Ghana, with an in-country population of about 24 million and an emigrant population of between 1.5 million and 3 million (says the IOM), had 817 applications for renunciation of citizenship in 2013, reports Ghana News Agency. The government reacted calmly and painted an accurate picture of the diaspora and their reasons for renunciation:
Elaborating further on the issue, Mr David Agorsor, Director in Charge of Migration Unit of the Ministry said majority of the applicants were health professionals, especially doctors and nurses … He explained that, such people renounced their Ghanaian nationality because they are mostly offered job opportunities in those countries which do not recognize dual citizenship.
Meanwhile, Reed Amendment author Jack Reed is apparently frustrated by the repeated failure of his more recent attempts to ban even more ex-citizens. And perhaps he’s still stinging from Daniel Moynihan’s October 1996 speech deriding his legislative drafting skills. So he’s used his position on the Senate Appropriations committee to get the following language inserted into the report on the latest Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill:
Under section 212(a)(10)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to deny admission to former U.S. citizens that are deemed to have expatriated for purposes of tax avoidance. In over a decade, the Department has not issued regulations nor has it undertaken any significant steps to enforce this provision. The Committee directs the Secretary to report within 90 days on the steps the Department is undertaking to enforce this law, including a schedule for issuing guidance or regulations, if necessary.
Ghana’s Ministry of the Interior was able to provide a numerical breakdown of their ex-citizens’ new countries:
Out of the number, 367 were males and 450 were female Ghanaians, who took nationality in Germany (538), Netherlands (233), Norway (32), Denmark (7), Austria (5), Hong Kong (1) and China (1), Mr Ahwoi said this at the-meet-the-press series in Accra.
These numbers pass a rough sanity check. First, from public reports, in Hong Kong we indeed heard about one Ghanaian applying for an HKSAR passport: footballer Christian Annan, almost precisely seven years after he arrived in Hong Kong.
Turning to official statistics, Denmark had four Ghanaians listed in the April 2013 naturalisation bill and six in the October 2013 one. Germany has not yet released its naturalisation statistics for 2013, but according to the Federal Statistical Office, since 2005 between 250 and 650 Ghanaians (averaging around 420) have naturalised each year on legal grounds which require them to give up their earlier citizenship — in fact, in recent years the numbers have been below average. Finally, Eurostat says that in the past five years, there’s been about a dozen naturalisations per year by Ghanaians in Austria, and 50-odd in Norway.
So overall, the Ghanaian government figures in some countries may be a bit low, though not unreasonably so (I’m not sure whether Austria & Norway have similar provisions as Germany in which some naturalisation applicants can retain their earlier citizenships), and in Germany their numbers are probably right on the mark.
Can regain citizenship later
The Ministry of the Interior’s Migration Unit director also pointed out that these former Ghanaians are welcome back at any time:
Mr Agorsor, who described the situation as very alarming, however said such people could regain their Ghanaian citizenship if they renounce the foreign one later.
This puts Ghana in good company. Many countries — both rich ones and poor ones, those allowing dual citizenship and those disallowing it, those which espouse an ethnic basis of citizenship and those which define their citizenship in civic terms — have special programmes for ex-citizens to easily obtain resident permits (Australia, Denmark) or even to regain their citizenship (Philippines, United Kingdom). Their governments understand that emigrants are not traitors or saboteurs or shirkers but merely ordinary people pursuing their happiness abroad who deserve the right to come back to their former home so that they can care for their parents in their old age, attend their friends’ weddings, and see their nieces and nephews grow up.
The U.S., on the other hand, has no procedures for resumption of citizenship after giving it up. Its media and government officials and internet commenters scream endlessly that renunciants are tax evaders. Even when the vast majority of the diaspora owes them no tax, they figure out ways to impose five-figure fines on two-figure annual tax deficiencies because they claim we’re hiding assets “offshore”. Any ex-citizen who within the past five years missed some of the incomrehensible IRS “offshore” paperwork imposed on the local retirement plans, disability savings plans and mutual funds — which are fully tax-compliant in the countries where we actually live — is defined as a “covered expatriate”.
And every year, we’re subjected to the threats of shallow, immature men like Jack Reed and Chuck Schumer who stand in front of the TV cameras ranting that all “covered expatriates” should be banned from ever coming back to the country.
Going in the opposite direction as these 817 people, famous ex-Americans who gave up their citizenship for Ghana include South Carolina-born dentist Robert Lee as well as political candidate and immigrant-turned-emigrant Victor Okaikoi.
Note that none of this recent batch of Ghanaian renunciants were located in the United States. This goes back to what I noted last year and what Peter Spiro brought up last week: immigrants to the U.S. don’t typically give up their former citizenships; from advanced countries which forbid dual citizenship, many are unwilling to give up their old citizenship to renounce in their new country; and renunciation of citizenship in any country which allows dual citizenship is a fairly rare event.