Loss of citizenship in France and the United States

Screenshot 2015-12-23 10.24.25
Screen shot from this State Department web page: http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/citizenship-and-dual-nationality.html

American Republican party presidential nomination candidate Donald Trump says that if he were elected president, he would repeal the  guarantee of American citizenship for anyone who is born in our country.  Even the right has mixed opinions about this, and certainly the left is opposed–citizenship for anyone born here is a national absolute, enshrined in the Constitution.  Dual citizenship is a bit more complicated; becoming an American citizen involves renouncing allegiance to any other country, but the United Kingdom does not recognize this as a way to lose UK citizenship. You can lose your American citizenship for committing certain acts involving allegiance to another government, but they have to be committed with the intention to relinquish US nationality–see the link in the caption to the screen shot from the State Department web page on the subject.  American Republican party presidential nomination candidate Ted Cruz held dual Canadian-American citizenship until 2014, even while serving in the Senate.

Related issues have come up in France since the 13 November attacks.  Of course, this brings Zipf’s Law into our lives.  The word of the day in France is déchéance.  It was all over the news this morning, and is going crazy on Twitter.  This word has a number of meanings, but the one that’s relevant here is “loss” or “forfeiture,” as in déchéance de nationalité, or loss of citizenship.  Three days after the murder of 130 people by Islamic State terrorists, Hollande announced that terrorists or people acting contrary to French values with dual citizenship would be stripped of their French citizenship, even if they were born here.  It’s back in the news because Hollande has backed off on the idea–it quickly became clear that there would be no agreement about this abrogation of rights (which would require a change to the French constitution), and it was seen as an “ideological gift” to the far-right National Front party.  In the name of national unity, the idea has been officially dropped.

Here is WordReference.com’s discussion of the word:

  • la déchéance: (physical or moral) decline, degredation, degeneration.
  • la déchéance: (loss of rights) loss, forfeiture.

Interestingly, the concept also brings Zipf’s Law into our lives with respect to English, unless your vocabulary is a hell of a lot better than mine.  In particular, we meet the verb to expatriate, which Merriam-Webster defines as “banish, exile” (transitive); “to withdraw (oneself) from residence in or allegiance to one’s native country” (transitive); “to leave one’s native country to live elsewhere; also :  to renounce allegiance to one’s native country” (intransitive).



5 thoughts on “Loss of citizenship in France and the United States”

  1. Loss of citizenship is a very fraught issue that involves the very foundations of the human right to “belong” somewhere. A person stripped of his/her citizenship would en up in a Kafka-esque bureaucratic limbo. Not to mention possible life-threatening social and psychological identity issues.


    1. I think that the US and British pages on this both say that they won’t strip the citizenship of people who don’t have dual citizenship, and explicitly say that they won’t leave anyone “stateless.” France already has something to strip the citizenship of people who emigrated less than 15 years ago and have citizenship elsewhere also–the question here was about stripping the French citizenship of people with dual citizenship who were born in France.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the explanation. If the measures would only apply with dual citizenship then it does make sense. In many cases, keeping up one’s “former” passport stems from emotional-roots feelings, but for many others, it’s also a financial or … legal ploy. However, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is renouncing (or has renounced) his US citizenship, an interesting example of how it can actually turn out to be a disadvantage tax-wise!


    1. Like anything else of a bureaucratic nature here, it’s complicated. Born in France to at least one French parent: you’re French. Born in France without a French parent: you’re entitled to French citizenship if you actually lived there for 5 years (so, e.g., children born to tourists can’t do this), but you have to apply for it at the age of 18. Various permutations apply to the cases where your parents are stateless, you’re adopted, a parent was born in a French territory, etc., etc., etc.

      My favorite aspect of French law on the subject is that you’re eligible to apply for citizenship if you’ve lived here for two years and, during that time, have gotten a French master’s degree. You’re not *guaranteed* citizenship, mind you–you’re eligible to apply for it. But, seriously–citizenship earned by graduate degree? I LOVE it.


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