Here they go again! As noted on this site last November, the Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate, as Required by Section 6039G, is NOT a timely list of renunciations. Yes, 2020 was a record year for renunciations. However, the list necessarily lags actual renunciations, often by a year or more.
With the release of the latest Quarterly List on 4 February 2021, some are again trying to connect the lower numbers in late 2020 to the election of President Joe Biden. This connection is nonsensical. Current politics is not the reason that most people renounce. The causes are more deep-seated and long lasting, as described in our earlier post. For those who emigrate from the US as adults, the process of obtaining a second citizenship takes years. It could take a year or more to get everything in order (or to even get an appointment) once you’ve made the decision to renounce. After your appointment at the consulate, it will take months (or years) for your CLN to make it to Treasury to be added to the list. The numbers we saw in 2020 represent renunciations from 2019 and earlier.
So, how many renunciations actually occurred in 2020? We may never know, but certainly fewer than the numbers that appeared on the Quarterly Lists. We do know several things, though, about renunciation in the time of Covid.
- Most, if not all, consulates closed down the ability to renounce for several months.
- The State Department continued to require in-person appointments.
- Travel restrictions in some countries would have made it impossible to renounce even if appointments had been available.
The global pandemic has restricted the ability of people to renounce their US citizenship. The ability to change nationality is a human right, enshrined in several international agreements. Yet, the US State Department has repeatedly stated that renunciations are a low priority for consular services.
Why timely renunciation is important
The decision to renounce US citizenship is never taken lightly. People are driven to renounce because of extraterritorial US policies that impact them adversely.
In the past few months there have been several reports of bank account closures affecting Accidental Americans without a Social Security Number. A bank account is a requirement in modern life, and Covid-related closures put affected individuals into a particularly difficult situation.
The pandemic has caused an increase in early retirement around the world. For US emigrants facing early retirement, it may be critical to renounce either before they receive termination payments (all earned outside the US). And for those approaching the net worth threshold it is crucial to renounce while the exchange rate is favorable.
And, once an individual has decided that renouncing is their best course of action, they will want to move forward on their own timetable.
But you can’t get an appointment
As early as March 2020 US consulates were announcing that renunciation services would not be available during the pandemic. Consulates were closing to all but emergency consular services to protect their staff and the public. Renunciation appointments are still unavailable in several countries, including France. While appointments are now available in all three US consulates in Australia, changing internal border restrictions make it difficult for those who do not live in Perth, Melbourne or Sydney to travel to their nearest consulate. And even where consulates are open, social distancing requirements mean that fewer appointments are available.
The rest of the world has adapted to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Witness the rise of Zoom and other teleconferencing apps. But the State Department is still stuck in the last century, with paper copies and in-person appointments. This is NOT required by US law. Instead of figuring out how to adapt to the global pandemic, and provide relief to the victims of US extraterritorial taxation, the State Department is prioritizing passport renewals and visa applications over meeting their obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to allow people to expatriate.