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A few days ago the U.S. Department of State restored the U.S. citizenship of a client of the The Kaplan Law Firm. The client, a resident of an Asian country, had formally renounced his citizenship before a State Department consular officer several years ago. We were able to convince the Department that our client’s actions at the time of his renunciation were not knowing and voluntary and that, consequently, they should have no legal effect.

As we noted in a previous post, in which we discussed a prior success in convincing the State Department to vacate a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN) that had been issued to another client of The Kaplan Law Firm, the Department has established an informal procedure for individuals who want to challenge loss of citizenship decisions by the Department, even when the loss was the result of an apparently voluntary decision to renounce American citizenship. The informality of the procedure, however, can be a trap for the unwary because it encourages individuals to communicate with the State Department prior to receiving competent legal advice. Individuals who chose to make their own arguments to the Department about why they should not have lost their citizenship may inadvertently make statements that undermine their case.

Voluntariness is a key issue in these cases because the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1967 in the landmark case of Afroyim v. Rusk that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that each citizen has “a constitutional right to remain a citizen…unless he voluntarily relinquishes that citizenship.”  

Anyone trying to regain their U.S. citizenship would be well advised to contact an attorney knowledgeable in this specialized area of the law. The Kaplan Law Firm’s Matthew B. Kaplan, a former Department of State Foreign Service Officer, is one such attorney. This legal practice area, it should be noted, is separate and distinct from conventional immigration law and few immigration attorneys have experience in working with the State Department on issues of loss of nationality.