6 Famous People Who Renounced Their Citizenship

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According to a recent New York Times article, more and more Americans abroad are renouncing their U.S. citizenship. Most cite difficulties with taxes and financial institutions as the number one issue. Recent changes in banking regulations put in place to hamper terrorists make it very difficult for American citizens abroad to do business with American banks.

We're not talking about a huge number here -- probably only about 1500-2000 folks for all of this year if the trend keeps up -- but it's a big spike from previous years. Speaking of previous years, here are a few of the notable folks throughout history who decided the red, white and blue just wasn't for them.

1. Terry Gilliam

Famous for being the only American member of Monty Python, Gilliam is now 100% British—he renounced his citizenship in 2006. "I'm not at all happy with what America has been in the last 10 years," Gilliam told The A.V. Club that year. "The reality is, when I kick the bucket, American tax authorities assess everything I own in the world—everything I own is outside of America—and then tax me on it, and that would mean my wife would probably have to sell our house to pay the taxes. I didn't think that was fair on my wife and children."

2. W.E.B. Du Bois

The Harvard PhD and spiritual father of the American civil rights movement grew somewhat cantankerous in his dotage. By the time he died in 1963 at age 95, he had moved to Ghana, renounced his U.S. citizenship, and embraced the Communist Party. He praised Stalin, decried America, and was mostly ignored by the civil rights leaders of the "˜60s. It's a testament to his genius and insight that this period in his life is mostly forgotten and his pioneering work at the turn of the last century is what he remains known for.

3. Ted Arison

Billionaire, sports lover, cruise-ship magnate, Ted Arison renounced his citizenship in 1990 and lived out the rest of his life in Israel. As founder of Carnival Cruise Lines and original backer of the NBA's Miami Heat, Arison amassed a multi-billion dollar fortune and was referred to at his death by the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, as "the world's wealthiest Jew."

4. Bobby Fischer


The reclusive chess champion ran afoul of a U.S. travel ban by competing in a 1992 chess match with Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia. He never returned to the US, but was held in Japan in 2004 for traveling on an invalid U.S. passport. He eventually convinced Iceland to grant him citizenship and renounced his U.S. citizenship.

5. President John Tyler

OK, this one is cheating just a bit. Former President John Tyler, by accepting a post as representative of the Confederacy, basically renounced his U.S. citizenship (and technically was the only President to die on "foreign" soil when he passed in 1862 in Virginia).

6. Elizabeth Taylor

Though never accepted by the State Department, Liz renounced in 1965. Attempting to shield much of her European income from U.S. taxes, Liz wished to become solely a British citizen. According to news reports at the time, officials denied her request when she failed to complete the renunciation oath, refusing to say that she renounced "all allegiance to the United States of America."
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How does one go about renouncing U.S. citizenship? The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 stipulates that Americans wishing to renounce their U.S. citizenship must sign an oath of renunciation in the presence of a diplomatic or consular officer. The oath reads: "I hereby absolutely and entirely renounce my United States nationality, together with all rights and privileges and all duties of allegiance and fidelity." The renunciation must take place in a foreign country, and the State Department reserves the right to reject the citizen's request. The oath must also be signed in person.

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May 5, 2010 - 10:36am
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