According to data from the IRS relating to the number of Americans who renounce their citizenship annually, the numbers are dramatically on the increase.
More than 200 Americans turned their back on the United States in 2008, 731 made the exceptionally difficult decision to renounce their citizenship in 2009, and in 2010 1,485 individuals gave up their right to an American passport, according to ‘corrected totals’ from renunciationguide.com.
When you consider that an estimated 5.2 million Americans currently live abroad, you would be forgiven for thinking that these figures are an insignificant fraction barely worthy of comment – however, according to the New York Times: “waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.” What’s more, where once even just the thought of turning your back on your nation was regarded as treasonous, nowadays the possibility is openly discussed amongst American expatriate groups both online and offline.
With this thought in mind, we decided to interview a number of our readers who are currently actively planning their move overseas or who have recently relocated. We wanted to know what the motivating factors are for each soon-to-be expatriate for their proposed relocation – and whether any Americans now living abroad were considering taking their move to the next level and renouncing their US citizenship altogether…after all, what is it that pushes people to take such drastic action?
Brad and Tori from Springfield, Illinois are moving to Europe in the summer, and when asked for the primary motivating factor behind their relocation decision, this is what they told us:
“To sum up all the reasons for us making the move in one we’d have to say that it’s all to do with the economy at home right now. As a family we’ve been personally impacted by job loss, debt, lack of finance and the threat of foreclosure…and if you look at it and break it right down, as we have been forced to do, it is because of the state of the economy in America right now.
Both of us are college graduates and we started early on our career paths, we feel we’ve been contributors rather than takers when it comes to this country’s economy – but we’ve been left without any support from the government or from the likes of banks when we need it. Our kids are at an age where we really needed to make a decision about their schooling quite fast when the subject of moving overseas first came up – but then again, where’s the investment going to come from for schools in this country anyway, wouldn’t they be better off schooled abroad?
By the time we started weighing up the pros and cons there was very little stacked in America’s favor, and now we can’t wait to move. We really don’t think there is anything for us here now; there are few jobs and long lines of applicants, we can barely afford our home repayments and insurances, yet no one’s around to help us, so what’s there for our kids to look forward to?
We’re still proud to be American, but that’s because of our heritage and our culture and our friends and family: it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the economy, the government, the previous government or the foreign policy for example. However, renouncing our citizenship would be taking the move too far, we’ve briefly spoken about it but we would feel like we were betraying our families if we did that.”
Cam from Washington has recently relocated to South America and he has a very different view about renunciation.
“I wish I’d made the move years ago – I falsely believed that my work, my family and friends were all enough to keep me from going stir crazy at the state of the nation, but to be honest, it’s just got too much in America now.
Everyone talks about it being down to post 9/11 reactions and changes – but in my opinion it was getting bad way before then. And if you believe the conspiracy theorists, the US administration knew plenty about that before it happened anyway and they just use it as an excuse to push through illegal bullying legislation.
The Patriot Act has me, as an expatriate, labeled the same way as terrorists and money launderers – yet the good old IRS still wants to tax any income I make to support myself even though I’m making it overseas. I take nothing and give everything when it comes to my so-called ‘home country’ and in truth, I hate it.
I’d never met anyone who’d gone down the path of renunciation before I moved here – sure I’d thought about it, but only along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be good if I could just change everything – permanently!’ But now I know much more about it, it’s something I would seriously consider doing.
I’m a newbie abroad though, and I’ve been warned that I may feel homesick sometime soon – right now I love the freedom I’ve got and the way people live here, so I find it really hard to imagine that I’m going to want to move back to the States…but hey, I’ll give it some time and some more thought and then maybe, why not? After all, there is nothing great about having US citizenship anymore as far as I am concerned anyway.”
Jenna from Greenville, South Carolina will be on her way to her new life in Canada as this goes to publication. She said:
“America has got it all wrong – taxation is high, the economy is damaged, the rich still manage to evade their responsibilities, and despite many pledges to the contrary, this administration is not exactly helping the poor is it?
There are no honest politicians in America – don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive, I don’t believe any politician is anything other than self-serving, but in the States it’s beyond a joke. Also, everyone is suing everyone…and if you want to get anywhere, you have to threaten to sue! What kind of a system is that?
The final thing that pushed my decision was an article I read about the amount of information that’s kept on me based on my social security number…and what’s the betting some of that information is inaccurate. Things like that can affect your life for the worse and you don’t even know why. And one thing that will affect your life and the quality of it is the amount you can afford to pay for medical insurance. If you don’t have decent insurance you won’t get decent care, period.
The tax situation in this country is out of control too – and I am disgusted that it’s always the little guy who gets the bad deal. Would I renounce my citizenship? Maybe, if it made a valid point to the government that they actually listened to…it is something I would consider, yes. But it is extreme.”
Finally we spoke to Mike from California who’s heading to Asia later this year.
“My neighborhood has gone from good to bad to worse – drugs, gangs and guns rule and I genuinely don’t feel totally safe around here anymore. My decision to move overseas came from a slow but steadily growing feeling of unease at everything from the crime to the fact that ironically, America is a police state nowadays – and yet the policing is of the innocents.
Even saying that I want to relocate and looking at the paperwork I need to complete to get my tax affairs in order makes me feel as though I’m regarded as a criminal with something to hide! I don’t just blame this administration – I blame the last one too! American politicians have finally united in screwing up the country – America’s not the land of the free, it’s not great and good – it’s not my home any more.
I don’t want to vote when I expatriate, I don’t want to pay taxes for services I don’t use and won’t even be able to access if I do need them, I don’t want to watch more violence and more lies on the streets and in office. The over-regulation in the US is oppressive, and it comes from all angles because it is being indoctrinated into the very core of the country. That ain’t gonna change in my lifetime – so I have to be the one to make the change.
I spent a long time looking for a country where there was a balance between taxation and services, support and entrepreneurialism…and then I looked closer at the state of the nation and the general feeling of the people. I did have to look for a long time before I found anywhere I would be happy to call home because you know what, the worst aspects of the American influence have permeated far too many societies globally.
I’ve never even considered renunciation as a concept let alone as a potential, but now the prospect has been brought to my attention I won’t be able to ignore it.”
Clearly the state of the American nation is the motivating factor behind all these people deciding to change their country of residence in order to improve their quality of life. Increasing numbers of residents turning their back on their home country, and increasing numbers of expatriates then turning their back on their own citizenship should be setting off alarm bells right across America.
Perhaps America actually risks crumbling beneath the weight of over-intrusion it insists upon having in people’s lives. This need to know everything comes from a national psyche steeped in paranoia which is harbored throughout society and promoted by the very politicians US citizens are being forced to choose between to run their once allegedly great nation. Not everyone is buying into it though: some are leaving American shores behind, some are leaving their American passports behind.
Please note: names and some personal details have been changed to protect the identities of our interviewees.
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home. [ send her an email ]