If You Give Up Your US Citizenship, Don’t Be Surprised If This Happens

political-map-of-St.Kitts

Giving up one’s US citizenship is something that gets discussed from time to time in expat circles. It’s an idea talked about by a fair amount of expats, but followed through on by very few. Those expats give up their citizenship for several reasons: usually over taxes, but sometimes because they don’t like the current administration, feel more connected to their home country, etc. If you hold citizenship from another country besides the US, you can legally renounce your US citizenship. However, if you renounce your citizenship, you need to accept the consequences that go along with it, as one millionaire investor recently learned.

Roger Ver was born in the United States, but renounced his citizenship in March of last year after becoming a citizen of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis in a bid to avoid paying US income taxes. But giving up his US passport meant giving up his ability to enter the United States visa free, and a visa is not guaranteed. Ver was recently denied a visa to enter the US, and is now unable to go back to the country he renounced citizenship from.

To enter the US from many countries, you need to apply for a non-resident tourist visa, and they are not all that easy to get. Applicants must prove that they have significant financial or family ties to their country of citizenship, so they can prove that they are likely to return home after their trip, and not over stay their visa. The burden is on the applicant to prove their ties, and if they cannot prove their ties to the satisfaction of their case officer, they will not get approved for a visa. My wife and I learned this first hand, when her mother, despite having previously lived in the US and successfully obeyed the terms of her visa, was denied a tourist visa to travel to the US for our wedding. Now you can apply for a tourist visa as many times as you like, and she was thankfully approved on her second try. But it took a lot of paperwork, and my wife and I traveling down here to help out, in order to get it done.

I have a hard time feeling very bad for Mr. Ver. He seems to want to have his cake and eat it too. He didn’t want the responsibility of US citizenship (paying taxes), and wanted all the perks. His tale should be a cautionary one to expats considering giving up their citizenship. If you do, you may not be able to come back to the US, even to visit family. If that’s something you can live with, to each their own. I know for me personally, that while the US does make certain things difficult for expats (taxes, FATCA etc), I value my citizenship over my ability to live overseas. To others it may be different, and that’s fine. Just be prepared to live with the consequences. While you can check out any time you like, you may not be able to get back in.

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