Summary: South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that 3,621 of their citizens filed Declarations of Permanent Return last year after cancelling foreign citizenship or permanent residence (likely to be about half from the U.S., though their report does not specify), prompting anguished reactions from Korean Americans who didn’t move back; only 95 new renunciants were stripped of firearms purchasing rights and added to NICS in February, the second-smallest monthly total since 2012; and finally, USCIS estimated that 9,371 people will file Form I-407 to abandon their green cards in 2014 and subsequent years, even though the average level in the past five years has been twice that.
Details and links after the jump.
South Korean Declarations of Permanent Return
The JoongAng Ilbo, a South Korean national newspaper, reports that a total of 3,621 South Korean citizens or former citizens filed Declarations of Permanent Return last year, which would require them to provide documentation proving the cancellation of their foreign permanent residence or citizenship.
I have not been able to find the original report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yet, but it probably only contains a total-number rather than a by-country number (which in past years has only been released around July or August in the Diplomatic Whitebook). Judging from past experience, about half of the declarants were former U.S. Persons, with the other half returning from countries as diverse as Canada, Brazil, and the Philippines. That would imply that the level of “reverse migration” among Korean Americans in 2013 remained roughly stable compared to the previous four years.
Most of the declarants were probably ex-green card holders. The ones who were ex-citizens most likely relinquished rather than renounced U.S. citizenship: they would first restore their South Korean citizenship at the Ministry of Justice, and then report that to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul as an INA § 349(a)(1) “expatriating act” rather than swearing an INA § 349(a)(5) oath of renunciation, thus saving them the $450 fee.
Korean Americans react to the number
This not-especially-large number — perhaps an eighth of the migrant flow from South Korea to the U.S., according to Department of State visa statistics — nevertheless prompted a Korean American man to submit an unusually anguished op-ed to the Los Angeles edition of the JoongAng Ilbo reminding readers that “Reverse migration doesn’t solve all problems” and that Korea is really competitive and has cold winters and hot summers and stupid politicians to boot.
This seems to be an example of an unfortunate psychological phenomenon: people don’t feel content to make their own choices about how and where to pursue their happiness while wishing others well with their choices, but insist that others make those exact same choices too and get angry and scared when they don’t. Despite the vaunted national idea of “individualism”, Americans of other ethnic groups would seem to share this fear, given that they insist you must live in America for most of your life in order to be considered “truly American”.
In contrasting news, the FBI added only 95 records to NICS’ “Renounced U.S. Citizenship” category last month, bringing the category total to 24,222 records, according to the latest report on Active Records in the NICS Index. This is the second-smallest monthly addition since 2012 (the smallest being the September 2013 report, which added 69), and about a third of the familiar average of 250 to 300 per month we saw for most of 2013. Reports by Patrick Cain and his colleagues at Global News last year have brought the NICS citizenship data under a higher level of scrutiny than previously, although it still receives only a fraction of the attention devoted to the IRS’ “published expatriates” list.
USCIS and green card abandonment statistics
Finally, in filings to obtain a new OMB Control Number for Form I-407 (the form you send when cancelling your green card), USCIS estimated that an average of 9,371 people would file the form each year. This contrasts with data they provided to Shadow Raider last year in response to an FOIA request, which showed an average of almost twice that level for the past five years. Unfortunately, I missed the 30-day notice in January, and the comments period ended before I could inform them of the discrepancy.