Earlier this week The Kaplan Law Firm succeeded in having the U.S. citizenship of its client restored. The U.S. State Department had previously ruled that the client had lost the client’s citizenship by choosing to become a citizen of a foreign state.
Normally, Americans do not lose their citizenship upon naturalizing as foreign citizens, even if the foreign country’s naturalization process requires the individual to take an oath in which the person naturalizing purports to renounce his prior citizenship. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that, regardless of what he says or does, a U.S. citizen cannot lose his or her citizenship by foreign naturalization unless the citizen intends to lose that citizenship at the time of that naturalization. Consistent with this Supreme Court precedent, the State Department, which is responsible for adjudicating loss of citizenship cases, has adopted an administrative presumption that individuals who naturalize as citizens of a foreign country are deemed to have acted without the intent to lose their American citizenship.
However, despite this presumption, a person who naturalizes in a foreign country will be deemed to have lost his citizenship if he subsequently certifies to a State Department consular officer that, at the time he naturalized abroad, he did, in fact, intend to lose his citizenship. The individual represented by The Kaplan Law Firm had made such a statement to a consular officer. But the statement was made years afterward, at a time during which the individual was under considerable mental stress.
Matthew B. Kaplan, the principal of The Kaplan Law Firm, and a former State Department Foreign Service Officer, was able to marshal evidence, supported by appropriate legal argument, that convinced the Department that the client’s subsequent statement did not accurately reflect the client’s state of mind at the time the client actually naturalized in the foreign country. Consequently, the State Department reversed its earlier ruling and vacated the Certificate of Loss of Nationality (“CLN”) that had been issued to the firm’s client. The client is now a dual-national—a citizen of both the United States and of the country whose nationality he adopted.
We discussed some of the legal issues relating to loss of U.S. citizenship in an earlier post and also in this post. Individuals who want to challenge a determination by the Department of State that they have lost their citizenship are well advised to discuss the relevant legal issues with an attorney before raising the matter with the State Department because in many such cases unrepresented individuals make statements to the Department which actually undermine their case. Generally, such individuals would be best served by working with an attorney who is familiar with the unique legal issues involved in such cases. Notably, most immigration attorneys have no experience in seeking to vacate CLNs. In this case, for example, an earlier effort by an immigration attorney who had been retained by the client was unsuccessful.