Most of us here have little interest in going back to live in the U.S., but others who are considering giving up U.S. citizenship may be worried about whether they’ll be able to get back into the country in case their career takes them there in the future, or to care for aging relatives, or for any number of other reasons, either temporarily or permanently.
Though there are some cases which may show evidence of the USCIS trying to retaliate against renunciants when it comes to visas and treatment at the border, there are also many examples of ex-citizens both low-profile and high-profile who have managed to return to live in U.S., among them naturalised Japanese citizen Arudou Debito (the former David Aldwinckle, now an affiliate scholar at the East-West Center in Honolulu), Taiwan constitutional court judge Chen Be-yue (who renounced in 1996 and then got a green card in 2008 through her U.S.-born daughter, though she wisely cancelled it again the following year), and Fred Alger (who came back on an H-1B visa to rebuild Alger Asset Management after all its employees were killed in the WTC attacks).
A recent article in the Korea Times, a Korean diaspora newspaper published in North America, gives us many more examples of Korean Americans who gave up their U.S. citizenship to try their hand at politics in South Korea, then returned to the U.S. when things didn’t work out. I’ve translated it below.
시민권 포기 후… 취업비자로 신분 유지
Maintaining [residence] status in U.S. with employment visa after giving up citizenship
|김종훈 사태 계기로 본 한인인사 사례||Korean American examples, starting with Kim Jeong-hoon
|남문기·이용태 전 회장… 투자비자 이용도, 미 국적 다시 취득하기는 사실상 불가능||[Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles] Ex-Presidents Nam Moon-key, Lee Young-tae used investor visas, but getting U.S. citizenship again seems impossible|
|입력일자: 2013-03-07 (목)||Publication date: 7 March 2013 (Thu.)|
|새로 출범한 박근혜 정부의 미래창조과학부 장관으로 내정됐다가 자진 사퇴한 미주 한인 1.5세 출신 김종훈 전 벨연구소 사장의 이중국적 문제 논란 등을 계기로 과거 한국 공직에 진출하기 위해 시민권을 포기했던 한인사회 주요 인사들의 미국 내 체류 신분에 대한 궁금증이 증폭되고 있다.||Kim Jeong-hoon, the 1.5-generation Korean American former Bell Labs president who was nominated to be the Minister for Innovation and Science in the newly-formed government of Park Geun-hye, voluntarily withdrew [from the nomination process]. With the controversy over his dual citizenship, people are increasingly wondering about past examples of leading figures in the Korean American community who gave up U.S. citizenship to try to advance to public positions in South Korea, but now have residence status in the United States.|
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up to date with South Korean politics, Kim Jeong-hoon is a naturalised U.S. citizen who was nominated to a position in the South Korean government in mid-February, and stated that he would relinquish his U.S. citizenship. However, there was a surprising groundswell of objections to his nomination from the opposition coalition, and then the South Korean news media, which is normally a reasonably sober source of information about giving up U.S. citizenship, started spreading all sorts of FUD. Two of the more prominent examples were YTN News, which got up in arms about the fact that, two whole days after he got his Korean citizenship back, “Nominee Kim Jeong-hoon had his nationality restored but still hasn’t given up U.S. citizenship”, and Dong-A Ilbo, which hysterically claimed that “the CIA may deny him permission to give up citizenship”.
Eventually, Kim decided that he would not be able to give up his U.S. citizenship, and then withdrew from the nomination process. The exact reason for that is another post in itself; I’m still busy translating the relevant articles. Let’s just say for now that the U.S. Homeland papers aren’t giving you the whole story.
The U.S., unlike dozens of other countries ranging from Australia to the United Kingdom to the Philippines, offers no special procedure for people who gave up citizenship to resume it, or even to easily obtain visas afterwards. This reflects the larger U.S. view that the diaspora is not a potentially valuable source of brain circulation, but simply a bunch of backpacking kids, oddballs, and disaffected losers who should be derided and ignored.
|김종훈 전 내정자의 경우 한국 국적 회복 절차는 밟았지만 미국 시민권은 포기하지 않은 채 다시 미국으로 돌아왔지만, 이민법 전문가들에 따르면 미국 시민권을 포기할 경우 미국 내 체류신분이 곧바로 상실되고, 한 번 포기한 시민권은 다시 취득하기가 극히 어렵기 때문에 문제가 되고 있다.||In former nominee Kim Jeong-hoon’s case, he went through with the procedures for getting his South Korean nationality restored but did not yet give up his U.S. citizenship and so was able to come back to the United States. However, according to immigration law experts, you lose your residence status in the U.S. after giving up citizenship, and afterwards it is very difficult to regain citizenship, which can be a problem.|
|시민권 포기 후 미국에 재입국하기 위해서는 합법체류 비자를 새로 취득해야 한다는 것이다.||In order to re-enter the United States after giving up citizenship, it is necessary to obtain a legal residence visa.|
Again, in black-and-white: it is clearly possible for an ex-U.S. citizen to get a visa to return to live in the United States. The misconception that it is impossible seems to stem from misunderstandings and internet rumours about the never-enforced Reed Amendment, but even those who have a professional duty to be better-informed about the law clearly are not. One of my favourite examples is the racist San Buenaventura/Santa Barbara, California immigration lawyer who goes around on Yahoo! Answers scaring everyone who even mentions giving up U.S. citizenship with nonsense about how you will “never ever set foot on US soil again” after you “p*ss the world’s most desirable citizenship — the US one — down the toilet” and “told [Uncle Sam] to shove his citizenship where the sun don’t shine” and how you must be “mentally ill” to give up “a passport that oil sheikhs would pay $10 million for”.
Anyway, the journalist goes on to bring up the case of Chris Nam, whom we briefly discussed last September. Nam, who gave up U.S. citizenship to become the head of South Korea’s equivalent of Republicans Abroad, stepped down from his position after less than a month due to controversy over his having been a dual citizen (which was not legal under South Korean law until recently), and is now back in Los Angeles. Of course, the fact that in the first place he was willing to move halfway around the world and turn in his U.S. passport (and pay the ex-citizen/green card-holder tax) to take up a position like that should tell you that the diaspora actually enjoys some political power in South Korea, unlike in the United States.
|지난 2011년 새누리당의 전신인 한나라당 재외국민위원장에 임명된 뒤 시민권을 포기했던 남문기 전 미주총연 회장의 경우 현재 자신이 운영하는 회사인 뉴스타부동산을 통해 취업비자(H-1)를 받아 체류신분을 유지하고 있다.||Another case was [Chris] Nam Moon-key, the former President of the Federation of Korean American Associations who in 2011 was nominated to be the Head of the Commission on Overseas Nationals of the Grand National (Hannara) Party, the predecessor of the New Frontier (Saenuri) Party. He gave up his U.S. citizenship, but received an H-1 employment visa to work at his company New Star Realty, and is now staying in the U.S. again.|
|당시 한나라당 재외국민위원장에 임명된 뒤 복수국적 논란으로 한 달 만에 사퇴한 적이 있는 남 전 회장은 “국적문제에 있어 내가 제일 큰 피해자”라며 “시민권이 없으니 이만저만 불편하게 아니다”고 말했다.||Nam was nominated to be president of the then-Grand National Party’s Commission on Overseas Nationals, but his earlier dual nationality caused a controversy, and he withdrew after just one month. He stated that “I was the biggest victim of the nationality problem” but that “not having [U.S.] citizenship is actually not all that inconvenient”.|
Notice that Nam wisely did not acquire a green card, even though he could presumably afford the price tag for an EB-5 — New Star is said to be the largest Korean-run real estate company in the U.S., and Nam even mentioned in interviews that he met the $2 million asset threshold for the Form 8854 tax. Presumably he’s decided that while he might enjoy living in the U.S., he plans to retire in his native country, and having paid a high price to get rid of U.S. Person status once, he doesn’t want to pay it again when it comes time for him to leave.
In the 1990s, in contrast, successful 1st-generation Korean Americans trying to parachute back into South Korea and break the domestic elite’s monopoly on politics were not so well-informed; like some wealthy mainland Chinese people today (and the media which cluelessly apes their attitudes), they saw the U.S. passport or green card as a “status symbol” and didn’t really understand the costs of keeping it, a phenomenon which in China is only now starting to change; see for example this October 2012 South China Morning Post article, or this comment by Fred from a few days ago.
|지난 1996년 총선 당시 신한국당 후보로 전남 순천 국회의원 선거에 나간 장성길 전 LA 한인회장은 국회의원 출마를 위해 시민권을 포기했지만 낙선했다. 장 전 회장은 이후 한동안 한국에서 생활하다 시민권을 유지하고 있던 부인을 통해 영주권을 회복했다고 한다.||In the general election in 1996, former Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles president Chang Sunggill ran as the New Korea (Shinhanguk) Party candidate to represent Suncheon, Jeollanam-do in the National Assembly. He gave up his citizenship to run in the election, but was defeated. After some time living in South Korea, Chang was able to get U.S. permanent residency again through his wife, who had retained her [U.S.] citizenship.|
Of course, under the version of the ex-citizen tax that had just come into effect in 1996, a person like Chang living in his own or his parents’ country of birth could obtain a ruling from the IRS exempting him from payment of the tax. (Under the new system since 2004, this has been restricted to people who were born dual nationals.) And once he got his green card, he’d get a step-up in basis on any of his U.S. assets for purpose of any future capital gains tax. Chang is now a real estate agent in Beverly Hills. And as a relinquisher rather than a renunciant, he’s presumably even still eligible to buy guns without any problems from the FBI’s NICS background check system.
One other interesting thing is that Mr. Chang, like virtually every public figure who gave up citizenship prior to 2006, appeared in the Federal Register name-and-shame list, in his case for Q1 1997 — but a 2008 relinquisher mentioned in the article does not appear. This fits the pattern we observed earlier: starting in the Bush/Paulson era, the lists of ex-Americans — which purportedly showed a huge drop in people giving up citizenship — are actually quite incomplete.
|이용태 전 LA 한인회장은 지난 2008년 한국에서 제18대 총선 출마를 위해 시민권을 포기했던 경우이다.||There’s also the case of Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles president Lee Young-tae, who gave up U.S. citizenship to run in the 18th general election in 2008.|
|이 전 회장은 한나라당 비례대표 신청에서 낙선한 뒤 자신이 설립한 양로보건센터를 통해 다시 투자비자(E-2)를 취득했으며 현재는 영주권을 회복한 상태다. 이 전 회장은 “영주권은 받았지만 시민권을 다시 취득하기는 쉽지 않다”고 말했다.||After Lee lost out in his bid for a seat on the Grand National Party list, he obtained an E-2 investor visa through the nursing home which he had founded, and has now got his permanent residence back. Lee stated, “I received permanent residence, but getting citizenship back again is not so easy.”|
If Lee indeed got a green card, then the clock is ticking for him. If he’s still holding it in 2015, then he becomes a “long-term permanent resident” for purposes of Section 877A, and if he gives up his green card — or even if he’s administratively deemed to have “abandoned” it by spending too long outside of the U.S. or taking the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion — then he’ll owe the Form 8854 tax again. Should have stayed with the E-2. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence that investors these days prefer E-2s over EB-5s for precisely that reason, like this British family.
But of course, Homelanders can’t understand this concept at all, as seen by the tone of the linked article — the entire visa system is premised around the idea that everyone in the world wants to “immigrate” and spend all the rest of their days in the U.S. and the system must carefully screen to make sure people on “non-immigrant visas” do not have “immigrant intent”, when in reality people at all levels, ranging from unauthorised guest workers all the way up to company bosses, often just want to come in for a fixed purpose of earning some money, and move on to the next destination when they’re finished. In simpler terms: to Homelanders, every foreigner who comes to the U.S. is an “immigrant”, but every American who lives abroad is an “expat”.
|또 김영태 전 LA 한인회장은 지난 2000년 4월 16대 총선에서 자민련 소속으로 자신의 고향인 강원도 철원에 출마했었으나, 이를 위해 1999년 12월 한국 국적을 회복해 복수국적을 유지한 상태에서 이듬해 4월 총선을 치렀지만 낙선하자 시민권 포기를 신청하지 않은 경우다.||Also, there’s the case of former Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles president Kim Young-tae, who joined the race in his own hometown of Chilwon, Gangwon-do for the 16 April 2000 elections under the banner of the United Liberal Democratic Front (Jaminryeon). In order to do that, he had his South Korean nationality restored in December 1999, and held dual nationality for four months right through the election without applying to give up his [U.S.] citizenship.|
|그는 “국적 회복에는 보통 4~6개월이 소요되며 국적을 회복한 뒤 1년 내에 시민권을 포기, 이를 한국 정부에 제출해야 절차가 마무리 된다”며 “이 기간에 선거를 치르게 돼 시민권을 포기하지 않아도 됐다”고 말했다.||He stated that “restoration of [South Korean] nationality normally takes four to six months, and then within one year of your nationality being restored you have to give up [U.S.] citizenship as the final part of the procedure set by the South Korean government” and that “during that period I lost the election, so it’s a good thing I didn’t give up my citizenship”.|
As mentioned earlier, the Korea Times is a Korean diaspora newspaper, distributed in various major metropolitan areas in North America. That means, for the most part, that their readers consist of people who voluntarily uprooted themselves from South Korea and want to go on living in the United States, and have never experienced life outside of the U.S. as a U.S. citizen or green card holder, with all its attendant information reporting consequences. More recently, those who dared leave any money in South Korea rather than patriotically bringing all their capital with them to the Land of Milk and Honey are starting to understand some of those consequences. But except for the increasing number of unfortunates caught up in that problem, they think of U.S. citizenship as a valuable prize to be jealously guarded and protected.
|미주 한인으로 첫 현지 출신 LA 총영사를 역임한 김재수 변호사의 경우 영주권자 신분이어서 총영사 재직 때부터 현재까지 한국 국적을 유지하고 있는 것으로 알려졌다.||In the case of lawyer Kim Jae-su, who was the first Los Angeles Consul-General to be selected from among Korean emigrants, he held permanent resident status, and from the time he took up the post of Consul-General up until today has maintained his South Korean nationality.|
|이승우 변호사는 “시민권을 포기하면 영주권자가 되는 것이 아니라 아예 체류신분이 없어진다”며 “다시 시민권을 취득하기 위해서는 처음부터 이민 절차를 다시 밟아야 하지만 과거 시민권 포기 사실이 불리하게 작용한다”고 말했다.||Lawyer Lee Seung-woo stated that “If you give up citizenship, you don’t become a permanent resident but instead you lose your residence status entirely” and that “in order to get citizenship again, you have to start the process all the way over from the beginning, but the fact that you were formerly a citizen can be a disadvantage”.|
It’s another “exceptional” quirk of the U.S. system that dual citizens living in the U.S. are unable to renounce citizenship so that they can claim the consular protection of their other country of citizenship or take up a diplomatic appointment on its behalf. Hong Kong, for example, processes such applications within 24 hours, and afterwards you retain the right of abode or the right to land in Hong Kong, as the case may be. And of course, when was the last time you heard of an American living abroad being appointed into a consular position in the country where he lives? Silly rabbit, consular appointments are for career civil servants and big political donors.