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Matt Kaplan has obtained a decision restoring his client’s American citizenship. The client had lost his citizenship after renouncing it at a U.S. Embassy in Europe. Last week the U.S. Department of State agreed with Mr. Kaplan’s argument that the client’s renunciation was not valid because it was not a voluntary act made with a full understanding of the consequences of renunciation.

The United States Department of State is the principal executive branch agency responsible for determining who is a U.S. citizen. If the Department determines that a citizen has committed certain expatriating acts it may determine that that person has lost their citizenship and issue a Certificate of Loss of Nationality to that effect. A determination by the State Department that a person has lost his citizenship because of renunciation or for any other reason can be challenged in an administrative proceeding before the Department. There is no time limit for a person to challenge his or her loss of nationality through the State Department. Loss of U.S. citizenship can also be challenged in the federal courts, though time limits and other procedural restrictions apply. In renunciation cases the focus is generally on the renunciant’s state of mind at the moment of renunciation. Although the State Department’s procedure for challenging loss of citizenship is relatively informal, citizenship law is complex. Persons seeking to restore their American citizenship are well-advised to consult with a knowledgeable attorney before raising the issue with the Department, especially because unrepresented parsons sometimes make statements to the Department that undermine their case.

Department of State adjudication of loss of nationality cases appears to have largely been on hold since early 2020, apparently because of the COVID epidemic and, even more so, the impact of an internal Department of State reorganization that moved the attorneys who review these cases to a different bureau within the Department. The Department’s recent decision in The Kaplan Law Firm’s case, however, suggests that these cases are now likely to move more expeditiously through the Department’s review process.

Matthew B. Kaplan is The Kaplan Law Firm’s principal attorney and a former State Department Foreign Service Officer. The Kaplan Law Firm is one of the few law firms in the United States which has a specialized practice focused on assisting persons who have lost their American citizenship in getting back that citizenship. The firm has had considerable success in reversing State Department determinations that a person has lost their U.S. citizenship, including in instances of renunciation, but the result of any specific case is highly dependent on the relevant facts.