Efforts to Regain U.S. Citizenship

I currently represent an individual overseas who resides in Asia. He was born a U.S. citizen and also a citizen of the country where he now lives. He lived in the United States for some time. Several years ago he formally renounced his U.S. citizenship at the U.S. Embassy in the country where he now lives and was issued a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) by the State Department. I am working with him to try and have the State Department vacate his loss of nationality, which would mean that his U.S. citizenship would be restored.

One of the few ways to have a CLN issued based on renunciation vacated is to show that the renunciation was not done knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. It may be possible to make such a showing by demonstrating that the renunciation of citizenship was done under duress or was the result of a psychological condition that inhibited decision-making.

The State Department has enormous discretion as to whether or not to reverse a CLN decision based on renunciation. Prior to 2008 an independent quasi-judicial body within the State Department, the Board of Appellate Review, decided appeals to determinations of loss of citizenship. Now that this body has been abolished appeals are handled by the Department’s Legal Adviser’s Office on an informal basis. Presumably, however, the Board of Appellate review’s numerous decisions on citizenship issues over a period of decades still carry precedential authority. Appeals to regain one’s nationality can be made by letter to the Legal Adviser’s Office without an attorney. But acting without an attorney may not be wise as a person unfamiliar with the law may well inadvertently convey information that might actually undermine their argument that their citizenship should be restored.

Most cases involving loss of U.S. citizenship involve voluntary renunciation. In theory, under the Immigration and Nationality Act there are other ways to lose one’s U.S. citizenship aside from renunciation, such as naturalizing as a citizen of a foreign nation or accepting employment from a foreign government under certain circumstances. But the courts have held that such actions are only de-naturalizing if they are accompanied by an intent to lose U.S. Citizenship. And the State Department has adopted an administrative presumption that U.S. Citizens do not intend to lose their citizenship when they commit most such statutorily designated potentially de-naturalizing acts (except for voluntary renunciation). In fact, given this administrative presumption, even individuals who were in the past issued a CLN for acts other than renunciation may well be entitled to have that CLN vacated and their citizenship restored. A useful State Department fact sheet on loss of nationality can be found here.