THE IMMIGRATION & NATIONALITY ACT: The effects of renouncing U.S. citizenship



THE IMMIGRATION & NATIONALITY ACT
The effects of renouncing U.S. citizenship



Section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(5)) is the section of law that governs the ability of a United States citizen to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship. That section of law provides for the loss of nationality by voluntarily performing the following act with the intent to relinquish his or her U.S. nationality:

"(5) making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state , in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State"

B. ELEMENTS OF RENUNCIATION

A person wishing to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship must voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship:

1. appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer,

2. in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate); and

3. sign an oath of renunciation

Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect. Because of the provisions of section 349(a)(5), Americans cannot effectively renounce their citizenship by mail, through an agent, or while in the United States. In fact, U.S. courts have held certain attempts to renounce U.S. citizenship to be ineffective on a variety of grounds, as discussed below.

C. REQUIREMENT - RENOUNCE ALL RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES

In the case of Colon v. U.S. Department of State , 2 F.Supp.2d 43 (1998), plaintiff was a United States citizen and resident of Puerto Rico, who executed an oath of renunciation before a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Colon’s petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State to approve a Certificate of Loss of Nationality in the case because the plaintiff wanted to retain one of the primary benefits of U.S. citizenship while claiming he was not a U.S. citizen. The Court described the plaintiff as a person, "claiming to renounce all rights and privileges of United States citizenship, [while] Plaintiff wants to continue to exercise one of the fundamental rights of citizenship, namely to travel freely throughout the world and when he wants to, return and reside in the United States." See also Jose Fufi Santori v. United States of America , 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 16299 (1994) for a similar case.

A person who wants to renounce U.S. citizenship cannot decide to retain some of the privileges of citizenship, as this would be logically inconsistent with the concept of renunciation. Thus, such a person can be said to lack a full understanding of renouncing citizenship and/or lack the necessary intent to renounce citizenship, and the Department of State will not approve a loss of citizenship in such instances.

D. DUAL NATIONALITY / STATELESSNESS

Persons intending to renounce U.S. citizenship should be aware that, unless they already possess a foreign nationality, they may be rendered stateless and, thus, lack the protection of any government. They may also have difficulty traveling as they may not be entitled to a passport from any country. Even if they were not stateless, they would still be required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States, or show that they are eligible for admission pursuant to the terms of the Visa Waiver Pilot Program (VWPP). If found ineligible for a visa or the VWPP to come to the U.S., a renunciant, under certain circumstances, could be barred from entering the United States. Nonetheless, renunciation of U.S. citizenship may not prevent a foreign country from deporting that individual back to the United States in some non-citizen status.

E. TAX & MILITARY OBLIGATIONS /NO ESCAPE FROM PROSECUTION

Also, persons who wish to renounce U.S. citizenship should also be aware that the fact that a person has renounced U.S. citizenship may have no effect whatsoever on his or her U.S. tax or military service obligations (contact the Internal Revenue Service or U.S. Selective Service for more information). In addition, the act of renouncing U.S. citizenship will not allow persons to avoid possible prosecution for crimes which they may have committed in the United States, or escape the repayment of financial obligations previously incurred in the United States or incurred as United States citizens abroad.

F. RENUNCIATION FOR MINOR CHILDREN

Parents cannot renounce U.S. citizenship on behalf of their minor children. Before an oath of renunciation will be administered under Section 349(a)(5) of the INA, a person under the age of eighteen must convince a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer that he/she fully understands the nature and consequences of the oath of renunciation, is not subject to duress or undue influence, and is voluntarily seeking to renounce his/her U.S. citizenship.

G. IRREVOCABILITY OF RENUNCIATION

Finally, those contemplating a renunciation of U.S. citizenship should understand that the act is irrevocable, except as provided in section 351 of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1483), and cannot be canceled or set aside absent successful administrative or judicial appeal. (Section 351(b) of the INA provides that an applicant who renounced his or her U.S. citizenship before the age of eighteen can have that citizenship reinstated if he or she makes that desire known to the Department of State within six months after attaining the age of eighteen. See also Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations, section 50.20).

The Department of State is responsible for determining the citizenship status of a person located outside the United States or in connection with the application for a U.S. passport while in the United States.

POTENTIALLY EXPATRIATING ACTS

Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481), as amended, states that U.S. citizens are subject to loss of citizenship if they perform certain specified acts voluntarily and with the intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Briefly stated, these acts include:

1. obtaining naturalization in a foreign state (Sec. 349 (a) (1) INA);

2. taking an oath, affirmation or other formal declaration to a foreign state or its political subdivisions (Sec. 349 (a) (2) INA);

3. entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state (Sec. 349 (a) (3) INA);

4. accepting employment with a foreign government if (a) one has the nationality of that foreign state or (b) an oath or declaration of allegiance is required in accepting the position (Sec. 349 (a) (4) INA);

5. formally renouncing U.S. citizenship before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer outside the United States (sec. 349 (a) (5) INA);

6. formally renouncing U.S. citizenship within the U.S. (but only under strict, narrow statutory conditions) (Sec. 349 (a) (6) INA);

7. conviction for an act of treason (Sec. 349 (a) (7) INA
ADMINISTRATIVE STANDARD OF EVIDENCE

As already noted, the actions listed above can cause loss of U.S. citizenship only if performed voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. The Department has a uniform administrative standard of evidence based on the premise that U.S. citizens intend to retain United States citizenship when they obtain naturalization in a foreign state, subscribe to a declaration of allegiance to a foreign state, serve in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities with the United States, or accept non-policy level employment with a foreign government.

DISPOSITION OF CASES WHEN ADMINISTRATIVE PREMISE IS APPLICABLE

In light of the administrative premise discussed above, a person who:

1. is naturalized in a foreign country;

2. takes a routine oath of allegiance to a foreign state;

3. serves in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities with the United States, or

4. accepts non-policy level employment with a foreign government,

and in so doing wishes to retain U.S. citizenship need not submit prior to the commission of a potentially expatriating act a statement or evidence of his or her intent to retain U.S. citizenship since such an intent will be presumed.

When, as the result of an individual's inquiry or an individual's application for registration or a passport it comes to the attention of a U.S. consular officer that a U.S. citizen has performed an act made potentially expatriating by Sections 349(a)(1), 349(a)(2), 349(a)(3) or 349(a)(4) as described above, the consular officer will simply ask the applicant if there was intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship when performing the act. If the answer is no, the consular officer will certify that it was not the person's intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship and, consequently, find that the person has retained U.S. citizenship.

PERSONS WHO WISH TO RELINQUISH U.S. CITIZENSHIP

If the answer to the question regarding intent to relinquish citizenship is yes , the person concerned will be asked to complete a questionnaire to ascertain his or her intent toward U.S. citizenship. When the questionnaire is completed and the voluntary relinquishment statement is signed by the expatriate, the consular officer will proceed to prepare a certificate of loss of nationality. The certificate will be forwarded to the Department of State for consideration and, if appropriate, approval.

An individual who has performed any of the acts made potentially expatriating by statute who wishes to lose U.S. citizenship may do so by affirming in writing to a U.S. consular officer that the act was performed with an intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Of course, a person always has the option of seeking to formally renounce U.S. citizenship abroad in accordance with Section 349 (a) (5) INA.

DISPOSITION OF CASES WHEN ADMINISTRATIVE PREMISE IS INAPPLICABLE

The premise that a person intends to retain U.S. citizenship is not applicable when the individual:

1. formally renounces U.S. citizenship before a consular officer;

2. serves in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities with the United States;

3. takes a policy level position in a foreign state;

4. is convicted of treason; or

5. performs an act made potentially expatriating by statute accompanied by conduct which is so inconsistent with retention of U.S. citizenship that it compels a conclusion that the individual intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship. (Such cases are very rare.)

Cases in categories 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be developed carefully by U.S. consular officers to ascertain the individual's intent toward U.S. citizenship.

APPLICABILITY OF ADMINISTRATIVE PREMISE TO PAST CASES

The premise established by the administrative standard of evidence is applicable to cases adjudicated previously. Persons who previously lost U.S. citizenship may wish to have their cases reconsidered in light of this policy.

DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 349(A)(4) INA WITH RESPECT TO A PARTICULAR CASE SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO THE BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS' OFFICE OF POLICY REVIEW AND INTERAGENCY LIAISON.
 
The Department of State is the U.S. government agency responsible for determining whether a person located outside the United States is a U.S. citizen or national. A U.S. citizen who assumes foreign public office may come within the loss of nationality statute, which is Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA), as amended, (8 U.S.C. 1481) or other legal provisions as discussed below.

Currently, there is no general prohibition on U.S. citizens' running for an elected office in a foreign government. Under Article 1, section 9, clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, however, U.S. federal government officers may not accept foreign government employment without the consent of Congress. See 22 CFR Part 3a regarding acceptance of employment from foreign governments by members of the uniformed services.

With respect to loss of nationality, 349(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended, is the applicable section of law. Pursuant to 349(a)(4), accepting, serving in, or performing duties in a foreign government is a potentially expatriating act if the person is a national of that country or takes an oath of allegiance in connection with the position. Thus, the threshold question is whether the person's actions fall within the scope of this provision. Information used to make this determination may include official confirmation from the foreign government about the person's nationality, and whether an oath of allegiance is required.

In addition, the prefatory language of section 349 requires that expatriating act be performed voluntarily and "with the intention of relinquishing U.S. nationality." Thus, if it is determined that the person's action falls within the purview of 349(a)(4) INA, an adjudication of the person's intent must be made.

The Department has a uniform administrative standard of evidence based on the premise that U.S. citizens intend to retain U.S. citizenship when they obtain naturalization in a foreign state, subscribe to routine declarations of allegiance to a foreign state, serve in the military forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities against the United States, or accept non-policy level employment with a foreign government. This administrative premise is not applicable when an individual seeks public elected office in a foreign state or other policy-level position. In such cases, the Department of State will carefully ascertain the individual's intent toward U.S. citizenship.

Because the Department's administrative practice presumes that U.S. citizens employed in non-policy level positions in a foreign government do not have the requisite intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship, there are no efforts to seek out or adjudicate the citizenship of citizens who fall into this category of employment. On the other hand, because there is no administrative presumption that U.S. citizens who hold policy-level positions in foreign governments necessarily intend to retain their U.S. citizenship, efforts are made to fully adjudicate such cases to determine the individual's intent. (Service in a country's legislative body is considered by the Department to be a policy level position.)

In some cases, it would appear that holding a foreign office may be incompatible with maintaining U.S. citizenship (e.g. if the position necessarily entails absolute immunity from U.S. law and the powers of the office are exercised in a manner contrary to United States law), although even this situation would be examined on a case by case basis. The Department does not normally consider foreign government service alone as sufficient to sustain the burden of showing loss of U.S. citizenship by a preponderance of the evidence when the individual has explicitly expressed a contrary intent. This is particularly true when the individual continues to file U.S. tax returns, enters and leaves the U.S. on a U.S. passport (as required by law), maintains close ties in the U.S. (such as maintaining a residence in the U.S.), and takes other actions consistent with an intent to retain U.S. citizenship. Conversely, a person who publicly denied an intent to retain citizenship, and/or who exercised the authorities of a very high-level foreign office in a manner flagrantly violative of United States law or otherwise inconsistent with allegiance to the United States, stopped paying his/her taxes, traveled to the United States on a foreign passport, and abandoned any residence in the United States might be found to have intended to relinquish U.S. citizenship notwithstanding certain statements to the contrary. Therefore, the Department will consider statements, as well as inferences drawn from the person's conduct, in determining one's intent to remain a U.S. citizen. Intent is determined on a case-by-case basis in light of the facts and circumstances of each individual's case. If expressed intent and conduct are consistent with a lack of intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship, the Department would generally conclude that no loss has occurred.

Renunciation is the most unequivocal way in which a person can manifest an intention to relinquish U.S. citizenship. Please consider the effects of renouncing U.S. citizenship, described above, before taking this serious and irrevocable action.

If you have any further questions regarding this matter, please contact:

Express Mail:

Director
Office of Policy Review and Inter-Agency Liaison (CA/OCS/PRI)
Overseas Citizens Services

Bureau of Consular Affairs
U.S. Department of State
4th Floor
2100 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
Phone: 202-736-9110
Fax: 202-736-9111
Email: ASKPRI@state.gov

Regular Mail

Director
Office of Policy Review and Inter-Agency Liaison (CA/OCS/PRI)
Overseas Citizens Services
Bureau of Consular Affairs
U.S. Department of State
SA-29, 4th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20520

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