More than 3,400 Pakistanis have renounced citizenship in the past five years, which the Express Tribune describes as a “worrying sign”:
More than 3,400 Pakistani citizens have renounced their nationality in the last five years after adopting the citizenship of other countries while another 1,500 want to give up their association with the homeland. Around 251 Pakistanis have adopted the nationality of Canada, 171 of the United States, 145 of Australia, 121 of New Zealand, 75 of Norway while 54 chose to become citizens of Denmark. The rest went for the citizenship of other countries in Europe and the Middle East, immigration officials told The Express Tribune.
As the article goes on to point out, Pakistan allows dual citizenship with a variety of countries in Europe, North America, and the Middle East, meaning that those emigrants could have retained their Pakistani citizenship, but instead explicitly rejected that choice. In doing so, they voluntarily gave up a variety of benefits which the Pakistani government offers to its citizens abroad, such as evacuation from war-torn Yemen — a “benefit of citizenship” which the U.S. has not seen fit to extend to its own diaspora (contrary to all the Homelander myths about black helicopters coming to rescue us wherever on Earth we might go).
According to recent estimates, the Pakistani diaspora is about the same size as the American diaspora: each comprises seven million citizens living outside of their respective countries. But the number of Americans who have given up their citizenship in the past half-decade is at least in the low five digits.
FBI statistics on Americans giving up citizenship
The FBI had 14,337 entries listed in the “Renounced U.S. Citizenship” category of the NICS gun control database as of 31 December 2009, and 27,240 entries five years later — an increase of 12,903 people over that period. FBI spokesperson Stephen G. Fischer, Jr. claimed in comments to Patrick Cain of Global News that about 2,900 of the 3,106 entries added to NICS in one giant batch in October 2012 reflected a “backlog” rather than contemporaneous renunciations. However, even if we make the excessively conservative assumption that none of those 2,900 renunciants were from 2010 or 2011, that still leaves us with 10,003 renunciants from 2010 to 2014.
Furthermore, the NICS database does not include relinquishers — those who commit expatriating acts under 8 USC § 1481(a)(1) through (4). NICS includes only those who swear an Oath of Renunciation under § 1481(a)(5). (Theoretically, it would also include people who renounce before the Attorney General in time of war under § 1481(a)(6). However, this procedure has not actually been available since World War II ended, and recent efforts to make use of it have been unsuccessful — see my summary on Wikipedia for details.)
Based on data from 1994 and 1995, we previously estimated that relinquishers are about 2/3rds to 4/5ths as numerous as renunciants. That would suggest around 6,666 to 8,000 relinquishers from 2010 to 2014, giving us a total of five times as many Americans as Pakistanis giving up citizenship. However, this out-of-date ratio of relinquishers to renunciants is likely to be too low — thanks to last year’s enormous State Department fee hike for renouncing citizenship, relinquishment has become a far more attractive option than renunciation (even with the possibility that State will take far longer to adjudicate a relinquishment notification as they search for evidence that you exercised some benefit of U.S. citizenship so they can yell “Gotcha!” and deny that you relinquished). As a result, we’d expect the relative number of relinquishers to have increased rather than decreased.
IRS statistics on Americans giving up citizenship
For the period of January 2010 to December 2014, the IRS listed the names of 10,663 “published expatriates” in the Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Have Chosen to Expatriate, which appears in the Federal Register. This number is barely larger than the number of renunciants added to NICS over the same period (not counting the October 2012 backlog), even though the Federal Register is supposed to include both renunciants and relinquishers (who are roughly as numerous as renunciants, or only slightly less so) while NICS includes only renunciants. Many ex-citizens’ names have been proven missing from the Federal Register list, a trend which appears to have begun around 2006.
The IRS claims that “for purposes of [the Federal Register] listing, long-term residents, as defined in section 877(e)(2), are treated as if they were citizens of the United States who lost citizenship.” (“Long-term residents” are those who held green cards for 8 out of the last 15 years; they are deemed to “expatriate” when their green cards were “administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned” or revoked — 26 USC § 7701(b)(6).) However, the claim that the list includes former green card holders is pretty much mathematically impossible.
According to data released by USCIS in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, 65,772 people filed Form I-407 to give up their green cards between October 2009 and May 2013 — an average of 17,937 for each twelve months. Not included among those 65,772 are people whose green card was terminated by other means, such as deportation or claiming non-residence under a tax treaty. According to statistics obtained from DHS by UC Berkeley’s International Human Rights Law Clinic, about six thousand to ten thousand green card holders are deported from the U.S. each year. Four thousand taxpayers per year file Form 8833 to take a “treaty-based return position”, according to IRS Paperwork Reduction Act filings — however, many of those are likely to be dual-resident corporations rather than green card holders residing abroad.
All in all, that suggests that about 120 to 140 thousand people officially ceased to be green card holders from 2010 to 2014 — around twelve to fourteen times as many people as appeared in the Federal Register “published expatriates” list over that same period. Even if only a tiny fraction of them were long-term green card holders, it’s clear that the Federal Register list was too small to have included their names.
Roughly 3,400 Pakistanis gave up Pakistani citizenship from 2010 to 2014, while at minimum ten thousand Americans gave up their citizenship during that same period.
However, at least for now, Homelanders can take pride in the fact that their citizenship might not yet be quite as unattractive to the American diaspora as Ghana’s citizenship is to the Ghanaian diaspora — though that conclusion depends on whose estimate of the Ghanaian diaspora population you use. Furthermore, the gap is closing quickly — in March 2015 alone, the FBI added 1,030 new entries to the “Renounced U.S. Citizenship” category in NICS, bringing the category total to 28,646 people, according to the latest report.