Right now, though, I don’t want to discuss the politics, but rather just let you know what my day was like.
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.
The ride to Amsterdam takes a bit more than two hours. In the early morning light, the passing scenery was lovely.
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.
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.
I spent some time being filmed by them, both at the train station and outside the consulate.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Read the next article in my series on citizenship: Thanksgiving reconsidered.