Renouncing citizenship: How to break up with a country

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, plans to renounce his dual Canadian citizenship.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz says he'll renounce his dual Canadian citizenship. A look at what's involved in renouncing national citizenship.

Sen. Ted Cruz has announced he will renounce his Canadian citizenship, following media reports questioning his eligibility to run for the White House because he was born in Calgary, Alberta.

"Nothing against Canada, but I'm an American by birth and as a U.S. senator, I believe I should be only an American," the Texas Republican said.

Immigration experts say that for most developed nations, the process of renouncing a citizenship amounts to completing some paperwork and sometimes paying a nominal fee. In complicated cases, an applicant may be required to undergo an interview or vetting process to ensure the person isn't renouncing citizenship to become a "stateless" resident.

For Cruz, who is an American citizen, giving up Canadian citizenship is fairly painless, according to David Cohen, a Canadian immigration attorney and managing editor of the Canadian Immigration Newsletter.

All Cruz would need to do is fill out a four-page form that's available online, gather supporting documents, and pay a processing fee of $100.

"It's not a complicated process," Cohen said from Montreal, but there are a few conditions:

  • The applicant must have citizenship to another country, or at least be applying for citizenship in another country
  • The applicant can't be a minor; and
  • The applicant must understand the significance of his decision

"If there are doubts as to mental capacity, if there are doubts as to your age, those would be the only reasons someone would be refused," Cohen said.

"That's not Senator Cruz's issue. His issue is one of perception," he added.

Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, said he wasn't aware of whether there are rules prohibiting a sitting president from having dual citizenship.

"I would think the optics would be more challenging," he said.

Once Cruz has submitted his application, it will be referred to a Citizenship Court Judge. Cohen said that in a "complex" case, an applicant might have to appear before a judge, though Cruz would be unlikely to have trouble.

Media baron Conrad Black infamously renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 so he could accept a seat in the British House of Lords.

To relinquish American citizenship, one would have to make a formal renunciation of U.S. citizenship before a diplomatic or consular officer and fill out two forms from the State Department. A $450 fee is attached.

Tennessee-born songstress Tina Turner, who lives in Zurich, revealed this year that she was giving up her American citizenship to become Swiss. Taxation is unlikely to be the superstar's main motivation for making the drastic step, as rates in Switzerland are high.

Facebook founder Eduardo Saverin last year renounced his American citizenship to become a resident of Singapore.

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