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France-based overseas Americans sue to restart citizenship renunciations

A group of overseas Americans sued the State Department on Monday to restart citizenship renunciation services, saying a suspension under the Covid-19 pandemic violated their fundamental rights.

The France-based Accidental Americans group
The France-based Accidental Americans group. Photo: Zakaria ABDELKAFI / AFP

The United States, with rare exceptions, grants citizenship to anyone born on its soil or with a US parent.

A 2010 law aimed largely at avoiding tax dodgers who move abroad has sharply increased the bureaucratic and financial burden for US citizens overseas, including those who may have only peripheral links with the United States.

“Most US citizens, especially those residing in the United States, cherish their citizenship,” said the lawsuit filed in the US District Court in Washington by the Association of Accidental Americans, a French non-profit group, and nine plaintiffs.

“However, for the nine million US citizens living abroad, recent legislation and regulations have transformed US citizenship into a financial nightmare,” it said.

READ ALSO How to renounce American citizenship (and why you might want to)

Fabien Lehagre, president of the France-based association, in a statement said that recent laws “have left accidential Americans with little choice but to renounce US citizenship.”

The group has an ongoing lawsuit to oppose the $2,350 fee to renounce citizenship – a service that was free until 2015 – as unfair and exorbitant.

In the latest lawsuit, the group said that a suspension of services at most US embassies overseas during the pandemic violated a fundamental right under the US Constitution to renounce citizenship.

“In other areas during the Covid-19 emergency, the federal government has found ways to accommodate citizens’ constitutional liberties, while protecting public health and well-being,” the lawsuit said.

“Just as the Covid-19 world has become more flexible, the US government must do the same.”

The lawsuit calls for the immediate resumption of renunciation services, saying that the shutdown violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution’s guarantee of due process.

Citing figures from the Internal Revenue Service, the lawsuit said that a record of more than 6,000 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2020.

The lawsuit said that the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act has effectively made US citizens overseas pariahs, with some banks curtailing services for them due to the costs of meeting reporting regulations.

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POLITICS

Macron says it will be ‘decades’ before Ukraine joins EU

France's President Emmanuel Macron said Monday it would take "decades" for a candidate like Ukraine to join the EU, and suggested building a broader political community of democratic states around the bloc.

Macron says it will be 'decades' before Ukraine joins EU

“Even if we gave them candidate status tomorrow,” he said of Ukraine, “we all know perfectly well that the process of allowing them to join would take several years, in truth doubtless several decades.”

But, noting the urgence of giving Ukraine and other EU hopefuls like Moldova and Georgia a place in the heart of Europe, he called for the creation of “European political community”.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February, in part to thwart Kyiv’s tilt towards integration with the EU and NATO, and Georgia and Moldova are also partly occupied by Moscow’s troops.

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