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ArtI.S8.C4.1.6.1 Expatriation (Termination of Citizenship) Generally

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; . . .

Besides revoking citizenship fraudulently or unlawfully obtained through denaturalization, Congress may have the power to terminate citizenship as a result of an individual’s voluntary actions abroad that evince an intent to relinquish citizenship.1 Unlike its power over denaturalization, Congress’s power over expatriation does not derive from any specific enumerated power in the Constitution.2 But informed by the notion that an individual has the inherent right of expatriation, Congress has established a statutory framework that provides for the expatriation of U.S. citizens in certain specified circumstances.3

See Perez v. Brownell, 356 U.S. 44, 61 (1958), overruled on other grounds by Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967) (describing Congress’s power “to enact legislation depriving individuals of their American citizenship” ). back
See Afroyim, 387 U.S. at 257 ( “The Constitution of course, grants Congress no express power to strip people of their citizenship, whether in the exercise of the implied power to regulate foreign affairs or in the exercise of any specifically granted power.” ); Perez, 356 U.S. at 66 (Warren, C.J., dissenting) ( “The Constitution also provides that citizenship can be bestowed under a ‘uniform Rule of Naturalization, but there is no corresponding provision authorizing divestment. Of course, naturalization unlawfully procured can be set aside. But apart from this circumstance, the status of the naturalized citizen is secure.” ). back
Afroyim, 387 U.S. at 258 ( “By 1818, however, almost no one doubted the existence of the right of voluntary expatriation, but several judicial decisions had indicated that the right could not be exercised by the citizen without the consent of the Federal Government in the form of enabling legislation.” ); Perez, 356 U.S. at 66 (Warren, C.J., dissenting) ( “There is no question that citizenship may be voluntarily relinquished.” ). back