Fundraiser begins in France to help Americans to renounce US citizenship
An international fundraising effort has begun in France to fund a legal challenge to lower the cost to Americans of renouncing their US citizenship.
For most people who move countries the focus is on obtaining citizenship of their new country, which gives them all sorts of extra rights foreigners do not have.
The majority of countries allow people to hold dual nationality – although India is a notable exception – so you can simply add another nationality to the one you were born into.
But for Americans their US citizenship – while conferring many privileges – can be a problem for those who choose to make their permanent home outside the USA.
This problem is particularly acute for the ‘Accidental Americans’ – people who have very little connection to the USA, have lived most of their lives outside it and may not even speak English – but who still have US citizenship through being born there.
This wouldn’t be a problem except that US citizenship brings with it certain obligations – such as filing a tax return in the USA even if you have never worked or earned money there – and certain problems, particularly around opened foreign bank accounts thanks to a piece of legislation called FATCA.
They may then consider renouncing their citizenship, before discovering that this process is complicated and very expensive.
The waiver alone costs $2,350 and since it’s so complicated many people also have to pay for legal advice to make sure they have got it right. Getting the process wrong potentially can potentially lead to fines or an ‘exit tax’.
Fabien Leharge, the French head of the Association of Accidental Americans, said: “To return to a normal life, without discrimination, most accidental Americans would like to renounce their US citizenship, but many cannot afford to do so.
“The waiver procedure alone costs $2,350, which is an exorbitant amount.
“The legal argument goes like this: the right to renounce one’s citizenship is a fundamental right protected by the US constitution. By imposing a disproportionately high fee upon accidental Americans (this also applies to American expatriates) to exercise that right, the US Government and in particular the Department of State is unlawfully infringing upon and abridging the fundamental right to expatriate.
“It is clear that a victory would have a significant impact on number of people are giving up their US citizenship.”
Published: 27 August 2020