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.

Renouncing US citizenship is like going through a divorce. Click To Tweet

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 never realized how much I carried America in my heart till I took steps to renounce citizenship. #FATCA Click To Tweet

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!

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  • CEB

    April 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    I think that once the government rethinks this nonsense, there will be put in place a way back to US citizenship for those who lost it. There are precedents — Germany for example (though only for EU countries and Switzerland), Switzerland, and India. There are probably others.

    But right now, with this set of Congresspeople, no chance.

    • Rachel

      April 15, 2016 at 10:26 pm

      I’ve heard that as well: that if the court cases against FATCA succeed, there may be an agreement about letting people get their citizenship back. I’m not holding my breath.

      • neo

        June 15, 2016 at 6:21 am

        Hi rachel. Every single word you’ve said about renunciation of US citizenship resonates deeply. My approval came last month. The day i was taking oath of renunciation at the embassy in london i began sobbing so hard could hardly read the oath of.. Even the officer asked if i was being forced by anyone! It’s exactly like a divorce but the last few years felt i was married to someone who absolutely despised me for livimg in UK. Like my love for the usa was instantly suspect and of course my husband and i having to go through the same tax filing stuff you describe! We took a few years to decide & to go through it as my heart felt so heavy everytime just thinking of renouncing. And yes we finalised as were starting to feel really angry and bitter. Thanks for writing this. You Spoke all our feelings .

  • Ruth Anne Freeborn

    April 15, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I have nothing to add to what you said except I am so sorry it came to this for you too. I know your anger and the grief. To be brutally honest, I will never really be “over” this. The loss of “home” is something you really cannot describe to anyone adequately who hasn’t been through it. I await a path back to my citizenship as well, like you, I won’t hold my breath either.

  • EB

    April 15, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for this heartfelt essay Rachel, these words for my inarticulate heart. I’m still treading along the edge, trying to make the ‘relationship work’ but knowing that analogy is apt; divorce… because the partner isn’t the one you thought they were and they are just dragging you down. I’m one step closer…

  • budget jan

    April 16, 2016 at 12:29 am

    The Divorce is an excellent Analogy Rachel and I would get the same feeling in my stomach as you do. I hope there is a way back for you one day but I feel you have done the right thing. I would keep on calling yourself an American because that is what you feel you are. If people want to delve you could tell them about the Divorce but explain that you will always feel American.

  • Diana Issidorides

    April 16, 2016 at 1:04 am

    This is a moving story that I think many will relate to.
    Though your citizenship and passport have been taken away, no one can take away your loving memories…

  • JC Double Taxed

    April 16, 2016 at 4:26 am

    You recited the Pledge of Allegiance to The Flag many times in school. Yet that was to an America that was about “liberty and justice for all.” Arguably the US treatment of US persons overseas has little to do with “liberty and justice for all,” a different America with unAmerican tax and compliance obligations on US persons overseas.

    • Rachel

      April 16, 2016 at 7:18 am

      Yes, there’s that American exceptionalism again: taxing based on citizenship rather than based on residency. And for the most part not even seeing why that might be a problem! I hate when they start talking about paying one’s ‘fair share.’ My fair share should be zero because I use absolutely zero US services. I pay my fair share in the Netherlands, where I use the services that are paid for by tax money.

  • usxcanada

    April 16, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Good analogy. Freedom from impossible spouse. My favorite thought: In the circumstances, repudiating US citizenship was the most American thing I could do.

      • BritishBug

        May 15, 2016 at 10:51 pm

        We are the true 1776 Americans. Thank you so much for writing this. I have felt stressed and sick over this since being shaken from my blissful ignorance about FATCA and CBT about two months ago. I am horrified that I will likely have to renounce. Luckily I am already a British citizen. I refuse to be a Trojan horse for the IRS peeping into my British husband’s finances and bleeding money from the British taxpayer. I have already cried about this so many times and just wish it was a bad dream.

  • Renee Raymond

    April 16, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Loved your story. I too renounced way back in 2004. I too am only allowed the 90 days visit to the USA each year undr the “visa waiver.” But you CAN get visas that allow you to stay longer if need be. When you say “you can never again live in the USA”…that is not true. I was told that if you have family still there, they can petition immigration for you, but it can take a long time depending on your relationship with the American citizen. You can become a resident. You can also go thru the process of getting your citizenship back also, altho I dont know what the process is….just what I’ve read from others.

    • Rachel

      April 16, 2016 at 11:11 am

      Fair enough, perhaps I was exaggerating. If I got a job there, I could get a work visa. I have two sisters who live there, so I suppose theoretically I could go through the whole immigration process with one of them sponsoring me. That would get me a green card, I suppose, and I could live there and apply for citizenship. At my age, it’s not really a possibility.

      You were smart to renounce when you did, before they were charging so punitively!

  • Emily

    April 16, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I have never filed taxes because for the first four years in France I didn’t have a job. And now that I do have one I still don’t do it because I refuse to pay someone 2000€ to prove I owe nothing.

    It makes me really sad to think I may
    have to divorce the US also. After living overseas I felt more American than ever and I felt like I came from a good country founded by brave stock, people who left everything to start over. Now of course I realize that what I was taught in school about America being the best country in the world was absolutely bs but I still love my country.

    Congratulations for being strong enough to leave. But I understand your heartache and I am sorry that FATCA forced you into such a sad decision.

    • Rachel

      April 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Thanks, Emily! Is it really 2000 euros in France for an accountant? Wow! You know, though, that you’ll probably have to get tax-compliant if you renounce? Some people do their forms themselves; if your financial situation is relatively straightforward, you might be able to just do them yourself.

      • Rachel

        April 17, 2016 at 11:30 am

        Maybe it’s just some sort of mental block, but I’ve never been able to do it myself. Or rather, I have, but it was so complicated it stressed me out for weeks, and when I was done I had absolutely no idea if I had done it right, which meant the worry never went away. I stopped filing for years when it turned out each time that I didn’t owe anything, but then decided to get compliant when I started thinking about renouncing. And given that the banks are turning in our financial information, and the IRS is threatening ridiculously high fines if you fill them in wrong, it wasn’t worth it to me to try to do them myself. Of course, your mileage may vary, and certainly a lot of people are doing them themselves.

  • Katharine

    April 16, 2016 at 11:44 am

    HI Emily- I know how you feel- in my case, we just grew apart; born in the 1970s in the lower east side of NY City, I never felt ‘mainstream’, I moved abroad after college at just 23 years old, married and raised two children overseas, who were American in name only. They both went on to live in England, a fairly close visit by plane. Eventually it became clear that we were not really an American family, we are a european family, and Europe is where we will stay. I still have a dear sister in the States, but few finances or opportunites to visit her. I stood there and cried when I had to recite my renunciation at the embassy. It had nothing to do with money or taxes for me, just where I belong. Local issues matter to me I love being able to be politically involved in my adopted country,something I could never do before. I wish you good luck and success in your transition .

  • Rita Bantz

    April 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    I have read this through and find it very helpful. I have been through a divorce which was horribly painful and I don’t want to relive that pain!! I am, however, facing a huge tax bill if I sell my house here in the UK to downsize and that might have terrible ramifications on my financial well being for the future. I am NOT an “AMerican first”-er but I usually am proud to be an American but I feel that I am become more and more alienated from my home of origin. I am now 65 and am being threatened with a huge financial penalty if I don’t take Medicate Part B now (can’t use here in the UK) but then decide to move back to the States at a later date. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place

    • John Richardson

      April 18, 2016 at 2:27 am

      Rita, you might find the following to be of interest:

      “I want to share a scenario that I am encountering more and more with Americans abroad. And yes, it is related to taxes (or at least to U.S. tax laws). The tragedy is that many Americans are NOT aware of this until it is too late.

      Consider this very realistic, very common and very likely scenario for Americans abroad in Canada.


      Retired senior citizen who has lived in Canada almost all his life. He is a dual Canada U.S. citizen with a net worth under two million U.S. dollars (the magic number that leads to being a “covered expatriate”) who has a small pension and lives in a fully paid off house. Most of his net worth is in the value of the house. The cash flow generated by the pension is just enough to cover basic living expenses. General inflation is a worry. The costs to maintain the house are also a worry. The costs to maintain the house are increasing every year. It’s clear that the house must be sold for a number of reasons which include the inability to afford the maintenance of the house in the long run.

      Most Canadians use their principal residence as a vehicle of financial planning. That’s because under Canadian tax laws, a principal residence is a “tax free capital gain”. Unlike U.S. residents Canadians do NOT receive a tax deduction for mortgage payments. Income taxes are far higher in Canada than in the United States. This is part of the policy reason for Canada’s allowing a “tax free” capital gain on the sale of the principal residence. Canadian resident taxpayers are able to sell the house, take a “tax free” capital gain and invest that capital in an income generating vehicle.

      As a U.S. citizen this senior citizen is NOT able to sell the house without paying a significant part of the proceeds to the U.S. government in the form of a capital gains tax. The U.S. does (subject to a partial exemption) subject the capital gain on a principal residence to taxation. As a U.S. citizen, this senior is subject to taxes in both Canada and the U.S. The U.S. will tax the same gain that Canada will exempt from tax.

      This senior simply cannot afford to lose the capital that will be lost on the sale of the home that is a U.S. capital gains tax. It’s not an option. On the other hand, he can’t afford the costs to keep the house.

      Solution: The only way to maintain his retirement capital is to renounce U.S. citizenship before selling the house.

      This senior must choose between being a U.S. citizen and having enough capital to live on in retirement.

      Unfortunately this is a “real life” scenario that I am seeing more and more of. It’s a very real problem. It’s a the result of being subject to one tax system (Canada) that encourages the use of a principal residence as a vehicle for retirement planning and a second tax system (U.S.) that does not encourage the use of a principal residence as a vehicle for retirement planning.

      It’s obvious that seniors in the situation of having to downsize their principal residence must renounce U.S. citizenship prior to doing taking this step. This is simply a practical reality.”

      If you want to see the complete post:

      • Rachel

        April 18, 2016 at 6:21 am

        Thank you, John, for the clear example of what is, to all intents and purposes, double taxation due to the US’s citizenship-based taxation. Somewhere along the line I’ve read other examples, often involving retirement and pensions.

  • Donna Janke

    April 16, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Your analogy to divorce is a good one given the feelings you describe.It has to be tough to lose that sense of home, even if you haven’t lived there for a while. I can understand the anger and sense of betrayal.

  • Grey World Nomads

    April 16, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Hello Rachel,
    I plead for World Citizenship anyway. My parents are Dutch but I was born in Switzerland. Theoretically I was Dutch and Swiss – But I think the Dutch don’t allow double citizenship anymore, because my mother lost hers from the Netherlands (which made her as angry and disappointed as you are now).

    As a Swiss I don’t lose my passport if I have a second citizenship and I don’t need to pay tax in Switzerland if I don’t have property in the country. I like that!

    I hope you get over your disappointment soon. I’m sure if you’d really want to go back to the US there would be a way. It’s not the passport who says where you belong to, it’s your heart.

    • Rachel

      April 16, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Many countries will make you give up your original citizenship when you take on theirs. The US, though, makes you pay more than anywhere else to do so. That, combined with citizenship-based taxation, means they end up hanging on to people who’d rather renounce. At the same time, citizenship-based taxation essentially forces people like me to renounce.

  • June Edvenson

    April 16, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    I suggest to my American clients overseas that they not renounce: most Americans overseas simply have to file tax returns each year – they don’t have US taxes unless, under normal circumstances, they had US-source income in that year, in which case they might owe US tax. One does not leave one’s choices open in life by renouncing – and one does leave one’s choices in life open by NOT renouncing and simply filing tax returns. Consider your children also: if they decide to go to college in the US and/or inter-marry and/or live there someday, you may wish to go back for extended periods, not just the tourist-visa period. Don’t limit your choices if you’re already a citizen. Be proud of it and not angry to the point of detrimental responses. That’s my advice to my clients, anyway. Those that don’t take that advice are, truly, not related to the U.S. in any way, shape or form: they may have inherited their citizenship, never lived there, etc.

    • Rachel

      April 16, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      I see your point, but it ignores the other issues: the invasion of privacy, the lack of representation, the expense, the threat of outrageous fines, and, in some cases, the imposition of double taxation. Having said that, I agree that anyone considering renunciation should give it very careful thought.

    • JD

      April 17, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      @June, If what you’ve written were true, there wouldn’t be the outcry going on now. You’re talking about “leaving one’s chances open” without addressing how the already onerous new laws could become worse or more costly? And how does any of that give permission for the USA to over-extend itself to superseding the autonomy of other nations simply because they, the US, can’t figure out how to fix their own “loop-hole-filled”, wealthy-person-slanted tax system? Poor people don’t create loopholes, you know. Close some of those, in-house, & see what you get without bullying other countries for your own issues.

      The fact that millions of US citizens are being seen as “acceptable collateral damage” with FATCA is beyond shameful. And, the US is only able to pull this off by threatening sanctions against anyone who doesn’t come to “their” party!

      To top it all off, the “other countries” are supposed to pick up the tab for the work the USA “ought to” being doing itself. This whole thing smacks of a major, political over-reach. I’m pulling for & donating to the good folks in Canada, who have had a gut-full & are suing their Gov’t on the grounds that this “IGA” is giving away their freedoms & privacy-> which their gov’t cannot do without breaking their OWN laws.

      It’s a data/power/money-grab by the USA, pure & simple.

    • Patricia Moon

      April 18, 2016 at 10:29 pm


      I have strong reactions to your comments. In Canada, citizenship based taxation makes it impossible for anyone to save properly for retirement. The US does not recognize plans that are basically the same as Roth IRA’s, 509 plans, etc. Canada does not tax on the sale of a primary residence and it makes no sense whatsoever for a house bought and paid for with Canadian money to be taxable by the United States.And what to say of non-US mutual funds? The treatment of these by the US is basically criminal.Punishment for not buying US. It is simply not true that people will not owe tax. Perhaps not often in terms of annual income tax but it is far more complicated than your description.

      Things were a lot different 4 years ago when I renounced. Much more frightening with endless threats when no due diligence had been undertaken once the US decided to enforce laws no one knew about. I lived in fear of penalties which would require us to lose our home.For not filing a piece of paper. There was no streamlined or anything like that. And I was the only American in the family.I could not allow the US to take from them. The whole idea is obscene in the first place.My son made his own decision to renounce. I think it is very self-serving to look at complying just to keep the door open for one’s own possible gain in the future.That isn’t patriotic, does not demonstrate any allegiance to the ideals we were taught to believe in, etc.

      Your comment:

      “Those that don’t take that advice are, truly, not related to the U.S. in any way, shape or form: they may have inherited their citizenship, never lived there, etc

      is offensive beyond belief. How dare you tell me that I am not related to the US in any way, shape or form because I did not take advice such as yours. I was born and raised there. And spoke out against anti-Americanism every day in Canada where “American bashing is the national pastime.” To be betrayed in the way we were negates any desire to return period. And only a fool would continue to believe there was noble purpose in remaining loyal to a country that sees you only as a piece of property to tax.

      I was once sad about renouncing but no longer. I am glad to be free of the illusion of American exceptionalism.Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra scandal and the horrific civil rights issues all seemed bad enough. I am glad I am not deluded about the fact that American tortures, it assassinates its own citizens without so much as a trial.It holds people in miserable jails for 12 years or more without even being charged. And people just accept this because suspected “terrorism” is used to justify such behaviour.No thanks, not interested in going back, not ever.

    • SvA

      June 16, 2016 at 6:14 am

      Congratulations on your CLN 🙂 Bittersweet isn’t it?

      I agree with JD in that the good memories will remain but that it’s quite “American” to stand up for one’s principles. Which sometimes requires voting with one’s feet…by walking away. Or, sailing away as America’s forefathers did.

      Some background before I get to my comment about June’s post and then continue:

      I am a “Dutch Girl” born in the US. My mother was Dutch, father US (though first generation from Czechoslovakian parents who escaped communism to a better life in the US, when this was still possible…).

      My mother tried to get NL citizenship for me at birth but since my Dutch parent was my mother, they did not allow this. If my father had been Dutch then I would have been Dutch immediately…! Thank goodness the Dutch men in government finally saw the error of their ways (probably due to being hit over the head with a frying pan by the Dutch women!) and changed this rule a number of years ago. So, about 2 years ago I was able to get my NL citizenship – yippee!

      My first language is Dutch, and even though I was born in the US English is my second language, which I learned in school. I was only allowed to speak Dutch with my mother, until I moved out of the house! I spoke English with my father. I speak both languages without an accent in either one and am So Grateful to my mother for giving me this wonderful connection to my Dutch heritage!

      But since I grew up in the US I am mostly American, with a big dash of Dutch thanks to being raised by my Very Dutch mother.

      About three years ago my mother expressed to me that she would like to move to Ecuador so she could more comfortably live on her Social Security check of about $900/mo. At that time I was living on savings and was interested in living someplace less expensive. So we moved to Ecuador together!

      I have done extensive research for myself as well as my US friends here regarding all the reporting obligations to the US while we live “overseas”. Here is what I learned about how the US taxes its overseas citizens some of which June is apparently unaware of (and I feel for her uninformed clients):

      If one does not have foreign earned income, therefor no benefit from the FEIE, but does have some nonUS investments (foreign business or stocks), gains from these Are Taxed because these are considered passive income, not “earned”. Note that these are investments Not In The US but they are taxed anyway! If you own a foreign rental apartment, the earnings Are Taxed as gains because, again, it is considered passive income. But this is nonUS property! There is no way out of these taxes. I confirmed this consulting extensively with an experienced expat accountant, himself an expat.

      Is it any wonder that I have this question:
      What right does the US have to tax on gains made on nonUS soil or from nonUS business or stock investments?!

      And, if a US person has a foreign company (LLC or LTD) as a method for protecting assets from foreigners who see US people as targets to sue for easy money (since many believe that All US people are rich…sigh…) — are you sitting down? — the US now pierces the “corporate veil” and requires all information regarding that foreign company to be revealed, including bank account numbers and balances! AND it taxes passive earnings for that company even if not distributed! Unbelievable. If they did this in the US there would be a countrywide uprising!

      All the forms required by the US of US citizens living abroad come from the place of “you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent”. Isn’t this the opposite of how things are supposed to work for US citizens?

      I am not a rich person, and is why I live in Ecuador where it is more affordable to live. I am not a criminal and I resent the implication all these invasive forms make to this effect.

      Many US people living outside the US are “economic refugees” because the US has become an expensive place to live. And believe it or not, I actually have better opportunities available here than I had in the US for earning some income, go figure. Not all US people living in foreign countries left the US for political (or family) reasons, many of us left so we could afford a more comfortable life with limited resources. This is a sad reflection of the state of affairs in the US.

      Here is the scariest part of all for me as far as all these overreaching US rules go: if one makes an honest mistake, or even easier, misses some new rule (easy to do since these are not widely publicized) the fines Start a $10,000, some fines actually take (steal!) 50% of the value of what was not reported properly!!! How is this right on any level?

      I do not live in the US anymore, I live in a lovely country and my focus is on my new life here. But in order to avoid potentially being unjustly fined, I have to constantly keep up with these new and ever increasing invasive rules? And if my tax guy doesn’t ask me all the right questions to be sure all the forms are filled in correctly and a mistake is made? I am the one that pays for it – Big Time.

      The US used to be a Great country but I feel, and many agree, this is no longer the case. It has become an international bully, forcing many countries to break their own laws of privacy in order to comply with FATCA. What right does the US have to interfere with other countries laws in order to comply with US rules? How is this legal on an international level?

      And I won’t even get started on the constant wars the US is involved with, and how dangerous it has become to be a US person in many foreign countries due to US aggression…

      When I put all of these things together I realized that I could no longer, with a good conscience, be part of a system gone so terrible wrong and which is so punitive towards its citizens living outside the US.

      I actually became ashamed of being US, and when people assume I am US due to sounding “American” I immediately correct them with I am “Holandesa” (Dutch) but was raised in the US and is why I don’t have an accent…

      I used to be proud to be US but the US has let me down in so many ways. I hope this changes some day and that the US becomes the great country again that it once was.

      As with Rachel, I deliberated for a long long time but finally, sadly, came to the conclusion that I could no longer remain a US citizen.

      I am not a “covered expat” and I’ve always been up to date with my taxes. The renouncing process was straight forward, though expensive as Rachel has said but it is the last “pound of flesh” the US will get out of me.

      While I am sad that renouncing was for me the only reasonable option, it has also giving me a wonderful feeling of liberation. I can now live my life without worrying about getting an unexpected notification from the US informing me I missed some unreasonable new rule and that what little savings I have will be taken away from me, and likely be in debt for more. I am now free of this worry and can fully focus on my new life here.

      I am in month number two awaiting my Certificate of Loss of Nationality.

      No longer being US unfortunately does not make some of the problems of having been a US person go away. I will forever have to prove that I am no longer US whenever I do anything financial. All the due diligence required by the US of all foreign financial institutions now includes asking where one was born… And every time I answer this question I will have to produce my CLN to prove I am no longer US. I have already experienced this (and they are waiting for a copy of my CLN).

      I have also been told that I will have to have my CLN with me when I enter the US with my Dutch passport if an observant immigration officer realizes that my city of birth listed on my passport is in the US and asks to see my US passport…sigh…

      Sorry about such a long comment…but I had a lot to share 🙂

      • Rachel

        June 16, 2016 at 8:34 am

        No apology necessary! Though you moved overseas for a different reason than I did, it sounds like you went through the same decision-making process on the way to renunciation. I’m glad I got out too, though I don’t have the feeling of relief yet, probably because I haven’t sent in my 2015 tax forms yet. Still waiting on my husband’s accountant… Good luck in Ecuador!

  • JD

    April 17, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Hi Rachel,

    Congrats! on receiving your “freedom” from oppression & “taxation without representation”, along with freedom from the requirement to file bank balances with the criminal div. of the US Treasury. No more worries finding a qualified CPA to file expensive taxes each year for your $0 owed. Congrats on now being able to LIVE your life where you ACTUALLY RESIDE & receive services from! You can now use a bank! & open a retirement fund! without risking possible money/prison penalties!

    I say all this, though I know you’re aware, because the responses are turning your “emancipation” post into sadness-cakes.

    I, like you, grew up in the US 60′-70’s, as well. But I don’t have the issue of separating my past life & memories from the shameful deeds of the current establishment/gov’t. Relinquishing doesn’t change my good memories or the fact I have some family & friends still there. It is me practicing the principles I was taught growing up, and as has been pointed out, it’s a VERY American stance, indeed.

    You stated it felt like a divorce, but I think it sounds more like leaving a “bad boyfriend”:


  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    April 17, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Your posts about your renunciation have been very moving and have me wondering if I could do the same thing given your set of circumstances. How fortunate you were to be raised by parents who taught you to question the status quo and exposed you to the wonderful right a free society has to protest without recrimination. One of the things I find most wrong about the whole FATCA taxation issue is that it’s the expat middle class who are bearing the brunt of a complicated system of onerous taxation.

    • Rachel

      April 17, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Yes, and we’re the ones who represent America abroad. Why make us all resentful and angry at our country? It doesn’t help America’s image abroad at all, and it could really use help!

  • Diana

    April 17, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Your blog (and specifically this post) was sent to me by a friend, another American expat, because she knows that struggle I am now under. I am in the process of completing the OVP (voluntary disclosure – the true lion’s den) for seven years of FBARS. I filed my tax forms religionsly. As you know, this is not about taxes, because we rarely owe taxes when we live abroad unless we are in an especially high income category AND live in a land with a lower tax rate than the US – neither of which apply to me. The case has been open for three years, the mistakes the IRS has made have been frightening. My legal fees are in the five figures. It has been, in a word, TERRIFYING. I have lived abroad since the age of 35, and have now come to the point where I am preparing myself for filing for divorce (your absolutely perfect analogy). Some of my friends understand completely. Some of my friends and family cannot. At the ripe old age of 57, I cannot bear to keep doing this, to keep exposing myself to this inordinate risk, to chronically feel like there is something about my living situation that is inherently anti-American, and that I am at risk just by nature of having foreign bank accounts – well, they are not foreign to me, they are my home accounts, because this is where I live. And honestly, I did not want to make this comment about me. I wanted to make it about you. I wanted to jump in my car and drive to the Netherlands from southern Germany and take you out to a bar and get drunk and let you cry your eyes out because you are one brave girl. Let the sense of filing taxes in one country and having a simple life wash over you, Rachel. Let is absorb into your pores and let it bring you a sense of peace that no American expat can ever, ever have. They do not like us. I don’t know why, but they do and there is nothing we can do about it. There is no reason for how we are treated. They castigated us into a category of money launderers and terrorists and decided we should stay there. Enjoy voting in a place where your vote counts for YOUR life. You did the right thing. And I know I have to do it too. As soon as my FBAR case is closed, I will begin the process of divorcing myself from a country that my father fought for but no longer wants me. I send you the warmest, warmest greetings from not very far away.

    • Rachel

      April 17, 2016 at 6:38 pm

      Diana, your post nearly brought me to tears again! I feel bad about complaining sometimes, when I know that some people, like you, have wrestled with far worse from the US government as overseas Americans. It’s all so unfair! That stress and fear you describe so well is really hard to explain to other people. And if you’re ever in this part of the Netherlands, or I’m in southern Germany, I am certainly up for that drunken crying session with someone who has to go through that “divorce” just like me.

  • Mike F.

    April 17, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    I work in the German finance industry and was involved in installing the FATCA rules into several programmes. Actually I was shocked to see how much and what information are to be reported to the IRS.

    I am very sorry to see that Americans feel forced to get rid of their nationality because of something like that. I can imagine the feelings you all went through.

    • Rachel

      April 17, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      Doesn’t it anger you that the German financial institutions are essentially being forced to take orders from the IRS? And that you have to hand over that information? Many banks are now rejecting American customers in order to save themselves the cost of compliance. We end up forced to renounce in order to do business at all!

      • Mike F.

        April 18, 2016 at 6:39 pm

        I was suprised that Germany agreed to FATCA and passed a national law to ensure it. After all the implemantion of those rules are quite expensive and is something without any benefit for Germany, only for the American IRS. I doubt that the US would do something similar.

        Actually we discussed to reject new American customers. But that would not solve the problem with already existing American customers. I work for an insurance company and we are not allowed to terminate life insurance contracts for such a reason.

  • John Richardson

    April 18, 2016 at 2:40 am


    Hope finally receiving the CLN will bring this to an end for you. Unfortunately, the oppression of Americans abroad, is such that there is NO outcome that is truly satisfactory. It’s important for you to NOT dwell on this any longer than you have to. Otherwise, it will be harder for you to achieve the “peace” and “freedom” that you desire.

    With respect to your citizenship, you were dealt a “bad hand”. All you can do is play that hand as well as you can, which you have done.

    Is divorce a good analogy here? The pain may be similar. A divorce does NOT depend on the consent of the former spouse. Renunciation US citizenship does depend on the consent of the United States.

    I wish you peace, happiness and the presence of mind to move beyond this.

    Thank you for your series of posts which have allowed others to experience your journey!

  • BC_Doc

    April 18, 2016 at 7:24 am

    Happy Patriots Day Rachel. This Patriots Day, I will think of you and the thousands of other ex-pats who were left with no good choice but to give up their US nationality due to foolhardy and abusive tax policies. You are a true patriot in my book. Thank you for sharing your story.

    All the best,

    BC Doc

  • Jo

    April 18, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Loved your story which made me feel sad for you too. Nationalities in our 21st century global village should be done away with altogether. We are citizens of the world. Everything else is just set up to relieve us of money, add stress and make us wonder who we really are.

  • Betsy Wuebker

    April 18, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I know how you agonized over this decision, and I think divorce is the perfect analogy. The emotions are complicated and even though it could be characterized as amicable, it’s really not. You’ll always be American to me.

  • Jack Albrecht

    April 18, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    We seem to be of similar age and experience. I even lived 1/2 time for 3+ years in Delft.

    I’m an expat in Austria since the early 90’s. I’ve been thinking about renouncing for years, just for the reasons you give. I run my own company here, so my tax bill is around $2500 each year also just to prove I don’t owe anything. As I have business accounts, FATCA and FBARs are more extensive.

    Right now I’m just thinking about how much longer I can take this. I’m loath to renounce as technically, if the US decides you renounced to avoid taxes, they can bar you from the country. My mom is not getting any younger, and the thought of not being able to visit when she is too old to travel here is a factor that is currently outweighing all the things you mention. For example, I invest in real estate, because buying into foreign stocks would increase my accounting and bookkeeping costs and eat up the profits. Austria offers lots of gov’t subsidies for certain investments, but I would have to tax those as “gifts” in the US, negating the value. Arrrgh!

    Thanks for the info on the $2 mil. The properties I own are not (in aggregate) yet in the $2 mil. range, but I have to think of other assets as well. It would be ironic (and stupid) if when my mom dies and if I inherit something that it would make renouncing much more difficult, after not renouncing to assure I can visit my mom.

    Anyway, good luck to you and thanks for the well written article.

    • Rachel

      April 18, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      But if you don’t owe anything, how can the US bar you from the country for renouncing? If you don’t owe, you clearly didn’t renounce to avoid taxes, right? Good luck to you, whatever you decide!

      • Jack Albrecht

        April 18, 2016 at 8:27 pm

        As the bard said, “Ah, there’s the rub.” Not owing taxes is not the same as renouncing because you wanted to avoid taxes. The powers that be decide why they think you renounced, and you don’t get a say in it. I used an international tax lawyer in my voting state of Texas a few years ago to get this information.

        • Rachel

          April 18, 2016 at 8:36 pm

          Wouldn’t it help if you handed in a written statement like I did? You’re allowed to do that when you renounce. It gets sent to the State Department along with the other paperwork.

  • Janice Chung

    April 18, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I really hate the term they give is, “The Loss of Nationality”. Sounds so cold.Your analogy of a divorce was bang on. I can’t imagine having to make that decision. I think most people do not realize what the implications are. How difficult it is and what a great post you have written.

  • Nathalie

    April 18, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel right now. I think that you will be grieving this loss for quite some time, as you would a death or divorce, as bad as things were, it’s still a loss.I hope you can some day find peace in this renunciation and see the silver lining.

  • Mike

    April 18, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Citizenship is, for many people, a deeply felt and treasured part of their identity.

    You gave up your citizenship because of some tax hassles and financial privacy issues. I am sure the many Americans subject to asset forfeiture laws are sympathetic. Boo hoo.

    I am a conservative Christian who lives in the People’s Republic of New York. My “representatives” don’t come remotely close to representing me. They see me as a cow to be milked.

    I can’t believe the whining. Plenty of people have made much, much bigger sacrifices for the U.S. than you have. You think you’re not treated fairly? Welcome to the club. Life is unfair for many people for many different reasons.

    So your American identity isn’t worth what, to anyone else, is a relatively minor hassle in the grand scheme of things? Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you and the ass on the way out.

    • Jack Albrecht

      April 18, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      @Mike: I guess when God was handing out empathy you were standing in the line for vitriol. Since you’re living in the US, you clearly don’t understand the issue. Why post this? Why not grammar check before you post?

      • Rachel

        April 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm

        @Mike: Of the thousands who have read this post, you win the prize for the first negative response I’ve gotten! Congratulations!

        And you’re right, plenty of people have far worse problems. And, yes, there are other unjust laws besides FATCA. But that doesn’t change the fact that FATCA is unjust, and FATCA is what affects me.

        I also agree that lots of people have sacrificed for their country (the US or another country). I didn’t do this for the US; I did it for me and my peace of mind. I think having to pay $2350 counts as that door hitting me as I leave too!

    • JD

      April 19, 2016 at 4:35 am


      “I am a (male) conservative Christian who lives in the People’s Republic of New York.”

      That, says it all. The most deluded & self-entitled demographic in his-story.

      Do you just (s)troll around the ‘net, looking for places to sh*t on other people, belittle them & dismiss their pain?

      What a misery-projecting wanker you are.

      Sorry, Rachel- this sort just irks me!

  • Carol Colborn

    April 18, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    I felt the same when I “renounced” my Filipino citizenship when I became an AMERICAN two years later I became a dual citizen Feels right because I have both my adopted and home countries in my heart. I hope there will be such a chance for you.

  • The GypsyNesters

    April 18, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    I have really enjoyed these stories, and learned a lot. Divorce is a good metaphor. Had no idea it was so complicated to become an un citizen. Seems like most of this is from the over reaction to 9/11. Best of luck moving forward.

    • Rachel Heller

      April 23, 2016 at 3:44 am

      It could be, but I think it’s mostly political posturing. FATCA allows politicians to claim they’re doing something about rich people who hide their money overseas.

  • Jackie Smith

    April 19, 2016 at 7:50 am

    It is too bad the system won out. Sometimes the dragon wins, is a phrase that comes to mind. Since becoming part-time ex pats, we too have come to know FATCA well. We have to file even though we are residents of the US half the year and half the year in Greece. We also have to pay for a Greek accountant who prepares our annual income tax forms and files them here although we don’t earn any money here. We also have the 90-day limitation but it applies to our time in Greece and to stay longer we must meet the requirements set forth by the Greek government which includes a high income threshold and will result in a high health insurance premium each year for something we will likely never use. So I can appreciate your frustrations in dealing with government reporting regulations but we’ve come to accept it as part of ‘the deal’ required to live our lives as we wish. Hope you’ll be able to look back on this time as one in which you grew and learned and are ultimately glad you made the break. Hugs to you.

  • Caryn Payzant

    April 20, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Wow- this post made me so sad. I commend you for being true to your beliefs and I can see your reasoning. Your comparison to a divorce seems accurate. Still, I don’t think I could ever renounce my citizenship to the country I love.

    • Rachel

      April 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      It’s a decision each overseas American has to make individually based on practical and emotional considerations. A lot of people I know here in Groningen say exactly the same thing “I don’t think I could ever renounce.” I completely understand.

  • JD

    April 20, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Hey R,

    Your travel blog “touched a nerve” in speaking of FATCA…in the same way a fellow blogger ( ) launched a site about teachers & her first post about NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) took a firm hold! For those interested in NPD, please also visit:

    Good for you, Rachel! The more traffic, the better– both for FATCA & for you & your site. I do read all of your travel articles, too- I’m just stuck with yr. 12 & uni kids so not able to travel as yet…but soon!


    • Rachel

      April 20, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      It’s a bit disconcerting and certainly frustrating to realize that, despite calling myself a travel blogger, my most popular posts by far have been the ones related to FATCA. I just enjoy writing about travel!

      I know it seems like I travel a lot, but it feels like I never get enough time and/or opportunity!

      • BC_Doc

        April 20, 2016 at 8:49 pm

        “It’s a bit disconcerting and certainly frustrating to realize that, despite calling myself a travel blogger, my most popular posts by far have been the ones related to FATCA.”

        In a way, the US has launched an undeclared war against its 8.7M ex-pats. Each CLN issued represents an ex-pat casualty. Your story hits so close to home for so many of us (and you write so well)– I think that in part explains why your FATCA articles receive such high readership. Millions of is are walking a similar path– rights eroded in our adopted countries with personal finances now at great risk while pushed out the door by our country of birth.

        • Rachel

          April 21, 2016 at 5:19 am

          Yes, I know. And it’s nice for me that it brings new readers to my blog. Each time I post about FATCA my daily numbers go sharply up, then drop again, but the average stays a bit higher each time, so some readers, like you, are staying, thank goodness!

  • Donna Meyer

    April 23, 2016 at 7:27 am

    I’ve been following along with your whole citizenship journey here, Rachel, and the whole thing just makes me so ANGRY! Angry at the US Government, angry at all the other world governments that have caved to US pressure on this stupid law, angry as an ex-pat myself at being made to feel like a criminal simply for choosing to live and do normal business outside the US. It is all so stupid and unfair. You should not have to be going through this and that Loss if Citizenship certificate is a huge symbol of the unfairness of it all. Your divorce analogy is a perfect one.
    I hope to see you in Stockholm this summer. I’ll buy you a drink and we will mourn this together/ Or celebrate!

    • Rachel

      April 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      I will be in Stockholm too, and I will hold you to your offer of a drink together! 🙂 I think I’ve moved into whatever the next stage of mourning is. I’m not so angry anymore; just a sort of annoyed feeling whenever I think about it…

  • Edelweiss

    April 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    My CLN arrived on July 4th 2013, my personal independence day.

    It’s been nearly three years and it’s only been recently that I find myself going days without something triggering feelings of anger and injustice. The only tangible thing they have taken from me is the right to reside in the US and my $450 (now $2,350). The fact that I can’t reside in the US doesn’t really bother me. What bothers me is that I will forever resent the fact that it was forcibly taken from me.

    In this respect, although I haven’t experienced it personally, I liken the renunciation process to being mugged or, worse, mugged at gunpoint. You can carry on with your life without the watch, the ring or the $450. However, the act of being subjected to a random act of violence is traumatic with lasting repercussions.

    I checked the list of stressful situations linked in your post to see if a mugging is listed but it isn’t. Then I searched for “how stressful is mugging” and came across part of a blog post at Psychology Today.

    “PTSD symptoms seem to be worse if they were triggered deliberately by another person, as in a mugging or rape. Most PTSD sufferers repeatedly relive the trauma in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. These are called flashbacks. Flashbacks may consist of images, sounds, smells, or feelings. They are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming, a car backfiring, or being in a place that looks like where the trauma took place. A person having a flashback is likely to feel the emotions and physical feelings that occurred when the incident happened despite no longer being in danger.” (

    I can definitely identify with the concept of “flashbacks” in the sense that certain things trigger the feelings of anger and injustice.

    • Rachel

      April 28, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      I can’t say that I feel the same way, or at least not to such an extent as you do. I don’t know the details of what led you to renounce, but for me it really was a choice. While I felt that I “had to” renounce, in fact I was not forced, which makes it less like a mugging. I certainly see your point though! Those “flashbacks” happen often: moments of anger, resentment, regret.

  • ExUS

    May 4, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Congratulations on receiving your CLN.

    The fuller sense of relief will come as you file the last of those invasive forms. I always felt like they and the FBAR, etc. were like nitro, potentially liable to blow me up at any time without warning, despite my best efforts checking and re-checking them. And that is with an income so low that it usually barely reached the US taxable threshold after the personal deduction even without using my Foreign Tax credits, much less the FEIE. This ordeal has distorted my life and significantly harmed me and my NON-US family. I had to dissolve my Canadian registered savings TFSA, refrain from being co-signatory on anyone else’s accounts like my Canadian child’s education savings, never ever hold a local Canadian mutual fund, etc.

    We’ll never recoup the useless waste of significant hard earned savings spent on obtaining the help of US tax professionals (all of whom, whether expensive tax lawyers or preparers, made mistakes on my filings) and I will never get back the hours and days and months of stress and anxiety the US has directly caused me and the harm it caused myself and my Canadian family. Throughout the years it took to finally work through this, and get my divorce papers from the US, I never owed it a dime, I was fully tax compliant where my income was actually earned and held in the non-US country where I ACTUALLY RESIDE, and my local accounts were all post tax, legal, and registered and reported to my home country tax agency with my SIN# as required.

    I feel I was forced to pay a ransom to the US in order to be freed. Or to buy out a forced indentureship like indentured servants in the early history of the US. Or worse, because the burden was one I inherited from parents and which was foist on me because of my birthplace.

    The anger still burns.

    And I still resent – and will always resent that I was forced by the US to go through that useless ordeal, which resulted in harm to me and NO GAIN for the US Treasury. Basically the US FORCED me to endure that ordeal and the stripping away of my birthright. And for nothing – because it didn’t gain them a penny, and in fact cost them to deal with all the useless stack of papers I had to file.

    Let us also never ever forget those individuals deemed to be US persons, with disabilities which cause them to be deemed legally incompetent – because they will NEVER be allowed by the US to renounce or relinquish and remain bound, even as the US extraterritorially and unilaterally declares their local non-US disability benefits, government grants and savings to belong to the US as the assets of lifelong US taxable people. Thus they remain bound to the US forever, and their family does too, through them.

    Minors are also bound until they can prove mature enough to be allowed by the US government to renounce/relinquish.

    This is a grievous wrong which should not stand.

  • JD

    June 15, 2016 at 8:39 am


    I have sent in my FINAL US/IRS forms!

    I am FREE!

    Just knowing I have shed that weight is amazing. I didn’t expect to feel this great, actually. And knowing I no longer have to sift through forms & go through that idiotic paperwork every year- just an amazing feeling!

    Best wishes to the rest of you who have renounced. No one can take away your experiences or memories of the US– and now you are free to fully embrace/adopt your chosen country.

    Stay positive! 🙂

    • Rachel

      June 15, 2016 at 2:51 pm

      I’m not quite there yet; just waiting on some information from my husband’s Dutch accountant and I’ll be done too! SO looking forward to being done with all that!

  • Allen

    August 17, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    I read through a bit of your blog and I found it quite interesting. I only came across the blog after looking for the so called “renunciation list” that the US produces each quarter. Interesting to note my name has never appeared on the list (I remain disappointed by this fact). I renounced March 7th of 2012, a bright sunny day in Calgary Alberta, Canada. What a relief! after I got the CLN all was well with the world. My parents moved to Canada in 1975, and after 5 years we all became Canadians. Who wouldn’t, I mean, we could actually go to a doctor! Anyway, I haven’t been back to the US since 2012 and my Wife still remains paranoid at crossing the boarder. Too bad really because there’s so much to see and enjoy in the US.

    • Rachel

      August 17, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      I haven’t appeared on the list yet either, though I only renounced last November. I do wonder how many have ACTUALLY renounced. I don’t think you need to worry about crossing the border; just take your CLNs along with you.

    • JD

      August 19, 2016 at 5:54 am


      I relinquished in June 2015 & received my CLN about 10 months afterwards. I “made the list”, in this quarter’s publication. W00t!

      At the Isaac Brock society website, there are many, many people who renounced but never saw themselves in the register either. Makes you wonder, if it’s “no big deal” to the USA (supposed small amount of people leaving), why the USA gov’t appears to hide the facts/numbers???

  • Lemontree

    November 3, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    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…

  • S to the H

    November 17, 2017 at 1:11 am

    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.

    • Rachel

      November 17, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      I’ve heard about all of these problems. The issue with retirement was one I was also concerned about. Apparently it depends on the intergovernmental agreement the US has made with each individual country: in some places it recognizes the retirement vehicle as a retirement vehicle, while in some places it considers it a regular investment. Thanks for adding this information!

  • Patrick

    December 17, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    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.

    • Rachel

      December 17, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      I completely understand! And I’ve heard that some consulates are requiring two appointments. Really annoying, especially for those who live far from the capital city. Their complete confidence that no one would ever want to renounce is mind-boggling, sometimes! Good luck to you!

  • Matthew Wynn

    December 19, 2017 at 12:22 am

    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!

  • Lydia

    January 3, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    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.

  • Patrick

    January 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm

    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.

  • Inge Frye

    July 5, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    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?

    • Rachel

      July 7, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      There are official lists that get published in the US every quarter that supposedly list everyone who has renounced, though it’s clear that they’re not complete lists. It seems to me that the IRS has bigger fish to fry than someone who renounces without filing taxes. Theoretically they could do it, but they’re extremely underfunded, so they’re likely to choose targets who they could collect a lot from, so it would more than cover the costs of collecting.

      I’m sorry to hear you and your son were treated so badly about renouncing. I found the people at the consulate in Amsterdam to be remarkably kind about it. They read the statement I’d written and said they understood. I don’t think it’s a problem to mention taxes, but it is a problem if you say that you are renouncing in order to avoid paying taxes. It’s two different things. My statement did mention taxes, but in terms of how I was offended that the law seemed to assume I was a tax cheat until I proved that I wasn’t.

      • Inge Frye

        July 16, 2018 at 4:36 pm

        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!

        • Rachel

          July 16, 2018 at 8:21 pm

          Probably not a good idea! How many would sell it to the highest bidder rather than giving it to a needy Mexican lady? I agree that it’s a shame that we have to give it up when we still feel so attached to it.

  • Alfonso

    January 25, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    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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