Image via WikipediaBrian Knowlton's piece in NYT about American expats giving up their citizenship (NYT | April 25, 2010):
WASHINGTON — Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.
“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue
The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.
Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.
Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.
Continue reading More American Expatriates Give Up Citizenship.
Slate seems to think this is a bogus trend story (see below). In any case, if this has cross your mind, check out the state.gov materials on renunciation of citizenship here. It must also be noted that renunciation is irrevocable; you can't get back your citizenship if you change your mind; and there will be a renunciation ceremony. It also may not exempt renunciatants from U.S. income taxation. In fact, if the Department of Homeland Security determines that the renunciation is motivated by tax avoidance purposes, the individual will be found inadmissible to the United States under Section 212(a)(10)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA 212(a)(10)(E), 8 U.S.C 1182(a)(10)(E)), as amended.
Read the regulations (7 FAM 1260 | Renunciation of US Citizenship) that governs the renunciation process.