Article I, Section 8, Clause 4:
[The Congress shall have Power . . . ] To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States; . . .
In 1907, Congress passed a law on the expatriation of U.S. citizens.1 The legislation provided that a U.S. citizen was “deemed to have expatriated himself when he has been naturalized in any foreign state in conformity with its laws, or when he has taken an oath of allegiance to any foreign state.” 2 The law also provided that, if a naturalized U.S citizen resided for two years in his or her native country, or for five years in any other foreign country, there was a rebuttable presumption that the U.S. citizen “ceased to be an American citizen.” 3 Further, the law provided that “any American woman who marries a foreigner shall take the nationality of her husband,” but allowed the woman to resume her U.S. citizenship upon the termination of the marriage if certain requirements were met.4
In 1940, Congress passed a more comprehensive nationality law that enumerated various circumstances in which a U.S. citizen (whether by birth or naturalization) would lose citizenship.5 These circumstances (subject to certain exceptions) included obtaining citizenship in a foreign country; taking an oath of allegiance to a foreign country; serving in the armed forces of a foreign country; accepting certain foreign employment; voting in a political election in a foreign country; making a formal renunciation of nationality in a foreign country; conviction by military court martial of desertion during a time of war; and committing an act of treason against (or seeking to overthrow) the United States.6 The statute also clarified when a naturalized U.S. citizen would lose citizenship by residing in his or her native country or another foreign country.7
Through enactment of the INA in 1952, Congress expanded the range of conduct that would trigger a loss of U.S. citizenship.8 The INA added, as grounds for expatriation, the acts of making a formal renunciation of nationality in the United States during a time of war, and leaving or remaining outside the United States during a time of war or national emergency to avoid military service.9 The INA also provided that a naturalized U.S. citizen would lose nationality by “having a continuous residence for three years in the territory of a foreign state of which he was formerly a national or in which the place of his birth is situated,” or by “having a continuous residence for five years in any other foreign state or states.” 10 The INA did not contain a similar foreign residence restriction for native-born U.S. citizens.
- See Act of Mar. 2, 1907, ch. 2534, § 2, 34 Stat. 1228, 1228.
- Id. However, no U.S. citizen could expatriate himself when the United States was in a state of war. Id.
- Id. The presumption could be “overcome on the presentation of satisfactory evidence to a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States.” Id.
- Id. § 3. Conversely, a foreign-born woman who obtained U.S. citizenship through marriage to a U.S. citizen was deemed to have retained her citizenship after termination of that marriage if she continued to reside in the United States (unless she formally renounced her U.S. citizenship). Id. § 4. If the woman resided abroad, she could retain her U.S. citizenship by registering abroad with a U.S. consul within one year after termination of the marriage. Id.
- See Nationality Act of 1940, ch. 876, § 401, 54 Stat. 1137, 1168–69.
- Id. § 401.
- Id. §§ 404, 405, 406. The law did not provide for the expatriation of U.S. citizen women who married non-U.S. citizens, as the 1907 law had required.
- See Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, Pub. L. No. 82-414, § 349(a), 66 Stat. 163, 267 (codified as amended at 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)). The INA stated that that anyone who committed or performed one of the enumerated acts was “conclusively presumed” to have done the act voluntarily if that person was “a national of the state in which the act was performed and had been physically present in such state for a period or periods totaling ten years or more immediately prior to such act.” Id. § 349(b).
- Id. § 349(a) (codified as amended at 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)). The INA provided that no U.S. citizen could expatriate himself while in the United States (except if he or she made a formal renunciation of nationality in the United States during a time of war, was convicted by military court martial of desertion during a time of war, or committed an act of treason against the United States), but that expatriation would occur as a result of the performance of one of the enumerated acts within the United States when the individual subsequently resided outside the United States. Id. § 351(a) (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1483(a)).
- Id. § 352(a), repealed by Act of Oct. 10, 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-432, § 2, 92 Stat. 1046. The INA provided for some exceptions to this restriction, such as for those who maintained their residence abroad in the employment of the U.S. Government, those whose residence abroad occurred at least twenty-five years after their naturalization and after they reached the age of sixty, those who were prevented from returning to the United States for health reasons, those who resided abroad for educational purposes, and certain war veterans and their immediate families. Id. §§ 353, 354, repealed by Act of Oct. 10, 1978, Pub. L. No. 95-432, § 2, 92 Stat. 1046.