If you have a non-U.S. travel document with a U.S. birthplace, you may face trouble entering U.S. territory unless you can demonstrate that you’re no longer a U.S. citizen. But the State Department might take more than a year from the time of your final visit to the consulate to give you a CLN. Worse yet, there’s always the possibility that they’ll find some legally dubious reason to “reject” your renunciation. So would-be former U.S. Persons could be stuck for a long period as “Schrödinger citizens” — neither citizens nor non-citizens, with no proof whatsoever of your status.
Which leads to the question: what if you need to go to the U.S. while you’re stuck in this limbo? Eido Inoue, who comments here on occasion, just wrote a post about this very topic:
For Americans, there is a time when you apply for relinquishment of your U.S. citizenship and you send your U.S. passport to the State Department for processing. However, as you as still technically a U.S. citizen until the U.S. State Department has issued you a CLN (Certificate of Loss of Nationality), you are issued a letter from the embassy explaining that you are in the process and your U.S. passport is in possession of the State Department. This letter is solely for travel to the United States, and America requires those who are U.S. nationals to use their U.S. passport when travelling to/from the United States, regardless of what other passports or nationalities you may possess.
Of course, in order to return to your home country once your visit to the U.S. is over, you’ll need some other sort of travel document. Japan at least allows former U.S. citizens to naturalise first (and thus become eligible to obtain a Japanese passport), and then declare their Japanese naturalisation as a relinquishing act to the U.S. government. Other countries, however, forbid dual citizenship so strictly that they require you to show a CLN before you are naturalised. For people from most countries, this isn’t a problem because renunciation of their former citizenship is a quick and easy process — the Indian consulate-general in Hong Kong, for example, is reported to process renunciations in under an hour!
Indians may lament that they have the world’s worst bureaucracy, but they make the State Department look positively speedy. If you’re an American, you could end up spending an hour just standing in line for your renunciation appointment, and you might have to go for more than a year not having any passport at all. In the interim, we’re stuck with stateless persons’ travel documents (like Hong Kong’s Document of Identity for Visa Purposes), which make it very hard to get transit visas for any countries we might pass through en route to the U.S. and on the way back. And forget taking any cross-border weekend trips.
My questions: have you ever been in this situation? Does anyone know how long you’re allowed to spend in the U.S. on one of these travel letters? Is there a possibility that it would affect the approval of your renunciation?