After the jump I’ve translated two recent human interest stories from South Korean and Taiwanese newspapers about young people who decided to give up U.S. citizenship in order to acquire the citizenship of the country in which they were actually living. These stories have no useful legal or procedural information for any U.S. Persons wondering about the wait time to get an appointment at the embassy in Seoul or Taipei or the niceties of filling out Form 8854 — but hopefully they can serve as a much-needed antidote to the U.S. media’s persistent refusal to mention any renunciant whose net worth is less than eight figures.
Homelanders — even lawyers who should know better — continue to spread the demagogic myth that renunciants are all people who got rich in the U.S. and then suddenly decided one day to up and leave in response to the latest political outrage committed by whatever political party the author doesn’t like. Jack Reed and Chuck Schumer are pounding the drum for their new amendment to impose permanent exile on ex-citizens. So it’s more important than ever to point out the reality of who gives up U.S. citizenship: ordinary people pursuing ordinary lives in the countries of their choosing.
30多年沒「身分」 台美混血女 棄美籍變台灣人
More than 30 years without an “identity”; mixed-race Taiwanese and American woman gives up U.S. citizenship and becomes Taiwanese
|(Reporter Weng Yu-huang/Taipei) Jenny (name changed), a mixed-race Taiwanese and American girl in Taipei’s Neihu district, was raised by her mother in Taiwan because of her parents’ separation. Now she has already found a job and got married, but in more than 30 years she has not been able to fulfil her wish of becoming Taiwanese. Recently she asked for help from Household Registration Office personnel, and decided to give up her U.S. citizenship and go through naturalisation procedures so that she could finally become a true Taiwanese person.
In today’s globalised world, this same story is playing out in dozens of countries: people leave their homes and go abroad for economic and political and romantic reasons, and eventually they or their children want to have legal rights as full members of the societies in which they have lived and contributed for decades. Even if that requires renunciation of the nationality of the country they left behind or that they never knew at all, it often seems like a very small or theoretical price to pay in exchange for a very concrete benefit.
This is not simply a phenomenon in the traditional migration destinations, and indeed those countries are often the last to understand that it’s a two-way street. They myopically think that only foreigners in their country are “immigrants”, while their citizens abroad are merely “expats” who have no desire to become full members of those “inferior” countries to which they moved in order to bring their “American can-do and know-how”, and who would have to be “crazy” to give up “a passport that oil sheikhs would pay a million dollars to have“.
But if the folks back in those sending countries (and sadly in many cases, the new arrivals recently landed from those same sending countries, with plans of moving back in a few years) continue their demagogic chanting about their compatriots settled abroad being “traitors”, “tax cheats”, “draft evaders”, or “losers who couldn’t make it in the big leagues”, that makes the decision to dump that old country’s passport in the rubbish bin a far easier one — who would want to be a member of such a small-minded, xenophobic club anyway?
|Chen Chun-ling, who is in charge of the Neihu Household Registration Office, said that our country’s nationality law originally was based on patrilineal jus sanguinis, and was not amended to patrilineal and matrilineal jus sanguinis until February 2000. So Jenny, who was born in Taipei in 1977 and had never lived abroad, was still considered a U.S. citizen and didn’t get Taiwanese citizenship through her Taiwanese mother.
|Jenny’s mother said, she married her American ex-husband in 1963, and had her daughter in 1977, but due to personal differences the two later separated, and she had raised her daughter alone. Now [her daughter] had already graduated from university and got married, but she still couldn’t get a Taiwan identity card.
One of the major benefits of being a citizen of Taiwan is access to the national health insurance system. But if you’re a dual citizen who’s self-employed or employed by a U.S. company in Taiwan, you’re still expected to make U.S. Social Security and Medicare “contributions” — even though your ultimate Social Security payments will be reduced because of your “windfall” of also having old age assistance payments from the government of the country where you actually live (after you spent decades of your life paying the full rate of social insurance contributions in both countries to fund that system), and of course you won’t be able to use Medicare at all unless you plan to fly back to the Homeland every time you take ill.
|Jenny’s mother believes, her daughter was born, raised, educated, employed, and married in Taiwan despite having foreign citizenship, and the greatest wish of both mother and daughter is that “she should be a national of the place where she was born and raised”. Especially since some foreigners who came to Taiwan as professors or missionaries only needed a few years’ time to become Taiwanese people, she began to ask for help.
|But under the Nationality Law, in Jenny’s case, if she wanted to become Taiwanese, she would have to go through the naturalisation procedure, which required her to first give up her original U.S. citizenship before she could take Taiwanese citizenship. She happily agreed [to do this], and earlier this year she received a Certificate of Candidacy for Naturalisation from the Ministry of the Interior, and went to the American Institute in Taiwan to apply for documents proving her renunciation of U.S. citizenship. After she finishes the required procedures, she’ll be able to become a real Taiwanese person.
The use of the term “real Taiwanese person” here seems to reflect a nationalist-statist essentialism — common to both the U.S. and Taiwan — which assumes that “citizenship” in the sense of nationality, the legal relationship between a government and an individual, is the ultimate arbiter of whether you’re a “real American” or a “real Taiwanese” or whatnot. (The flip side of that mentality, of course, is that if you give up your legal relationship to the government, you are a traitor and an unperson.) The original Chinese version is slightly better, even if unintentionally so — the phrase “正港的台灣人” uses not the standard Chinese word for “real” (“真正”, seen in the lede paragraph), but rather a Hokkien word, hinting at the deep-seated mentality of the author that Hokkien language and not nationality is the true arbiter of what makes a “real Taiwanese person”.
Anyway, on to the second story. Technically, this one is about a relinquisher (INA § 349(a)(1)) rather than a renunciant (INA § 349(a)(5)), but the effect is the same: he has chosen to be a U.S. citizen no longer.
미국 시민권 포기하고 자원 입대한 박영훈 일병
He gave up U.S. citizenship and voluntarily enlisted in the army: PFC Park Young-hoon
|(완주=뉴스1) 박효익 기자
|(Wanju, News 1) Reporter Park Hyo-ik
|미국 시민권을 포기하고 우리나라 군에 자원 입대한 장병이 있어 화제를 모으고 있다. 주인공은 육군 35사단 완주대대에서 복무 중인 박영훈 일병(29).
|A soldier who gave up U.S. citizenship and voluntarily enlisted in our country’s army is attracting a lot of attention. The man of the hour is Private First Class Park Young-hoon (29), who is serving with the 35th Infantry Division’s Wanju battalion.
|박 일병은 미국에서 태어나 국적법에 의해 성인이 되기 전까지는 대한민국과 미국의 국적을 가진 이중국적 신분이었다.
|PFC Park was born in the United States, and under the Nationality Law, until he became an adult he had both Republic of Korea nationality and United States nationality, and so was a dual citizen.
|그는 1991년 6세가 되던 해 한국에 와 생활하다가 2001년 16세가 되던 해 다시 미국으로 건너갔다. 이후 22세가 되기 전에 하나의 국적을 선택해야 하는 국적법에 의해 미국 시민권을 선택했다.
|In June 1991, at the age of six, he came to live in South Korea, but in 2001 at the age of 16 he went back to the United States. Later, before he turned 22, he had to choose one nationality under the Nationality Law, and so he chose United States citizenship.
Park is not quite the average “accidental American” or “accidental Korean”. He experienced life in both countries as a child and as an adult, and presumably is fluent in both languages. In other words, he had a choice of where to go.
In 2010, South Korea relaxed its prohibitions against dual citizenship, and now the situation there is similar to that in Germany or the Netherlands: most South Koreans who naturalise elsewhere or immigrants who naturalise in South Korea are still expected to give up their original citizenships, but people who inherit different citizenships from their parents, who receive another country’s citizenship due to jus soli there, or who receive special permission from the government are all permitted to be dual citizens. Park reached the age of majority a few years too early to benefit from these reforms, so he picked the citizenship of the country where he was actually living at the time so he could finish up his education — but then, he decided he’d ultimately be happier in his other country.
|박 일병은 리버사이드 캘리포니아 주립대 재학 중 조국과 부모님에 대한 그리움으로 2008년 귀국했으며, 우리나라 대학교에서 공부할 생각으로 2010년 인하대학교 전기전자공학과 외국인 특별전형으로 입학했다.
|While Park was studying at UC Riverside, he began to miss his old country and his parents, and after his return [to South Korea] in 2008, he began thinking of studying at a university in our country. In 2010, he entered Inha University’s Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department under the special admission system for foreigners.
|장래에 대해 진지하게 고민하던 박 일병은 결국 병역의 의무를 수행하기로 결심했다. 출입국 관리 사무소에는 한국국적 재취득 신청을, 미국 대사관에는 미국국적 포기신청을 하고 지난해 10월 육군에 입대했다.
|Park, who was concerned with positioning himself better for his future, eventually resolved to fulfil his military service obligation. He applied to the Immigration Department for restoration of Korean nationality and to the U.S. embassy for termination of U.S. citizenship, and in October last year enlisted in the army.
|적지 않은 나이임에도 불구하고 입대를 선택하기까지 한국에서 생활을 하는 부모님의 권유가 큰 영향을 미쳤다. 박 일병의 부모님은 “신체 건강한 대한민국 남자라면 당연히 군대에서 국가방위의 의무를 수행해야 한다”며 “장래 한국에서 자신의 꿈을 펼치기 원한다면, 미래를 생각하더라도 군에 입대하는 것이 도움이 된다”고 조언한 것으로 알려졌다.
|The guidance of Park’s parents, who had been living in South Korea from when he was young right up until the time he enlisted, had a big influence on him. Park’s parents advised him that “if you’re a Korean man with a healthy body, of course you have to go to the army and fulfil your duty to defend the nation” and that “if you want to pursue your dreams in South Korea later, enlisting in the military would be helpful for your future.”
Park is not the only young Korean American man who decided after several years of living in South Korea that he’d be better off without a U.S. passport, even if that meant giving up his conscription-exempt F4 “diaspora visa” status and serving in the army for two years. Even as far back as 1994 when the State Department first released names of people giving up U.S. citizenship (and when South Korea was a much poorer country), at least thirty of the thousand people listed were conscription-age men with Korean names. More recently, a number of well-known sportsmen and entertainers have chosen the same route: actor Yoo Gun, former MC the MAX bass guitarist Yoon Jae-woong, and basketballer Lee Dong-jun, for example. But there’s plenty of non-famous ones too — and they rarely show up in the newspaper, though last year I translated two other human-interest stories about three Air Force officers and two Navy sailors who also gave up U.S. citizenship as part of their journeys towards ordinary lives in South Korea.
Unsurprisingly, out of these eight ex-Americans, only two have shown up in the IRS’ “Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who have Chosen to Expatriate” in the Federal Register, which is allegedly supposed to include the names of all persons losing U.S. citizenship. Yet oddly, the two who did show up weren’t the famous ones whose eye-popping salaries probably made them into covered expatriates. As we’ve pointed out in the past, those IRS lists of names of ex-Americans are notoriously incomplete, in particular with respect to South Korea, where 2,128 people gave up U.S. passports or green cards in 2011 alone. (The IRS lists are supposed to include ex-green card-holders as well, but it’s extremely doubtful whether they actually do.) Anyone taking bets on whether PFC Park Young-hoon’s name will get printed in the next “name-and-shame list”?
|박 일병은 “미국 시민권을 포기한 것은 장래에 대한 걱정때문만은 아니었다”고 말했다.
|Park stated, “I didn’t give up my U.S. citizenship just because of my concerns for my future”.
|그는 “전 세계에서 유일하게 분단된 내 조국 대한민국에서 전쟁의 위협은 항상 존재한다는 얘기를 많이 들어왔다”며 “전쟁을 억제하고, 또 만약 전쟁이 발발한다면 조금이라도 보탬이 되기 위해서 육군의 소총병으로서, 예비군훈련 조교로서의 임무를 충실히 수행하고 있다”고 강조했다.
|He emphasised, “I grew up hearing that in my ancestral country, the Republic of Korea, the only divided country in the whole world, the risk of war always existed” and that “people are faithfully carrying out their duties as infantry riflemen or reserve forces trainers in order to help out even a little bit and prevent a war from breaking out.”
|박 일병은 현재 임시 한국국적을 가지고 군생활을 하고 있다. 미국 국적 포기절차가 아직 마무리되지 않았기 때문이다. 2~3개월 후 이 절차가 마무리되면 박 일병은 진정한 대한민국 국민으로 거듭나게 된다.
|Park has now had his South Korean nationality provisionally restored and is experiencing army life. The procedures for termination of U.S. citizenship still aren’t finished yet. In two or three months, once the procedures are finished, Park will begin a new chapter of his life as a real citizen of the Republic of Korea.
Again we meet the adjective “real”, with all the baggage it carries. In Park’s case, the meaning is clear: a real South Korean man is one who has done military service. He chooses to live in the country and he is willing to pay the costs of membership in society in order to derive its benefits. But even South Korea, a country which faces the threat of a hostile nuclear-armed dictatorship right next door, makes reasonable exceptions to the military service requirement for genuine emigrants: note that after he gave up South Korean citizenship, Park could come back and even study in his former country without triggering conscription, and in the end regaining his South Korean citizenship involved nothing more than a brief and painless administrative procedure.
In contrast, the U.S. forces the costs of membership in their society on millions of emigrants who explicitly choose not to live there, while denying us any real benefits and threatening us with a permanent ban on returning if we give up citizenship. The only societies from which U.S. Persons abroad benefit are the ones we actually live in, not our faraway land of origin which does nothing to aid our day-to-day existence. And these countries we live in, like South Korea or France or Taiwan, have full-fledged diaspora commissions as top-level divisions of cabinet ministries, voting districts devoted to overseas citizens, monetary support for cultural schools and programmes to keep the children of emigrants in touch with the country’s language and culture, or positive incentives for return migration.