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.”