My Renunciation Day

A US passport. I don't have one since my renunciation day.

I renounced my US citizenship today.

Right now, I don’t want to discuss the politics, but rather just let you know what my day was like.

Note: This article was published on November 18, 2015.

Getting there

Like any good Dutch resident, I got to Amsterdam by first riding my bike to the train station here in Groningen. I waited for the train, which was a bit late.

Looking down the tracks, people standing on the platform on the left, no one on the oppposite platform. A train is visible approaching in the distance.
Waiting for the train at Groningen train station

The ride to Amsterdam takes a bit more than two hours. In the early morning light, the passing scenery was lovely.

Farmland scene from the train window: a house with a barn, trees around it, surrounded by green fields.
Scene from the train window

I read the free paper I had picked up at the station. The articles screaming about the Paris attacks made my private grief about renouncing seem pretty unimportant by comparison.

An open newspaper. Picture in the paper on the left has a man holding a French flag with the words F*CK U IS on it.
Today’s Metro newspaper (The headline on the left says “Terror threat cancels international football match” and the one on the right says “Our southern neighbors in the grip of terror.”)

In Amsterdam

Outside the Amsterdam train station, a camera crew waited. Without getting into specifics, I’m going to be featured in a piece at some later date addressing the issue of the increasing number of Americans who are renouncing their citizenship. Because of the Paris attacks, the team putting the report together are in Paris, so today wasn’t the full interview. This camera crew was there to film me before and after my actual renunciation and the interview itself will happen at a later date.

Two cameramen wait for me outside the Amsterdam train station. They stand in a clear open space next to a tripod with a big camera on top. People walk in various directions behind them, some dragging luggage. Buildings in the distance show that it is Amsterdam.
Two cameramen wait for me outside the Amsterdam train station.

I spent some time being filmed by them,  both at the train station and outside the consulate.

Note added in June 2021: The segment, on a major US news show, never happened because of all the attention to the terrorist attack. They kept telling me they’d come back to it, but never did. It’s too bad, because the situation that caused me to renounce in 2015 is still just as harmful to Americans abroad today. The publicity would have helped.

Renunciation at the US Consulate

At my appointment time, I entered the consulate, passing through the usual security: no electronic devices allowed, no bag allowed, just the necessary papers and wallet. I was not allowed a camera, so I have no pictures of the renunciation itself.

The US consulate in Amsterdam is a brick building, quite elegant. A small balcony on the second floor holds an American flag at half-mast. This is where I renounced on my renunciation day.
The US consulate in Amsterdam

Three other visitors had appointments besides me. A young couple with a newborn were either registering their child or getting the child a passport. I couldn’t hear well enough to know. The other was a young man who was renouncing like me, but seemed much less upset about it than I was feeling.

When it was my turn, I went up to the window and a very nice man asked for my passports. I handed them to him and burst into tears. He was very kind about it, saying that he understood, and repeating that I didn’t have to renounce, that I could still change my mind. When I pulled myself together, I told him that I wanted to renounce, I just wasn’t happy about it.

In addition to my passport, I handed him an article I’ve written about why I’m renouncing. The renunciation process allows me to include a statement along with my papers, and I decided to hand this in as my statement. You can read it on Medium.

A short wait and it was time to pay. Farewell, $2350! That’s what the US charges to renounce citizenship.

Another short wait, and I was called up for the renunciation itself. I signed a form in duplicate called “Statement of Understanding Concerning the Consequences and Ramifications of Renunciation or Relinquishment of U.S. Nationality.

Next I took an oath which the man behind the counter read to me. It basically stated that I understood all the ramifications and that I was not being coerced in any way. I signed a paper version of it in duplicate as well.

The man who swore me in told me that while I was waiting, he and his colleague had read my article and thought it was good: clearly stating my reasons for renouncing. He said it would be sent with my application to renounce and because I had clearly thought this through, he would recommend that the State Department allow my renunciation. I was surprised at his kindness, and that of his colleague, who also said positive things about what I had written. I had entered the consulate fearing that their attitude would be nasty: that they’d treat me as some sort of traitor. It was a relief that the process was so gentle.

I was also surprised that I had to have State Department permission to renounce. What happens if they say no?

Afterwards

So now I wait. In “a few months” I should get a Certificate of Loss of Nationality in the mail, along with my cancelled passport. In the meantime, I’m still a US citizen.

Leaving the consulate, the camera crew filmed me some more and then we parted ways. To clear my thoughts and cheer myself up, I took a long walk back to the train station along the Prinsengracht, looking at the beautiful old buildings and snapping pictures.

A row of typical Dutch row houses: tall and narrow, most of them are three windows wide and five or six stories high with pretty decorative gables at the top. In the foreground, the water of a canal and a few boats moored along its side.
houses on the Prinsengracht

That was it: onto the train at Amsterdam Central. Back to Groningen and on my bike home. It’s evening now and I’m exhausted: both mentally and physically, given how little I slept last night, and how fraught this whole thing has been for me. I’ll post more about this in the future, but right now I’m off to bed.

Looking down the tracks in a station with a glass roof. People waiting on the right side on the platform. A train approaches on the near track. Another is parked already on the far track.
waiting for the train in Amsterdam Central Station

My whole US citizenship series:

Pinnable image
Text: My renunciation day: part of a series on the why and how of renouncing US citizenship
Images: above, a US passport. below, the US consulate in Amsterdam.
Please pin this!

Article updated June 2021.

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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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I feel your pain Rachel and I admire your courage for standing up to your beliefs and philosophy of life. Even though you will be Dutch on paper, you’ll always be as American as you ever want to be. Try not to worry about celebrating Thanksgiving, July 4th or any other American celebration. I’m British living in Berlin and I have a lot more American friends than I do British ones and it hasn’t stopped me celebrating their festivities and the French and German ones too. I even celebrate Diwali – and that’s an Indian festival lol!
Stay strong. 🙂

Not really Rachel! What I meant to say was that as an expat, we pool together and support each other. To celebrate the history or religious background of a friend and fellow expat doesn’t mean drinking champagne all day. It means being there for them when they would rather be in their home-country, with their friends and family. It means trying to re-anact the way things would have been in their place of origin.

I’m a teacher and professional trainer and like yourself, part of the job is attempting to understand the background of our clients and also the cultural heritage of where we are. If that is Indian, then so be it. In my case, my expat community tend to be American and therefore, when I’m invited to a July 4th event, even though I’m British and have nothing to do with it, I teach it, organise it, and celebrate “Independence Day” right along with them. 🙂

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Hi, Rachel. My renunciation appointment is set in Melbourne, Australia in just a few days from now. I am now a citizen of Australia as well as the US, but had hoped to retain my US citizenship for several reasons. I’m in a similar position to you and other expats deciding to renounce, but I have to admit it is a very emotionally trying experience. My grandparents came to the US from France and felt so happy with the opportunities they found there, so my renouncing voluntarily feels in some ways like I’m disrespecting the sacrifices and dreams of my forefathers. It’s a sad day coming, but like you, I saw no reasonable alternative.

Hi Rachel, I got here because I’m a US expat with kids in Canada and who are therefore Canadian citizens. To be claimed on US returns as my dependents, they need tax IDs. I went to the US consulate to get notarial services necessary to get taxIDs for them (it’s IRS form W-7). Surprisingly, I was pressured (by 3 different consular employees, like running a gauntlet that lasted 3 hours) to get them SSNs (as US citizens) instead of taxIDs.

I have been faithfully filing income taxes outside the US for more than 20 years, and I know it’s a huge pain and very complex! So, naturally I resisted giving my small children US passports because a) it’s more paperwork for me and my wife, and b) my kids are going to be “gifted” this paperwork burden for their life. When I tried to explain these reasons to the consular officials, they had nothing to say. Each employee began with the same questions, applied the same pressures… After several hours of waiting, I jokingly said to the last employee that I would gladly sign my kids up for a US passport if it came with a lifetime supply of accountant services! She was not amused by my sarcasm.

The hypocrisy in this is that US parents cannot renounce US citizenship for their kids (because the law says kids can’t decide on their own and have to wait until they are 18), yet the law gladly allows for parents to apply for their citizenship before children even realize what obligations (lifetime tax filing) they are receiving. For a Canadian who will never live in the US (very good chance that’s going to happen with my kids, especially the way things look politically in the US), having a US passport is **not** an advantage. Expat parents should not cave to the pressure of the US consulates!

Thanks for your article. There’s not much one can read re: the feelings experienced when renunciating US citizenship. I can say that I don’t feel any regret with my renunciation. Rather, with the dystopian-matrix political climate that Trump and his braindead surrogates have created in the US, I feel an enormous sense of relief now that I’m not a US citizen. It’s a feeling of being liberated from the duplicitous fantasies that were programmed into me from childhood. I have taken the blue pill and I am at peace.

I’ve come across this site because, only ten days ago, did I realise that I need to file USA tax returns etc. I left the USA when I was 21, obtained British citizenship three years later, and had no idea that keeping USA citizenship would cause me all this difficulty later. I have now lived in the UK for 30 years. All of my investments etc have been made with UK tax laws in mind. I’ve hired a tax advisor because I don’t know what’s going to happen after I file the three years of returns under the Streamline process. I know that I won’t pay tax on ‘earned income’, but there’s my investments to think about. They’re not large (under £30K) but there could be lots of paperwork (and legal time to pay for) to report them. Looking ahead to retirement, I could be heavily penalised when it’s time to draw my UK pensions. So I’ve already decided that, early next year, I must renounce. (I don’t have the money to afford to do so any earlier.) I sobbed over this last night, I have always been proud of my dual nationality. So hard to believe that the USA would treat a citizen in this way!

Hi Rachel
thanks for all the info you gave us!
I am looking for a reasonable fee Tax lawyer service that can help us to do the process and do it with the less risk…
Can you refer to somebody ?
thanks!

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