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On Receiving my Certificate of Loss of Nationality

My Certificate of :oss of Nationality

Almost five months after my renunciation day, I received my Certificate of Loss of Nationality today. It seems ironic that it arrived on Tax Day.

People keep asking me how that feels, but I have trouble formulating an answer.

Certificate of Loss of Nationality = divorce papers

The best analogy I’ve been able to find is that renouncing citizenship is like a divorce. I’m talking about the kind of divorce where you still love the person, but you know that he/she is just not good for you. Regretfully, you file for divorce.

In this case, the decision to divorce isn’t mutual. My ex doesn’t want me to leave and tries everything to force me to stay, i.e. making me become tax compliant, costing me both a lot of money in accountancy fees and a lot of stress, then charging me $2350 to file the divorce papers.

I’ve never been through an actual divorce, but this is what I imagine it feels like. The makers of the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory rate divorce as second only to the death of a spouse in terms of the stress it causes.

the State Department stamp on my Certificate of Loss of Nationality
the State Department stamp on my Certificate of Loss of Nationality

In a way, I’m in mourning for that marriage. It was a good marriage for a long time. I lived in the US for the first 35 years of my life, except for two years when I was in the Peace Corps. Every so often, as I’m going about my normal day, my thoughts flit back to my renunciation and I have to fight back tears.

I feel relieved that I’ve received my Certificate.

Although I still have to file my 2015 tax returns and the FBAR form once more, I’m relieved that this will be the last time. I’m relieved that my “request” to renounce was approved.

To be honest, though, I don’t feel “freed” in the way I was hoping I would. Perhaps it’s because all the tax-related paperwork isn’t finished. Or maybe it’s because, while I feel less of the fear of persecution from the IRS that I felt before, I still carry the burden of a tremendous anger.

I feel angry that it came to this.

As I’ve described before, I did not renounce citizenship easily or willingly. I can’t really claim I was forced to, though. I could have continued filing US tax forms and FBARs for the rest of my life.

I’ve discussed my reasons for renouncing before as well:

  • FATCA forces me to hand over my private financial information, as well as my non-American husband’s, to an extent that homeland Americans don’t have to unless they’re suspected of a crime.
  • FATCA strong-arms our local banks into handing over our private financial information as well.
  • It treats my local accounts as being equivalent to hiding money overseas.
  • I could vote in the US, but no one represents the needs of US citizens abroad because our votes are dispersed over all 50 states.
  • I pay almost $1000 per year to an accountant to fill out the forms—more and lengthier than they’d be if I lived in the US—only to prove I owe nothing, since I pay taxes here in the Netherlands.
  • Without an address in the US, I can’t open an investment account there; with US nationality, it is becoming more and more difficult to do any investment or borrowing outside of the US.

I am grieving the loss of my home.

One of the consequences of my renunciation cuts deeply: I will never again be able to live in the US. I can visit, but only for up to 90 days, like any other Dutch person. If you live in the US, think about how it would feel to be exiled from your home. That’s what renunciation does to me.

I never realized how much I carried America in my heart—as my home, whatever that means—until I took the steps that led me to renounce.

I am disappointed in America.

I get asked all the time where I’m from; just a few words is enough to betray my accent when I speak Dutch. To avoid having to explain, I often answer just “I’m American,” and leave it at that. Sometimes, instead, I say “I’m Dutch but I grew up in America.”

The problem with saying that is the feeling in my gut that comes along with it. I feel like I’m betraying my country.

Growing up in the US in the late 60s and in the 1970s, in the middle of the Cold War, I was taught to love my country. In elementary school, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, followed by singing the national anthem. Being American was something to be proud of: the side of right, facing off against the “bad guys,” meaning the Soviet Union. Since we were the good guys, we would prevail.

Nevertheless, I learned quite early that the American system wasn’t perfect. If it was, why would my parents take my sisters and me to so many protests?

At the time, being so young, I didn’t know what these protests were about. My childish memories include marching down a street with lots of people in the dark, carrying a candle and singing “We Shall Overcome.” I realized much later that those were civil rights marches. Sometimes the memories show a daytime march, carrying signs, after which we’d settle down on the grass with thousands of other people, eating a picnic lunch while my parents listened to voices coming from a loudspeaker very far away. I assume now that those were Vietnam War marches.

We never questioned the system, though. I was taught that American democracy was good and strong, and if only more other countries were like the US, the world would be a better place. The marches were, in this view, a demonstration of the power of American democracy.

I absorbed American exceptionalism as I grew up. It was an unconscious acceptance, a taking-for-granted.

Later, in college, I developed a more nuanced view of the United States. I participated in marches protesting US involvement in El Salvador and Nicaragua and worked on political campaigns for various candidates. Nevertheless, I still believed in the underlying value of American democracy.

My cancelled passport was sent back to me along with my Certificate of Loss of Nationality.
My cancelled passport was sent back to me along with my Certificate of Loss of Nationality.

Now I’m not so sure. I’ve written before about “No taxation without representation,” and about how that’s what’s happening to overseas Americans.

I realize that I still believe in the basic strength of the US democratic system: it will survive whoever wins the presidential election, for example. I just feel like that system has pushed me away, and is pushing away millions of people like me who could be contributing to keeping it strong.

So it’s over. I’ll continue to call myself an American, for ease’s sake. I’ll continue to represent America to students in my American Studies classes.

But I have repudiated America, and America has repudiated me. This Certificate of Loss of Nationality confirms that our divorce is final.

Feel free to comment below, but please keep it civil!

My whole US citizenship series:

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more...

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Hi, I exercised my right as an American to stop being an American citizen. I renounced in an Embassy a few days before 9-11 occurred.

I was then and always has been the right choice for me. I grew up in the US and lived there my first 28 years and since 92 I have lived in Europe & Asia. I am an EU citizen now and at the time I was not allowed to have dual citizenship.

I’ll always be an American by culture and past and that is great and no regrets but I am not an American citizen which I see in the legal context. I instead elected to be taxed higher and live in a place that has social drivers that I perceive to be more aligned to my convictions.

I travel to the US all the time (~15 times/year) for work and that’s fine but I have no desire to live there. I get the occasional immigration officer who wants me to go through secondary inspection but that’s about it. I am proud of my choices and contributions both within the US and elsewhere. This patriotic guilt many are raised with in the US is just a way to try and retain loyalty. In the end all the government wants is your financial contributions and since I had a choice I decided to provide my contributions elsewhere.

Agree US authorities tried to encourage then coerce me to not renounce. Once I had renounced they advised I will regret it forever and will never be afforded the liberties I have enjoyed as a US citizen.

After 16 years as a renounced American citizen their warnings were complete BS! All is and was great from day one as a non-American Citizen and I have never regretted my decision. I have far more liberties today and get to live in an environment that is more humane and socially responsible. Anyone born into a citizenship made no choice but those to elect to remain have. My point is we often have choices we can take to improve our lives and those around us we just have to be courageous enough to do it.

If you choose to renounce any citizenship then be clear why and your relations with your original country. Be informed and if it is right for you all will be well…

I’d like to add that it gets worse once you decide to run a company overseas. For example, you start paying quarterly installments in the host country and then to the IRS as well which stifles the reinvestment of profits. Then there’s trying to have a tax deferred retirement plan in the host country–it won’t work if the IRS does not consider it a retirement vehicle which effectively negates any tax relief offered in the host country. Tax reform is in the works right now but I’m going through with my divorce as conditions for expats are once again just after thoughts from the way it looks. I feel horrible inside but my hand is forced. All the investments I made in the U.S. , taxes paid, and 13 years serving honorably in the military and this is what it all comes down to–what can I say, I have to take care of myself and my family and I gotta do what I gotta do.

It is so wonderful to read all of this and realise that I am not alone. It has taken me 3 years to get a social security number (the US Govt forgot to give me one after birth) and to get compliant with the IRS. I cannot take being treated as a criminal by the US Government because I reside abroad any more. My appointment for renunciation is on 5 January 2018. Interestingly they have told me that I will not be able to do it with 1 appointment as they want to spend my first appointment explaining the implications! As if I don’t know why my life has been hell for the last 3 years. All that I want is my old life back before FATCA and all of the US compliance that is unjustly thrust on US citizens that choose to reside abroad. Part of me is extremely sad that I have been forced to go this route and I suspect that I may too feel some bitterness once my ‘divorce’ comes through.

Hi Rachel,

I just want to say a big thank you for this series of posts on renouncing your US citizenship. It’s the most open, honest and real account of what it feels like for anyone considering such a difficult act.

My appointment is actually this Thursday at the embassy in London and I must confess that I have been so torn that even today I was getting cold feet on whether to cancel it.

I decided to research the issue again (for what felt like the 1000th time!) and stumbled on one of your articles tonight for the first time. I’m so glad I did because it has completely set my mind straight. I am positive that this is the only way I can get my life back and lose this unnecessary source of stress and expense.

Everything you have written about your feelings on deciding to commit to this (let’s be honest – rather desperate act) have resonated with me. I’ve neen reading for hours. Since submitting my forms back in November I’ve flip-flopped between sadness and anger at being placed in this situation by a nation that claims to be all about freedom.

Reaching a decision to renounce has been so difficult and to be honest – quite a lonely one. I’ve consulted my wife, family, friends and colleagues – and most people’s reaction is that they simply don’t believe or understand why I would want to do something so drastic. I’ve even got other friends who are dual citizens and they’re burying their heads in the sand. Unfortunately that wasn’t an option for me, when I found out about FATCA I was doing a lot of business travel through the US and I didn’t want to risk non compliance with all the threats around linking passports to tax records.

My immediate family all want me to see me clear of this burden (they’re all British and I’m the only American having been born there while my parents were on 6 year work secondment). They’ve seen the effort and expense involved in staying compliant these days. My wife for one won’t miss me being “lost to the home office” for days while I try to cobble all the info for the accountant and that bloody FBAR form!

The main advice I have tended to receive when consulting people on the decision is “try to imagine how you’ll feel after doing it” – and all I could feel was sadness! I’m so upset that it’s come to this. But ultimately it’s the anger and frustration that takes over and has pushed me towards taking action.

Anger over the injustice of finding out about FATCA just over 5 years ago via that (now famous) BBC article.

Anger over the ridiculous amounts of money that I’ve since paid out to expat accountants annually who helped me become IRS compliant (money which BTW I’d have far sooner kept in a fund for my chidren’s future schooling!)

To the “straw that broke the camels back” – when this year I find myself being double taxed because I was brave with an entrepreneurial step that paid off. This despite already paying tax on the capital gains here in the UK. It’s all very unfair when you consider that I’ve already paid what I owe to the country where I earned that money and consumed it’s public services (not somewhere I left as a child and went back twice for a holiday)!

I left the US aged 3, and enjoyed a wonderful expat life in the Netherlands until age 11 when my family all returned “home” to the UK – I know exactly what you mean by being able to “live the American Dream outside of the US”. This is one of many truths that I’ll console myself with post renunciation. You don’t need to be American to enjoy (the good side) of its culture and values.

I was very proud to claim dual US/UK nationality for 35 years. Yes, I would have been proud to be able to register our boys as US citizens too (until FATCA & Trump came along at least!) But these sentiments are not enough to warrant the invasion of my privacy, and having to incur the expense of the cottage industry that the FATCA legislation has created. Ultimately I decided that I wouldn’t wish this pain on my children and that it isn’t enough of a sticking point for me to keep putting up with it. I need to set myself free of the sentimental value of remaining American – because that’s all it is at the end of the day.

We are fortunate enough to have our health, happiness and a lovely life here in the UK. Yes, I’m a little nervous about how small living on this little island will feel post Renunciation (and particularly Post-Brexit – don’t get me started!).

But ultimately it’s the place I’ve always called “home”, it’s where my family live and where we want our kids to go to school. I shouldn’t feel penalised for choosing to live here rather than the US.

So I’ve made my decision… I’m going ahead on Thursday, although I might take a packet of tissues (for the man flu of course!) so wish me luck 😀

Thanks again for the help!

Hi Rachel,
I just wanted to say thank you for your posts. I have my renounciation appointment next Monday and have been in a state of emotional flux and anxiety for weeks now. This whole process of coming to the decision to renounce was incredibly difficult and not one I took lightly. It helps to know that the emotions I have felt, and the anger and frustrations of feeling like I have no option but to do this, are felt by others in this process. I’ve struggled with the feeling of not being patriotic by making this decision and your posts have really helped to confirm the reasonings I have deep inside for this decision. Anyway, I’m just rambling but I just wanted to say thank you for helping me get to a point where I feel confident about my decision and most importantly that i’m not alone in this emotional rollercoaster. It’s a very odd and unsettling feeling to “give up your nation” but I know in the end, it’s the right thing for me to do. Wish me luck. Thank you again.

Thank you Rachel. I endured my appointment and have done the deed and paid the money. They were actually very nice at the embassy in Cape Town. They also very kindly allowed me to have my first appointment telephonically to prevent me from having to fly there twice. I must also thank you for alerting me to the fact that I would be able to state my reasons. I put them on paper the night before and submitted it (in duplicate) with my renunciation. It clarified my thinking and made me feel better and thank you for a couple of the ideas that you put into words so well. The person at the embassy actually said that she wishes that more US citizens who go through the process would submit reasons with their application. It will probably never make a difference but it is quite cathartic. I now live happily with the knowledge that if my renunciation is accepted I will be a citizen of one of Donald’s shithole countries only! 🙂 I still feel good about it but think that it is tragic that I had to go to these lengths to get my life back. Interesting the cost of renunciation remains the same as when you did it and this is about the same as the average annual income in my shithole country. There must be many people around the world who simply cannot afford to renounce.

Hi Rachel,
I renounced my citizenship last July and got my CLN in January. I was born in the USA but left at the age of 2 and only lived there again between the age of 11 and 15. So I knew I was American but never realy felt American. My mother is German and my father was American. I married a Belgian and received citizenship of Belgium in 1971. I kept my citizenship because I thought “you never know”. Now suddenly with FACTA my bank started to question me and ask me to fill in forms. I immediately said no way and went to the Embassy in Brussels. Yes, you need 2 appointments, and you have to leave 2 weeks inbetween. During the second appointment you are required to pay the “random money” of $2350. I gave the reason that I did not feel American and did not intend to live in America. I was warned NOT to mention the word taxes or FACTA!
Now my son, who lives and works in Germany is renouncing. When he went for his first appointment in the Brussels embassy he was treated like a criminal. They repeatedly asked him why he wanted to renounce, “surely you are having banking problems?” He repeatedly said, “no, I got my citizenship from my mother since she thought it was a nice gift for my 18th birthday, but I do not want it as I live and work and have founded a family in Germany”. He was badgered repeately about taxes and banking and had to repeat his reasons again and again. They then finally give him the papers to fill in and send to them before his second appointment which is tomorrow. I am holding my breath for him as I know that he has not filed income tax forms to the USA. He never really knew he had to! I have read that if you say you are renouncing citizenship for tax reasons then they can refuse to let you go! How is that for liberty? I am sure they will try to get taxes from my son before they let him go. He has a high income now. I was lucky as I was just a low paid secretary all my life so I figure they didn’t even bother to find out what I have. Once you get the CLN, can the IRS still pop up and snoop into your accounts? Or is the CLN the final divorce paper?
I am so glad to have read this blog. It makes me feel much better knowing that I am not the only one that gave up my citizenship without really wanting to. Although I never traveled with my US passport I feel sad that I had to give it up. I also got it back with 2 holes punched in it!
I have heard that there is a strong movement in France for “Accidental Americans” who once they turn 18 are tax compliant. Many of these people were just born there “accidentally” and have never really lived there. They have written many petitions to the French government to ask for help. Most of them want to give up their citizenship too. It makes you wonder how many of us have done it since FACTA. Does anyone know?

Hi Rachel,
The second interview with my son went much better than the first. They were polite and did not badger him again about banking problems or taxes. They said that he would receive his CLN in 6 to 8 weeks! I had to wait 6 months. Maybe they have had to put more people on this since so many are renouncing. Wait and see…. I have in the meantime also asked for a travel visa to the USA with my Belgain passport and that went very smoothly. Good to know that I can still travel to the the USA if necessary as I have an older brother living there. It just all seems such a shame. Some people would fight to have a US passport and here we had to give it up! I kind of wish I could have given mine to a needy Mexican lady that just wants a better life for herself!

Well, it has now been 3+ years since I renounced my us citizenship and received my CLN. Today is one of those days that I wake up thinking I made a mistake and want to regain my US Citizenship.

I still have my certificate of naturalization from way back when I lived in the US and became a citizen. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I take that in to the passport office and try to get a new US passport?

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