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The Expatriate – How Americans Can Renounce Citizenship

by The Drifter on November 18, 2009

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

One of the most extreme acts that can be taken by an individual in attempt to secure more privacy is to renounce their citizenship of the United States and become one of a growing number of expatriates. Although the reasons for expatriation differ, hundreds choose to take this drastic step every year.

I will provide you with a brief outline of what the law requires to recognize you as an expatriate. Failure to meet the three part test may mean that you will still be subject to US law as a US citizen, even if you do not intend to be.  There may be significant saving in taxes if you can find the tax free states to expatriate to.

US law recognizes the right of any person to relinquish their citizenship.  There is a general principle held  almost universally by all nations and that is that “statelessness” is undesirable. Therefore, before you can expatriate, you will need to obtain citizenship of another country. In addition, there are three steps that a person must take in order to renounce US citizenship. A person must 1) take a statutorily enumerated act of expatriation, 2) Do so “voluntarily,” and 3) Act with the specific intent of relinquishing their nationality.

Act of Expatriation

Some of the acts of expatriation include obtaining naturalization in or taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign state, formally renouncing your citizenship before a diplomatic or consular officer in a foreign state, or fighting in the army of a nation engaged in hostilities against the US.

I hope that I don’t have to point out that I do not recommend fighting in the army of a hostile nation. That has the lowest life expectancy of any of the options. Simply obtaining naturalization or taking an oath of allegiance is also a weak option because that in and of itself is done often throughout the world without relinquishing citizenshi

There are many who maintain what is commonly known as dual citizenship therefore they are not considered expatriates. Therefore the best option is to formally declare that you renounce your citizenship before a diplomatic or consular officer.


Whether you acted voluntarily to renounce your citizenship, or to fight in a hostile army, is presumed. You can of course present evidence that you did not act voluntarily, ie: that you were forced to fight for the Taliban or else be forced to eat nothing but McDonald’s for 30 days straight. Since the presumption is in favor of the expatriate, there should be no problem for those wishing to renounce.

Specific Intent To Relinquish US Nationality

A formal declaration of renunciation tends to lead to the inference of an intent to relinquish. Therefore the formal declaration kills two birds with one stone. This is not all that is required, however. Other evidence can be used to establish, by inference, that there was no intention to relinquish, even though an otherwise valid formal declaration was given.

Things like returning to the United States soon after your declaration could lead to an inference that you did not have the specific intent to renounce. The person who wishes to expatriate has the burden to prove the act of expatriation and that they had the specific intent to relinquish US nationality.


Expatriation is an extreme measure that may not even produce the desired results. You may also still be subject to unwanted tax consequences many years after expatriation. You will also not have the right to enter the US. It may, however, be just what you are looking for if all of the other privacy protection methods in How To Vanish the book do not satisfy you.  You should consult with an attorney to discuss the option of expatriating to make sure that you do it correctly.

What Privacy Issues Concern You?

I write articles based mostly on what I am thinking about and what I think other people would be interested in learning.  I have also been spending some time putting these ideas down in a very detailed and organized way in a book so that I can present it as good resource for everyone.

I have also been asked to write about some topics that answer some of the questions of readers for other websites. When those are published I will let you know, but I want to make sure that I am addressing all of the issues that you, the readers, are concerned about.   Leave comments and emails about what privacy concerns you have and I will do my best to respond to your concerns.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to be legal advice, only a general overview of what is required by US law to expatriate. Individuals should consult with an attorney to determine applicable law in their unique situation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The Drifter is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 131 by .
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