Monday, June 29, 2009

Citizenship --- in this case, US Citizenship

In 1980 my daughter left Canada for the United States of America. She already had a Bachelor's and a Master's Degree in 17th Century French Literature from UBC at the tender age of 23, but finally she was ready to leave home to pursue her doctoral studies. From the list of universities which had accepted her into their graduate program she finally chose Stanford University in California.

During her time at Stanford she met an Italian graduate student and when they had both finished, after six long years, they married and settled in the USA, firstly still on student visas and then work visas but eventually they obtained the coveted "green card" as it is commonly known, or Lawful Permanent Residency.

Finally, after 19 years in her case and 20 years in his, her very pragmatic husband thought that it was time for them to become citizens of the USA, so that they could eventually enjoy some of the benefits for which they were paying large amounts of tax but which were available only to citizens. I think my daughter saw the wisdom of this and so the process was started.

After many months and final interviews the process was completed, save for one thing, taking the Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens. At this point, I started to receive frantic telephone calls from her. She did not care for the wording of the oath at all. Not one little bit. Now this child of mine at that point held two citizenships, Canadian and Australian, with passports of both countries. The Americans were aware of that and said she could continue to hold those citizenships.

It seems the USA is a little schizophrenic on the topic of dual citizenship. It used to be the case that US citizens could not hold dual citizenship, except in certain specific cases. However, most of the laws forbidding dual citizenship were struck down by the US Supreme Court in two cases: a 1967 decision, Afroyim v. Rusk, as well as a second ruling in 1980, Vance v. Terrazas.

On the other hand, if an American takes up citizenship in another country, then the US will consider that person to no longer be a citizen. Incidentally, the same is not necessarily true the other way around. If a person of another country becomes a US citizen then, depending upon the laws of the home country, that country may still consider her/him to be a citizen.

However the official US State Department policy on dual citizenship today is that the United States does not favor it as a matter of policy because of various problems they feel it may cause, but the existence of dual citizenship is recognized. But for all intents and purposes dual citizenship is accepted totally now in the USA.

So what was the problem for my daughter? Why was she freaking out about taking the Oath? Well just take a look at the wording.

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

That is pretty strong language indicating that you are certainly renouncing any citizenship you hold when you take the oath, wouldn't you say? She had been frantically looking online to make absolutely sure that she was not giving up her Canadian or her Australian citizenship by swearing this oath. I suggested that the oath was simply anachronistic in light of the fact that dual citizenship for US citizens has been in effect for quite a few years, and that it had not been changed to keep up with these changes. It does seem strange that changes have not been made to it.

Well she did take the oath and she has applied for a US passport and so in the tradition of our immigrant family, another one has officially changed citizenship. But I think, like me, she will retain the strong attachment to the land of her birth. She will always be a Canadian. As I asked in the linked post, where will my granddaughter end up, she of the three citizenships, American, Canadian and Italian. Will she continue our immigrant experience by living elsewhere? Time will tell.


Liz said...

That is a mighty oath. I don't know what people becoming citizens of the UK would have to say. I would have trouble saying that oath.

I'm glad she's sorted out now anyway. And wherever she lives or has citizenship for, I'm sure her love of Canada will never die.

jams o donnell said...

That's not an oath I would like to take jmb

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

This reinforces my belief that the USA believes that they are the centre of the Universe. Me, I'd rather believe that the Earth is flat. As that Molson Canadian advert with Joe the Canadian says, "Canada is the best part of North America"!

lady macleod said...

Yes I went through this when the U.S. got all wonky after 9/11 (those bloody terrorists spoil everyone's good time - think taking off your shoes in the airport!) I had dual citizenship but mercy the crap I got, especially since I travel so much, and to "questionable countries" so I gave it up and only retain the U.S. passport.

That oath is a duesy eh? Especially when I bet you hard currency most Americans have no idea what is in it?

Allegiance is a funny thing, and I don't think can be defined nor changed by a piece of paper. Good wishes as always to all your dear family!

Carver said...

This was an interesting post JMB. I have a friend who was born overseas and at least then the way it worked was he automatically had dual citizenship (American since his parents were American, as well as a citizen in the land of his birth).

To tell you the truth, I'd have some issues with the oath your daughter had to take. I know a lot of people who like me are Americans, love our country, were born here, but would still have trouble with the wording of that oath. This would be too long of a comment if I go into specifics of what I wouldn't want to swear to and why, but I totally understand your daughter's reservations.

Rositta said...

Happy Canada Day JMB. It is quite a wordy oath I agree but I'm sure she's still a Canadian citizen. I on the other hand lost my German citizenship when I became Canadian. Kind of unfair but that's the German rule. Every country makes it's own determination on these things....ciao

Carolyn said...

Hi, I come to you through Lone Grey Squirrel. I enjoyed your post. I am an American by birth and was a visitor in this country for ten years until I made the choice to be Canadian. I may not have been renounced by my country of birth but I certainly was by my family of birth. I have both citizenships and when I became Canadian it was such a proud experience.
As I posted a comment on Lone Grey Squirrels blog I noticed your comment about 1967 and thought you might enjoy what I posted today at Living on the Edge.
Happy Canada Day and thanks for sharing you fine post.

Anonymous said...

Isnt a lot of that to do with not secretly being British and loving King George or some such?

Berni said...

Although I became a Canadian citizen last year it was mainly expedient to do so. I have lived in Canada for nigh on 40 years and have no intention of moving back to UK but I still think of myself as British. Personally I think a lot of this patriotism and wave flagging has caused a lot of problems in the world.

Expat Traveler said...

wow - that is strong! I'd have trouble saying that oath also... but I wonder why naturalized citizens never have to say that?????

And I'm considering the other way very soon since I can... In Canada.

Luc Reid said...

That's a disturbing thing to have to swear to, all things considered. Maybe it's stayed that way because of how hard it is to change something so significant as the oath that someone swears when becoming a citizen. Anyway, in your daughter's position I hope I would be able to chalk it up to bureaucratic nonsense and forget about it ... I hope it isn't a continuing concern for her.

I enjoyed virtually meeting you the other day, and the conversation, particularly the thoughts about commenting ... !

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I hadn't realised the oath was so strongly worded!