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There are plenty of dual Canadian/American citizens in Canada — and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is one of them.
His dual citizenship, though, has become an election issue, even though he’s begun the process of renouncing his U.S. citizenship.
Some of the complaints about his status might be reasonable — like the argument that Scheer has been a parliamentarian for several years, and didn’t renounce years ago.
There are questions about his decision to follow American law and register for selective service — in other words, the draft, if there was one — and whether that speaks to where his allegiances lay at that time.
But other are not reasonable at all, and just show just how quickly people are willing to jump on a bandwagon without bothering to do the least little bit of research.
The biggest misconception in the whole process is that someone wanting to surrender their American citizenship just has to march down to a U.S. embassy somewhere, hand over some paperwork, and voila, it’s done.
Not so fast.
In fact, nowhere near as fast.
You start the process by sending an email to the nearest U.S. embassy: they send you another address, where you file a series of documents electronically. At that time, you’re told that there will be a wait for the next step, as you wait for a review of the filed documentation: if you fail the review, it’s back to the beginning.
If the documentation is accepted, then you wait again, for an appointment at a consular office.
“Please note that wait times for an appointment may vary significantly from location to location due to local factors. Please consider the current average wait times when selecting your desired location: Ottawa — 5 to 6 months, Calgary — 4 to 5 months, Halifax — 6 to 7 months, Montreal — 9 to 10 months, Quebec City — 5 to 6 months, Toronto — 11 to 12 months, Vancouver — 3 to 4 months,” the U.S. government will tell you.
Scheer said he filed documents in August: it’s not surprising things haven’t moved forward.
Eventually, he’ll get an appointment.
It wouldn’t be America without a price tag.
But despite all the legal implications of the process, Scheer won’t have a lawyer with him: “While you may choose to seek legal advice in preparing your forms, attorneys are not permitted to accompany an applicant to the Consulate. Please plan to spend up to two hours at your appointment.”
If you’re not in a place where there is a consular office, too bad for you. Oh, and it wouldn’t be America without a price tag. Show up to renounce, and show them the money: “US$2,350 (or Canadian dollar equivalent). We accept cash and credit cards but do not accept debit or personal checks. If you pay by credit card, the charge will be in U.S. dollars.”
But that’s only part of the cost, and part of the process: then, there’s the tax side.
I don’t know Scheer’s personal finances, but the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has a fascinating view of what happens when you give up U.S. citizenship. Essentially, everything you own is deemed to have been sold on the day before you give up citizenship, and you are expected to pay U.S. tax on any capital gain if your assets are worth more than a certain amount.
There’s lots to consider, and lots to do.
It is a complicated, potentially expensive process, all because of the rules of a nation where, like Scheer, you might not have been born in, and might never have lived in.
It raises an interesting question about sovereignty, too: how can a foreign nation decide that someone born in Canada belongs to them, and then extract money that would be part of the Canadian economy?
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in SaltWire publications across Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com — Twitter: @wangersky
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