As the man said, as he took my signed papers, when I finally get notification that the Department of State has approved my renunciation in a couple of months’ time, the date on all the paperwork will say January 30, 2018. My renunciation day.
All the having to be my own travel agent, map reader, logistician and accountant aside, the big moment was the US embassy itself. I reread a good description of the renunciation process itself before I left home, and the part about the physical visit to a US diplomatic post was very helpful. I was (as is my habit) confused by where to stand, but a guard called to me and got me in the right place. He was Norwegian. I had to empty all my pockets, put my purse, watch, and belt in a small bin, and switch off my cell phone. I got a number, almost like getting a coat check ticket. Then I went to the sign that said “Wait here” and waited there.
All of this was outdoors, in front of the guard hut or security forehouse or whatever they call it. You can see pictures of it here. Now you know which door me and my bin went through first.
I was called in, handed my bin, and was told by another Norwegian guard to walk slowly through the metal detector. After that I got to select items to bring in with me (I chose wallet, passports, glasses, some papers), and then it was back outdoors for a few steps to the rear of the embassy building itself.
We were two who had appointments at the same time, and nobody acknowledged that I had taken a queue ticket so I was second. When it was my turn no more than 5 minutes later, the Norwegian at the window told me he’d get my caseworker.
It was “Miss Fox” this and “Miss Fox” that. Also, they had American-style drinking fountains in there. (I did not use the bathroom so cannot tell you if the water level in the toilet was US swimming pool deep-end standard. That’s right. Cultural differences extend to toilet bowls.)
The caseworker at the window was an American*, and asked me to first go pay at the cashier’s window next to her. “How will you be paying, Miss Fox?” said the nice young lady there. “Credit card,” I said, and put it in the little metal tray under the glass divider between us. “Oh, uh, I don’t know the word in English, but…” “Skal vi ta det på norsk?” I asked. Yes, she too was a Norwegian. I had forgotten to change the “regionsperre” (that was the word she couldn’t translate on the fly) on my credit card.
So back out to the guard pavilion, get my purse, stand there and start the cell phone, log in to my bank and change the settings for my credit card to be allowed used in North America—because, duh, you’re in the US when you’re at the embassy—switched off the phone, put it back in my purse, put my purse back in the bin. And in the most Norwegian way, five guards were loitering around, talking about whatever while I was doing that. In Norwegian. Slow day at work.
I went back to the cashier’s window. Whereupon she charged me USD 2,350. Yes, over two thousand dollars to renunciate.
Then back to window 4 where the lady there made me reread all the documents (DS-4080, DS-4081 and an information sheet) and since I’d filled them out, they were still correct, but now a man’s name from the embassy had been added. Something that started with J.
Then it was wait until my actual case worker was available. The guy ahead of me was ahead of me in room 6, too.
Room 6 was window 6, but with walls and a door surrounding the two chairs in front of the glass divider with the metal tray.
Mr. J (I assume) was also an American, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Just there to walk me through this.
After a few initial questions, it was on to the documents. Did I agree? Did I understand? Yes.
“Sign this. And the copy.”
I could feel my insides shaking. I took a deep breath to steady my hand so my signature would match what I had on the passport. My US passport, brand new just a year ago, never used.
Mr. J had my passport. He compared the signatures.
Another document. Did I agree? Did I understand? Yes. More taking a deep breath. More signing, first one, then the copy.
I found myself wondering if I was doing the right thing. There’s always that niggle, the second-guessing, the desire to not make the irrevocable so final, to have a choice, a way out, a way back.
Mr J wanted to know if I would share why I was renouncing. I told him I’d spent 44 of my 57 years on this planet in Norway and I knew I wasn’t leaving. He was amazingly non-committal in his response but not unfriendly.
The final document was the actual swearing part. Mr. J made me read it out loud. It did start with “I, Keera Ann Fox, etc.” because I’d typed that part in before submitting the forms back on January 2. It’s form DS-4080, “Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of United States”.
The first part was just personalia, confirming my identity and such, but reading it aloud also reminded me of my very American past, and my niggling doubt had become more keen as I got to the oath part itself on the page:
I desire and hereby make a formal renunciation of my U.S. nationality, as provided by section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, and pursuant thereto, I hereby absolutely and entirely renounce my United States nationality together with all rights and privileges and all duties and allegiance and fidelity thereunto pertaining. I make this renunciation intentionally, voluntarily, and of my own free will, free of any duress or undue influence.
But as I starting saying the last sentence, something shifted. By the end of that sentence, I was sure my decision to give up this citizenship, to become wholly and only a Norwegian citizen, is the right one for me.
I signed the oath, too, in duplicate.
It’ll take a couple of months before I hear from the Department of State via the embassy. They will most likely approve my request and issue me my “Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States”. (Which I have read I should always bring with me when traveling to the US in future.)
There will be no follow-up meeting. Everything will be done via e-mail.
I left Mr. J. and the American water fountains. Back to the security cabin to retrieve my bin and my other worldly goods. I told the guards what my errand had been. The most talkative one was from Tromsø. We quipped back and forth about Bergen, its less than stellar soccer team, the problem with Drammen (he thought it was the worst place in Norway; I have no idea if he’s right), and his fondness for snow. He pronounced it “sny” (try to say “snee” with a disgusted sneer or an Elvis lip to approximate that). From what I heard from the others, all the nice embassy guards were from all over Norway. Made them laugh when they questioned what a Los Angeleno was doing in Bergen: “Meh, one west coast city is like another.”
And then I handed back my coat check ticket and left.
I took no picture of the embassy. It has never been nor will be my embassy. I was there for just over half an hour. When I left, heading back to the subway to go back into the city center, all I wanted was to go home. Home to Bergen.
And I wanted someone to hug me. Even Mr. J.
Because I got a divorce. I signed the papers. And it does make me cry.
*) I know embassies hire natives (that’s part of the deal of getting to squat in another country); I was just wondering when I’d encounter an American as I went through all the processes. I was also surprised at how many guards there were.