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Can you get your U.S. citizenship back after renouncing it or after losing it for another reason?  In a number of cases the answer is yes.  The Kaplan Law Firm represents former American citizens who seek to get back their U.S. citizenship after they have lost it. 

American citizenship may be lost for many reasons, including renunciation or relinquishment of citizenship or the commission of certain other acts (for example, naturalizing as a citizen of another country) which the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) of 1952 designate as potentially expatriating. Importantly, decisions by the United States Supreme Court have greatly narrowed the grounds on which a U.S. citizen can lose his or her citizenship.  One of the most important of these decisions is Vance v. Terrazas, decided in 1980. Generally, a U.S. citizen can only lose his or her citizenship by committing a potentially expatriating act voluntarily, with the intention of giving up citizenship, while understanding the consequences of doing so.  Individuals who have lost their citizenship are issued a Certificate of Loss of Nationality (“CLN”) by the U.S. Department of State.

The loss of U.S. nationality, including instances in which the loss was caused by voluntary renunciation, can be challenged in an administrative proceeding with the Department of State or by filing a lawsuit seeking to regain U.S. citizenship in a United States District Court.   It may be possible to regain citizenship by demonstrating in one of these two forums that the renunciation of citizenship was done under duress or was the result of a psychological condition that inhibited decision-making. As a practical matter, seeking reinstatement of citizenship through a lawsuit is expensive and procedurally difficult, in part because of the costs of federal litigation, confusing rules regarding the proper court in which to bring such a lawsuit, and a five-year statute of limitations.  Although the State Department’s administrative procedure is relatively informal, individuals intending to ask the State Department to restore their citizenship would benefit by consulting with an attorney knowledgeable in this specialized area of law before doing so. Persons unfamiliar with the law who reach out to the Department on their own often make statements that may actually undermine their case. Many of the State Department’s regulations regarding regaining or restoration of U.S. citizenship are contained in the Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual at 7 FAM 1200.  

The State Department has enormous discretion as to whether or not to vacate a CLN. Unfortunately, the process is opaque–the Department’s rulings on specific cases, and the reasons for those rulings, are not publicly available.  It was not always so.  Before 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 Bureau of Consular Affairs and Office of the Legal Adviser.  (Prior to a 2020 State Department reorganization the Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor was not involved in routine loss of nationality cases.)  Presumably, however, the Board of Appellate Review’s numerous decisions on citizenship issues over a period of decades still carry precedential authority. 

The Department has adopted an administrative presumption that U.S. Citizens do not intend to lose their citizenship when they commit most statutorily designated potentially de-naturalizing acts (except for voluntary renunciation). Given this administrative presumption, 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. 

The Kaplan Law Firm’s Principal Attorney, Matthew B. Kaplan, is a former State Department Foreign Service Officer with years of experience in loss of nationality issues. The Firm has had considerable success in having CLNs vacated and U.S. citizenship restored, even when citizenship was lost because of renunciation. The process is not quick and simple, but internet “experts” who insist that, in all cases, renunciation is “irrevocable and irreversible” are wrong. Persons who want their citizenship reinstated and who are interested in speaking to an attorney with experience in having American citizenship restored can contact Mr. Kaplan  at mbkaplan@thekaplanlawfirm.com or to contact The Kaplan Law Firm through this web page.