An Accidental American is a citizen of a foreign country other than the U.S. who may be considered an American citizen under the U.S. nationality law. This rule leaves an opportunity to pass citizenship through a few generations without people realizing it. You do not have to register with the U.S. government or apply for a passport to become a U.S. citizen.
Are you an Accidental American?
Typically, you only discover as an adult that you are a U.S. person. There are different ways that you could have obtained American citizenship without being aware of it, which are:
- By being born in the foreign country to one U.S. citizen parent who emigrated from the U.S.
- Or you were born in the U.S. to foreign parents who were temporarily residing in the country for work, study or other reasons, and then returned to their home country shortly afterward.
- Or by acquiring another citizenship, thinking that it ended the American one.
At the same time as finding out about their new status, many Accidental Americans also become aware of the U.S. tax filing requirements. They are scared of penalties they can face for being non-compliant. But it’s important to understand that Accidental Americans have non-willfully violated tax laws. It means they were previously unaware of their obligation to pay U.S. taxes. Because of that, they are eligible to use the Streamlined Procedures! This IRS tax amnesty program allows them to become tax compliant without facing penalties. You will need to file the last 3 years of U.S. tax returns and six years of FBAR. You report your financial accounts abroad if they have had an aggregate value of $10,000 or more at any time during the tax year.