Most entries below contain actual legal discussions of events directly related to Filipinos in or immigrating to the United States.
Remember- These writings are provided for general information only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. Each person's needs and requirements are different and require a personal evaluation to determine the proper legal course of action.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Another Citizenship Quagmire: The Honorable Perfecto Yasay Jr

UPDATE:  On March 8, 2017, the Commission on Appointments rejected Perfecto Yasay for the position of Foreign Affairs Secretary because of U.S. Citizenship issues.  The post below remains accurate. 

February 12, 2017:  This has been a recurring story in the Philippines for decades.  City counselors, mayors, and even congressional candidates have been disqualified or removed from public office because they are U.S. Citizens. 

Now the confirmation hearing for Perfecto Yasay as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs has been rescheduled over unresolved allegations involving U.S. Citizenship.

Mr. Yasay was reported to have used a U.S. passport in the past when departing the Philippines, a strong, but not definitive, indication of U.S. Citizenship (despite an incorrect assertion made by an attorney, quoted here).   More recently an additional piece of evidence has been reported that indicates that Mr. Yasay may have renounced his Citizenship as recently as late 2016.

And there lies the quagmire:  How to correctly renounce U.S. Citizenship?

I am not a Filipino lawyer, so when I discuss the laws of the Philippines I speak only as an observer who has seen this story play out over and over in the media.  To hold certain Philippine government positions, some Filipinos must renounce any foreign citizenship they may also be holding  The case of Senator Grace Poe is a good example.  In order to become the chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), Ms. Poe signed and submitted to the Philippine government an Affidavit of Renunciation of US Citizenship, an action that appears to be a common requirement for certain government positions.  Similar renunciation affidavits were also used in other reported cases.  However, submitting such an affidavit to the Philippine government does not remove a person's U.S. Citizenship under American law.

There is an old adage in immigration law saying “you are a citizen of any country that claims you as a citizen”.  In other words, if the law of some country declares you to be a citizen of that country, then you are a citizen of that country and you must follow that country’s laws to terminate the citizenship.  For example, merely saying “I renounce” three times and spinning on your heel does remove the unwanted citizenship, unless there is a law in that country saying spinning and repeating will set you free.

The most common way to relinquish U.S. Citizenship is to make a formal renunciation in front of a U.S. consular officer.  Once the officer is convinced that the declaration is made knowingly and not under mental or emotional duress, citizenship is lost once approved by the consul.

Another way to relinquish U.S. Citizenship, and this was the method partially used by now-Senator Poe and others, was to commit an “expatriating act” with the intent to relinquish citizenship.  One of the statutory expatriating acts that will cause a loss of U.S. Citizenship is to accept employment with a foreign government requiring a declaration of allegiance to the foreign country before accepting the position.

Remember, however, that the expatriating act must be with the intent of giving up United States Citizenship.  One can accept employment with a foreign government and swear allegiance to that government, but if those steps were committed without the desire to lose U.S. Citizenship, citizenship is not lost.

In Senator Poe’s case, she began as chair of the MTRCB and swore an oath of allegiance to the Philippines on October 21, 2010.  She later formally renounced her U.S. Citizenship at the embassy in 2011 by asserting she committed an expatriating act in 2010, and the act was committed with the full intent to give up her U.S. Citizenship.  Although her Certificate of Loss of Citizenship was not approved until 2012, the U.S. consulate generously backdated the end of her citizenship to the date of her expatriating act, October 21, 2010.

Renouncing U.S. Citizenship is not complicated, but the fact that the problem occurs as often as it does is just another result of the close and longterm relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

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