Americans Wishing to Renounce Citizenship Can't Get U.S. to Process Applications

Individuals living abroad who hold American citizenship have discovered that their ability to establish new ties outside of U.S. soil have been thwarted by the nation's inability to process their applications to renounce their American citizenship.

As detailed in a Friday report by The Guardian, some 30,000 Americans seeking to renounce their citizenship have faced barriers to process since the onset of COVID-19 as U.S. embassies, including the one in London, are "currently unable to accept appointments for loss of nationality applications."

The U.S. State Department required a face face-to-face interview before U.S. citizens can renounce their citizenship but has put these meetings on pause due to concerns regarding COVID-19, The Guardian writes. However, for some of those looking to start a new life abroad, this halt in the process has put a direct strain on their pockets.

A 2010 law known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requires banks and other financial institutions overseas to report any clients they suspect of holding U.S. citizen ship to the IRS. Americans living abroad must declare their income to the IRS which can then impose potential taxes. Eritrea is the only other country with a policy like this, The Guardian write.

250 Soldiers Return From Iraq To Fort
Americans living on foreign soil have faced barriers when seeking to renounce their citizenship. In this photo, a person holds a fist full of flags February 20, 2005 during a homecoming celebration for U.S. soldiers at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Photo by Stephen Morton/Getty Images

The effects of FATCA drew public attention in 2017 when the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was born in the U.S. but had not lived there since the age of 5, received a request from the IRS to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes he made in a profit from the sale of his London home.

America's law also impacted another politician, Marie Sock, the first woman to run as a presidential candidate in The Gambia. Sock holds U.S. citizenship and was forced to drop out of the race after not meeting the constitutional requirement that a candidate not possess citizenship with another country.

"To meet this requirement, I contacted the American Embassy in the Gambia last year, and again this year on several occasions for the purpose of renouncing my American citizenship," Sock said in a Facebook video. "I appealed to a senior U.S. Embassy official to accept my renunciation, to begin the process. However, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US Embassy was not conducting any services except in emergency cases."

Nine U.S. citizens living abroad who have faced Sock's situation are now suing the State Department in federal court, The Guardian writes. The French-based group Association of Accidental Americans, which has brought the suit forward, told The Guardian that America's inability to allow for renunciation abridges their clients' rights.

"The US appears intent on preventing its citizens from exercising their natural and fundamental right to voluntarily renounce their citizenship," it said.

Newsweek contacted the State Department for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.