Think Before Renouncing Your US Citizenship

June 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the ability of a US citizen to renounce his/her US citizenship.

A person wishing to renounce his/her US citizenship should do so voluntarily and with intent to relinquish US citizenship, should appear in person before a US consular or diplomatic officer. He/she should do so in a foreign country (normally at a US Embassy or Consulate) and will be required to sign an oath of renunciation.

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no effect legally. US citizens cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while being in US. In fact, US courts have held certain attempts to renounce US citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.

Effects Of Renouncing US Citizenship

Renounce All Rights and Privileges

A US citizen who wants to renounce his/her citizenship cannot decide to retain some of the privileges of citizenship, as this would lead to logical inconsistency with the concept of renunciation. The Department of State will not approve a loss of citizenship in such instances.

Dual Nationality/Statelessness

If you are intending to renounce your American citizenship, you should be aware that, unless you already have a foreign nationality, you might be rendered stateless and will result in the lack of protection from any government. You will also experience difficulty while traveling as you may not be entitled to a passport from any country.

Even if you are not stateless, you have to get a visa to travel to the US, or show that you are eligible for admission pursuant to the terms of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP). If you are considered ineligible for a visa or the VWPP to come to the US, under certain circumstances you could be barred from entering the US. Nonetheless, renunciation of American citizenship may not prevent a foreign country from deporting you back to the US in some non-citizen status.

Tax and Military Obligations

Also, you should also be aware of the fact that if you renounce American citizenship, it may have no effect whatsoever on your US tax or military service obligations. Adding to this, renouncing American citizenship will not allow you to avoid possible prosecution for crimes which you may have committed in the US, or escape the repayment of financial obligations previously incurred in the US or what you incurred as a US citizen abroad.

Renunciation For Minor Children

You cannot renounce US citizenship on behalf of your minor children. Before an oath of renunciation will be administered, a person under the age of eighteen should be able to convince a US diplomatic or consular officer that he/she fully understands the nature and consequences of the oath of renunciation, is not subject to duress or undue influence, and is voluntarily seeking to renounce his/her citizenship.

Renunciation is Irrevocable

Another important fact to consider is that renunciation of American citizenship is irrevocable, except as provided in section 351 of the INA. It cannot be canceled or set aside. However, one who renounced his/her citizenship before the age of eighteen can have that citizenship reinstated if he/she makes that desire known to the Department of State within six months after attaining the age of eighteen.

If you are contemplating renouncing US citizenship, consider the effects of renouncing as described above before jumping to such a conclusion.


Refugee Status in the US

May 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Refugee Quotas:

Every year, the President of the United States will send a proposal to the Congress for the maximum number of refugees that can be admitted into the US for the upcoming fiscal year, as specified under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This number is also known as the “refugee ceiling“. Every year refugee advocates seek to raise the number whereas anti-immigration groups want to reduce it. Whatever their claims may be, once proposed, the refugee ceiling is normally accepted without substantial Congressional debate.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, there was a substantial disruption to the processing of resettlement claims with admissions falling to about 26,000 in the year 2002. All refugee claims were double checked for any suspicious activity and strict procedures were put in place to detect any possible terrorist infiltration to the country. Given the ease with which foreigners can otherwise legally enter the US, entry as a refugee is comparatively unlikely. The number of admitted refugees increased in subsequent years with the refugee ceiling for the fiscal year 2006 put at 70,000. These numbers however are still among the lowest in 30 years.

The applications submitted by individuals who have already entered the US are judged on whether they fulfill the US definition of a “refugee” and on many other criteria (including many bars that would prevent an otherwise-eligible refugee from receiving protection). There are two ways to apply for asylum while in the US

  • If an asylum seeker has been ordered for removal before an immigration judge with an Office that is a part of the Department of Justice, the individual can apply for asylum with the Immigration Judge.
  • If an asylum seeker is inside the US and has not been placed in removal proceedings, he/she can file an application with USCIS (formerly the INS), regardless of his/her legal status in the US. But if the asylum seeker does not hold legal immigration status and USCIS does not approve the asylum application, then the USCIS will order for removal proceedings. In such a case, a judge will consider the application. After the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed in 1996, an applicant must apply for asylum within one year of his/her entry or will be barred from applying unless the applicant can prove changed circumstances that are material to his/her eligibility for asylum or establish exceptional circumstances for the delay.

Though there is no right to asylum in the US, eligible applicants have a right to have the Attorney General make a determination as to whether the applicant can be admitted into the US as an asylee.

The applicant should have sufficient proof that he/she is eligible for asylum. To prove, the applicant must show that he/she has a well-founded fear of persecution in his/her home country because of either race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The applicant should demonstrate that he/she has a subjective fear (or apprehension) of future persecution in his/her home country that is objectively reasonable.

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