By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
Americans are working remotely and pursuing second citizenship more than ever. With those two changes has come a rising curiosity about renunciation of U.S. citizenship.
The question arises:
What would be the ideal profile of a U.S. citizenship renunciant who wants to visit and maintain maximum access to the U.S. for the remainder of their life?
First, it must be said that there is no substitute for strength and immediacy of access to the United States that is provided by U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizenship is the gold standard for the highest right of access to the United States.
In this short article, we’ll address the ideal profile of a U.S. citizenship renunciant only through the lens of maintaining maximum access to the United States as a non U.S. citizen. Any person considering renouncing citizenship has other factors in play that must be considered including gains to be had in the form of reduced tax or financial compliance burdens. Those are highly person-specific considerations.
Here, we only address the question of access to the United States.
In an ideal scenario, someone who wants to renounce U.S. citizenship without any problem visiting, or investing in the U.S. for the rest of his life would have these seven qualities.
1. Citizenship in Canada or an ESTA-Qualified Country
First, the ideal renunciant would have either citizenship in Canada and/or an ESTA-eligible country, to secure visa-free access to the United States. Canada would be preferable to an ESTA-eligible Canada because of the unique benefits of access Canadian citizenship gives for access to the U.S, including NEXUS, TN visa eligibility, and exemption from ESTA.
List of visa-waiver program countries eligible for ESTA
2. Strong Financial and Familial Ties to Another Country
Second, he would have strong financial and familial ties to another country to minimize the chances of a visa or entry denial under INA 214(b) by the U.S. department of state or U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. immigration law presumes that all non-U.S. citizens attempting to enter the U.S. as a tourist intend to break the terms of their visa and stay in the United States, unless the non-U.S. citizen proves otherwise.
This is the presumption of “immigrant intent.” A denial under INA 214(b) means you didn’t prove you just want to visit and leave.
Text of INA 214(b)
Having and proving strong financial ties to another country helps lower the chances of such a denial to visit the United States.
3. Well Documented Reason for Renouncing
Besides Tax Avoidance
Third, the renunciant would have a well documented strong reason(s) for having renounced, besides tax avoidance in case DHS starts enforcing Reed Amendment (INA 212(d)(10)(E)). This is the provision of U.S. immigration law that makes renunciants who renounced for tax reasons inadmissible to the United States. Fortunately, the provision is not enforced.
INA 212(d)(10)(E) reads:
“Any alien who is a former citizen of the United States who officially renounces United States citizenship and who is determined by the Attorney General to have renounced United States citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxation by the United States is inadmissible.”
Text of INA 212(d)(10)(E) aka the "Reed Amendment"
However the law remains on the books and could end up being enforced in the future.
The ideal renunciant would have a well documented reason for renouncing besides “for the purpose of avoiding taxation by the United States.”
4. No Citizenship in These Ten Countries
Fourth, the renunciant would not have citizenship in Iran, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Venezuela, Russia, China, Yemen, Libya, or Sudan. These are countries vulnerable to another "muslim ban" such as PP 9645 or other similar ban in the future. Citizenship in these countries also may make someone disqualified for visa-free travel to the U.S. under the ESTA program.
ESTA Restrictions on Certain Country Nationals found here
Note: PP 9645 restricted access of citizens of these countries, even those who had dual citizenship with an ESTA-eligible country.
5. No Travel to These Six Countries
Fifth, she would be someone who doesn't travel to Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Iraq. Travel to these countries can lead to ESTA (visa-free access) denials and heightened security screening that can make it more difficult to visit the United States.
6. No Financial Ties to These Five Countries
Sixth, the renunciant wouldn’t have financial ties to or investments in Iran, Syria, Yemen, Russia, or China. This would be to avoid getting tripped in suspicion of OFAC sanction violations, heightened security screening or subjection to future legislation similar that might restrict tourist access to people who do business with perceived adversaries of the United States.
7. Citizenship in an E-2 Treaty Country
Seventh, she would have citizenship in an E-2 treaty country. This would provide additional optionality in case the renunciant wants to start a business and spend significant time in the U.S. again in the future.
Partial list of E treaty countries. Full list can be found here
Note: Availing oneself of the benefit of applying for an E-2 visa may necessitate spending a minimum period of time in the U.S. sufficient to incur some U.S. tax liability.
However, we still list this as a characteristic of an ideal renunciant because we believe having the option is better than not having the option, in case your life circumstances change in the near or distant future. No tax liability is incurred by merely being a citizen of an E-2 treaty visa country such as Armenia, or Hungary. This is a form of country access redundancy (similar to visa-free redundancy) that may prove useful in the future.
Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing.