Voluntary Relinquishment of U.S. Citizenship

There is a small, but growing trend of U.S. citizens electing to relinquish their U.S. citizenship. The motivations for expatriation vary, ranging from concerns over U.S. tax obligations to a desire for family unity. Regardless of the reasons, however, the most common voluntary renunciation of U.S. citizenship occurs by going through a formal process before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States at a U.S. consulate or embassy.

Procedure for Voluntary Renouncement

Voluntary renunciation of U.S. citizenship is, by far, most commonly accomplished via formal process at a U.S. consulate or embassy, before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States.A U.S. citizen who elects to go through this process typically undergoes two interviews with a consular officer. The first interview is designed as an information session, allowing the consular officer to confirm the individual’s U.S. citizenship and discuss the consequences of renunciation. If the individual desires to proceed with the renunciation, a second interview is set for a later date; the main purpose of this is to provide the U.S. citizen with additional time to reflect upon the gravity of the decision.

At the second interview, the consular officer must verify that the individual is acting intentionally and voluntarily. There are standards and guidance that apply in making this determination, and then the officer administers an oath of renunciation, and the individual must sign an oath or affirmation of renunciation of nationality and a statement of understanding concerning the consequences and ramifications of relinquishment or renunciation of U.S. nationality. Next, the consular officer prepares a certificate of the loss of nationality (CLN) that is forwarded to the U.S. Department of State (DOS) for approval. Once approved, the CLN is sent to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the now-former U.S. citizen.

Cannot Relinquish on Behalf of Children

As stated, this process to relinquish U.S. citizenship requires that the applicant act voluntarily and intentionally. Parents may not form this intent on behalf of their children. Consular officers are instructed that minor children who request renunciation of citizenship are likely to be doing so under pressure from a parent, making it difficult to prove the request is truly voluntary. In fact, per for the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), which details the policies and procedures that govern the operations of embassies and consulates, “[c]hildren under 16 are presumed not to have the requisite maturity and knowing intent.”

Immigration Consequences of the Voluntary Relinquishment of Citizenship

The MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Abandonment or Relinquishment of Green Card Status (25.Apr.2016) discusses the consequences of voluntarily abandoning one’s status as a lawful permanent resident (LPR). The immigration consequences of relinquishing U.S. citizenship are very similar. The former citizen becomes subject to the standard immigration rules any foreign national would face. In order to be readmitted to the United States, the individual generally would be required to first obtain a visa (e.g., B-1/B-2) or, if eligible, apply for visa waiver through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. Similarly, s/he could only work in the U.S. after being admitted in a work-authorized status (e.g., L-1) or being issued an employment authorization document (EAD).

Further, relinquishment of U.S. citizenship is generally irreversible. If the former citizen later wishes to regain U.S. citizenship, s/he typically would first need to acquire LPR status, as any other foreign national would, and then meet all the requirements for naturalization.

Tax Consequences

There also may be severe tax consequences associated with voluntary relinquishment of U.S. citizenship. The specifics of this go beyond the scope of this article, but may include an exit tax levied on the individual’s worldwide assets. Needless to say, anyone considering taking the major step of renouncing U.S. citizenship should first consult with an experienced tax advisor.


The relinquishment of U.S. citizenship has serious and permanent consequences. While the use of this option is on the rise, this decision should only be made after careful consideration of all immigration, tax, and related consequences.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.