21 January 2021

Un-exercisable Right: renouncing US citizenship

Jaime McLemore
Partner | UK

When London entered its first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, many people’s lives and plans were disrupted. For US citizens seeking to renounce their citizenship, those plans have been put on an indefinite pause. Even as the lockdown restrictions eased last summer, the London Embassy never returned to a full service, offering appointments only for urgent matters. Expatriating from the US, it seems, was not considered an urgent matter. Throughout the lockdown roller coaster of 2020, the London Embassy (and most US Embassies globally) did not offer renunciation appointments. And as we begin 2021 in yet another lockdown, it is not clear when the London Embassy will resume this service. Most of us never thought we would see a suspension of expatriations in London for this long.

Of course, renouncing US citizenship involves more than a trip to the US Embassy. Anyone considering expatriating should also ensure they have taken US tax advice beforehand to understand the potential application of the US expatriation tax regime. With proper planning, many of the tax consequences can be mitigated or eliminated entirely. It is also worth a reminder that abandoning a green card does not require a trip to the US Embassy but tax advice should still be obtained.

The suspension of renunciation appointments at the London Embassy has meant that US citizens must retain their citizenship a while longer. Apart from committing a self-expatriating act (treason anyone?) the interview at the US Embassy is a critical part of the expatriation process. With President Biden’s inauguration, we may begin to see a light at the end of this long tunnel. He has not addressed this issue specifically, and certainly has a full plate, but perhaps his administration will decide that the right to renounce US citizenship is one that can no longer be denied, even in the face of a global pandemic. The resumption of these services in London would be a welcome reprieve from months of waiting. But imagine the queues.

Jaime McLemore Partner | London

Category: Article