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The Golden Door

News and views on immigration law

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. citizenship by birth’

U.S. citizenship by birth, abroad

Friday, May 6th, 2011

A Catch-22 situation surfaced in my practice recently.  A man applying to renew his license to carry a concealed firearm (“CCF”) in Philadelphia was asked by Philadelphia Police to produce proof of his immigration status, since he was born abroad.  I’ll call him the Applicant.  The Applicant produced his valid U.S. passport, but this evidence was deemed unacceptable proof of his citizenship because the CCF permit application specifically states that “foreign-born” applicants must produce their naturalization documents, and “passports are not acceptable.”  (See Item 3.f.)

However, although the Applicant was born abroad — meaning not in the United States or any of its territories or possessions — he was also born a U.S. citizen.  Under the immigration law in effect at the time of his birth, and under the specific circumstances of his situation (I won’t bore you with the details but, if you’re interested, you can read the relevant statutory section, § 201(g), here), he meets the legal requirements for acquiring U.S. citizenship at birth and retaining that status.  As the Applicant was a U.S. citizen at birth he does not have a certificate of naturalization, just his U.S. passport.  In fact, it is impossible for him to legally obtain a certificate of naturalization , as he is already a U.S. citizen.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s application for CCF therefore now excludes, presumably inadvertently, an entire subset of U.S. citizens from obtaining a CCF permit.  It provides for legal permanent residents, and U.S. citizens born in the U.S., and naturalized U.S. citizens, to obtain a CCF permit.  But it fails to recognize that a person can be a U.S. citizen at birth — not a naturalized citizen — while born abroad.  Being born abroad of a U.S. citizen parent or parents is not an uncommon occurrence.  Examples of children of U.S. citizens commonly born abroad are the children of U.S. diplomats and other U.S. government employees, including the children of U.S. military personnel.  Even Americans who are not in the employ of the U.S. government have children abroad due to a variety of reasons and, based on the U.S. citizenship status of one or both parents, the child can still be a U.S. citizen.

Upon being informed of the fact that a person can be born a U.S. citizen abroad, the Philadelphia Police Department asked the Applicant to obtain a certificate of citizenship but did not guarantee that the certificate would be sufficient to meet the immigration status documentation requirements of the CCF application.  Obtaining a certificate of citizenship costs $600 for the filing fee.  The CCF application is $25.

What I don’t understand is why a U.S. passport is not valid proof of citizenship, whether naturalized or acquired at birth.  A U.S. passport is acceptable proof of citizenship, absent any contrary evidence, for the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and all the immigration-related agencies under the aegis of DHS.  For example, on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) website, a search for “proof of U.S. citizenship” turns up this page.  The Social Security Administration accepts passports as proof of U.S. citizenship.  The Department of State accepts passports as proof of U.S. citizenship.  If I had more time, I would list more federal agencies that accept U.S. passports as valid proof of U.S. citizenship.  And yet, for some reason, passports are not good enough to establish U.S. citizenship for the Philadelphia Police Department’s Gun Permit unit.

Hopefully, the Philadelphia Police Department’s Gun Permit unit will revise its procedures so that it no longer inadvertently excludes U.S. citizens at birth born abroad from carrying, or requires them to spend an extra $600 to produce extraneous evidence of citizenship with no guarantee that this will be deemed satisfactory evidence.  One ironic side effect of this policy is that U.S. legal permanent residents and naturalized citizens are placed in a more beneficial category than those born to a U.S. diplomat or U.S. military personnel serving our country.

I’m still awaiting a concrete response.  I’ll post an update if I get one.