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.