I am posting below (with permission) details of the experience of a young person of legal age who attempted to renounce United States citizenship at a US Consulate in Canada.
Readers have weighed in whether the behaviour of the Consular official was appropriate or not.
The FIRST part of this post is the detailed December 19, 2019 personal account of the person, followed by an earlier April 10 2019 second hand summary of the experience.
DECEMBER 19, 2019 DETAILED FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF EXPERIENCE OF YOUNG PERSON ATTEMPTING TO RENOUNCE AT US CONSULATE IN CANADA:
“In July 2018, I sent an email request for a renunciation appointment to be scheduled for after my 18th birthday, since I was not yet 18 years old at the time. I needed to wait until my birthday because according to U.S. law, they can deny an application from minors, but they cannot deny an application from a legal adult unless they suspect that said adult is being coerced. In January 2019 I finally received a reply, scheduling an appointment at the Halifax consulate for March 2019.
On the day of the appointment, I arrived a few minutes early and had to wait for the consulate to open (I think I was the first item on their schedule for that day). The building where the consulate is located is very nice and modern, full of business suites for law firms and the like. The consulate occupies its own floor accessible only by elevator, and when I got there, I had to buzz in using what looked like a doorbell camera from an apartment building. Once inside the consulate proper, there was only a single guard, who was quite friendly until I informed him that I was carrying an Epi-Pen because of my severe food allergy. He seemed worried about this as if it was some sort of threat and confiscated it, saying that I could have it back when I left. I asked him what would happen if I needed it, and he obfuscated for a few seconds before telling me to continue into the waiting area, never answering my question. The consulate itself is very small – a single room with about 20 chairs in the middle, three bank teller-style windows in one wall, and the guard’s desk and metal detector by the entrance. At this point the guard and I were the only people in the room.
I waited for probably 15 minutes before a clerk appeared in one of the windows and called my name. She took my documentation and I sat back down and waited for probably another 10 minutes before my name was called again. I went up to the next window and paid the $2,350 USD in cash, which the clerk seemed irritated by. She gave me a receipt and told me to wait again. While I was waiting a family came into the consulate for what I think was U.S. travel visas, based on snippets of conversation I accidentally overheard. After maybe 20 more minutes of waiting I was called to the third window, which had a chair set out in front. I sat down, and the woman behind the window introduced herself as the vice-consul. We had to speak through microphones that didn’t work very well and kept cutting out, and there was a slot at the bottom of the window for passing documents through.
The vice-consul started by asking me to confirm my identity and my intent to renounce my citizenship. I raised my right hand and swore to tell the truth, as directed. The vice-consul then began going through my documents and asked me about the circumstances of my birth. From this point forward I remember clearly what was said but I cannot recall exactly the order of events because the questioning became very intense and intimidating, and I went into autopilot mode. The consulate probably knows exactly how the conversation played out, however, due to the surveillance camera conveniently located right above the interview window.
I do remember that it began with her incredulity that I was trying to renounce at only 18 years old, because according to her, I didn’t have enough life experience to do so. She asked me why I chose to renounce at this time, and I said it was because I legally could and wanted to, and she seemed irritated by my lack of elaboration. Since I was still in high school, had not travelled extensively outside of North America, had not been to the U.S. much in the past few years, and had yet to vote in any election, she claimed that I clearly didn’t know enough about the world to make such a monumental decision. I told her that I planned to vote and travel later and just had not been able to do so yet because I was not old enough, but she wasn’t satisfied. She asked me to list everywhere I had ever lived, and what jobs my parents held in each location. When I told her that some of my parents’ jobs were with the U.S. government, she seemed very suspicious about it. She also made some strange comments about the fact that we moved quite often during my childhood, as if she suspected that we were involved in something shady.
Now, the law clearly states that I don’t have to give a reason, but she told me in no uncertain terms that a person as young as me must prove to her that I am of sound enough mind and have a good enough reason to renounce. This is blatantly untrue, and I knew that during the interview, but I felt very intimidated by the vice-consul and I had to appease her in order to get through the interview and not waste the massive amount of money I had just paid. She asked me about my career aspirations, and when I told her that I might go into medicine, she said that I should keep an open mind about medical school and residency in the States. When I told her I would rather stay in Canada for my education, she seemed bewildered and asked me if I had really thought about it, because if I had thought about it properly, I must be at least considering going to the U.S. I said I had considered it plenty, and I preferred Canada. She kept pressing me about it, asking me why I didn’t go to university in the States, or take a gap year and travel there. I said I didn’t want to. Every time I said I didn’t want to go to the U.S. her expression became more and more confused. She then said that I should keep my citizenship because if I ever decide to travel internationally, American diplomats and military can provide more protection if I get kidnapped abroad. She said that a maple leaf on my backpack can only get me so far, that nothing can protect me as well as a U.S. passport, and because of that I need to keep my citizenship for my own safety while travelling. I didn’t know quite how to respond to that, so I just said that I had made my decision and hoped she’d back off. She didn’t.
Sometime after that she began trying to construct a case that my parents were coercing me into renouncing. She started asking all sorts of leading questions – were my parents still citizens, did we discuss renunciation at home, did I go with them to their renunciation appointments, how long I had been thinking about renouncing, did they suggest that I do it, and did they drive me to my appointment that day. I answered that I did hear about it from them but that the decision to renounce was my own; and furthermore, since I can’t drive and am from out of town, I couldn’t have gotten there without being driven by my parents. She seemed very confused by my answers and muttered under her breath several times that she didn’t understand my reasoning.
The vice-consul also asked me about my Canadian citizenship. I naturalized when I was a kid, having moved to Canada at a young age. She asked me why I didn’t want to stay as a dual citizen, and I told her it was because I felt Canadian, not American, and I didn’t want to keep a nationality I didn’t identify with. She didn’t take that as an answer, so I said I thought it would be easier to just have one citizenship. She said that having American citizenship had no downsides, and used herself as an example – she explained that she had a very high security clearance and an important job in the U.S. foreign service and her dual Canadian/American citizenship didn’t cause any problems for her. I thought it was rather inappropriate for her to be talking about details of her job, especially her security clearance, in a renunciation interview, but I didn’t say anything about it. She clearly expected me to acquiesce and admit that she was right, but I just said that I wanted to get rid of my American citizenship and that I was determined to go through with it. She was visibly frustrated by my response, and said again that she didn’t understand my reasoning.
She also had a very low opinion of young people such as myself, which came out on multiple occasions during the interview. She made several comments about young people being impatient, not understanding the world, making uninformed decisions, et cetera. She said at one point that I was being naive, that young people are always so blasé about serious matters, and that I would surely regret this decision once I was older and wiser. I felt insulted by the constant references to my youth, and during the entire interview I felt I was being treated like a child.
The interview went on for about half an hour of hard grilling before the vice-consul suddenly gave up. I think she was trying to wear me down and intimidate me into cancelling my renunciation, and after I refused to do so, she decided to drop it. After she asked me her last question, she audibly sighed and pushed the papers I would need to sign through the slot in the window. She asked me to read several documents and summarize them for her. I did so, signed both copies, and gave them back in exchange for the the document containing the oath of renunciation. I had expected to raise my hand, swear, or do something officially binding while reciting the oath, but she just asked me to read the oath out loud, which I did. I signed both copies of the oath and gave them back. Meanwhile, it was very clear that the family in the waiting area had heard everything that was said between the vice-consul and myself, and it was unexpectedly very embarrassing to have to defend my decision to renounce my citizenship from a high-ranking diplomat in front of people who were actively trying to get into the U.S.
The vice-consul went on to explain that Washington would respond in a few months with either a CLN or a letter of denial, and that I would have to be patient. She added another rude comment under her breath about people my age being impatient. She also said that young people who decided to do this often come to regret their decision after a couple months, and if I regret mine before receiving my CLN, I could write the consulate and try to get it stopped. She also gave me a temporary CLN to use if I had to travel abroad before the legitimate one arrived. She returned my documents to me and very brusquely asked me to leave. I reclaimed my Epi-Pen from the guard and left the consulate without incident. The appointment took around an hour and 15 minutes in total, about half of which constituted the interview. After I left, I was externally calm but internally very shaken, since I felt that my rights had been violated. The vice-consul abused her position of authority over me during the interview in order to intimidate me into keeping my citizenship, and I was very afraid that my application would be rejected. It felt like I was trying to a leave a cult.
My CLN arrived in April 2019, just over a month after my renunciation appointment. I was surprised that it arrived so quickly, but I was also very relieved that I had been approved after all. I was glad to have it over and done with. Forever.”
APRIL 10, 2019 SECOND-HAND SUMMARY ACCOUNT OF EXPERIENCE OF YOUNG PERSON ATTEMPTING TO RENOUNCE AT US CONSULATE IN CANADA:
“Anyone preparing to renounce their US citizenship needs to be aware of a situation affecting a young adult renunciant of which I have recently become aware.
This person attempted to renounce at a US Consulate in Canada and received an unpleasant surprise. Instead of the standard brief interview process, which typically involves being made aware of the consequences of renunciation and determination of voluntariness, this person was subjected an almost 30-minute grilling by the Vice Consul about how foolish their intention to renounce was, especially at their young age, accompanied by proselytizing about the virtues of American citizenship.
It was explicitly stated by this official that they had to know, in detail, why this person was renouncing and that they had to be fully convinced of the validity of their motives before the renunciation could be forwarded to Washington for approval, as if they were a minor under 18 instead of an adult.
The Vice Consul badgered the young person, asking again and again for an explanation, even though they had clearly said that they did not wish to make a statement about why they were renouncing, both in the paperwork and in person at the interview.
In particular, the Vice Consul insinuated that the young person was most likely being coerced by their parents because no young adult would have the life experience or understanding to take such a monumental action.
Also, they spent a good portion of this “lecture” extolling the virtues of maintaining US citizenship and even derided the young person for not considering attending university in the US. The Vice Consul called them “naive” and “blasé” and said that they were acting “rashly”, even though the person in question is very mature, intelligent, well-spoken, and firmly resolute in this decision and in their motivations.
The Vice Consul went on to say that it was extremely rare that an 18 year-old person would take this action and that “it didn’t make any sense.”
The Vice Consul also said there was no reason to renounce because there were no negative consequences to holding both citizenships.
She then implied that Canadian citizenship wasn’t as valuable because Canada couldn’t/wouldn’t help out like America could/would while travelling abroad (e.g., consular assistance, military rescue, etc.), even saying that the Canadian flag on the backpack would only get you so far but that travelling under the US passport gave you the most safety of all.
While the Vice Consul was technically polite and did not raise her voice, it appeared to the young renunciant that the official’s intent was to manipulate. In their opinion, the Vice Consul’s actions constituted a clear attempt to intimidate and to spread pro-American propaganda and to create doubt in their mind about whether they should renounce or whether they even had the right to renounce at this age (even though they are an adult). Accordingly, they are now afraid that the State Department will reject the renunciation and keep the USD$2350 due to the Vice Consul’s willingness to bully them in this way.
I don’t know if this is a new policy being implemented by the State Department or if it is a random occurrence happening to this one person but anyone planning to renounce should be prepared for an intense grilling about motives and unprofessional conduct by consular officials, especially if they are young adults.
This young person feels strongly that their human right to expatriate without interference, as guaranteed by the Expatriation Act of 1868, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was clearly infringed. Be aware and be prepared.”
“This isn’t a court of law.”
It was merely a simple question for heaven’s sake!!
“Share your knowledge”
“Don’t I always”
I thought I was replying to satire.
After all these years in the UK , I thought you had learned and were replying with a satirical British sense humour?!
“I thought I was replying to satire.”
It was just a simple question.
A simple question with a smile = non serious
@Zla’od said: “I bet an 18-year-old trying to join the military wouldn’t have his motivation second-guessed by the recruiting officer.”
Yeah, no kidding to that! The USA is a cult and, like with all cults, members are fed a steady diet of propaganda and leaving is made very difficult with much harassment and intimidation.
Leaving is undoubtedly made difficult, for some, by the fees. But most people don’t seem to report problems with being subjected to harrassment / intimidation. I suspect if there were an actual policy of systematic use of harrassment / intimidation to try to discourage renunciation, it would be reported more frequently.
Learning to deal with bureaucrats without feeling intimidated is a useful skill for a young person to acquire.
@plaxy said: “Does US law actually accord such rights to the renouncer?”
Yes, actually, it does. From the Expatriation Act of 1868 (still in full effect in the US Code):
“Whereas the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people, indispensable to the enjoyment of the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;…Therefore any declaration, instruction, opinion, order, or decision of any officer of the United States which denies, restricts, impairs, or questions the right of expatriation, is declared inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Republic.”
Also, the manual page you quote regarding consular officer discretion makes my point very clearly. When it says “…the consular officer must exercise his or her judgment that the renunciant is acting voluntarily and with the intent to lose U.S. citizenship…” it places a narrow restriction on the basis of any questioning that can occur. Namely, they are only allowed to question the renunciant on those two bases and no others. The period of reflection can only be imposed based on a perceived misunderstanding by the renunciant of these two bases only. Again, the VC’s pushing of their opinions about the wisdom of the renunciant’s actions and their views about the greatness of Team USA onto the renunciant during this appointment are completely out of line and against both law and regulation, as cited above.
Finally, if the renunciant does end up with the CLN in the end, it still does not excuse or wipe away the harassment that occurred during the appointment.
@plaxy said: “I suspect if there were an actual policy of systematic use of harrassment / intimidation to try to discourage renunciation, it would be reported more frequently.”
Someone just did…and you’ve spent pages trying to downplay it all.
“if the renunciant does end up with the CLN in the end, it still does not excuse or wipe away the harassment that occurred during the appointment.”
Life’s a lot more peaceful if you keep your eyes on the prize and learn how to handle such situations without getting stressed. When I was 18, I didn’t know that, but I gradually learned. 🙂
“Someone just did…and you’ve spent pages trying to downplay it all.”
I definitely would want to offer my view to anyone who may be considering renouncing — i.e., that it’s very easy, that they can easily give a bland reason for the consular person to write down, and that there’s no need to be fearful.
Time to give it a rest. Why not exchange addresses and go at it without monopolizing this board.
Time to give it a rest. Why not exchange addresses and go at it without monopolizing this board.
@Portland, did you repeat your comment for effect? Hehe. Seriously though, what can possibly be so fascinating about the subject matter of this site that someone would want to comment endlessly for days, weeks, months, years….?
What started out as a useful thread ended with the first comment on March 18, 2019. Since that time, all the possible accumulated value of the thread has been completely undone by “comments” that include the usual “thinking out loud” and generally irrelevant blather. One more thread bites the dust. The irrelevant “thinking out loud”/blather is like a termite infestation destroying the “House of Brock” one room/post at a time.
It’s not the fascination with the subject matter of the Isaac Brock site. It’s the fascination of watching one’s own comments appear in cyberspace. Comments, conversation, commenting on one’s own comments, using up three comments on the side bar when all could be consolidated into one comment …
It is now impossible for anybody to locate the comments related to the post without being forced to recognise (if not absorb) the thinking out loud/blather along the way. (In real time somebody would not be forced to listen to you).
Why the Brock Moderators should be very concerned and why this is not harmless
This site is now dominated by a small number of commenters who appear to have created their own version of “the reality of U.S. persons abroad”. Readers are treated to a constant dose of: this doesn’t matter or that doesn’t matter, FATCA doesn’t matter, all you need do is renounce, nobody is in any danger, all of this is hypothetical, etc. I note that not a single one of these people claims to be living a life where they are required to (or do) comply with these overreaching U.S. laws. Their thoughts are NOT relevant to the lives of the people who are attempting compliance with U.S. laws (regardless of their reason for compliance). Everybody agrees that life is tough for people who are in the U.S. tax system and attempting compliance. The point is that those whose lives are not impacted by U.S. tax filing are NOT qualified (in any remote way) to give advice to those who are dealing with this problem. Really: Who cares what they think! Yet they are the people who comment at Brock.
It is (I would think) important for the Isaac Brock Society to be an educational forum for both the compliant and the noncompliant. Those who are compliant or attempting compliance need far more assistance than those who are not.
How to preserve what is left of Brock …
Over time Brock has turned into a “chat room” where the comments are being used for “thinking out loud”, blather and conversation (even when not related to the subject matter of the post). It is also clear that the primary offenders are not willing to “moderate” their behaviour (they apparently matter more than the site matters).
Barbara suggested a Brock Pub post where people can “Blather On” without destroying the value of the threads. I suggest that the time has come to create exactly that. This would give those who feel “compelled to comment” to have a place to comment where their comments don’t destroy the value of the posts.
I don’t disagree with the general point, and have made an effort to comment less. Overall site structure and lack of moderation make this a very difficult place to find useful information.
There are other forums around (Serbinksi etc.) that provide more technical advice for those who, for whatever reason, are or feel compelled to attempt US tax compliance. I think a big part of the mission here should be educating the concerned non-compliant person so that they can make an informed choice about whether compliance is a good idea for them – work to counter the compliance industry and prevent future victims. You know my views, I won’t repeat them.
Also, if appearing sane to the outside world is a priority, what is with the current first post? I can’t make head not tail of it, quite nutty.
Of course – agree fully. “Big part” but not the only part. The fact that there are other sites (discussing US taxes) is completely irrelevant. The non-compliant are not the only people worthy of consideration on this – the Brock site.
Those who are in compliance are in a far worse situation than the non-compliant. This site no longer has anything to offer those who are compliant. Without offering commentary/information/analysis that is of value to the compliant, this site will erode into irrelevancy.
People are different. They have different situations. Without encouraging compliance, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are valid and rational reasons for compliance.
I say this respectfully, but what advice can you offer the compliant other than (1) here’s how to do it (i.e. what forms to file) and (2) here’s how to stop (i.e. renounce or disappear)? For US domestic political activism, there’s Facebook. Suing or hassling other governments over FATCA cooperation is a worthy mission quite independent of anyone’s compliance status, however.
@USC writes: “Those who are in compliance are in a far worse situation than the non-compliant”.
That is one perspective but not the only one.
I am the young person referenced in this thread. I have finally gotten around the writing up my experience during my renunciation at that time, and I wanted to share it with the wider world.
The full account of my experience is given in the next post. I can assure you that I am not “fake news”, as some commenters suggested at the time.
I have modified the above post so that it now includes the December 19, 2019 first hand account of the experience of the young adult at the consulate.
All my personal thoughts on the case have also been removed from my post, and I only raise the question, for commenters to weigh in on, whether behaviour of the consular official was appropriate or not.