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Citizens

Surrender Of Citizenship

Unlike some nations, the United States permits expatriation, the voluntary relinquishment of one's citizenship. A U.S. citizen can lose his or her citizenship by declaring that he or she no longer wishes to be a citizen or to owe allegiance to the United States, or by performing a VOLUNTARY ACT that constitutes the surrender of citizenship, as prescribed by law.

The test of whether an ABANDONMENT of citizenship is voluntary depends on whether the person's acts were of his or her own choice and pertained to allegiance to the United States. If they were, federal law provides that one has intentionally and voluntarily surrendered his or her right to American citizenship.

A loss of citizenship can occur by serving in the military of another nation; serving as a public official in a foreign country that requires an oath of allegiance to that country; and attempting to overthrow the U.S. government, which is established by a conviction for the crime.

Conduct that might be construed as a renunciation of citizenship sometimes is insufficient to prove voluntary expatriation. If a person merely enjoys the benefits that are available in another country, the surrender of his or her U.S. citizenship is not necessarily established.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the power of Congress to specify conduct that constitutes expatriation, but the right to citizenship is so substantial that such actions must be closely related to a conspicuous movement of allegiance away from the United States. Although some courts have ruled that Congress never is empowered to deprive the native born of citizenship, this view is not in accordance with current law.

Conviction of a crime can result in a partial deprivation of rights of citizenship. Prior to the twentieth century under English and American COMMON LAW, convicts actually lost their citizenship, which was known in some jurisdictions as civil death. Today, however, only some rights are divested, even if the applicable law is called "loss of citizenship."

A state is empowered to deny someone the right to vote after his or her conviction of a felony or an "infamous crime," such as BRIBERY or perjury. This denial of a right of citizenship can remain in effect until the completion of the sentence, including periods of PAROLE, or it might be permanent. A pardon from the president or a governor can restore such rights, however. Some statutes even authorize the courts to restore rights of citizenship upon proof of the rehabilitation of the former prisoner.

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