With thanks to tiger who alerted me to this, I am linking two posts authored by Stephen Flott of Flott & Co. PC The Accidental US Citizen. It furthers discussion we have been having here on these very questions for “Accidental Americans.”
[If the following legal opinion is correct, finally I will have done something right (in the US realm) for my developmentally delayed adult son by not having registered his “US Birth Abroad.” And, if this is true, I’ve just ducked damage by a major flood in southern Alberta and nonsensical US tax and reporting compliance for my son for the rest of my life and his — my good KARMA vessel is getting low. Of course, this is just one subset of those deemed “Accidental Americans.” In my common-sense view, NONE of ‘supposed’ US Persons Abroad who are somehow classified as “Accidental Americans” who had no choice to whom they were born or where they were born should be caught up in the absurdity. The only way to solve that is a change by the US to Residence-Based Taxation. Let’s get real; let’s get fair.]
Ms. X was born in the United States. She is a US citizen by birth. Her US citizenship is self-executing and non-consensual. Her birth certificate is all that is needed to establish her citizenship.
Let’s say she goes to Canada and enters as a landed immigrant. Her entry into Canada as a landed immigrant is not itself an expatriating act. Section 349(a)(1) and (2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provide that swearing an oath of allegiance to a foreign sovereign is an expatriating act if taken with intent to set aside US citizenship. As soon as Ms. X swears the Canadian citizenship oath before a Canadian Citizenship Court, she will become a Canadian citizen. If she swears the oath with intent to set aside her US citizenship, she will then complete a Form DS-4079 and establish that she relinquished her US citizen upon becoming a Canadian citizen. Her oath of allegiance to Canada is sufficient when combined with her statement of intent to extinguish her US citizenship. However, the mere fact of becoming a landed immigrant is not sufficient as it does not involve the taking of an oath of allegiance and thus, by itself, is not sufficient to expatriate her.
Mr. Y was born in Canada to a Canadian father and a US citizen mother who resided in the US long enough to give her the right to pass on US citizenship to him. However, his mother takes no steps to register his birth abroad or otherwise assert US citizenship and he has not done so either. Mr. Y is not a US citizen automatically, that is, his citizenship is not self-executing. The language in the Section 301(a) states: “The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:” [at which point the section lists seven subcategories, including subsection 7 dealing with children born outside the United States “of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen”]. Most people, including virtually all US lawyers interpret the “shall” to be mean Mr. Y automatically became a US citizen at birth.
However, I believe that “shall” in the context of subsection 7, where one of the child’s parents is not a US citizen and the child has obtained citizenship by birth or heritage of a country other than the United States, to mean that the child has the absolute right to US citizenship upon providing adequate proof of his heritage AND that his US citizen parent meets the residence requirements of the section.
However, Mr. Y’s citizenship is not “self-executing”. Someone must do something to establish his citizenship. His mother did not obtain a certificate of registration of birth abroad before Mr. Y turned 18 and cannot now do so. Mr. Y has not yet sought to assert US citizenship by obtaining proof of same which he would do by obtaining a US passport. That process would require him to present evidence of his US citizenship. He is, of course, free to do that at any time he wishes. However, until he takes some action, his US citizenship in an “inchoate right”, that is, something that he can assert and cannot be taken away from him by the US government. Clearly, he must be a “citizen” to obtain a passport. However, being “entitled” to citizenship is not the same as “being” a citizen. In other words, US citizenship in Mr. Y’s case is not self-executing.
In the absence of any action taken by Mr. Y, the question then turns to whether the US government could force him to obtain a US passport. Indeed, there is no case in which the US government has forced a person in Mr. Y’s position to obtain a US passport. Thus, the “automatic” citizenship position fails. The real question turns on whether US citizenship for those born outside the United States is mandatory. Clearly, it is not.
As a practical matter, Mr. Y has nothing in his official citizenship file in the United States. His Canadian passport indicates a place of birth in Canada. Thus, there is no outward evidence that he is a US citizen and, in the absence of obtaining a US passport, nothing to identify him as a US citizen. Both as a legal and practical matter, Mr. Y is not a US citizen and is not identifiable as a US citizen. He may, of course, choose to apply for a US passport and will undoubtedly obtain one should he do so.
Birthright Citizenship — The Absolutely Clear Case
All persons born within the borders of the United States are citizens. It does not matter if their mothers were in the U.S. legally (as tourists, for example) or illegally, or whether the children leave the United States the day they were born. It bears repeating: all persons born in the U.S. are automatically citizens. This is the absolute citizenship situation.
I left this comment, which is awaiting moderation:
calgary411 | June 29, 2013
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Thank you for this blog entry. We are discussing the very same at Comments. I will post as a new thread your above article. I am awaiting confirmation from Sylvia D. Johnson, General Consul, US Embassy in Ottawa, Canada that advice given in three instances as reported at Isaac Brock is indeed correct — that they do not have to go through the process to obtain US citizenship if they were not registered as births abroad to US parents to then be able to renounce that US citizenship.
We all (especially “Accidental Americans” born in a country abroad to US parent(s) but not registered as US births abroad) need absolute clarification on if there is an OPTION of US citizenship, to not be blindsided by the US further down the line (worst-case scenario). I want to know:
Is a person born abroad to US parents (with all the time definitions) automatically a citizen from the time of birth?
Does that person have to a claim to US citizenship if he/she so chooses upon becoming an adult?
I know that many don’t think this necessary, but I’d rather go forward with an absolute answer. I just think a big segment of US Persons Abroad should not have to find work-around’s to live normal lives in other countries. Why don’t we absolutely know?