Last week, Green Day frontman Billie Joel Armstrong told a London crowd he was planning to renounce his United States citizenship because the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the federal right to an abortion in the country. It’s not exactly shocking that the man whose band is responsible for the 2004 hit “American Idiot” would announce he’s done with the whole country, but regular people can—and do—renounce citizenship, too.
If you want to renounce your citizenship, the government helpfully has a website dedicated to information for you, but it includes plenty of what you probably already know: You’ll no longer be a citizen, so you’ll lose whatever rights and protections are granted to you as an American. You could end up losing your citizenship for other reasons besides an active renouncement, too, including these:
- If you run for public office in a foreign country.
- If you enter military service in a foreign country.
- If you apply for citizenship in a foreign country with the intention of giving up your U.S. citizenship.
- If you commit an act of treason against the United States.
The first two only apply “under certain conditions,” so if you plan on running for office or joining another military, be sure you read up carefully on your specific circumstances.
The government also warns that if you do give up your citizenship, you’ll not only lose your rights and responsibilities here, but could risk becoming “stateless” if you don’t become a citizen somewhere else. That means you won’t have any protections anywhere, and might even face difficulty traveling since you won’t be entitled to a passport anywhere. Think of everything you need your identification to do, from renting a home to getting a job, and don’t rush into anything that will leave you “stateless.” You’ll also likely need a visa to visit the U.S., so keep that in mind if there are friends or family members here—or other responsibilities—that would call you back often. If you’re unable to qualify for a visa, you might be permanently banned from entering the U.S.
Finally, if the Department of Homeland Security determines your renunciation is motivated by a desire to avoid taxes, you can also be barred from the country. Renunciation also doesn’t magically relieve you of tax or military service obligations, or let you avoid possible prosecution for crimes or payment of financial obligations, like child support, you previously incurred as a U.S. citizen or in the country. In spite of all this, renunciation of your citizenship might not always prevent a foreign country from deporting you back to the U.S. in a non-citizen status anyway.
If you’re sure of your choice, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you plan to live to renounce your U.S. citizenship. Here is the list of embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions.
There will be paperwork and even some fees. Though you won’t have to pay taxes anymore, it’s important to be up to date on all your previous taxes. Be ready to pay a $2,350 fee to relinquish your citizenship, too, and possibly an exit tax if you qualify as a covered expatriate.
Bear in mind this is irreversible. The only time you can get a citizenship back after you renounce it is if you did so before you turned 18. This impacts not only you, but your kids, who won’t have the right to live and work in the U.S. anymore.
You can do this abroad, too. If you want to relinquish your U.S. citizenship, according to the State Department, you have to do the following:
- Appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer.
- Appear before an embassy or consulate in a foreign country.
- Sign an oath of renunciation.
Renunciations abroad that don’t meet those conditions are not legally binding. You have to do it in person, so refer to the list above of embassies and consulates to find one near you and do this legally. You can’t do this in writing, electronically, or through a third party. Show up in person and be absolutely sure this is what you want to do first and set up a plan for becoming a citizen elsewhere before you make any moves.