On renouncing your citizenship

Natural Nationality of Puerto Rico

Readers may be interested to know that the High Court of Australia has recently recognized a “natural” nationality category that is separate from citizenship and precludes deportation.

It’s a majority decision, with no agreement about the basis, which makes it difficult to predict exactly what the courts will decide that the law means next.

I don’t want to talk about what I think this means, because we aren’t in GD.

Just for clarity, as I read the news coverage, the High Court found the existence of “indigenous” nationality. It sounds like the court is saying that indigenous groups have an authority outside Australian immigration law to afford their own form of nationality to someone of indigenous ancestry. Those people cannot be subject to deportation, even if they are not citizens under the broader Australian law.

If the government wanted to deport a person of indigenous ancestry, where would they deport such a person to anyway?

To a country of which they had citizenship. In the recent cases in the High Court, the two people concerned were indigenous Australians but had citizenship of New Zealand in one case and Papua New Guinea in the other, in both cases on account of having been born there.

Since we’re on the subject of “renouncing” citizenship, why would anyone want to renounce their citizenship when they could have dual citizenship instead? Why burn your bridges? I’d love to become a citizen of Sweden and live there, but I would never renounce my U.S. citizenship.

Often it’s to avoid being taxed by both countries.

Since the USA has “double taxation” treaties with a lot of countries, that often isn’t the reason.

Being American means filling out an an American tax return.
Being American means not being accepted as an account holder by your bank or investment company.
Being a dual-citizen means being a second-class citizen.

And technically, if your reason for renouncing your citizenship is “to avoid tax”, then it doesn’t work: you are still subject to American tax as if you were a citizen for several (8?) years after.

American tax returns are horrible. I understand that if you are just a simple wage earner, it’s not that bad, but many people aren’t just simple wage earners, and those simple submission methods don’t work for people with foreign income anyway.

Americans are protected by a range of regulations on what banks and institutions can say and do, and registration and operation requirements. This is good. But it means that if my foreign bank wants to accept American customers, they have to learn about and comply with a whole set of foreign regulatory and operating requirements. BUT WAIT – a lot of American banks and institutions also don’t want you, because you are a foreign resident. So, your local bank won’t have you, and your American bank won’t have you.

Having a second nationality means that either country can strip you of your nationality. Australia could strip you of your Australian nationality. It doesn’t happen often, and it happens mostly to people who are criminal, or sick, or mentally ill, but it’s another thing to worry about when you see it happening to people who are sick or mentally ill. And it’s not just the USA that does this kind of thing. And people can be very nationalistic: if you don’t want to give up your foreign citizenship, why should America (or any other country) accept you? And then there are the technical restrictions: in Australia, you can’t run for parliament (congress/senate) – you aren’t Australian enough for that. And rules on inheritance and property ownership and eligibility for social security – any of which might have cut outs for foreign citizens that might affect you or your children.

And speaking of your kids: is retaining dual citizenship going to be an overall benefit? Sure, it’s a nice thing, but absent your personal natural connection with your land of origin, are they going to feel the same?

For myself, there came a day when my connection to Australia was more important than my connection to the USA. I miss the USA, but not enough that I want to endanger my relationship with my new partner, Australia, and both of my countries permit but have demonstrated hostility to dual-citizenship.