...but expats say they're still very much on hold in Australia
Americans living in the UK and France who have been waiting for more than two years to relinquish, or give up, their U.S. citizenships are now once again able to do so, as the U.S. offices that handle such relinquishments in these countries have at last reopened.
However, American citizens living in Australia report that the appointments that are a key part of the renunciation process are still not yet being made available, even though U.S. consular services have reopened to accommodate other expat needs. One American living in Australia who didn't wish to wait any longer to proceed with his renunciation did so by taking his case to the American embassy in Armenia, which has reopened, the American Expat Financial News Journal was informed by a contact there, who declined to be identified.
Said another Australia-based American, who said he'd been monitoring all three U.S. citizenship renunciation facilities in the country for months: "Most of the time they said they could not commit to any date for the resumption of these services. The best reponse I got was from Perth, which said they could "not commit to a date, but [that it would] definitely not [be] before July."
One problem is said to be the fact that the U.S. consulate in Sydney is in the process of relocating, and is prioritizing such services as emergency passport renewals, while Melbourne is also reportedly struggling to cope with a backlog of passport renewals and so-called Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) requests.
In the UK and France, though, statements on the websites of the American embassies in both countries have been updated, and both now detail how those U.S. citizens currently resident in the country in question and wishing to give up their U.S. citizenships are advised to go about it – and how much it will cost them (US$2,350 is the basic fee).
The website of the U.S. Embassy in France leads its citizenship relinquishment page by noting that "the current wait time for a renunciation interview is 12-18 months". The U.S. Embassy in London, meanwhile, which only resumed citizenship relinquishment services this week, doesn't mention how long the process might take, but explains how those Americans resident in Scotland and Ireland as well as England should begin the process.
Countries where U.S. Citizenship Services offices have already reopened have included the Czech Republic, Armenia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, according to Toronto-based lawyer and citizenship expert John Richardson, although he noted that in some cases, the citizen seeking to renounce may be expected to be resident in the country in which the U.S. consulate or embassy in question is located.
Switzerland is open now too, although the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland and Liechtenstein's website warns that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in "the waiting time to receive an appointment [having] increased significantly", and that appointments are only available on a "first come, first served basis".
Renunciations halted by Covid
As reported, the numbers of U.S. citizenship relinquishments, or renunciations, taking place began to fall off a cliff in 2020, when U.S. embassies and consulates around the world – like stores, businesses, restaurants, schools and other institutions in most countriesbegan closing their doors in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
By November 2021, the frustration on the part of some dual citizens at their inability to be free of their U.S. nationality, such as so-called "accidental Americans" whose U.S. citizenship typically is based on the fact that they happened to have been born to non-Americans who were in the U.S. at the time of their birth, had reached the point where a Paris-based group of such individuals filed a legal challenge against the U.S. State Department, on the grounds that the continued suspension by the U.S. of its "voluntary expatriation services" was a violation of the U.S. constitution.
The inability of some dual citizens to disengage from their U.S. citizenships became an issue in a couple of overseas elections during this time, as media organizations in such countries as Gambia and Sri Lanka were reporting, because certain candidates in these countries were struggling to run for office as a result of their U.S. citizenships, which they were finding impossible to shed.
Certain countries require anyone looking to hold a public office to be citizens only of that country, on the basis that someone possessing the passport of another country could potentially struggle with divided loyalties. As reported here in August, 2019, for example, a Sri Lankan candidate for that country's presidency, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, went public with his frustrations at the time it was taking for his U.S. citizenship relinquishment to come through, after his name failed repeatedly, he said, to appear on the U.S. government's quarterly list of individuals who supposedly had renounced their citizenship during the previous three-month period.
Rajapaksa, a former Secretary to Sri Lanka's Defence Ministry and a retired Sri Lanka Army officer, had picked up his American citizenship while in the U.S. in 2003. His name wasn't on the next quarter's list either, but it finally appeared in May 2020, on the list containing the first quarter of that year's list of renunciants (and Green Card relinquishers). By this time he had already been elected president, and remains so today (amid some controversy unrelated to his citizenship).
Last year, Marie Sock, said to be the "only female aspirant" running for Gambia's presidency, was disqualified from running by the county's electoral commission, on grounds that she held a dual citizenship – and that it was an American one, that she insisted she had been trying to renounce but had been unable to, due to delays.
To see the latest Federal Register data on the numbers of Americans who have formally renounced their citizenships (or gave back their Green Cards), click here.
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