I'm curious. How does or how can a person renounce citizenship in the U.S. and leave the country without that person having a passport from the U.S. Or from any other country? I'm not planning to do this. I'm just really curious to know because I've read about people renouncing their citizenship for different reasons. Most think it's because of taxes. I'm sure people have other reasons. Can someone tell me how or if it's possible for someone to renounce citizenship if they don't have a passport for the U.S. or any other country?

  • I think you're asking how a stateless person can move across borders, am I right?
    – littleadv
    Jan 10, 2015 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


You could ask for political asylum in another country. Let's say you are a spy (or wish to become one). You visit the embassy of the country you wish to spy for and if they agree, they will give you papers to help you get out of the United States or arrange for a travel method that doesn't involve documents such as passports.

It used to be possible to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas without a passport but I do not know if post-9/11 this is still the case.

You could certainly get a sailboat and sail to Cuba and ask for asylum, but you probably wouldn't get it.

Once upon a time refugee travel documents were fairly common, but I don't think this is still the case. Cuban refugees were given travel documents by the United States that functioned as a passport but which were not passports. The Vatican issued travel documents after WWII as did the Red Cross. Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany went to Shanghai, China because it was one of the few cities in the world that would accept individuals without the need for visas.

  • I definitely wouldn't become a spy lol. And I understand the answer and thanks a lot. Now I know this is a very good place to find answers to so many questions.
    – user5940
    Jan 11, 2015 at 8:47
  • I think this answer confuses many things. Except in very limited and special cases, you need to reach a country first before applying for asylum. If you manage to reach an embassy willing to take you, that would still not change your situation with respect to the host country. They have no obligation to provide safe passage or anything. The best you could hope is to be made a citizen of said country but that's a completely different thing and wholly unrelated to asylum.
    – Gala
    Jan 11, 2015 at 10:35
  • Refugee travel documents still exist but it's the same: You first need to reach a country, be granted asylum and only then can you apply for such documents. Countries only ever give them to people who are residents (and thus commit themselves to take them back if some other country want to expel them). The US obviously would not grant one to someone who was a US citizen and has no right to stay in the country.
    – Gala
    Jan 11, 2015 at 10:36
  • @Gala: "They have no obligation to provide safe passage or anything..." If they sneak you out, you're out. You can be granted asylum at an embassy: look at Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy, Cardinal M. in Hungary in the 1950's, G'ral Noriega in the Vatican Embassy, there are several examples.
    – user26732
    Jan 11, 2015 at 19:00
  • @Gala: when it comes to political asylum, every case is a "special" case. There are few examples of entire groups being given asylum. Cubans in the U.S. are an unusual case in this regard.
    – user26732
    Jan 11, 2015 at 19:02

I cannot rule out any loophole or freak occurrence but reasonable countries have rules in place to avoid such issues. People who renounce US citizenship for tax reasons (as opposed to ideological or personal reasons) will also secure another one beforehand because being stateless is extremely unpleasant and you need to live outside the US to be out of the reach of US taxes.

In the case of the US, renouncing citizenship is only possible from abroad. It seems that you don't have to prove you are a citizen or long-term resident where you are when renouncing your US citizenship so you could still find yourself staying somewhere illegally or become stateless with no easy way to travel but that wouldn't be the US' problem.

Because statelessness is generally considered to be a problem, other countries (e.g. France or Germany) have even more restrictive rules and only allow their nationals to renounce their citizenship if they already have or can be sure to get another one. Similarly, it's not possible to loose or be stripped of the French or German citizenship if you don't have another one. Both these countries and many others are also party to the 1961 Convention on the reduction of statelessness, which the US is not.

  • Excellent summary. But I would point out that you can always be deported to your native country, so a US native with no residence is still the US' problem. Consequently, not having a foreign residency or reasonable plan for obtaining one is a ground to fail the exit processes determination of serious intention. A stateless person would also request a 1951? geneva convention document from their country of residence if they needed to travel with no passport.
    – user5941
    Jan 10, 2015 at 0:01
  • 3
    @lossleader: You can only be deported to a country if they accept you. And the U.S. has no obligation to accept a non-U.S. national. Although if you entered on a U.S. passport, the U.S. might be compelled to accept for reciprocity reasons (the U.S. wants to be able to deport people back).
    – user102008
    Jan 10, 2015 at 3:36
  • Thanks you for the replies with answer. Is their a way for someone to travel from the U.S. to some place like Japan even if a person has been denied a U.S. Passport from child support that's greater than say $50.000.00? I know a person will be denied a U.S. passport if they are in rearage of $2,500.00. How can someone get to leave the country to go to Japan where they would be able to work? It seems to me that being an American that they shouldn't keep a person from getting a passport to go to a place that they can make a living for their children and then being able to pay those things
    – user5940
    Jan 10, 2015 at 7:57
  • Here in the U.S. so many dads are being called dead beat dads. And most of them can't get work. And I think it's wrong to not let someone get a passport to go to a place that they can work and pay and catch up on child support. Is their a way to still get a passport without having to pay thousands of dollars for back child support? Or how could the person being denied a passport for child support still be able to go to Japan? If their is a way for someone to still be able to go to Japan, then how without a passport? Or is their another way to get a passport? I'm curious to know. And thank you.
    – user5940
    Jan 10, 2015 at 8:03
  • @user5940 That's a completely different question and I have no idea. Note that the assumption is probably that meeting your obligations is generally easier in your home country. Why would US lawmakers go out of their way to facilitate travel to Japan or some other random place?
    – Gala
    Jan 10, 2015 at 15:29

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