Renunciation of citizenship
Renunciation is the voluntary act of relinquishing one's citizenship or nationality. It is the opposite of naturalization whereby a person voluntarily acquires a citizenship, and is distinct from denaturalization, where the loss of citizenship is forced by a state.
|This section requires expansion. (May 2012)|
The common law doctrine of perpetual allegiance denied an individual the right to renounce obligations to his sovereign. The bonds of subjecthood were conceived in principle to be both singular and immutable. These practices held on in varying ways until the late 19th century.
The refusal of many states to recognize expatriation became problematic for the United States, which had a large immigrant population. The War of 1812 was caused partly by Britain's impressment of U.S. citizens born in the UK into the British Royal Navy. Immigrants to the U.S. were sometimes held to the obligations of their foreign citizenship when they visited their home countries. In response, the U.S. government passed the Expatriation Act of 1868 and concluded various treaties, the Bancroft Treaties, recognizing the right to renounce one's citizenship.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists both the right to leave any country, including one's own (Article 13(2)) and the right to change one's nationality (Article 15(2)), which implicitly recognizes the right to renounce citizenship.
In modern law
Renunciation of citizenship is particularly relevant in cases of multiple citizenship, given that additional citizenships may be acquired automatically and may be undesirable. Many countries have pragmatic policies that recognize the often arbitrary nature of citizenship claims of other countries and negative consequences, such as loss of security clearance, can mostly be expected only for actively exercising foreign citizenship, for instance by obtaining a foreign passport. People from some countries renounce their citizenship to avoid compulsory military service. However, some people may wish to be free even of the purely theoretical obligations and appearance of dual loyalty that another citizenship implies. Even in countries that allow dual citizenship, such as Jamaica and Pakistan, electoral laws demand that politicians not be under an obligation of allegiance to any foreign country, and so when politicians have been found to be violating such laws, they stepped down and renounced their other citizenships in response to the public controversy. Another example may be political refugees who would wish to renounce allegiance to the country from which they escaped.
Renunciation law in specific countries
Each country sets its own policies for formal renunciation of citizenship. There is a common concern that individuals about to relinquish their citizenship do not become a stateless person and many countries require evidence of another citizenship or an official promise to grant citizenship before they release that person from citizenship. Some countries may not allow or do not recognize renunciation of citizenship or establish administrative procedures that are essentially impossible to complete.
Mexico requires renunciation of all other citizenships as a condition of naturalization.
Renunciation of citizenship is most straightforward in those countries which recognize and strictly enforce a single citizenship. Thus, voluntary naturalization in another country is considered as "giving up" of one's previous citizenship or implicit renunciation. For practical reasons, such an automatic renunciation cannot officially take place until the authorities of the original country are informed about the naturalization. In Japan, a formal report is required from the renouncing person to be submitted at an embassy. Germany actively investigates whether its citizens living abroad have naturalized there when they apply for a passport; for instance in Canada, German passport applicants have to submit a search of citizenship record. Canada and Australia are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and renunciation is possible only if it will not result in statelessness. Applications for renunciation of citizenship need to be submitted in those countries with a waiting time of several months until approval.
The right to renounce Nigerian citizenship is established in § 29 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which states that "any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his/her Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation", which the government is obliged to register except when Nigeria is physically involved in a war or when the President of Nigeria is of the opinion that the renunciation is contrary to public policy. Under § 29(4)(a), a person of either gender becomes "of full age" at eighteen years, while under § 29(4)(b) a girl younger than that is still deemed to be "of full age" if she is married. One cannot renounce his/her citizenship if both parents are Nigerians and none of either parents have another citizenship. The supreme court in Nigeria has ruled on this by interpreting the section quoted above accordingly. Once born a Nigerian, a person cannot actually renounce his/her citizenship except in certain cases of Naturalization/Registration and dual citizenship. It is the most generous citizenship one can have as long as both parents are Nigerians.
In 2013, the Senate of Nigeria proposed a constitutional amendment to delete § 29(4)(b), which would have the effect that girls could only renounce Nigerian citizenship at the age of eighteen or older regardless of their marital status; the amendment passed by a vote of 75–14, two votes greater than the two-thirds supermajority required for the passage of constitutional amendments. However, after the vote, a point of order was raised against the amendment by Senate Deputy Minority Leader Ahmad Sani Yerima (ANPP-Zamfara), who stated that Schedule 2 of the Constitution prohibited the National Assembly of Nigeria from legislating on any matters relating to customary or Islamic law. Some sources suggested that the amendment would have the effect of outlawing child marriage, a matter of personal concern to Yerima due to his 2009 marriage to an Egyptian girl then only 13 years old. Senate President David Mark was initially disinclined to permit a second vote on the matter, but relented after an argument. Yerima's arguments were sufficient to convince enough erstwhile supporters and non-voters to oppose the amendment; with a vote of 60–35, it was deprived of its supermajority and failed to pass.
Citizens of Singapore can only renounce Singaporean citizenship if they have acquired citizenship of another country. At the time of renunciation, renunciants must submit their Singaporean passports and National Registration Identity Cards for cancellation. Male Singaporeans generally cannot renounce citizenship until completing national service, though there are exceptions for those who emigrated at a young age. In 2012, a Hong Kong-born man who had acquired Singaporean citizenship by registration while a minor filed a lawsuit regarding this requirement.
About 1,200 Singaporean citizens renounce their citizenship every year, a quarter of them naturalised citizens. Singapore does not permit multiple citizenship for adults. The total number of renunciants from 2001 to 2011 was roughly 10,900. Of these, roughly half were Chinese Singaporeans (who comprise about three-quarters of the population), while the rest were of other races such as Malay or Indians (who comprise about one-quarter of the population).
United States law requires that an individual go in person before a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States and sign an oath or affirmation that the individual intends to renounce U.S. citizenship. Exceptions to this rule are permitted in times of war and under special circumstances. During the expatriation procedure, the individual must complete several documents and demonstrate in an interview with a consular officer that the renunciation is voluntary and intentional. Depending on the embassy or consulate, the individual is often required to appear in person two times and conduct two separate interviews with consular officers over the course of several months.
There were 235 renunciants in 2008, between 731 and 743 in 2009, and about 1485 in 2010; In 2011, there were 1781 renunciants. A total of 2,999 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2013; in 2014, 3415 have renounced their USA citizenship or long term residency. The State Department estimates 5986 renunciants and 559 relinquishers during FY2015.
Since 1998, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has also maintained its own list of people who have renounced citizenship under . This is one of the categories of people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms under the Gun Control Act of 1968, and whose names must be entered in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993. The names are not made public, but each month the FBI issues a report on the number of entries added in each category. NICS covers a different population than the Federal Register expatriate list: the former includes only those who renounce U.S. citizenship, while the latter should include those who voluntarily lose citizenship by any means, and possibly certain former permanent residents as well.
In 2012, the FBI added 4,652 records to the NICS "renounced U.S. citizenship" category in 2012, which is a much larger number than the number of names published in the Federal Register expatriate lists during the same period. About 2,900 of those names were added to NICS in one large batch in October 2012. FBI spokesman Stephen G. Fischer attributed this jump to State Department efforts to clear a backlog of earlier renunciant names that had not been provided to the FBI previously. However, in 2013, the number of records of renunciants added to NICS again exceeded the number of names published in the Federal Register expatriate list, with 3,128 renunciants in the former against only 3,000 losing citizenship or permanent residence by any means in the latter.
A summary of the difference between the NICS database of renunciants and the Federal Register of the mentioned renunciants and relinquishers of long-term residence status is summarized below.
- Year NICS Federal Register
- 2011, 658, 1819
- 2012, 4385, 1247
- 2013, 3128, 2414
- 2014, 8781, 2984
- 2015*, 13110, 5986
Formal confirmation of the loss of U.S. citizenship is provided by the Certificate of Loss of Nationality and is received by the renunciant a number of months later. Renunciation of U.S. citizenship was free until July 2010, at which time a fee of $450 was established. An increase to $2,350, effective September 12, 2014, was justified as "reflective of the true cost" of processing. Although many countries require citizenship of another nation before allowing renunciation, the United States does not and an individual may legally renounce U.S. citizenship and become stateless. Nonetheless, the United States Department of State warns renunciants that, unless they already possess a foreign nationality or are assured of acquiring another nationality shortly after completing their renunciation, they would become stateless and without the protection of any government.
In one case, Vincent Cate, an encryption expert living in Anguilla, chose to renounce his US citizenship to avoid the possibility of violating US laws that may have prohibited US citizens from "exporting" encryption software.
As recently as November 2014, individuals renouncing US citizenship have been waiting over 6 months for the official certificate of renunciation. Unofficial statements by the US State Department blame the backlog on an increase in renunciations by dual citizens wishing to avoid Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reporting requirements related to the recently enacted FATCA laws. The certificate is important due to the fact that individuals born in the US must prove to foreign financial institutions they are no longer US citizens. Many foreign banks refuse new US customers or close US customer accounts due to the exhaustive reporting requirements of FATCA.
In 2014, the State Department announced its intention to increase the fee for renunciation of U.S. citizenship by 422% from $450 to $2,350. This followed a fee increase of approximately 220% in 2013. The increase took effect in January 2015.
In 1996, the United States changed its tax law to include a provision to "name and shame" renunciants. The Department of the Treasury became obligated to publish, in the Federal Register, a quarterly list of the names of those citizens who renounce their citizenship. Only the names are published, but by counting the number of names in each list, media organizations are able to infer the number of renunciants each quarter. The 1996 law included a provision to bar entry to any individual "who officially renounces United States citizenship and who is determined by the Attorney General to have renounced United States citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxation by the United States." There is no known case of this provision, known as the Reed Amendment, having ever been enforced.
In 2008, Congress enacted the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Act. The law imposes a penalty—an "exit tax" or expatriation tax—on certain people who give up their U.S. citizenship or long-term permanent residence. Effective June 2008, U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship are subject under certain circumstances to an expatriation tax, which is meant to extract, from the expatriate, taxes that would have been paid had he or she remained a citizen. All property of a covered expatriate is deemed sold for its fair market value on the day before the expatriation date, which usually results in a capital gain, which is taxable income. Eduardo Saverin, a Brazilian-born co-founder of Facebook, renounced his U.S. citizenship just before the company's expected initial public offering. The timing prompted media speculation that the act was motivated by potential U.S. tax obligations.
In 2015, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, threatened to renounced his U.S. citizenship after the IRS asserted that he owed tax on the gain on the sale of his house in London. Since the enactment of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of 2010, the numbers of people renouncing U.S. citizenship have tripled from about 1,000 per year to 3,415 in 2014. The numbers have spiked in the 3rd quarter of 2015 at 1,426. The increase surpassed the previous record of 1,335 for the first three months of 2015
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