To the diplomatic and consular officers of the United States.

Gentlemen: The department’s attention has been called in recent years, especially through registration reports submitted under the circular instruction of April 19, 1907, to numerous cases of persons [Page 2] claiming American citizenship through birth in the United States, who have resided in foreign lands for many years, and apparently have no real intention of returning to this country to reside. In the circular instruction of March 27, 1899, entitled “Passports for Persons Residing or Sojourning Abroad,” especial reference is made to this class of persons, and the following statements appear:

A condition precedent to the granting of a passport is, under the law and the rules prescribed by authority of the law, that the citizenship of the applicant and his domicile in the United States and intention to return to it with the purpose of residing and performing the duties of citizenship shall be satisfactorily established. One who as expatriated himself can not, therefore, receive a passport.

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But even where expatriation may not be established, a person who is permanently resident and domiciled outside of the United States can not receive a passport.

After a careful consideration of the principles underlying this whole question of the protection of American citizens abroad, the department has come to the conclusion that in the case of a native American residing in a foreign land, whether civilized or semibarbarous, a definite intention to resume residence in this country should not be made an absolute prerequisite to the privilege of receiving a passport or certificate of registration, or, if necessary, protection by this Government.

In modern times there has been a vast improvement in facilities for communication and transportation between the various nations of the earth, and a corresponding increase in international travel and trade, and it has become a not unusual practice for citizens of one country to establish themselves in another country for purposes of business, without any intention of renouncing their original allegiance. Therefore, it is the department’s opinion that the acquisition of permanent foreign residence by a native citizen has not the same significance which it had in former years. It is considered that an American citizen may now have a permanent foreign residence and yet contribute, indirectly if not directly, to the wealth and strength, the prestige and general welfare of his country, so that as long as he maintains a true allegiance to this Government and is ready, if need be, to come to its defense, he may be entitled to its protection.

In each case of an American permanently residing abroad it will be necessary, before deciding as to his right to protection, to determine among other things whether he maintains an actual connection with the United States and a true allegiance thereto, or whether he has practically abandoned this country and identified himself with the political community of the land in which he resides; and while, as to questions arising in regard to registration and the issuance of passports, a lack of intention to resume residence in this country may, upon matters relating to protection as American citizens, still raise a presumption of expatriation, such presumption shall not be considered as conclusive, but the person concerned shall be given an opportunity to show that he is still a true citizen of the United States. In this connection are to be considered the cause of the foreign residence, participation in the politics of the country of residence or abstention therefrom, ties of family, business, or property maintained with this country, and, in the case of a married man, the original nationality of the wife and the mode of raising the children, and, finally, the general conduct of the person in question. [Page 3] It is impossible to lay down a general rule which will be applicable to every case which arises, and each case must be decided upon its peculiar merits. You will, therefore, not finally refuse a passport or registration certificate to any person belonging to the class under consideration until you shall have been authorized to do so by the department after a full presentation of the pertinent facts.

I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,

Huntington Wilson,
Acting Secretary of State.