The Secretary of State to the Minister in Greece (Skinner)

No. 274

Sir: The receipt is hereby acknowledged of despatches Nos. 751 and 757 of December 17 and December 21, 1928, concerning the proposed naturalization treaty with Greece, which was discussed with you recently when you visited the Department.

After careful consideration the Department has reached the conclusion that it will not be desirable to enter into a formal agreement with Greece whereunder the Greek Government would recognize the loss of Greek nationality in cases of Greeks naturalized in this country prior to the conclusion of the agreement but would not grant such recognition in cases of those who might be naturalized thereafter. This Government considers that the naturalization of a Greek in this country in good faith should be regarded as terminating his prior allegiance regardless of the date of the naturalization, and believes that an agreement such as that suggested by the Greek Government would not only be inconsistent with the view of this Government concerning the effect of naturalization but would set a precedent which would make it difficult to conclude satisfactory naturalization treaties with other countries.

The Department is also unable to agree to the proposals of the Greek Government to the effect that Greeks naturalized in the United States during minority, through the naturalization of their parents, are to be regarded as retaining their Greek nationality.

The naturalization laws of the United States have always contained provisions under which minor children are naturalized through the naturalization of their parents provided they are residing in the United States at the time of their parents’ naturalization or take up their residence in this country thereafter and while they are are still minors. The Department holds that such derivative naturalization has the same effect as direct naturalization in terminating the prior allegiance. [Page 463] If a person of the class mentioned remains in the United States there is no apparent reason why it is to the interest of Greece for him to retain his Greek nationality. On the other hand, if after attaining his majority, he does not desire to have American nationality and if he returns to Greece it is apparently easy for him to recover Greek nationality under the provision of Article 26 of the Greek Civil Law No. 391 of October 29, 1856. I may add that the Department has construed the naturalization treaties concluded between the United States and other foreign states as applicable to persons naturalized during minority through the naturalization of their parents as well as to those naturalized upon their own petitions, and a specific provision concerning this matter is found in Article 1 of the Naturalization Treaty signed November 23, 1923 between the United States and Bulgaria.29 Such provisions are also found in various other draft treaties proposed by this Government to the governments of other countries.

This Government is unable to agree that the residence of a naturalized citizen in his native land for two years shall terminate the nationality acquired through naturalization, regardless of the cause of such residence.

This Government has no desire to make agreements under which its protection shall be extended indefinitely to persons of foreign origin who obtain naturalization in the United States merely in order to evade the performance of obligations to their countries of origin, and who, after obtaining naturalization, establish themselves in those countries. This is shown not only by provisions in various naturalization treaties to which the United States is a party but also by the provisions of the second paragraph of Section 15 of the Naturalization Act of June 29, 190630 and the second paragraph of Section 2 of the Expatriation Act of March 2, 1907.31 On the other hand, it is the desire of this Government to make it possible for naturalized citizens to visit their countries of origin for legitimate objects, such as the promotion of commerce between the United States and those countries, the settlement of estates and other family business and the pursuit of studies of a specialized character which can not be pursued to such great advantage in the United States, and it is the principal object of naturalization treaties to make this possible. An unqualified provision to the effect that residence of two years in the native land shall terminate the nationality acquired through naturalization, regardless of the cause of such residence, is believed to be too rigid and drastic. The provision contained in Article 3 of the proposed treaty to the effect that resumption of residence of a permanent character in the native land shall terminate the naturalization status and the further provision in the [Page 464] same article to the effect that a residence of two years in the native land shall raise a rebuttable presumption of permanence, which provisions are similar to those found in various naturalization treaties to which the United States is a party, would seem to be sufficient to meet the just demands of the country of origin. However, the Department will be glad to consider such further suggestions as the Greek Government may see fit to make with regard to this point.

The Department desires that you avail yourself of a suitable opportunity to renew the discussion of this subject with the Greek Foreign Minister. It is hoped that it will be possible to persuade the Greek Government that the conclusion of the proposed treaty will not cause any disadvantage to Greece, while on the other hand it would serve to prevent the recurrence of incidents which are embarrassing to both of the Governments concerned and which disturb normal intercourse between the two countries.

You may, in your discretion, call attention to the action of the Greek Government in waiving temporarily its laws concerning nationality and military service in favor of Americans of Greek origin visiting Greece in connection with the conventions of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (your despatch No. 841, March 1, 1929), and suggest that, if it is possible to make waivers in these cases, it would also seem possible to make similar waivers in other cases of naturalized Americans of Greek origin desiring to visit Greece temporarily for legitimate purposes.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
J. P. Cotton
  1. Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. i, p. 464.
  2. 34 Stat. 596, 601.
  3. 34 Stat. 1228.