Renouncing at the Calgary embassy

Nononymous wasn’t sure if he wanted to renounce his citizenship, but he wanted to look into his options. He decided to book an appointment at the US embassy in Calgary to conduct the first interview of the renunciation process.

Helpfully, he wrote about his experiences so that anyone else in the Calgary area might know what to expect should they decide to renounce.

So I just returned from the consulate.

I did not in fact decide to renounce, at least not yet. It didn’t make a lot of sense – would have been an emotional, not rational, decision. At this point in time it’s far more trouble to renounce than to simply file three 1040s and an FBAR and renew my passport and be done with it. There are implications in terms of future travel, I still could derive some benefit from US citizenship, and at least for now the reporting requirements for me are not so onerous. So I will wait until Christmas when I have a planned meeting with my parents around estate planning, and possibly take their lawyer’s advice. The consulate will keep the file for a year, if I change my mind I can pop down and sign the forms and take the oath and be done with it.

In other words, I didn’t let moral outrage get the better of me. Realistically, given that I’m a small fish who doesn’t and likely won’t ever owe US taxes, renunciation is probably overkill. As for my parents’ estate I’m assuming it could be a problem down the road, but I don’t in fact know that, so it makes sense to get a professional opinion before tearing up the passport.

What happens:

This has been described elsewhere. First up you bring to the window your documents and the questionnaire they e-mail you ahead of time. They take a few minutes to prepare the forms, you read them, then wait to speak to a consular official (i.e. diplomat rather than support staff). Then the consul essentially gives you a sales pitch on why the citizenship will still be useful to you. After which you sign the forms and the process begins. Or you do not, in which case you get your passport back. In the latter event they do not act as though you have wasted their time, quite the opposite.

Overall it was very friendly and pleasant (I have some foreign service connections – we had mutual acquaintances). I said that my coming down and taking up half an hour of his time was my way of registering my unhappiness about this situation, which he fully understood and accepted. I had a few questions about future travel after I renounced and he answered them as best he could.

What I learned:

The State Department probably isn’t very happy with the IRS right now. This is taking up a lot of their time. I was not the first appointment of this nature, nor the last. They really don’t know how the FATCA and FBAR situation will play out, and in a rather wink-and-nod (or just wishful thinking) way suggested that these laws might not be implemented quite so severely as is currently feared, given all the resistance.

They are both shocked and touched that Canadians are so decent and honest. This would not be a problem in Italy, he felt – everyone would keep their citizenship and continue lying and life would be far simpler for the embassy.

Once you have renounced, in theory you should not be treated any differently than any other Canadian citizen. However, border crossings and airlines are not always predictable, and like it or not, having that US birthplace will always cause questions to be asked, even if you carry a letter or certificate.

You absolutely do not need to have done your taxes first. The renunciation form simply  states that you agree to contact the IRS and get it squared away at some point. Presumably you don’t receive the certificate of renunciation until the returns have all been processed, so there’s an incentive to do it in a timely fashion.

Also you don’t pay the $450 up front!

To book his appointment, Nononymous sent an e-mail to the consulate (found on the website, as well as on the automated phone recording). The online form to book appointments does not cover renunciation.

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6 Responses to Renouncing at the Calgary embassy

  1. CA Freeb says:

    I am sure about renouncing though I feel forced to. Choosing between my country of birth and childhood and my current foreign family are the only choice they’ve left me. I will take the thirty percent hit on anything my dad might leave me in the future and just be done with it. It’s not worth the yearly stress and cost of filing when I owed nothing in the first place and I’m NOT going to continue to report my foreign spouses, foreign income at his foreign job to the U.S. when he objects to that treatment. If I continue to be American he will also have to concede to being treated as “American for tax purposes” which completely goes against his wishes as a Canadian born human being. It’s a violation of his rights. So either I violate his wishes or I renounce. Those are my choices as I see them. Further filing every year when you owe nothing is expensive. It requires me to travel to another city numerous times and pay out money to an accountant that if I were not American is money we could save and badly need. I’m all for going after criminals and drug lords and tax cheats but, the U.S. has decided to lump me and mine in with those people both in the press and through government spin and “announcements” about this legislation while not telling the whole truth. It’s immoral as anything I’ve seen since they have decided in doing so to silence us all and give us no voice about what they have deliberately chosen to do to us. Meanwhile they are giving billions to bankers who committed fraud and refuse to charge them with any wrong doing. Enough is enough. The only thing that would stop me renouncing now is a full apology for this treatment since we are totally innocent people and a repeal of this legislation. They aren’t going to do that so I’ve no choice but, to reject them for their immoral behavior towards innocent citizens.

  2. Expat in CA says:

    What struck me the most about Peter van Dijk’s letter – written on behalf of TD financial: – was the idea that Canadian banks will be forced to choose between Canadian laws and US laws. You’re absolutely correct to point out that we “small fry” face a similar situation – the choice between our allegiances to the US and to our Canadian families.

    I think that it says a lot about the fairness of having to file taxes for a country in which you do not live and earn no income that the US is one of only two countries in the whole wide world that does it – and I can almost guarantee that you’ve never heard of the other one. Even if it cost nothing, it’s still a pain and so complicated that mistakes are easily made – and easily punished.

  3. CA Freeb says:

    It’s always been a ludicrous law that we need to file taxes in a country where we do not live. I don’t use the roads, the police, the fire dept., the schools or any other “service” that requires paying taxes. Should I actually have owed any, which I did not and most of us did not. If they were not so backward they’d join the rest of civilization and do away with that altogether. At the very least for people who have been out of the country for over ten years with no plans to ever return. Their attitude towards this is quite bizarre down there. Being an ex pat in much of the public’s mind is like being a “traitor” already and many think since we “betrayed” them we should pay our taxes…they just do not get why anyone would ever move from there. Oh, I don’t know say for family? It would be hilarious that they are even going on this witch hunt were it not harming so many people. I was so honest, I wasn’t even going to apply for social security since I only lived there till the age of 20. I was thinking “Oh, I really shouldn’t take any of that, SS is in trouble and I really didn’t work down there that many years” I still don’t want anything that may be coming to me from them. I just want them to let me go. As long as I can visit and see my family down there, I’m fine. I hear Canadians can stay 120 days. Gracious, I don’t need to spend that much time around my sister. lol.

    • Expat in CA says:

      I’m actually been questioned by a border guard because I’m an expat. He couldn’t understand that someone might have the option to live in the US and choose not to. He was really rude about it, too.

      The argument is that we benefit from the US’s protection should something happen to us. For example, if I’m on vacation and there’s a flood,the US will help me evacuate. The problem is that we also have the same protection from Canada. And the way it stands right now, the greatest immediate danger to ourselves and our families is from the US – so that pokes a rather large hole in the argument.

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  5. citymine.In says:

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