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New Complexities in Case of Dual Citizenship

by Garland M Baker on July 5, 2005

The Hot Dog Kid likes Gallo Pinto, too!

Many well wishers at this year’s Fourth of July celebration offered congratulatory comments regarding my article published in A.M. Costa Rica June 20 titled “Those who choose citizenship have long road.”

One such person asked me what I was going to do about the Acts or Conditions section on the DS-82 application form for U.S. passport renewal? How was I going to answer the question when it came time to renew my passport?

Picking up a form at the Embassy desk, I read the section more carefully. Here it is:

(If any of the below-mentioned acts or conditions has been performed by or apply to the applicant, the portion which applies should be lined out, and a supplementary statement under oath (or affirmation) by the applicant should be attached and made a part of this application.) I have not, since acquiring United States citizenship, been naturalized as a citizen of a foreign state; taken an oath or made an affirmation or other formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state; entered or served in the armed forces of a foreign state; accepted or performed the duties of any office, post, or employment under the government of a foreign state or political subdivision thereof; made a formal renunciation of nationality either in the United States, or before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state; or been convicted by a court or court martial of competent jurisdiction of committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, or conspiring to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force, the Government of the United States.)

Wow, the phrase buried in the text “I have not, since acquiring United States citizenship, been naturalized as a citizen of a foreign state” hit me like a brick.

What does it mean?

Well what it means is the U.S. government says a passport is not a right, for there are conditions assigned to it. According to the U.S. government a citizen does not have a free and unencumbered right to travel outside the geographic borders of the U.S. without the approval of the STATE.

It also means citizenship is not a total right as in Costa Rica, something that can not be taken away or lost.

Can U.S. citizenship be lost or your passport not be renewed because you decide to become a Tico or some other nationality?

This was the case for a long time. The only reason dual citizenship was accepted by the U.S. government was due to special circumstances where one had dual citizenship due to birth.

Further research into the matter found these “out-of-date” restrictions were shot down in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court and again in 1980. The statute books were updated in 1986.

The major Supreme Court case that changed the laws had to do with a Polish man named Beys Afroyim fighting to keep his U.S. citizenship after voting in an election in another country where he was also a citizen. He argued the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protected his right to citizenship. This amendment was originally meant to guarantee citizenship to freed slaves and their descendents after the civil war.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Supreme Court agreed with Afroyim and the law changed, noting that no law could be enacted which had the effect of depriving an American of his or her citizenship without his or her expression of agreement or acceptance. In other words, nowadays the only way to really lose your U.S. citizenship is by renouncing it.

But wait! There is a catch. Isn’t there always a catch when it comes to government matters? Renouncing ones U.S. citizenship can be expressed or implied as in “expression of agreement or acceptance” noted above.

Taking on another nationality can be an act where the U.S. government interprets an implied act of renouncing U.S. citizenship. There are many other acts, like joining another country’s army, voting, running for some office — all of which can be construed as an implied act of renouncing one’s U.S. citizenship.

There are also some caveats, of course. One who is a U.S. citizen is required to always enter the United States with his or her U.S. passport even if they have more than one because they have dual citizenship.

Another is that a U.S. citizen loses all rights to protection by the United States in the country of which they have accepted another nationality. There are others but these two are among the most important.

This all said, how am I going to answer the question on the form DS-82? Well I am going to put a line through the phrase, been naturalized as a citizen of a foreign state, and attach a statement indicating I became a Costa Rican naturalized citizen because I liked gallo pinto (rice and beans Costa Rican-style) and had no intention whatsoever of renouncing my U.S. citizenship in doing so.

In the past, in these situations, the U.S. representative accepting a passport renewal application would have you fill out another form, but now days they just ask you the question if you intend to give up your U.S. citizenship.

Obviously, my answer is no. If I lose my passport, I couldn’t take my family to the 4th of July party each year.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

expat99 June 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm

The statement that “…a U.S. citizen loses all rights to protection by the United States in the country of which they have accepted another nationality…” is not accurate based on the below reference.
http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86563
7 FAM 080 Page 3 of 6 U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 – Consular Affairs:

“It is the Department's policy to intervene on behalf of all U.S. citizens and U.S. noncitizen nationals, and make representations on their behalf, regardless of dual national status. While you should attempt to provide consular protection and services in accordance with this policy to the fullest extent permitted by the host country, you should make it clear to dual nationals that your ability to assist them may be limited.”

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Jairo March 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Mrs. Baker:
Who would believe that you had to become a Costa Rican citizen to enjoy Gallo Pinto? You can certainly do so being a citizen of Planet Mars. By the way, I came upon your article, because I am on the other side of the spectrum. I am Costa Rican and have lived in Wisconsin for 20 years. I want to become a United Sates citizen and was curious about dual citizenship.

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