What has you experience been with regaining US Citizenship after voluntarily renouncing it?
July 20, 2011 3:16 PM   Subscribe

What has your experience been with regaining US Citizenship after voluntarily renouncing it? Wiki and word of mouth says previous citizens would be welcome...mostly...

I've lived in Scandinavia for 2.5 years. I want to move to London. I was born in Denmark, but gave up that passport (citizenship) at 18 when I came back for 7 months and decided I'd stick with US passport and would continue life in the US. Fast FWD 15 years.
Now I've been in DK for 2.5 years and was granted a permanent residence permit based on previous danish citizenship.
I'm considering no holds barred approach to this London move, including what I've heard is necessary to get my danish (EU) passport, denouncing US citizenship.
Since it will be pretty obvious I'm not doing it to avoid taxation (I'm not a rich guy)... I wonder if in a couple years, I want to come back and live/work in the States, what obstacles would I face, paperwork-wise? Will getting a greencard or regaining citizenship be more hassle than is worth it? Even possible?
I'm also floating a post-graduate program (45 wks long)...and wonder if my live/work eligibility in UK will increase if I went that route?
posted by talljamal to Law & Government (21 answers total)
including what I've heard is necessary to get my danish (EU) passport, denouncing US citizenship.

Get the facts on that stage first. Get a lawyer in DK to advise you on that issue first, because if what you heard is wrong, you could be making a mistake.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:27 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am an attorney, but I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice.

This is a very serious decision with potentially permanent consequences, and you absolutely should hire a competent US attorney with experience in this area. Not only may you be unable to regain your US citizenship, you may also lose various rights that you can never regain even if your citizenship is later restored.
posted by jedicus at 3:37 PM on July 20, 2011

IANYL, but I have dealt a great deal with citizenship and immigration law.

Chances are you won't have, according to the United States, given up your citizenship by getting your Danish passport.

Giving up your citizenship isn't easy, go check out here for a quick run down of what you have to do to actually give it up as far as the US is concerned.


So, as you can tell from there, unless the Danish government has a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer on standby to make sure your citizenship is gone, it isn't.

As far as getting it back once you have actually renounced it, I've never run into that situation and don't have a comment.
posted by bswinburn at 3:40 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was looking into German citizenship at one point, and I remember reading that you also had to renounce your previous citizenship(s) in order to get German citizenship. That concerned me, so I read up on it and basically the United States, and many other countries, largely ignore those requirements of other countries. They understand that other countries will require you to say you renounce, and that it's nominal. No country can actually control what other citizenships you have -- whether you are a US citizen is up to the US, not Denmark or Germany or anywhere else. Only the US can grant US citizenship, and only the US can revoke your US citizenship.

Not a lawyer.
posted by thebazilist at 3:40 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I know a number of Americans (U.S.-born citizens, not naturalized) who have EU-country passports, acquired via marriage, heritage, etc., and precisely none of them had to renounce their U.S. citizenship to acquire the passport of their adoptive nations. I'd be surprised if this was different for Denmark.

But Ironmouth is right - you need to get an attorney competent in your specific immigration issues to advise you. Do not do not do not rely on "what you've heard" from friends or random people on the internet when it comes to this. Unless they're advising you to see a lawyer.
posted by rtha at 3:40 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wanted to add:

This comes up all the time in dual citizenship for people moving to the USA. The USA doesn't recognize dual citizenship and as part of the citizenship oath you renounce other countries. As the thousands of Canadian Americans, Mexican Americans, English Americans, and French Americans (as well as others, I'm certain), the foreign jurisdictions don't give a rat's ass about what the USA says.
posted by bswinburn at 3:42 PM on July 20, 2011

Response by poster: @jedicus... what kind of rights come to mind?
posted by talljamal at 3:45 PM on July 20, 2011

Response by poster: Apparently DK is one of only a few EU countries with national laws regarding dual citizenship that actually are not legal according to EU laws on the same topic. I wonder if that matters, or where I can read more. (I'll ask the person who spoke to the professor focusing on this here)
posted by talljamal at 3:48 PM on July 20, 2011

I used to be an immigration paralegal. While I was there, we had a case with one guy who had formally renounced his US citizenship back in the 70s to avoid the draft, and had been living in the UK since then. He was SOL as far as regaining his US citizenship (complicated by not having any US citizen relatives). Definitely consult with a US immigration lawyer before doing this to make sure you don't screw yourself for years down the line.
posted by phunniemee at 3:51 PM on July 20, 2011

Best answer: What may be unclear (to you, to other people who read this thread) is that renouncing your U.S. citizenship to Danish officials in your Danish citizenship ceremony (or whatever they do) will have almost no chance of *actually* renouncing your U.S. citizenship as far as the U.S. is concerned. Renouncing your U.S. citizenship so that the U.S. will take you seriously about it has very specific requirements, none of which are met by you shaking hands with a Danish official and saying "Yay, now I'm Danish!"

But again: lawyer. Immigration lawyer. It's good to go in educated, so you know what kinds of questions to ask, and so you can better evaluate the ACTUAL LEGAL advice you will get from that lawyer. But do go to an immigration lawyer.

On preview: if DK is weird about this (that is, different from all other EU countries), then that is an even greater reason to seek advice from a competent attorney well-versed in Americans wanting to acquire DK passports.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

As others have pointed out, you need to convince the US (not Denmark) that you've renounced US citizenship for it to count.

I've met people with both Danish and US citizenship, so it's not impossible to have both. (They had never renounced Danish citizenship, though.) Your first question is really whether re-acquiring Danish citizenship would entail actually renouncing your US citizenship. As far as I know, this is a question for Denmark.

US citizens can acquire other citizenships just fine. There's some slightly muddy water about dual citizenship in the US, in that the rules are made by the State Department and can change. However, acquiring Danish citizenship will only impact your US citizenship if you convince the State Department (a consul, I think) that you are acquiring Danish citizenship with the intention of renouncing US citizenship (see here).
posted by hoyland at 3:54 PM on July 20, 2011

When I say 'a question for Denmark', I mean in the sense that I suppose it's theoretically possible Denmark could demand you actually renounce US citizenship and become temporarily stateless.
posted by hoyland at 3:55 PM on July 20, 2011

understand that other countries will require you to say you renounce, and that it's nominal. No country can actually control what other citizenships you have -- whether you are a US citizen is up to the US, not Denmark or Germany or anywhere else.

Except that in order to obtain a German passport (I do not know about any other Country) you must show the paper that says you have reliquished your American citizenship.

In order to obtain this paper, you must go to a US consulate in Germany and fill out a paper and have an interview wherein you renounce/relinquish your US citizenship.

At this point you will turn in your US passport and the American consulate will either punch (make a hole in it) it in a way which makes it invalid, or confiscate it altogether.

You are then given (or sometimes mailed after a few weeks) a paper (signed, witnessed and sealed) which illustrates these facts, which you must then bring to your German Naturalisation office, and only THEN will you be given a Germna passport.

(This may not be true for US and other countries and/or Germany and other countries, but it IS true for US to German transition.)
posted by efrog at 3:55 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the US State Department:

U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

As a practical matter this means that you can become a citizen of another country and not lose your US citizenship unless you are a dick about it. As a legal matter, well, consult a lawyer to be sure. For heaven's sake, don't give up US citizenship just because you think you have to.

Of course, that's the US. Denmark will have its own rules. Since you were born in Denmark, these rules will likely be different for you. Again, consult a lawyer.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2011

Lawyer lawyer lawyer.

Different countries have different standards for renunciation: some regard taking a foreign oath of citizenship as binding, others require that you go to them and do it explicitly. The Scandinavian countries, in general, have been much stricter than the US about renunciation or revocation, as reflected in the criteria for dual-citizen children upon majority -- as you already know.

This document from the State Department has special relevance to your situation, as it establishes the policy towards those who are required to perform expatriating acts, but express that it is not their intent to do so. (This posting may also provide some guidance, but it's no substitute for legal advice or guidance from the US mission in Denmark.)
posted by holgate at 3:57 PM on July 20, 2011

Like phunniemee, I used to be a paralegal in this field (IANAL, TINLA) and have seen cases where renouncing citizenship was a consideration. Let me nth the need to seek competent legal advice. This is very specialized stuff even inside immigration law; review all the documents from the US government people are linking to AND talk to an expert before you proceed.
posted by immlass at 3:59 PM on July 20, 2011

To spell out the links: Denmark will grant citizenship to those people who have sought to renounce their other citizenships but who have been refused renunciation. The State Department guidance is to refuse renunciation to those who state to a consular official that it is not their intent or a voluntary act.

Again, you want to get good, specialised legal advice and talk to the US consular section in Copenhagen first.
posted by holgate at 4:01 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speak. to. a. immigration. lawyer.
posted by huskerdont at 10:01 PM on July 20, 2011

I'm a long term (a little over 14 years) American ex-pat and personally know two guys who have renounced. Without going into the particulars, points made unthread are spot on in that this will not be an easy process and you seriously need to take legal advise, preferably from Solicitors that are knowledgable about the process in each of the countries involved.

Regardless, expect the process to be drawn out and not easy. This is intentional, as State needs to insure that folks aren't renouncing without due consideration. Also State needs to understand precisely your motives for renouncing. They generally won't let you renounce until you've gained at least residence if not citizenship in another country (lest you be rendered stateless).

They will assume this is related to taxes, in spite of your representations. State will liase with the IRS and require you to bring your tax affairs up to date, and file form 8854. They will review your status under what they call the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act (aka "HEART") but what really is an exit tax.

They will bill you for any US taxes you might pay going forward (IIRC) for at least a decade. The guys I know renounced about ten years ago and we're seeing a large number of of Americans living abroad are renouncing, primarily for economic reasons (as US ex-pats aren't really treated fairly from a tax point of view), so you'll be getting caught up in that.

As for regaining US citizenship after you're renounced? Yeh, this topic is common in ex-pat circles, especially so as many renunciations are driven solely by financial considerations. I've never seen evidence that anyone has been successful in that regard, but would advise that if you do renounce then depending upon the passport you travel on, you may need a visa to enter the US and they probably won't be entirely welcoming at the border. More succinctly: one of the guys I know has been denied a visa for several years, even to visit family members in poor health.

So this is something that shouldn't be considered casually; assume that once you renounce 1) you'll never regain citizenship and 2) you'll never be able to visit America again then plan accordingly.

In terms of your plans to study in the UK - are you dealing with a highly trusted sponsor? Have they issued a CAS? Should be a no brainer, sure you can come live the UK for the duration of your studies.

The UK has significantly reduced the duration to Post Study Work Visas (PSWs), but you'd be ok for however long it takes for your degree.

You might not even like it here, so I'd suggest studying here first, then if you like the UK consider your options for permanent residence.

Hope this helps!
posted by Mutant at 1:01 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As someone who gained EU citizenship in the last couple of years, I have to say renouncing in EU does not mean "renouncing your U.S. citizenship to Danish officials in your Danish citizenship ceremony ... shaking hands with a Danish official and saying Yay, now I'm Danish!", but a very specific legal procedure, not to be taken lightly. sorry rtha, no offense meant, but your comment has the most favorites so far and is quite far from the actual procedure!

Research the heck out of this. Lawyer up or dedicate the next few months to study of Danish and US immigration/citizenship law. The fact that you say you "heard" what is necessary and that you're asking for info on AskMeFi tells me you're not prepared for the bureaucratic nightmare that (might be) ahead of you.

In my case (disclaimer: not citizen of USA), renouncing my citizenship meant a procedure that lasted almost 2 years, cost me over 1000 € and involved a trip back home (there were some things I couldn't do through embassy). I had to hand in all my papers (passport, ID, driver's licence, health insurance card...) and ceased to exist as far as my home country was concerned. This affected bank accounts, taxes, insurance, savings, real estate, etc.

I strongly advise researching other options to get to London. You might be elligible for some kind of visa based on your permanent DK permit - or you might not even need a visa for London, just your DK permit. You might be elligible for Danish citizenship on some grounds that wouldn't involve renouncing US citizenship. But in any case, I would discourage you from following your original plan.
posted by gakiko at 4:37 AM on July 27, 2011

gakiko - I think a lot turns on the definition of "renounce." And to whom that particular flavor of renouncing would be done. Just because someone "renounces" their old citizenship to the officials of their new nation does not necessarily mean that the officials of their original country consider them to have renounced it. And I made it as clear as I possibly could in my earlier comments that a lawyer is absolutely required, and the OP should not listen to any of us here except for the part about seeing an attorney. (I assumed that the "Yay Danish!" stuff would be taken as the made-up scenario it obviously is.)
posted by rtha at 5:54 AM on July 27, 2011

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