Should I Keep My U.S. Citizenship?

From Attorney Josh Effron:

Here is an interesting Question-and-Answer exchange that I recently had:

 

Question: I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and another country, and I currently live in that other country. My country of residence is on the Visa Waiver Program, so is there any reason why I should keep my U.S. citizenship and also make my children U.S. citizens?

 

Answer: The Visa Waiver Program only allows for visits to the U.S. of up to 90 days, and it cannot be extended or converted to anything else from within the U.S., with the only two exceptions being (1) a Green Card BASED ON being the spouse, parent, or minor child of a U.S. citizen (but no other category of Green Card); or (2) asylum – which is not something realistic for citizens of most of the countries where Americans tend to live. Furthermore, if the U.S. wants to deport someone on the Visa Waiver Program, there is no right to challenge this before an Immigration Judge, the way there is with virtually any other status.

So if, for example, your child wants to go to college in New York, the Visa Waiver Program will be of no help. Instead, your child would need to apply for a STUDENT VISA, and the U.S. Embassy routinely denies visas, even to people who fully qualify. (A trend I am seeing more and more is where the applicant brings plenty of documentation to support the visa application, only to have the visa officer deny the visa without even bothering to look at the documentation.)

 

If your child is a U.S. citizen, however, then your child would be 100% exempt from all of this and can simply fly to the U.S. to study in college without the bureaucratic nightmare of a student visa application.

 

Or say your child wants to go work for a summer in a mall in the U.S. While popular, it is illegal if the children are not themselves U.S. citizens, and there is no “work visa” that would really cover such work. This results in these same kids finding themselves being deported from the U.S. (which can involve stays in Immigration Detention centers – basically “immigration jails”). And if the child in question is on the Visa Waiver Program, there would be no opportunity to fight this deportation in Immigration Court.

 

Again, U.S. citizenship would exempt your child from all of this.

And finally, the U.S. passport is one of the strongest passports in the world, even for travel to OTHER countries, so if your child wants to travel to other countries at any point in life, it is far easier to do so with a U.S. passport than with many other passports.

 

The only real downside to U.S. citizenship is the imposition of the U.S. income tax even when residing outside of the U.S. However, a good U.S. accountant (of which there are many in Israel, Canada, Australia, and other countries that have a lot of American citizens) can help to minimize this burden, particularly given that there are treaties between the U.S. and most other countries to prevent “double taxation” (i.e., paying taxes in your country of residence and then paying taxes to the U.S. ON TOP of your home country’s taxes).

 

So, from someone who daily deals with the myriad of problems that are all avoided by having a U.S. passport, I would strongly urge most people who have access to a U.S. passport to keep it and to give your children this same gift, if at all possible.