US nationals do not automatically lose their citizenship when they serve in a foreign government, an official from the US State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said.
Any nationals intending to relinquish their US citizenship must complete all formalities, which include signing an oath of renunciation before a US diplomatic or consular officer at a US embassy or consulate, the official said.
“Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect,” the official told the Central News Agency.
The issue has drawn much attention since it was reported recently that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) had never officially renounced her US citizenship although she has been in public office in Taiwan since 1994.
Lee admitted that she obtained US citizenship in 1991, but argued that she lost her status as a US citizen “legally” when she was sworn in as a Taipei city councilor in 1994.
However, the US official said that while serving in a foreign government is one of the legal conditions for loss of citizenship, the US Immigration and Nationality Act also states that such an act must be performed “voluntarily and with intent to relinquish US citizenship.”
Therefore, the formalities mentioned above must be completed, he said.
Under pressure from the Democratic Progressive Party, the legislature adopted a resolution on Friday asking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help verify with foreign governments whether any of the sitting legislators hold foreign citizenship.
The move was made in line with Taiwan’s Nationality Act (國籍法), which forbids Republic of China nationals who hold foreign citizenship from assuming public office and requires those with foreign citizenship be removed from their posts.
The American Institute in Taiwan did not respond to a Taipei Times’ e-mail inquiry yesterday on whether a US national could lose his or her citizenship without the formal act of relinquishing it before a US immigration officer.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Web site states that there is no general prohibition on US citizens running for an elected office in a foreign government. However, the eighth clause under Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution states that US federal government officers may not accept foreign government employment without the consent of Congress.
With respect to loss of nationality, 349(a)(4) of the US’ Immigration and Nationality Act states that accepting, serving in, or performing duties in a foreign government is potentially an expatriating act if the person is a national of that country or takes an oath of allegiance in connection with the position.
“The threshold question,” the bureau’s Web site said, “is whether the person’s actions fall within the scope of this provision.”
“The prefatory language of Section 349 requires that the expatriating act be performed voluntarily “with the intention of relinquishing US nationality. Thus, if it is determined that the person’s action falls within the purview of 349(a)(4), an adjudication of the person’s intent must be made,” it said.
Given that “the State Department’s administrative practice presumes that US citizens employed in non-policy level positions in a foreign government do not have the requisite intent to relinquish US citizenship, there are no efforts to see out or adjudicate the citizenship of nationals who fall into this category of employment.”