• Wanna Be an American Idiot?

    July 25, 2022 // 3 Comments »

    American idiot and Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong said he is going to renounce his U.S. citizenship and move to England because he is so upset over the Supreme Court overturning landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade. The singer made the comments to a crowd at the band’s show in London, specifically “F*ck America, I’m f*cking renouncing my citizenship. I’m f*cking coming here.” He called the justices pr*cks and said “f*ck the Supreme Court of America.” Can he do that? Does it make any sense?

    As for making any sense, Armstrong should first check on what abortion laws look like in Great Britain. Assuming he understands the difference, Great Britain is composed of Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland. If the singer is headed toward the England, Scotland or Wales part, he’ll find most abortions limited to the second trimester, less than in seven U.S. states. In Northern Ireland, abortion is generally limited to first trimester, same as in 18 U.S. states. The case through which the Supreme Court overturned Roe, Dobbs v. Jackson, set the limit to 15 weeks, longer than Northern Ireland. So it is unclear how much moral ground Billie Joe will gain moving to the UK. He’ll need to watch out in Scotland, where clinics in Glasgow that offer reproductive health services are the focus of regular and long-running protests by anti-abortion activists, partly funded and supported by U.S. groups. You can run, Billie Joe, but you can’t hide.

    But can Billie Joe simply renounce his American citizenship and move to the U.K.? You can’t just renounce your citizenship, on stage or elsewhere. You can’t tear up your passport, burn the flag or write a manifesto. It’s done by appointment only. The American government must approve your renunciation of citizenship and can say no, no matter how loudly you say yes. Of course, there are forms to be filled out.

    To begin Billie Joe would need to make an appointment at the nearest American embassy or consulate. You can’t begin the renunciation process in America (sorry, purple haired radicals) but Billie Joe is already apparently in London. At the embassy Armstrong will fill out some forms. He can Google and complete, but not sign them, ahead of time if he wants one of his roadies to help: DS-4079, DS-4080, DS-4081, and DS-4082. Most of the requested information is pretty vanilla stuff, and is largely to make sure the singer understands what he is doing and the consequences of doing it.

    The reason for making sure of all that making sure stuff is two-fold. One, the State Department, who handles all this, has been sued by people in the past who claim they were tricked or mislead and did not know what they were doing, and want their citizenship back. The other reason is that barring certain highly-specific situations, renouncing citizenship is a one-way street. The U.S. government considers it a permanent, unrecoverable, irrevocable, decision. Billie Joe can’t come home should some future iteration of the Supremes restore Roe.

    At the embassy, one or more staff will fawn over Armstrong, then he’ll swear to and sign everything. At larger embassies, as in London, renunciations (for tax purposes) are frequent, regular parts of a day’s business, and are handled in most cases almost mechanically. The overall feeling most renunciants encounter is that of a bureaucrat more concerned with getting his paperwork in order than really caring about your life-altering decision. It is rare that the embassy official will actively try to dissuade you. There’s also a bunch of IRS stuff to do. Until it is over, you’re still an American, chappie.

    After your brief appointment at the embassy all the paperwork goes off to Washington, where your renunciation is approved or denied. The embassy can but is not required to write a memo regarding your case. Those memos, when written, usually argue against approval. In an extreme version, such a memo might say “Mr. Roberts appeared unorganized in thought, and was unable at times to focus on the documents in front of him. He referred often to a Swedish dog who was guiding his actions, and stated his goal in renunciation was to assume the Swedish throne.” It happens.

    No one at the embassy can approve or deny your application to renounce. That is done by someone you will never meet, located in Washington, DC. Without that approval, you remain an American citizen. Approval is formally made by issuing a DS-4083, called the CLN, Certificate of Loss of Nationality. Think of this document as an “un-birth certificate.” CLNs are processed slowly; it can several months or more for yours to be approved or denied. They are usually mailed to you. Oh, yes, one more thing. Billie Joe will have to pay a processing fee. As the world’s exceptional nation, the U.S. also has the highest fees in the world to renounce citizenship, a cool $2,350 per case, with no family discounts. By comparison, Canada charges it’s soon-to-be-former citizens only $76; for the Japanese and Irish it is free.

    If Billie Joe is denied his renunciation and forced to remain an American, it would typically be for his own good, to avoid him becoming stateless and thus deportable (to where?) from the U.K. Renunciation only means as of a certain moment Armstrong stops being an American citizen. It does not automatically make him a citizen of anywhere else (that’s naturalization, done country-by-country and Britain has its own complex set of laws on becoming one of them.) With his American passport gone, Armstrong has no passport. He is thus at that moment illegally in Britain and subject to deportation. Since he is not an American (or a Greek, or a Lithuanian, or a…) he has nowhere to go, a literal man without a country. In many cases the U.S. will deny renunciation to someone who does not already possess another country’s passport and citizenship. Billie Joe, sadly, could be forced to remain an American.

    This article is not legal advice for Billie Joe Armstrong or anyone else. Persons angry about Roe or otherwise considering renunciation should consult an attorney. Opinions expressed here are the author’s personal beliefs and do not represent those of any former employer.

    Related Articles:




    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, Other Ideas