Minors making Major Decisions – Voluntarily Relinquishing U.S. Citizenship as a Minor (Guest Post – Immigration Law)
Minors making major decisions – voluntarily relinquishing U.S. citizenship as a minor [No Tax Discussion]
This is a guest post from immigration lawyer Mr. Jan Bejar –
**Relinquishing U.S citizenship as a minor can be a major undertaking given the irrevocable and important nature of the act. Parents and guardians cannot relinquish the U.S. citizenship of their children. As the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual states, “Expatriation, like marriage and voting, is a personal elective right that cannot be exercised by another.”
If a minor wants to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship, then the minor must appear in person before a U.S. consular or diplomatic officer in a foreign country (normally at a U.S. embassy or consulate) and sign an oath of renunciation. As with any voluntary renunciation of U.S. citizenship regardless of age, the consular officer must be convinced that the minor is renouncing voluntarily, with a knowing appreciation of the consequences. The Department of State is keenly aware that parents often pressure their minor sons and daughters to renounce citizenship, and it takes into account parental pressure when determining if the minor’s renunciation is truly voluntarily and a decision made of the minor’s own free will. According to the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs manual, “[t]he younger the minor is at the time of renunciation, the more influence the parent is assumed to have.”
The Department of State presumes that minors who are under 16 years old are not sufficiently mature enough and cannot have the knowing intent to decide to renounce their citizenship. In addition to this presumption, the consular officers must determine whether the minor is sufficiently mature and whether the minor fully understands the consequences, even if there is no any evidence of parental pressure. The minor who intends to renounce his or her U.S. citizenship should be ready to present documents showing his or her maturity, such as but not limited to report cards, letters from non-family members, proof of community service or other extra-curricular activities, proof of employment, etc. Additionally, the minor should be able to articulate his or her understanding of the consequences of expatriation and reasons for requesting expatriation. The officer will interview the minor without the parents present and with a witness present. The officer will document every interaction with the minor and provide a written opinion as to why the minor is mature enough to renounce and fully understands and appreciates the consequences of renunciation.
When a minor is permitted to renounce, under federal law the minor has a six-month window following his or her 18th birthday to reclaim U.S. citizenship. To reclaim citizenship, he or she may go to any U.S. embassy or consulate, submit a passport application, and take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. Upon reclaiming his or her U.S. citizenship, the renunciation is revoked as if it never happened. After the six-month window, the only way to reclaim U.S. citizenship is to request that the Department of State review the decision to issue the Certificate of Loss of Nationality and submit evidence supporting the argument that the renunciation was not knowing or voluntary.
In my experience, the Department of State will consider such claims and vacate Certificates of Loss of Nationality where there is evidence of undue parental or other outside influence, but a minor should never count on this when making a decision to renounce U.S. citizenship.
 7 FAM 1211(b)
 7 FAM 1292(i)(2)
 See 7 FAM 1292(i)
 INA § 351(b), 8 U.S.C. § 1483(b)
Jan Joseph Bejar, Esq.
(For: JAN JOSEPH BEJAR, APC)
Tel: (619) 291-1112