expatriation, loss of nationality. Such loss is usually, although not necessarily, voluntary. Generally it applies to those persons who have renounced nationality and citizenship in one country to become citizens or subjects of another. According to U.S. law, for example, a citizen who becomes naturalized in a foreign state is automatically expatriated. In addition, expatriation occurs when a naturalized citizen resides in his native land for two years or elsewhere outside the United States for five years, or when any citizen serves in the public employment or military of a foreign state. Prior to 1922 an American woman who married an alien was expatriated, but in that year the Cable Act nullified that provision and stipulated that a woman may retain her citizenship when marrying an alien "unless she makes a formal renunciation of her citizenship." The United States, in common with other countries, forbids voluntary expatriation in time of war. Expatriation may also occur involuntarily, as when a government chooses to renounce its obligations to individuals who desert in wartime. Such persons are stateless until naturalization under some other government takes place. A more general type of involuntary expatriation is the loss of nationality that occurs with the cession or conquest of a territory. The common law view that one's allegiance cannot be renounced without the state's permission prevailed until 1868 when the United States challenged this doctrine in order to protect its naturalized immigrants against the claims of their native states, which did not recognize the right of subjects to expatriate themselves. Congress declared voluntary expatriation to be "a natural and inherent right of all people," and announced that the United States would protect its naturalized citizens abroad, even in their native countries. Great Britain abandoned the common-law interpretation in 1870. Many other nations, however, including France and Russia, do not recognize expatriation. The United States at present has treaties operating with most European nations concerning that and other conflicting interpretations of citizenship.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.