Vice magazine recently published an article by Serena Solomon featuring interviews with ex-U.S. citizens about their reasons for giving up citizenship. The article doesn’t question the government’s more absurd policies, such as the obscenely-high fee or the so-called “Billionaire’s Amendment” exit & gift tax (which actually applies even to thousandaires if they can’t afford to come into compliance before renouncing). However, the author generally seems to understand the issues at stake, and over on Reddit she’s doing her best to defend herself against the usual knee-jerk Homelander reactions (sample: “It’s not meant for everyone to be a part of the Greatest Nation in the World”).
The debate’s mostly over by now, but Reddit user BrassAge, who claims to be “someone who administers renunciations” (which is possibly true, given that s/he is a frequent poster on the Foreign Service Officers’ subreddit), felt compelled to revive the mostly-dead thread to put in his or her insulting and incorrect two cents (archived).
Doesn’t know the law, tries to nitpick about it
3) Serena, I wish you also would have mentioned that only dual citizens can renounce their citizenship — the Hague convention on statelessness compels the U.S. to decline renunciation requests if it would leave the renouncee stateless.
The U.S. signed neither the 1954 or 1961 conventions on statelessness, and 7 FAM 1215 says that the State Department “will accept and approve renunciations of persons who do not already possess another nationality”. (Maybe BrassAge thinks the prohibition against voluntary statelessness is a peremptory norm of international law and should thus bind the U.S. even without its signature, though that’s a giant stretch, and really not something I’d expect to hear out of the mouth of a U.S. government employee.)
But all that is neither here nor there: very few people voluntarily make themselves stateless anyway, and everyone Solomon mentioned in her article was already a citizen of another country, so it’s unclear why BrassAge is getting so agitated about this non-issue. (Maybe s/he’s one of the folks who’s been getting yelled at for all the mess caused by Harmon Wilfred’s renunciation.)
Insults people trying to conduct ordinary personal finance
Solomon mentioned on Reddit that “Another guy I spoke with has an 11 year-old daughter in Europe. She can’t find a bank to open an account for her because of her US citizenship.” (I’m disappointed that her editor apparently thought Eduardo Saverin was worth mentioning in the final article but this wasn’t.) Our State Department friend’s response to that:
2) The argument that an 11 year old can’t get a bank account strikes me as particularly weak. Outside of the Mary Poppins Universe, what children have independent bank accounts? Do they have independent income to fill those accounts, or do their parents want to use those accounts for their own purposes?
This reflects the usual Homelander view that “foreign accounts” are nefarious and used only for money laundering, drug dealing, and terrorism. Meanwhile, most Homeland financial institutions, including the State Department Federal Credit Union, offer accounts to minors as well, even if they have no “independent income” and just want to deposit birthday checks from their aunts. (Clearly, if U.S. laws cause minors to be denied an account in the country where they live, the solution is for them to open offshore accounts in the World’s Greatest Tax Haven.)
Tries to justify the world’s highest renunciation fee
4) For most people, the entire process takes about 6 months. The final interview itself is about 45 minutes, but there are months of legal review before the act, which is largely responsible for the high cost. After all, it seems silly to charge American taxpayers for legal hours spent reviewing the process of unmaking an American.
Seeing as changing your nationality is a human right, enshrined in Article 15 of the UDHR, it seems equally silly to put all these absurd make-work barriers in the way of people who don’t want any further affiliation with your country, which is why other countries don’t do it, and instead figure out how to get the work done more quickly and cheaply. For example China — recently lambasted by the American press as a racist violator of international law for its policy (analogous to the U.S.’ own policy) of not letting Hong Kong dual citizens use their foreign passports to travel to the mainland — lets you renounce citizenship for US$19 by mail. Taiwan charges $30. Chile lets you exercise your right to change your nationality for free.
This is hardly the most Orwellian thing that the State Department has said in the service of defending its indefensible fee — that award goes to the statement last year by Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy claiming that all this nonsense “does not impinge, but rather protects, the right of expatriation”. (Imagine the reaction from Homelanders if the U.S. government started trying to “protect” the right to marry or the right of free speech in a similar fashion.)
That said, many Brockers have testified to meeting polite, efficient, and competent State Department officers on their big day — so let’s hope that after you’ve waited 10 months for an appointment, you get one of the good ones, rather than a rude, ignorant ultranationalist.