27. December 2013. Translated by SwissPinoy from annabelle
Alice Neuhaus (27), Photographer, explains: How is it really, to voluntarily discard the US passport?
I only spent the first three years of my life in the USA. As such, discarding US citizenship should be staged emotionless. What can one actually feel for a country in which one did not grow up? When I was still a child, my family moved in a rhythm of every four years, internationally. From this, evolved the question to which country I feel that I belong. I was a dual citizen through the European heritage of my parents and my birth in the USA with both passports being a symbol of my rootlessness.
Nevertheless, the day that I discarded my US citizenship was my saddest. After all, US citizenship was my only nationality for the first 12 years of my life and I was greeted with “welcome home” whenever I travelled to the States. Banal, but this feels good when one is constantly on the move. Having to fill out a form to abandon a part of one’s identity feels like betrayal, like something that is right in the mind but wrong in the heart.
The appointment at the American embassy is led with a 45 minute telephone interview, in which I had to explain why I didn’t want to be an American anymore. The passport, for which I was previously envied, has now become an obstacle. I felt myself as being disadvantaged in Switzerland. It is a current form of racism. Over and over again, I was the objective of principle-rants to the tax dispute between the United States and Switzerland. I was denied banking services because I was required as a US citizen to give information on my financial matters for the purpose of reducing local bank risks. Other dual citizens also have problems finding employment in Switzerland since they are required to report to the US the business accounts that they would manage.
Being required to pay taxes to the US government never bothered me, even though I don’t live there. Yet, the many deadlines, obligations and laws that I was unaware of made me feel insecure and the growing hostility against Americans made me angry. I’m not responsible for American law and its financial system.
The waiting list in Bern to renounce US citizenship is one year. Since I’ll be going to an embassy in a different country, the wait time will be reduced to three months. I read forum contributions by other dual citizens and have had long conversations with Americans living abroad in Switzerland. Each one tells me something differently: One is US taxable seven years after renouncing, another says ten years and again another claims that one would be prohibited from traveling to America. In the meantime, I know two things for sure: If and how long there will be a tax obligation depends upon one’s financial situation. And, I can travel to America like any other tourist.
At the US embassy, patriotism is hanging in the air. Americans are heartily welcomed. I described my concerns to the lady at the counter – and I am no longer a member. It is as if I changed teams with half a sentence. I was questioned by the general consul, paid near 400 Euro and confirmed twice that I was aware of the consequences of this action: All American citizenship rights would be revoked. I’m not allowed to vote in America, cannot stay there indefinitely and am not allowed to work there. Are you sure? The general consul asked.
If I’m not too young to make such a decision? I’m not sure. I live in Switzerland and feel good here. I don’t want to move anywhere. The general consul believed me. That is important because not everyone who wants to renounce is allowed to. The request will be revoked if the belief exists that one is evading taxes or the law. Three months later, the stamped invalid US passport and loss of citizenship papers lay in my mail box. I should feel relieved. Yet, I’m simply sad that I felt forced to decide between the nation where I live and work, and the land where I was born.
Thanks for the article, I’m hosting a neighborhood discussion group and it will make an interesting topic. I spoke with one of the organizers of ”Stratford Democracy Watch” yesterday. They are not affiliated with Duff Conacher’s Democracy Watch . The Stratford Group has been in operation for three years. She was very helpful and said there is a real apetite for people to speak out in small group settings..
I feel exactly like you do . No regrets..Happy when I became Canadian..after more than 23 years living as a permanent resident. Went to US Counsel in July this past summer for CLN . Still waiting. I will be jubilant when I get it… The tequila bottle will be opened and shots drank. And I will make the Canadian national (not official) drink of Caesar for my boyfriend. I will frame a copy of my CLN and hang it on the wall.. I will copy and email it to all my friends.. It will be a day to remember each year..
Now I just found this on another website. Those that are not Canadian citizens yet should maybe think of getting the wheels going to become one
Harper government plans to make it harder to become a Canadian citizen
BY EDWARD C. CORRIGAN | JANUARY 7, 2014
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander has set out his views on what the proposed new legislation on Canada Citizenship law might look like. The final text of the proposed Bill has not yet been presented to the Canadian Parliament. However, it is safe to bet that the changes will be significant and will further restrict access to Canadian Citizenship to Permanent Residents of Canada and perhaps also their Canadian born children.
There are many Permanent residents in Canada who are presently eligible for Canadian Citizenship under the current rules. It would be prudent for these individuals to apply for Canadian Citizenship before the new law is passed.
Parliamentary reform is in the air.
For anyone in the Toronto area that is interested, Toronto consulate is booking relinquishment/renouncement appointments the first week of February.
northernstar, I have been following the immigration issue and it appears that the Harper govts total interest begins and ends with short-term skilled worker visas that they hope with translate into immigrants – who would be fast-tracked for residency. I am currently embroiled in immigration hell and have to different MP’s (my own tool of a Con who hasn’t been the most eager and the NDP shadow minister, who was happy to help) investigating snafu’s on my behalf.
My take is that Canada is going to become a helluva a hard place to come to if you fall below a fairly high bar of attractiveness and probably soon.
@northernstar, thanks for alerting those Permanent Resident readers (or those who want to become PRs,) who are not yet Canadian citizens/or Canadian-US duals to the urgency of moving immediately to do what they can to complete and submit their applications before becoming stuck in further delays created by the Harper government’s intention to make citizenship harder to obtain. There will be very long term PRs in Canada (probably many seniors) who the US deems to be ‘taxable US persons’ who have not moved to complete their citizenship applications, but who would want to renounce US status in order not to be extraterritorially indentured US serfs for life when they find out what the true nature of the US lifelong burden is.
The waiting time to process even ‘routine’ Canadian citizenship applications has continued to get longer: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/times/canada/cit-processing.asp
Processing Times: Grant of Citizenship
The table below shows the processing time from receipt of application to final decision for 80% of cases processed between October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012:
“Routine citizenship applications”
“Non-routine citizenship applications”
The growing delays for processing Canadian citizenship requests, plus the time required to the grant of permanent residency means extensive time to the acquisition of citizenship (or even to the PR stage) for those who do not already have it.
When these PR and Citizenship delays meet the trainwreck of an anticipated FATCA IGA in Canada, it will be a wholesale disaster.
Note this article on the reasons behind the growing wait to move from Canadian PR status to citizen, even for long term PRs who have satisfied all the requirements:
‘Citizenship application process blamed for growing wait list
Immigration Canada says about 350,000 permanent residents are on list to become citizens’
CBC News Posted: Apr 23, 2013 5:29 AM ET
….”…Close to 350,000 permanent residents are on the waiting list to become citizens, according to the latest Citizenship and Immigration Canada numbers from September 2012. By comparison, the waiting list was 189,886 in 2007.
As a result, the stated processing time for “routine” applications has steadily risen. In 2008, the ministry website said those applications took 12 to 15 months. At the start of 2012, wait times were listed at 15 to 18 months. By August last year, the wait time was 21 months. The website is now listing the routine wait time at 23 months. [Note, the website says 25 months as of Jan 7, 2014, badger]
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in a statement a major factor in the growing waiting list is the rise in immigration applications.
The government says on the CIC website that new visa and border screening mechanisms in the United States affecting permanent residents, as well as policy changes in some countries that allow citizens to hold multiple nationalities, have led to a steady increase in permanent residents applying for citizenship. Citizenship applications have increased 30 per cent from 2006 to 2012.
But immigration lawyers, union officials and people going through the process said added steps to the process are also contributing to the longer wait times….”…
Those who do not know about US extraterritorial CBT, or FATCA, or who do know but don’t know what to do may be faced with being stuck in this CI backlog.
Knowledge of CBT should be stopping US emigrants at the border now.
@bubblebustin, they are still so awfully circumspect and inadequate and obviously unmotivated about doing any ‘education’ on CBT, FBARs and FATCA. They are still more into entrapment-base enforcement and penalty revenue generation. Non-compliance enforcement gets them much more from us than compliance-education would.
For a country which is so very aggressively asserting an arrogant universal ‘right’ to tax all organisms no matter where in the universe they reside, earn, and already pay a full set of taxes, the US is awfully quiet on the ‘education’ front – and not doing ANY publicity on FATCA that would educate (warn?) or prepare the average individual ‘abroad’ they claim as lifelong serfs. They could start with some clarifying ‘education’ for the unintiated that when the US says ‘foreign’ or ‘offshore’, they mean that every single person they define as taxable, born and/or living and working and banking outside the US should have accounts only in the US – everything else in the world is ‘foreign’. And we who live abroad in non-US ‘foreign’ countries; according to the fictive down-the-rabbithole-through-the-looking-glass world of the IRS and Treasury, we are to bank only in Kansas if we know what is good for us (they mean good for them).
I note that the IRS has announced more cuts to ‘services’ even inside the US, opting for more automated ‘self service’ instead http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/20139332.htm . They are directing people to the IRS website for ‘self-serve’ help. Like anyone but a professional could reliably interpret most of what they find there. There are so many exceptions and byzantine complexities and contradictions there, especially for those trying to comply from ‘abroad’, and in any case they claim that we can’t rely on FAQs or even in some cases the IRM. A US tax professor says “…I raised this issued with the Taxpayer Advocate office a few years back thinking it was a taxpayer rights issue in that so much time was being spent to issue information rather than guidance. I also noted that since the FAQs (and other information such as advice memorandums and Information Letters) are not “authority” you can’t rely on them to avoid a penalty. The Advocate’s office responded to me noting that you cannot rely on FAQs to avoid penalties. See 3/16/11 post – here….”… ( US tax professor blog http://21stcenturytaxation.blogspot.ca/2013/01/more-on-irs-faqs.html ). This also discusses the IRS plans to rely more on automation and self service; see http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20140107/BUSINESS/140109872 ‘2014 Tax Filing Season IRS Changes’: “At a point where the Internal Revenue Code has become increasingly complex the Internal Revenue Service announced plans to transition more of its services for taxpayers to online, automated self-service options next tax season to save money and manpower. …”
We saw what efforts at automation and automated enforcement at the IRS brought for the filers of forms 3520 and 3520-A; ongoing disasters like the 3520 and 3520-A automated threatening letters and penalties fiasco ( ex. see http://www.aicpa.org/Publications/TaxAdviser/2013/August/Pages/NewsNotes_Aug-2013-story-02.aspx ).
And of course, it has been more than 3 years now that all in person information sessions have been cancelled by the IRS in all Canadian consulates and the embassy: for example see; “Taxpayer Assistance
The information on this page is intended especially for taxpayers residing in Canada. Note: Owing to budget cutbacks, the Internal Revenue Service will not/not be providing any in-person assistance or tax seminars at the U.S. Embassy and certain of the Consulates General in Canada.”…. “IRS Ottawa The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not maintain an office in Canada. For information tailored to both U.S. citizens in Canada and Canadian citizens, please refer to this page at the IRS web site….”…
Strange that the IRS and Treasury say they want ‘compliance’, but provide no services in Canada – the country with the second largest population of those deemed by the US to be ‘US taxable persons’, AND do nothing re ‘education’. Still all stick, and no carrot.
As Phil Hodgen said: …”I expect the future to be more of the same. Expect the same exit tax rules, but more of them, and worse. Expect more expatriations. The floggings will continue until morale improves….” http://hodgen.com/why-people-expatriate/
@badger, it seems likely that soon the only government agents with whom US expats will be able to deal in person will be border guards with access to people’s tax and bank records — keyed to their passport numbers, of course, as a matter of “homeland financial security”. It’s unlikely that those famously friendly government employees will be replaced by robots any time soon. Have a nice day! 🙂
Although I didn’t find it hard to give up my US citizenship more than 30 years ago, I have avoided travel to the US since I applied for my CLN almost two years ago. That is mostly out of protest but partly out of uncertainty over the border-crossing experience. This year I will personally be conducting two tests of US extra-territorial tax and visitation policies as they apply to old-time relinquishers like me:
(1) As a test of FATCA, I am awaiting inquiries from my bank and my pension manager about my possible “U.S. personhood”, and
(2) As a test of US border guards’ knowledge of and reaction to my relinquishment of citizenship and its implications for tax paperwork filing, I will reluctantly make a trip to the U.S. later this year to attend a memorial service for a close family member.
I will report on the results of those experiences here at IBS.
Part of the wait time problem in Canadian is the screening but they made the test harder and in some regions on the country there simply aren’t enough citizenship judges, which bogs down everyone as people wait for interviews and oath ceremonies. It is particularly bad where I live in Alberta.
My husband waited 17 months and I believe part of the wait was to collect 50 or more new citizens to make a large enough group to hold a ceremony. This was not in Calgary or Edmonton where ceremonies might be more frequent. He didn’t have to take the test (age has its advantages … sometimes). BTW, the citizenship officer was delighted when my husband asked him to witness a declaration that he was taking the oath of Canadian citizenship with the intent of relinquishing his US citizenship.
I am just concerned about the backlog and those stuck in the pipeline if/when a FATCA IGA is unveiled.
Me too.That’s why I wrote to the CIC minister to suggest permanent residents from the USA have their citizenship applications expedited. Looks to me like they are doing anything but expediting applications. It was hard to hold my nose while writing that letter to Jason Kenney. I’m going to dust that letter off, update it and send it to the new CIC minister, Chris Alexander.
Can anyone top Ken O’Keefe in his multiple attempts renouncing US citizenship attempts?
“Renouncing US Citizenship Ken O’Keefe”