Loss of U.S. Citizenship

Loss of nationality, also known as expatriation, means the loss of citizenship status properly acquired, whether by birth in the United States (all persons born in the U.S., with the exception of children of certain foreign diplomats, are born U.S. citizens), through birth abroad to U.S. citizen parents, or by naturalization.

Questions may arise whether (and when) a person has lost U.S. citizenship. In most cases, U.S. nationality is lost only when a U.S. citizen voluntarily commits an act that is designated by law to be expatriating with the intent to give up U.S. citizenship and such act is documented by a Certificate of Loss of Nationality issued by the U.S. Department of State.

An expatriating act may either be an act of relinquishment (i.e. an expatriating act committed in the past but documented in the present), or an act of renunciation (a declaration made to a consular officer in the present and documented in the present). Under current law, there are seven different acts that may be expatriating:

  • Naturalizing in a foreign state upon one’s own application after age 18;
  • Taking an oath, affirmation, or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state after age 18;
  • Entering or serving in the armed forces of a foreign state engaged in hostilities against the United States OR serving as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in the armed forces of a foreign state;
  • Accepting employment with a foreign government or a political subdivision thereof after age 18 if:
    • (a) One has the nationality of that foreign state OR
    • (b) An oath or declaration of allegiance is required in accepting the position;
  • Formally renouncing citizenship before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer outside the United States;
  • Making a formal written renunciation of citizenship within the United States during a time of war;
  • Conviction of an act of treason or attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government.

A person who has performed any of the above potentially expatriating acts, who wishes to lose U.S. nationality does so by affirming before a U.S. consular officer that the act was performed voluntarily with the intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship. An act accepted as relinquishing results in loss of nationality effective the date the act was performed; the Department of State confirms the loss of citizenship through issuance of a Certificate of Loss of Nationality backdated to the date of the act. Conversely, an act deemed renunciatory results in loss of nationality effective on the date the applicant makes formal renunciation and the Certificate of Loss of Nationality is dated as such.

Expatriation matters are complex and fact-specific; acts committed after the performance of a relinquishing act may affect whether the U.S. government concurs that citizenship was lost. The advice of a competent, U.S. licensed lawyer should be sought in expatriation matters.

Our attorneys handle the nationality-related aspects of an expatriation case, including: whether you are a U.S. citizen, whether you have committed an expatriating act in the past or whether you are instead a candidate for renunciation, how to document your loss of U.S. citizenship, and other attendant immigration issues. However, expatriation may have tax consequences, and our attorneys do not give tax advice. We advise all clients to retain competent tax counsel to identify tax issues that may be inherent in the expatriation process as it applies to them and to coordinate resolution of these issues with the nationality-related aspects of the case.