What are the Rules for Renouncing U.S. Citizenship? An Overview of the Requirements, Consequences, and Considerations

What are the Rules for Renouncing U.S. Citizenship? An Overview of the Requirements, Consequences, and Considerations

1. Introduction

Renouncing U.S. Citizenship: An Overview

Renouncing U.S. citizenship is a serious and irrevocable decision made by individuals considering to terminate their ties with the United States. This process involves relinquishing citizenship rights, taking an Oath of Renunciation, and receiving a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN). Throughout this article, we will carefully examine the requirements, procedures, and consequences of renouncing U.S. citizenship.

Reasons for Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Individuals may choose to renounce their U.S. citizenship for various reasons, such as political beliefs, personal preferences, family circumstances, or tax considerations. Ultimately, each person’s motivation behind renunciation may differ, but it is vital to understand the irrevocable nature and consequences of this decision.

2. Requirements for Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

To successfully renounce one’s U.S. citizenship, there are several requirements that must be met. These requirements ensure that the individual is eligible and prepared for the implications of renunciation.

Age and Capacity

According to the U.S. Department of State, a person wishing to renounce their U.S. citizenship must be at least 18 years old and demonstrate the legal capacity to do so. In other words, the individual must be able to understand the meaning and consequences of renouncing U.S. citizenship to make an informed and voluntary decision.

Citizenship or Nationality in Another Country

While not a strict requirement, it is crucial that an individual has citizenship or nationality in another country before renouncing U.S. citizenship. This is to ensure that the individual does not become stateless after renunciation, which can lead to severe legal and practical difficulties.

“Although statelessness is not a barrier to renouncing, individuals considering renunciation should understand that becoming stateless can cause significant problems.”

Voluntary Act

The desire to renounce U.S. citizenship must be entirely voluntary, and the individual must not be acting under duress, coercion, or because of undue influence1. The consular officer will ensure that the individual’s decision is not forced in any way before proceeding with the renunciation process.


  1. U.S. Department of State - Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship 
  2. U.S. Department of State - Possible Problems for Stateless Persons 

Renouncing U.S. citizenship comes with significant legal consequences that can impact various aspects of an individual’s life. It is essential to be aware of these consequences before deciding to renounce.

Loss of U.S. Nationality

When a person renounces their U.S. citizenship, they lose their American nationality. This means that they are no longer entitled to the rights and privileges associated with being a U.S. citizen, such as the right to vote, the right to a U.S. passport, and the right to receive consular assistance.

Inability to Vote or Hold Office in the U.S.

Upon renunciation, individuals lose their right to vote in U.S. federal, state, and local elections, as well as losing the ability to hold public office in the United States. This means losing a direct say in the political process and representation in the U.S. government.

Changes in Travel and Visa Requirements

Renouncing U.S. citizenship may significantly alter travel and visa requirements when visiting the United States or other countries. Former U.S. citizens will need a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to visit the United States. Additionally, they may be subject to different travel restrictions or entry requirements based on their new citizenship.

“Renunciation of U.S. citizenship may not prevent a foreign country from deporting that individual back to the United States in some non-citizen status, if the foreign country does not recognize the renunciation or if the foreign country has other grounds for deportation based on U.S. non-citizen nationality, such as a visa or ESTA violation.”

Implications for Family Members

Renouncing U.S. citizenship may also have implications for an individual’s family members, particularly those who are still U.S. citizens or residents. The renunciation process can impact the ability to sponsor relatives for immigration purposes or pass on U.S. citizenship to children.

4. Tax Implications of Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

There are also important tax implications to consider when renouncing U.S. citizenship. Understanding these implications can be crucial for financial planning and compliance with U.S. tax laws.

Expatriation Tax

Under certain circumstances, U.S. citizens who renounce their citizenship may be considered “covered expatriates” and are subject to an expatriation tax. This tax includes a deemed “exit tax,” treating the individual’s assets as if they were sold on the day before renunciation, and taxing the net gain.

Tax Filing Requirements

Even after renouncing citizenship, the individual must continue to meet their U.S. tax filing requirements for the year of renunciation and any previous outstanding tax liabilities. Former U.S. citizens may also be required to file a U.S. tax return in certain situations, such as when they have U.S.-sourced income.

IRS Form 8854

As part of the tax compliance requirements, individuals renouncing their U.S. citizenship must file IRS Form 8854, “Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement” to certify their compliance with tax obligations for the five years preceding renunciation. Failure to file or improperly complete Form 8854 can result in severe penalties.


  1. U.S. Department of State - Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship 
  2. U.S. Department of State - Travel After Renouncing U.S. Citizenship 
  3. U.S. Department of State - Deportation After Renouncing U.S. Citizenship 
  4. IRS - Expatriation Tax 
  5. IRS - Exit Tax 
  6. IRS - Form 8854 

5. Potential Barriers to Renunciation

While some individuals may wish to renounce their U.S. citizenship, potential barriers may hinder or delay the process. Understanding these barriers can better prepare individuals for the challenges they may face during the renunciation process.

Renunciation/Relinquishment Fees

Renouncing U.S. citizenship comes with associated costs, including a significant fee of $2,350. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid regardless of whether the renunciation is ultimately approved or denied. This cost may be prohibitive for some individuals, making renunciation more difficult.

Long Waiting Times for Appointments

Renouncing U.S. citizenship involves making an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate, which can often have long waiting times. Individuals must be prepared to wait for an available appointment, which can sometimes take several months. This can delay the renunciation process and may result in additional expenses, such as the need for temporary accommodation.

Travel Costs

As renunciation must be done at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, individuals who are not already residing in a foreign country will need to factor in travel costs when determining the feasibility of renunciation1. Depending on the country and the specific consulate, this might involve international flights, accommodation, and local transportation costs.

6. Considerations Before Renouncing

Before deciding to renounce U.S. citizenship, individuals should carefully consider the long-term implications, as well as explore alternative routes and planning options.

Irrevocability of Renunciation

Renouncing U.S. citizenship is an irrevocable act, which means that once an individual has gone through the renunciation process, it is nearly impossible to regain U.S. citizenship. Individuals should fully understand the consequences of this decision and ensure they are comfortable with permanently severing their ties to the United States.

Alternative Paths (e.g., Relinquishment)

In some cases, individuals may explore alternative paths to renunciation, such as relinquishment. Relinquishment occurs when an individual commits a potentially expatriating act (e.g., obtaining citizenship in another country) with the intention of losing their U.S. citizenship. While similar to renunciation, relinquishment is not the same and has its own set of consequences and procedural requirements. Individuals should consult with an immigration attorney to determine whether relinquishment is a more appropriate option for their circumstances.

Before renouncing U.S. citizenship, individuals should consider engaging in legal and financial planning to minimize potential risks and consequences, such as tax implications or impacts on family members. Consulting with immigration attorneys, financial advisors, and tax professionals can help ensure a smooth transition and minimize any negative consequences.


  1. U.S. Department of State - Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship 
  2. U.S. Department of State - Renunciation FAQs 
  3. U.S. Department of State - Relinquishment of U.S. Citizenship 

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, renouncing U.S. citizenship involves adhering to specific rules and procedures, including age and capacity requirements, obtaining citizenship or nationality in another country, and ensuring that the decision is voluntary. Successfully executing these steps includes renouncing at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad, taking the Oath of Renunciation, and receiving a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN).

It is essential to recognize the importance of understanding the consequences of renouncing U.S. citizenship, as this decision can have lasting legal and tax implications. Some of these implications are the loss of U.S. nationality, the inability to vote or hold office in the U.S., changes in travel and visa requirements, and expatriation tax liability.

Renouncing U.S. citizenship is an irrevocable decision, and those considering this path should carefully evaluate the impact on their lives, including family members and financial obligations. Anyone contemplating renunciation should seek professional legal and financial advice to ensure they fully comprehend the consequences and responsibilities associated with this significant decision