THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Fabien Lehagre, the President of the Association des Américains Accidentels group (Association of Accidental Americans), has written to the US Ambassador to France, Jamie McCourt, to raise concerns over access to citizenship renunciation services amid the pandemic, while also highlighting problems with the services themselves.
In his letter, M. Lehagre writes that "for more than seven months, the renunciation services and Federal Benefits Unit have been closed allegedly because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is totally incomprehensible because all the other servioces of your embassy have remained open".
M. Lehagre isn't alone in highlighting the closure of appointments for citizenship renunciation; US tax expert Alistair Bambridge recently commented that "I speak to US citizens on a daily basis who are looking to renounce their citizenship, so there will be a large wave of US citizens renouncing their citizenship once they are able to book appointments again. There are some US citizens so desperate to give up their citizenship that they are booking holidays to the Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos Islands, or other far-off places, where appointments are still being offered to give up their citizenship".
The Dutch organization Americans Overseas has also reported a substantial increase in waiting times for appointments relating to renunciations, with wait times at embassies going "from 2 weeks up to 1 year, a 2600% increase".
There are a variety of reasons why Americans are seeking to renounce their citizenship. Many cite the invasive nature of FATCA, which requires that overseas banks with American clients report detail on their accounts to the IRS. Others note the follow on FATCA issue of banks refusing to accept US clients due to the amount of reporting required, and the potentially high cost of penalties. Some banks are also now advising they will close the accounts of US Citizens. There's also the requirement that overseas Americans need to file tax returns each year. For Accidental Americans, many have only attained citizenship for reasons such as being born in the US, or having an American parent, even if they haven't lived in the States since childhood.
Lehagre highlights that Accidental Americans face some particularly difficult problems, writing that the "closures mean that French 'Accidental Americans' suffer a double penalty and find themselves in an inextricable situation. They cannot apply for an SSN or renunciation of US Citizenship in order to obtain a certificate of loss of citizenship as demanded by their banks".
Concluding, Lehagre urges the US Embassy in France to "re-open without any delay the renunciation services in Paris and the Federal Benefits Unit".
For more information on the Association of Accidental Americans, go to www.americains-accidentels.fr