Somewhere out there on the Intertubes, yet another native-born U.S. citizen is spreading rumours that it’s impossible to get a U.S. work visa after giving up U.S. citizenship. We already discussed in a previous March 2013 post that this is untrue; the article I translated then gave examples of ex-citizens who’d renounced as recently as 2011 and had been able to move back to the United States.
That article also claimed it’s probably impossible these days to re-naturalise after giving up citizenship. However, even further back in December 2011, in an article I missed at the time, the World Journal (a Chinese-language newspaper in the U.S.) interviewed three people who claimed to have done precisely that in the mid-2000s. (As Phil Hodgen has previously pointed out, the IRS even has regulations to handle the question of exit taxation against a person who expatriates twice, though probably that occurs more often when both of the expatriations — or at least one or the other — consist of green card abandonment rather than giving up citizenship.)
There’s two catches. First, all the people who moved back to the U.S. and stated they’d re-naturalised are Taiwanese politicians, who could truthfully claim that they’d only renounced U.S. citizenship to comply with Taiwan’s laws, not because they’re a bunch of radical tax-evading money-laundering drug-dealing terrorists who idolise a violent anti-American militant. Furthermore, ex-citizens don’t enjoy any special immigration privileges; the three interviewees were able to get green cards so easily only because they had U.S. citizen spouses or children, and they still had to wait to apply for naturalisation like any other immigrant.
Easy to re-naturalise after giving up U.S. citizenship
|The race for president of the Republic of China is turning white-hot, and the question of whether or not People First Party presidential candidate Lin Ruey-shiung gave up his U.S. citizenship and is qualified to stand for election is attracting a lot of attention. Taiwan has fiercely cracked down on public employees holding U.S. citizenship, but in practical terms this is nothing more than a “political game”. Later on, it won’t be difficult for him to restore his U.S. citizenship; you could say that many people in Taiwan have been tricked by national identity.
For what it’s worth, Lin Ruey-shiung showed up in the Q1 2012 published expatriates list, about six months after the above article was written. Appearing alongside him was fellow Taiwan politician Kuan Chung-ming, who should have renounced a long time ago back when he was on the board of directors of the ROC Central Bank, but didn’t. Homelanders of course focused on a tiny number of well-known Homeland whales in that list, while ignoring the far-more-numerous and utterly unknown people who just wanted to live their ordinary lives outside the United States. Google some names and you’ll find logistics managers, university professors, and even some young Singaporeans just starting out in their careers.
|Under U.S. law, after you’ve given up your citizenship, as long as your spouse or your children retain citizenship, it’s not difficult to naturalise again. In the past, some people skirted around the edges of Taiwan’s laws by showing proof of giving up U.S. citizenship and then, not long after, applying to get a U.S. green card anew. However, some people who have done it say that the price of giving up U.S. citizenship is high, because after their green cards were approved, every time they went through U.S. customs they’d raise the suspicions of the officials, and often they were called into the back room for questioning for an hour or two and made to give explanations. One even ended up in handcuffs, which left him feeling deeply insulted.
|People who have done it say, as long as the spouse or children still have U.S. citizenship status, the “former citizen” can apply for a green card, and later on when they apply to naturalise, they just need to be able to give a legitimate reason for having given up citizenship, in order not to raise the immigration authorities’ suspicions. However, if you don’t have relatives in the U.S., unless you can go through immigration routes like investment or special talents, a “former citizen” won’t enjoy any advantages in restoring U.S. citizenship, and in contrast it can sometimes make things even harder.
Unlike Taiwan, South Korea, or the United Kingdom, the U.S. has no accelerated procedure for restoration of citizenship. Rather, ex-citizens must go through the same green card & naturalisation process as other aliens. However, if you’re married to a U.S. citizen, that process is greatly abbreviated.
|An ethnic Chinese man who went back to Taiwan more than a decade ago to serve as a diaspora representative said, at the time, in order to get a U.S. visa quickly, he went to a U.S. consulate in a third country near Taiwan to fill out forms and swear the oath of renunciation of U.S. citizenship, his U.S. passport was cut up and returned to him on the spot, and he received a temporary proof of renunciation of citizenship, but did not get the official proof issued by the U.S. State Department until six months later. However, when he went back to Taiwan to swear his oath of office as a representative, they accepted the temporary proof, and was just told to provide the official proof later.
I’ll discuss the history of what I’ve translated here as “diaspora representatives” in more detail in a future post, but here’s the 10,000-metre overview: six seats in the Legislative Yuan are reserved for “diaspora representatives”. However, these are not filled based on actual diaspora voting, neither by the “old diaspora” (briefly mentioned last time: overseas Chinese who retained allegiance to the old ROC and are still considered nationals by Taipei, but lack “rights of citizenship” in Taiwan and generally have never lived there) nor the “new diaspora” (expats who are actually from Taiwan, and their kids). Rather. the seats are assigned to party lists proportionally based on the election results in Taiwan; the parties fill the lists with members of the diaspora (usually, the “new diaspora”).
The Kuomintang once hoped to implement a system of diaspora electoral constituencies resembling what France has today, but for various reasons, their plans never came to fruition. Still, the current system in Taiwan at least gives some members of the diaspora a direct voice in the legislature. In contrast, the U.S.’ byzantine system arbitrarily splits up the diaspora based on states where they lived long ago or where their parents once lived, denies the vote to those who never lived in the U.S. and who ended up assigned to states which don’t bother extending the vote to the second generation of the diaspora, and also denies the right to stand for election by requiring you to be an inhabitant of a state in order to get elected.
In any case, this is the kind of job for which the three men discussed later in the article gave up their U.S. citizenship.
|One man, not long after submitting his formal proof of release from citizenship to the authorities in Taiwan, because his wife and kids were still settled in the U.S. and didn’t spend even 100 days a year in Taiwan, in order to avoid inconvenience in returning to the U.S., not long afterwards applied for a dependent green card again through his U.S. citizen wife, and soon he had his green card again. However, afterwards, every time he passed through U.S. customs he’d be questioned by officials on his motivations for giving up citizenship, was even suspected of being involved in illegal activity, and one time ended up getting put in handcuffs and taken for interrogation.
Though I’ve previously written about known examples of U.S. government officials harassing ex-citizens, even I have to admit it’s fair for a Customs & Border Patrol officer to be suspicious of a person who renounced U.S. citizenship and then shows up at a point of entry holding a U.S. passport. CBP probably jumped to the conclusion that such a person might be an identity thief rather than a genuine re-naturalised U.S. citizen. Since the former are far more common than the latter, this seems like a reasonable mistake to make, at least once.
Of course, since ex-citizens who obtained CLNs are specially flagged in State Department & CBP computers, cases of identity theft against them are all easily detected. The bigger danger comes from identity theft against accidental Americans who have not obtained CLNs. And under FATCA, this kind of identity theft is going to increase drastically: banks with poor security are sending threatening letters to — and gathering up data from — accidentals who have no practical connection to the U.S. and have never held its passport. Some of these poor folks are now struggling to apply for Social Security numbers for the first time to comply with the “Internal” Revenue Code.
The vast majority of them will use their newly-minted SSN for nothing else besides writing it at the top of IRS forms; they will not notice if someone steals it and uses it to obtain credit, or social services, or even a U.S. passport under their name. And if Homelanders are very lucky, the identity thieves who steal these accidental Americans’ data from insecure FATCA-ed banks will sell the data only to economic migrants who want to work in the U.S., not violent extremists who want to attack it.
|This ethnic Chinese man stated, in 1997 he applied to restore his residence status again, obtained a green card, and filed income taxes in the U.S. every year. However, he’d heard rumours flying around like dust, with people saying that “if you’re not born and raised here, once you give up citizenship they’ll make it hard for you to get it back out of spite”, and so he decided to let it be, not daring to apply for re-naturalisation. This went on until 2004, when an ethnic Chinese lawyer encouraged him not to worry and just give it a try. The result: during the interview they demanded he explain his reasons for giving up citizenship in the first place. He stated truthfully that his family members were all in the U.S. and hoped for him to be an “American” again, and in the end he received approval for naturalisation.
Stupid rumours with no basis in fact — whether spread by word of mouth or by ignorant people on the Internet or by famous newspapers — have real consequences. There’s simply not enough evidence to decide whether naturalised or native-born Americans face more suspicion in the extremely-rare event they try to get green cards or reapply for citizenship. The number of recent re-naturalisation applicants is tiny; below I’ve listed all the cases of which I’m aware. (This list includes only people who went through the process of obtaining a green card somehow, not people who were able to have their relinquishments reversed.)
When former Queen of Sikkim-turned-refugee Hope Cooke Namgyal tried to get a private bill restoring her U.S. citizenship in 1976, Congresscritters angry at her renunciation pushed for the bill to be amended to grant her only a green card. The bill eventually passed in that form (see 90 Stat. 2976); once she’d held the green card for five years she apparently was able to naturalise again without any trouble, according to a 1981 article in Mademoiselle.
Margaret Randall also faced difficulties in having her U.S. citizen son sponsor her for a green card, but as far as I can see from the extensive opinion in Randall v. Meese, 854 F.2d 472 (D.C. Cir., 1988), the INS’ complaints about her were based not on her former U.S. citizenship but on the pro-Communist political positions she expressed in her published writings, which they asserted made her inadmissible under the former 8 USC § 1182(a)(28)(G)(v). Congress repealed that ground of inadmissibility in the middle of Randall’s legal battle, and she eventually obtained the green card she sought.
|New Party former diaspora representative Ying Chih-hung, former Kuomintang diaspora representative Sun Ing-shan, and Democratic Progressive Party former diaspora representative Hu Wei-kang, who all now live in Los Angeles and had earlier gone back to Taiwan in the late 1990s and early 2000s to participate in politics, stated bluntly that they gave up their U.S. citizenship as required by Republic of China law when they first went back to Taiwan to take up elected public positions, but after leaving office they went back to the U.S. to rejoin their families, and for convenience applied to get their U.S. citizenship back.
|Hu Wei-kang and Ying Chih-hung, both U.S. lawyers, stated that regaining their U.S. citizenship only required adhering to the requirements, which was not difficult at all. Their spouses and children were U.S. citizens, meaning they could apply for green cards without a quota, and were quickly approved by the immigration authorities. At present you can get a green card in as quickly as three months. If you get a green card through your citizen children, and spend at least two-and-a-half years out of the following five years in the U.S., not leaving during that period for more than one year, you can apply for naturalisation. If you get a green card through your citizen spouse, and spend half of the following three years’ time in the U.S., without leaving for more than one year, you can also apply for naturalisation.
All three of these reports of renunciation appear to be confirmed by Federal Register entries (not surprising, since the Federal Register expatriation list was generally pretty complete up until the mid-2000s), and other sources suggest that the above-mentioned individuals indeed lived in California after the dates of those entries.
A profile on the Legislative Yuan’s website gives the English name of Ying Chih-hung (營志宏) as Levi C. Ying. The name Levi Chih-hang [sic] Ying showed up in the Q2 1997 “published expatriates” list. A May 2013 World Journal obituary states that Ying Chih-hung was living in the Los Angeles area. An obituary on the website of an Alhambra funeral home shows a person named Levi Ying resembling that in the Legislative Yuan & World Journal photos, and lists the date of his passing as 29 April 2013.
The 2012 yearbook of the National Taiwan University Alumni Association of Southern California lists a member by the Chinese name of Sun Ing-shan (孫英善) and the English name of Albert Ing S. Sun, who graduated in 1959. The name Albert Ing-shan Sun showed up in the same Q2 1997 expat honour roll as Levi Ying. In January 2014, when the World Journal interviewed Sun Ing-shan about the death of his former legislative colleague Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), Sun was mentioned as living in La Habra Heights.
A lawyer in Monterey Park is included in a commercial directory under the English name Wendell K. Hu, with the name in Chinese being given as Hu Wei-kang (胡維剛). The California State Bar website lists a Wendell K. Hu as a member in active status with an office address in Monterey Park. The name Wendell K. Hu showed up in in the much-delayed Q1 2001 list.
|Immigration lawyer Sheu Jiunn-liang stated, immigration law does not at the moment place any limits on people who voluntarily give up green cards or citizenship, or on the possibility of later on applying for a green card again or regaining citizenship. However, if you’re applying for a green card again, you cannot have moral turpitude or deficiency. This moral turpitude refers to conviction for federal crimes resulting in a prison sentence of more than one year. Moral deficiency most commonly refers to involvement in domestic violence which resulted in a conviction.
I may have lost something in translation here: “道德瑕疵” and “道德淪喪” are both possible translations of “moral turpitude”, a term of art in U.S. immigration law. Conviction for a “crime of moral turpitude” is one ground for deportation, under 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(A)(i); conviction for a crime of domestic violence is another such ground, under 8 USC § 1227(a)(2)(E), but as far as I know the law doesn’t use “moral deficiency”, “moral wickedness”, or any similar term of art to refer to the latter category.
In any case, it’s good to see that Mr. Sheu, unlike most immigration lawyers interviewed on the subject of renunciation, limits his discussion to well-known and clearly-enforced grounds of deportation or inadmissibility, and doesn’t try any scaremongering about the long-unenforced and probably-unenforceable-and-unconstitutional Reed Amendment.
One thing that struck me when reading this article: it was mentioned twice that the people in question applied to get their citizenship back “for convenience”. It didn’t appear to be a matter of identity or loyalty. Patriots might be offended, but I think that’s as it should be: nationality is a legal relationship between you and a government. Your emotional relationship to society is something else entirely. And you’re lying to yourself and other people if you think one of those relationships is either a necessary or sufficient condition for the other.
As it’s been said around here before (I believe by USCitizenAbroad): immigrants to the U.S. get U.S. citizenship so they can get on with their lives, and emigrants from the U.S give up their U.S. citizenship for the exact same reason. And the three immigrants-turned-emigrants-turned-immigrants-again in this article did both.