When I was considering renouncing US citizenship, and then once I had decided to do so, I heard several arguments for why I shouldn’t renounce.
Reason to renounce #1
But what if something happens where you are—an invasion or a natural disaster or something? The US would come and get you out!
Answer #1: They most likely wouldn’t. Generally what happens in such situations is that the US embassy sends out an alert telling US citizens to get out. They are left to fend for themselves, in other words, and I’ve heard plenty of stories of Americans being evacuated from a danger zone by the British or other countries rather than the US.
When the US does evacuate people, they charge them the “full coach commercial fare.” They’ll save people, but at a price, and only in the most dire circumstances. And they will only be taken to a nearby safe place, not back to the US.
In Paris, when the attacks happened in November, some American tourists headed for the US embassy. They were turned away.
Answer #2: It’s pretty unlikely, don’t you think? Yes, I know, Germany has invaded the Netherlands before. But today’s Germany won’t. The most likely natural disaster would be flooding, but the Dutch are the experts at water control, and I live in a relatively high part of the country (seven meters above sea level!).
Answer #3: My Dutch passport gives me the right to move to any country in the EU, and many outside of it too. So if worse came to worst, I’d have plenty of places I could move to. If I had a non-EU passport, Reason to Renounce #1 would be a lot more compelling.
But what if you want to go home?
“Home” is a term I struggle with. The fact is that the US hasn’t felt like home in many years. I love to visit there; I enjoy the strange familiarity of it: a lot of “Oh, I remember that!” But the longer I live in the Netherlands, the more of a tourist I feel like when I’m at “home.”
So would I ever move back there? I’ve thought about that a lot, since my renunciation will make it hard, or perhaps impossible, for me to live in the US again.
I can’t imagine my husband would ever agree to living in the US again, so I would only ever even consider it if something, God forbid, happened to him and I became a widow. Or he traded me in for a younger model, as they say, but that’s just not his style.
If I was suddenly alone, my first instinct, I think, would be to run home. But as I said above, it isn’t home anymore.
I’ve thought about where I would like to live in the US if I had a choice. San Francisco is my favorite American city, but I couldn’t afford it. I love Hawaii for the beautiful tropical climate, but I can get a tropical climate elsewhere. I could move to Guadeloupe and not even leave the EU!
Wherever I live, I can still visit the US on my Dutch passport. I just can’t stay too long.
But having a US passport makes it so much easier to enter the US.
Yes, that’s true. The lines move faster for the US citizens at passport control than for foreigners. And I would need to get a visa waiver ahead of time as well.
I only visit the US every few years. I can handle a longer line and a bit of on-line paperwork.
I couldn’t renounce. My parents are getting older. What if I needed to go take care of them?
This is a good reason for many to keep their US citizenship, but my parents passed away back in 1995. That’s part of what led me to move to the Netherlands in the first place. My husband wanted to go home and, once my parents died, it felt like my ties to the US got weaker. I have two sisters in the US still, but when they’re old enough to need care, I will be old too!
It’s nice to have two passports.
It was indeed nice. If one was expiring, I could use the other. Going to the US, I used my US passport. Pretty much everywhere else, I used my Dutch one. Is that worth all the stress that being an overseas American causes? No.
People are desperate for US citizenship. Look what they go through to get it, and you’re throwing it away?
Yes, that’s true. My grandparents were immigrants, and were extremely fortunate to get to the US when they did. But the situation of an immigrant to the US today has no bearing on my situation. Whether I keep or renounce my own citizenship has no effect on their efforts to attain it. And I feel just as fortunate to have Dutch citizenship as they would to have US citizenship.
I simply couldn’t renounce. I’m American and always will be.
This is probably the best argument I’ve heard for keeping US citizenship, and yet it’s the most irrational and emotional. My feeling of personal attachment to America was what made this decision such a struggle. That passport represents something: a sort of club membership, and it’s a very special, exclusive club that, as I said above, people are desperate to join.
Americans are taught from a very early age how special the US is. This exceptionalism is a source of pride and a glue that binds the whole population together. The desperation of immigrants trying to enter the US only confirms that feeling. Look at the President’s words in the State of the Union Address:
Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.
That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed, big-hearted, undaunted by challenge, optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.
Americans take this sort of statement for granted; they accept as a given that America is exceptional, which carries the implication that it is better than other countries. It is not until we leave the country and live elsewhere that we see that many other places are very special too.
So is having citizenship what makes people American? I would argue that I remain an American. I self-identify as American. Others refer to me as American. People don’t normally see my passport, except at border control booths in airports. In other words, I have to actively define myself as Dutch if I want to be seen as Dutch. Otherwise, I’m an American still, and always will be.
You know how the story ends: I renounced, despite all these reasons I heard. None of them was enough to dissuade me. What about you? Have you renounced or are you considering renunciation? Add a comment below.
This post is the seventh in a series on American values that I’ve written since my renunciation day. Here are the others: