No. 357.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Foster.

No. 649.]

Sir: Your No. 974, of the 13th ultimo, presents a recent case in which application was made to your legation for a passport for the minor son of a naturalized citizen of the United States, the father having been born in Germany, while the son was born in Mexico. You refer to a law of Mexico, by which children born in that country of alien parents shall, on attaining their majority, elect for either Mexican citizenship, or that of their parents, and in view of those antecedents you inquire, (1st) whether it is the practice of the Department to issue separate passports to the minor children of citizens of the United States unaccompanied by their parents; and (2d) whether, in the case reported, you would have been justified in issuing a separate passport to the minor son.

It is observed that you omit to mention whether the father was a naturalized citizen of the United States at the time of the birth of the son. If not, residence in the United States is a condition of the son’s citizenship. (See section 2172 of the Revised Statutes.) It is presumed, however, from your statement, that the father was an American citizen sojourning in a foreign land at the time of the son’s birth.

Answering your inquiries in general terms, and without assuming to [Page 815] decide the case now presented without fuller information, it may be observed:

  • First. That a passport can properly be issued to a minor of discreet age, unaccompanied by his parents, when the facts show honest and bona fide motive for soliciting a separate passport 5 and,
  • Secondly. That, until coming of age, a child born abroad of American parents and continuing abroad, is an American citizen, and as such entitled to a passport. If on attaining majority the laws of the country of his birth require option for either his inherited or his native citizenship, and if he chooses to avail himself of such laws and renounce his American status, that is another matter and such option is all that is contemplated by the Mexican law referred to, as it is here understood from your description. But that statute does not make such a minor a Mexican during minority, nor prevent his remaining an American under American law; still less can it leave him a nondescript with no nationality whatever.

I am, &c.,

Acting Secretary.