The Semantically Driven Vortex of “Relinquishing” vs. “Renouncing”

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Guest Post from Immigration Lawyer – Mr. Jan Bejar –  The Semantically Driven Vortex of “Relinquishing” vs. “Renouncing”

“Relinquishing” citizenship means to give up U.S. citizenship voluntarily by committing any of the expatriating acts described in INA § 349(a), 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a).  One of the expatriating acts described in INA § 349(a)/8 U.S.C. § 1481(a) is “renouncing” or as it says in the statute, “… (5) making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or US Passportconsular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State.”

Renouncing citizenship is a way to relinquish it, so when discussing this form of relinquishment, the two words can be used interchangeably.

For immigration purposes, the distinction between renunciation and the other forms of relinquishment may become meaningful when a former citizen is appealing or challenging the loss of nationality because establishing a lack of intent or duress during a formal renunciation is much more difficult than establishing a lack of intent when performing one of the other expatriating acts.  See 7 FAM 1211 (h).


Jan Joseph Bejar, Esq.


Tel: (619) 291-1112

Fax:(619) 291-1102



One thought on “The Semantically Driven Vortex of “Relinquishing” vs. “Renouncing”

    royaberg said:
    October 27, 2014 at 1:16 am

    Hi Jan,

    I don’t think I disagree with your point, but I do think you’ve missed an important distinction: the term “relinquish” means something different under the INA than it does for tax.

    1. In the INA the term relinquish US citizenship/nationality is used ONLY to modify the intent that must be coterminous with an expatriating act. The INA refers to “loss of US citizenship/nationality” never to “relinquishment” thereof, except in the context of intent.

    a. Note AJCA refers only to “loss of citizenship” or “lost citizenship” or “expatriate” it does not use the term “relinquished US citizenship”

    2. The first time we see reference to “relinquished US citizenship” to mean the aggregate of: a) the act; b) the mental state; and c) the effective date is under HEART (2008 Act, 877A etc.).

    3. Thus any subsequent use of the term “relinquished US citizenship” to mean something other than a reference to the mental state required under the INA, we must assume it refers to HEART.

    This is important under FATCA because the “cure” for a US place of birth under the IGA requires the individual to produce a CLN or “a reasonable explanation as to why the individual does not have one despite having relinquished US citizenship.” Thus the IGA forces those who wish to “cure” their US place of birth into HEART.

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