fend for themselves, in other words, and I’ve heard plenty of stories of Americans being evacuated from a danger zone by the British or other countries rather than the US.

When the US does evacuate people, they charge them the “full coach commercial fare.” They’ll save people, but at a price, and only in the most dire circumstances. And they will only be taken to a nearby safe place, not back to the US.

In Paris, when the attacks happened in November, some American tourists headed for the US embassy. They were turned away.

Answer #2: It’s pretty unlikely, don’t you think? Yes, I know, Germany has invaded the Netherlands before. But today’s Germany won’t. The most likely natural disaster would be flooding, but the Dutch are the experts at water control, and I live in a relatively high part of the country (seven meters above sea level!).

Answer #3: My Dutch passport gives me the right to move to any country in the EU, and many outside of it too. So if worse came to worst, I’d have plenty of places I could move to. If I had a non-EU passport, Reason to Renounce #1 would be a lot more compelling.

Reason #2

But what if you want to go home?

“Home” is a term I struggle with. The fact is that the US hasn’t felt like home in many years. I love to visit there; I enjoy the strange familiarity of it: a lot of “Oh, I remember that!” But the longer I live in the Netherlands, the more of a tourist I feel like when I’m at “home.”

a balcony at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. photo courtesy of Just Go Places
a balcony at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. photo courtesy of Just Go Places

So would I ever move back there? I’ve thought about that a lot, since my renunciation will make it hard, or perhaps impossible, for me to live in the US again.

I can’t imagine my husband would ever agree to living in the US again, so I would only ever even consider it if something, God forbid, happened to him and I became a widow. Or he traded me in for a younger model, as they say, but that’s just not his style.

If I was suddenly alone, my first instinct, I think, would be to run home. But as I said above, it isn’t home anymore.

I’ve thought about where I would like to live in the US if I had a choice. San Francisco is my favorite American city, but I couldn’t afford it. I love Hawaii for the beautiful tropical climate, but I can get a tropical climate elsewhere. I could move to Guadeloupe and not even leave the EU!

a view of downtown San Francisco seen from Coit Tower
a view of downtown San Francisco seen from Coit Tower

Wherever I live, I can still visit the US on my Dutch passport. I just can’t stay too long.

Reason #3

But having a US passport makes it so much easier to enter the US.

Yes, that’s true. The lines move faster for the US citizens at passport control than for foreigners. And I would need to get a visa waiver ahead of time as well.

I only visit the US every few years. I can handle a longer line and a bit of on-line paperwork.

Reason #4

I couldn’t renounce. My parents are getting older. What if I needed to go take care of them?

This is a good reason for many to keep their US citizenship, but my parents passed away back in 1995. That’s part of what led me to move to the Netherlands in the first place. My husband wanted to go home and, once my parents died, it felt like my ties to the US got weaker. I have two sisters in the US still, but when they’re old enough to need care, I will be old too!

Reason #5

It’s nice to have two passports.

It was indeed nice. If one was expiring, I could use the other. Going to the US, I used my US passport. Pretty much everywhere else, I used my Dutch one. Is that worth all the stress that being an overseas American causes? No.

Reason #6

People are desperate for US citizenship. Look what they go through to get it, and you’re throwing it away?

Yes, that’s true. My grandparents were immigrants, and were extremely fortunate to get to the US when they did. But the situation of an immigrant to the US today has no bearing on my situation. Whether I keep or renounce my own citizenship has no effect on their efforts to attain it. And I feel just as fortunate to have Dutch citizenship as they would to have US citizenship.

Reason #7

I simply couldn’t renounce. I’m American and always will be.

This is probably the best argument I’ve heard for keeping US citizenship, and yet it’s the most irrational and emotional. My feeling of personal attachment to America was what made this decision such a struggle. That passport represents something: a sort of club membership, and it’s a very special, exclusive club that, as I said above, people are desperate to join.

photo courtesy of Just Go Places
photo courtesy of Just Go Places

Americans are taught from a very early age how special the US is. This exceptionalism is a source of pride and a glue that binds the whole population together. The desperation of immigrants trying to enter the US only confirms that feeling. Look at the President’s words in the State of the Union Address:

Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

and

That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed, big-hearted, undaunted by challenge, optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.

Americans take this sort of statement for granted; they accept as a given that America is exceptional, which carries the implication that it is better than other countries. It is not until we leave the country and live elsewhere that we see that many other places are very special too.

So is having citizenship what makes people American? I would argue that I remain an American. I self-identify as American. Others refer to me as American. People don’t normally see my passport, except at border control booths in airports. In other words, I have to actively define myself as Dutch if I want to be seen as Dutch. Otherwise, I’m an American still, and always will be.

You know how the story ends: I renounced, despite all these reasons I heard. None of them was enough to dissuade me. What about you? Have you renounced or are you considering renunciation? Add a comment below.

Series Navigation<< Open Letter to President Obama in response to The State of the Union AddressCitizenship Matters >>

36 Comments

  • Bob

    January 22, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    “I simply couldn’t renounce. I’m American and always will be.”

    I had a hard time dealing with this myself but quickly came to conclusion that I was only renouncing a piece of paper in my pocket, not the blood in my veins. So I went through with it and am glad to have done so.

    My only regret is not having renounced sooner.

    Reply
  • Patty

    January 23, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I don’t feel American….. Was there for 45 years, then the UK for 15… Patriotism is such a silly thing and Americans are brainwashed about it…… The more I travel the more the realisation EVERY every country has its fabulous points…..

    Reply
  • Len Camp

    January 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Sooner or later there will be a repeal of US citizen-based taxation and I predict there will be an open invitation for those who renounced to reapply for US citizenship. Remember that borders are man-made devices and there are not fixed forever.

    Reply
  • David Lohrmann

    January 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    In the final analysis, you have to be true to yourself and to your family. If renunciation takes you closer to that goal, then it’s the only thing to do.
    All of the good reasons for renouncing you mentioned ring true for many of us.
    And most of the reasons we prudently refrain from mentioning apply as well.
    To me, it’s good to know that other expats are following the same line of reasoning as I did in this matter.
    And it’s great to see that so many of us have found a better home than the one we left.

    Reply
  • budget jan

    January 24, 2016 at 12:28 am

    All good points. I think the only real reason people would hang on to it is Emotion and it takes a lot to counter that, although after reading your previous posts I think I would renounce if I lived overseas as you do.

    Reply
  • JD

    January 24, 2016 at 10:19 am

    The main point is, “patriotism” is now actually “nostalgia, wrapped in a flag”.

    Unfortunately, the USA that people “believe” that they live in is long-gone– & has been since the Reagan era…

    The bought-for “press” (now “spinners” for the couple of uber-wealthy, right-wingers who own the media) keep the ruse going– manipulating the emotions of the populace, to keep it all going. But what you, Rachel, & I & others of our generation knew as “our country”, is all but gone now. Sad but true. I’m both sad for it’s demise, yet glad to be away from it.

    Sanders is the USA’s, “Obi Wan”. If Clinton or (shudders) a GOP gets into the WH, the slippery-slope will become an Olympic downhill slalom.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      January 25, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Your statement that patriotism is “nostalgia, wrapped in a flag” is interesting to me. It implies that what people are patriotic about doesn’t exist anymore, or perhaps never did. And I agree with much of what you say following that, but I’m not sure I agree with that first statement. If it was just nostalgia for what people our age remember (or think we do), then young people wouldn’t feel patriotic anymore, would they? Nostalgic for something they’ve heard once existed, yes, but not patriotic about America as it is today. And people of all ages in the US feel patriotic still, I think. I’d also add that America wasn’t so great in the past either or the Civil Rights movement wouldn’t have been necessary, or the Cold War or Vietnam, etc. etc. etc. even before Reagan. I am, like you, feeling increasingly glad to be away from it, though tinged with sadness.

      Reply
  • JD

    January 25, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Rachel, what you & I knew as the USA is gone- long gone, & I’m sorry.

    The idea that “young people” are buying into the lie doesn’t change a thing. A lie is a lie: manufacturing shifted overseas (polluting there) is a fact, US corps are “people” (though never come home in body-bags), top 1% pay little or no tax yet put into the economy nothing, tax laws require low-income to pay, & it just keeps going….the only ones who make out good are slick tax acct.’s & their clients.

    Really. It’s a sick joke. Please tell me you know this.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      January 25, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      I agree that all those things are happening. I had a similar conversation with a friend the other day and her point made some sense to me: even with so much that is going bad, you don’t see people fleeing the country (leaving, sometimes, but not fleeing) and you do see lots more people wanting to immigrate TO the US. In other words, despite all of these negative points that you list (and more!), something is still good about the place, good enough for people to feel patriotic and for people to want to move there. I can’t see that as only a matter of buying into propaganda. Certainly the patriotic messages everyone is brought up with there affect their thinking, but that doesn’t explain the sheer number of immigrants who want to live there and become citizens. Or perhaps it’s all just a matter of the situation being bad, but it being worse in many other places … I don’t know, but I guess I’m just not feeling like it’s all over.

      Reply
      • JD

        January 27, 2016 at 2:50 am

        “you do see lots more people wanting to immigrate TO the US. In other words, despite all of these negative points that you list (and more!), something is still good about the place, good enough for people to feel patriotic and for people to want to move there.”

        Imho, the people migrating in are a) already independently wealthy or well-off, b) coming from a much worse place, or c) are buying the lie that the USA is one, big Hollywood Patriotic movie where all you have to do is to “work hard” & presto- you’re a millionaire! What you don’t hear about from the paid-for-by-the-Mudochs-of-the-world-media is that most ARE working hard– very, very hard, at substandard wages, with no benefits, no health care, and not only are they NOT getting ahead, they’re actually going backwards. I know quite a few people who tried to live in the USA but returned when the hype wore off. The best thing about the USA is that many people there are genuinely good, but nice people can’t compensate for the rest of it…

        At this point, the USA has set itself up as a terrorist nation– against it’s own diaspora as well as all the other countries using it’s US dollar as a weapon via Bretton Woods. China isn’t far away from it’s currency being a better choice– with no strings attached. I think that day is near.

        Reply
        • John Richardson

          January 31, 2016 at 4:05 pm

          With respect to your saying:

          “At this point, the USA has set itself up as a terrorist nation– against it’s own diaspora as well as all the other countries using it’s US dollar as a weapon via Bretton Woods.”

          If you haven’t done this already, google, “weaponization of finance” and read the writings of Ian Bremmer.

          FATCA is of course a gross violation of the “sacred trust” granted to the USA at Bretton Woods. At that time the U.S. dollar became the primary reserve currency. Without that status, FATCA would not be possible.

          Reply
  • Steven TRACY

    January 25, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    My mother is Dutch (from Haaksbergen nar Enschede) and my father is american. Our american family comes from Ireland and Norway. Born in USA in 1965, I’ve been living in France since 1973. My parents met in France in the early 60ties.

    So no, I don’t really feel american, I feel like a northern European and have no wish to go back to USA, what for ??? I don’t even have an american SSN number.

    I called ACA in Paris about FATCA and they gave me the following answer in consideration of my situation.

    Ask for franch nationality, don’t renew your passport and never go back to the USA…

    And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

    Reply
  • Victoria

    January 28, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I wrote a post in 2011 which was not so much about renouncing but about the pros and cons of becoming a citizen of another country. I think I will repost on my blog but here’s the original post:http://thefranco-americanflophouse.blogspot.be/2011/06/pledging-allegiance-path-to-citizenship_05.html

    The most compelling reason for me NOT to renounce is family back in the US. I went back to visit for Christmas and found out that my mother nearly died and had been rushed to the hospital just a few days prior to my arrival. I’m very concerned that I would not be able to get on a plane fast and head back to the US to be with my mom if she has another medical emergency or needs care.

    I had a private message from one of my readers about his.her reasons not to renounce and interestingly enough it was all about the spouse. The spouse did not this person to renounce because that would mean no longer being able to live or work in the US. Though the spouse was aware of the tax issues that did not trump the benefit of being able to move one day to the US. My sposue has said something very similar to that and I have to wonder how prevalent it is.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      January 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Interesting post! The argument I’ve heard most is the same one you give: family in the US. My spouse officially returned his green card 18 years ago when we moved to the Netherlands from the US. He never wants to live there again!

      Reply
  • Matt

    February 1, 2016 at 6:59 am

    I’ve appreciated reading your ruminations over the last couple of months. I too an an overseas American who is very close to renouncing. The main reason I haven’t yet is because I’m waiting for Permanent Residency( I already have another passport as I was born a dual citizen) in my current country of residence. I’ll get that in a few months and then I’ll start the interview process. I have had very similar thoughts and no one to really share them with because nobody really understands the situation until they are put in it. So thanks for putting your story out there for others who face this “problem”.

    Reply
  • Dennelle Taylor Nizoux

    April 15, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Very interesting analysis, thanks. There’s one reason you didn’t add to the list, however, which is one that dissuades me more than the others…the cost and hassle to renounce! As you know yourself, it’s not negligible. It would take several more years of paying accountants for my filings to offset that cost, not including my time and effort to go through the process.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      April 16, 2016 at 12:16 am

      True. You have to weigh up the hassle and cost of renouncing against the hassle and cost of filing taxes each year plus, depending on what country you live in, the hassle and cost of things like banking limitations, double taxation of pension, etc. For me it was worth it to go through the hassle and cost of renouncing.

      Reply
  • Laurie

    April 26, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am seriously debating with myself about renouncing, this is not an easy thing to do. So I appreciate your article. All the questions and emotions are endless.

    Reply
  • Sara

    June 11, 2019 at 3:13 am

    Interesting site. Thanks. Also, “Why america FAILED”, by Morris Berman explains a great deal why many are escaping the us empire and why the us was nothing more than hustlers and hucksters all trying to get rich.

    Reply
  • Kris Tyler

    June 22, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    If I can manage to leave it will be because I don’t want to be a part of the Empire. It seems like I’m living on the Deathstar or Star Killer base. Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t mind

    Reply

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