Natural born citizenship question

Let’s assume there’s a kid named John. He was born in California to American parents and is a American citizen by birth.

When he’s ten years old, his parents move to Brazil. They, and young John, become Brazilian citizens and lose their American citizenship.

Fifteen years later, John decides to immigrate to the United States. He comes here as a Brazilian citizen. He likes it here and eventually decides to apply for American citizenship. He passes through whatever procedures exist and becomes an American citizen once again (and loses his Brazilian citizenship).

Is John considered to be a natural born citizen? He was an American citizen at birth and he is one now. But does the gap in his citizenship negate the natural born status?

Since the issue has never come before a court in the U.S. (it really only affects eligibility to be elected as president), we can only speculate. One issue that might be important is whether it was John’s decision to renounce citizenship, or it was a decision effectively imposed on him by others.


You don’t lose your American citizenship by becoming a citizen of another country, unless you specifically renounce it. (Which requires going through a bureaucratic procedure at the embassy.)

Lots of people have dual (or more) citizenships.

That depends on the country. China and Japan, for example, do not allow dual citizenship. I’m not sure about Brazil.

The more basic question is whether you can be an American citizen, lose it somehow, and then get it back. I am not sure you can. Renouncing your U.S. citizenship is taken very seriously and irreversible as far as I have read.

My mother was born in Brazil in 1937, moved to the US in 1965, and now has dual citizenship. I was born in the US in 1970 so am obviously a US citizen, and from what I understand I could have also had Brazilian citizenship if she had filed the appropriate paperwork with the Brazilian embassy/gov’t when I was a baby.

Although Japan does not acknowledge dual citizenship, I don’t believe it can or does force people who become naturalized Japanese to denounce their foreign nationality.

Children who have parents where one is Japanese and the other is non-Japanese can have dual citizenship until 20 and then they are supposed to choose one, but people I’ve talked to say that no one comes knocking on their door asking which one they’ve selected.

I have heard about a Japanese who moved to America, became a US citizenship and gave up her Japanese citizenship in the process.

I’m no expert, but it seems if John is a naturalized citizen (i.e. became a citizen through the process of naturalization), then by definition, he’s not a natural-born citizen.

Now if John’s family had moved to Kenya, it’d be a whole different kettle of laundry.

I certainly take your word for it and doubt it would be a major issue with the Japanese government, but I found this.

Article 15 references the part you mentioned and Article 16 states what the Japanese government <i>can</i> do; but as you said, most likely does not do.

Unless you take specific and serious steps to renounce your US citizenship, I believe the US still considers you a US citizen, regardless of how other countries view you. So, in your scenario, unless they did that, John never lost his US citizenship.

And I’m not sure if it’s possible for a minor to even renounce US citizenship. Are there any examples of that happening?

That would be a bit extreme. At most, you’d think they’d make people renounce their foreign nationality.

renouncing American citizenship is intentionally made a very difficult procedure, largely to ensure that you aren’t doing so just to dodge American taxes.

This used to come up a lot with Indian clients in the U.S. on work visas who wanted to renounce U.S. citizenship on behalf of their U.S.-born children, because India doesn’t alllow dual citizenship. (Otherwise, the parents would have to get Indian visitor visas every time they wanted to visit the family in India, which was a pain.) I don’t have a cite handy, but the advice the attorneys I worked with generally gave them was that the U.S. does not acknowledge citizenship renounced on behalf of a minor.

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal

In case anyone is interested in doing so, and because I’m really bored this morning, here is some info on renouncing U.S. citizenship.

IANAL, etc.

Assuming that John had indeed lost his original citizenship through his own volition, and that US law has no mechanism for subsequently reinstating it, then surely his adult status as US citizen is entirely because he was naturalized. Ergo, as an adult he would not be a natural-born citizen.
Drat, scr4’s post wasn’t there when I wrote this!

My wife is a naturalized U.S. citizen and is still considered a citizen of Brazil. Still has to maintain two passports, and is obligated to vote in Brazilian elections (voting being compulsory in Brazil, under penalty of fine). Not sure what the actual amount is, or whether she’s only required to vote in national elections.

Sorry, after speaking to my wife I need to issue a correction on this. She does still need to maintain a current Brazilian passport, but is no longer required to vote in Brazilian elections since being naturalized in the U.S.

When renewing her Brazilian passport, she is required to provide proof that she’s now a permanent U.S. resident in order to avoid paying the fine for not voting there.

There’s no legal definition of “natural born citizen”. Giles is correct, whatever is posted here is pure speculation. It’s true that under some US Code John may have lost his US Citizenship, only to regain it, but that US Code section does not speak of “natural born citizen”.