The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Persia ( Williamson )

No. 682

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 866 of June 22, 19291 and has noted your observations on the proposed new Persian Nationality Law an English translation of which was enclosed with your despatch under reference.

While this Government is not in a position to contest Persia’s right, in the absence of the Capitulations, to enact such nationality laws as it may consider desirable, the Department would of course, where such legislation conflicts with American law, not hesitate to instruct its representative at Teheran to make appropriate representations to the Persian Government in behalf of any American nationals in Persia whose rights acquired under American law are infringed upon by Persian law or regulations.

With regard to certain provisions of the proposed new Persian Nationality Law which you believe are objectionable, the following comments are submitted by the Department for your consideration and guidance:

(1) The Department has noted your comments on the provision contained in Article I, Paragraph 1, as at present drafted, stipulating that “all inhabitants of Persia, except persons whose foreign nationality is confirmed by documents of nationality uncontested by the Persian Government, are Persian subjects.” While provisions along the general lines of the above are found in some nationality laws, the presumption by the legislating State that the inhabitant in question is a national of that State may as a rule be removed by the mere presentation of a document, emanating from the appropriate authorities of a foreign State, and showing that the inhabitant of the legislating State is a national of the foreign State in question. Each State must determine what persons have its nationality under its laws, and is responsible for the issuance of certificates or other documentary evidence of its nationality, and it is not deemed to be competent for the authorities of a foreign State in [Page 740] which the holder of such documentary evidence is found to claim him as a national by merely “contesting” the document. It remains true, of course, that when there is evidence that the document was fraudulently procured the matter can be brought to the attention of the government by which the document was issued.

In view of the above, it would be helpful to the Department if you could ascertain, by discreet oral inquiry, the exact interpretation given by the competent Persian authorities to the above paragraph of Article I as at present drafted and the manner in which those authorities envisage its operation if it is incorporated without modification into law.

(2) With respect to the provisions of Article I, Paragraph 2, to the effect that “persons born of a Persian father, whether they are born in Persia or abroad, are Persian subjects,” the Legation is reminded that under the 14th Article of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States a child born of Persian parents in the United States is regarded as an American citizen. It should be noted, however, that this Government does not deny that persons born of Persian parents in the United States may at the same time have Persian nationality under Persian law or, in other words, that persons of the above category are recognized as having automatically acquired dual nationality at birth. In view, therefore, of the position of this Government in this matter as set forth above, the provisions of the second paragraph of Article II of the proposed Persian Nationality Law referring to the recognition of dual nationality by specific “authorization” would not appear to be applicable in the case of persons born of American parents in Persia. The paragraph in question reads as follows:

“With regard to children born in Persia of foreign parents whose respective countries consider in principle that children born of Persian parents in their territory are their own nationals and make their Persian nationality subject to an authorization, reciprocally they will be treated in the same manner.”

(3) As the Legation is fully aware, this Government has long opposed the principle of inalienable allegiance and the consequent claim of certain foreign countries that their nationals may not acquire American nationality without the consent of the governments of those countries. This principle which has figured in the past nationality laws of Persia figures also in Article XIII of the proposed new law.

As in the past so also in the future, the Department will expect its representatives abroad to make every appropriate effort to protect the rights of American naturalized citizens whatever may have been their country of origin.

(4) It is noted in paragraph numbered two of Article XIII that Persian nationals, after they have received due authorization to [Page 741] abandon their nationality, “must agree beforehand to transfer to a Persian subject … all their rights to any real estate which they may own in Persia or which they might acquire by inheritance.”

It is further noted that in the case of Persian nationals who acquire foreign nationality without the consent of their government, “their movable goods … will be sold,” etc. The Department does not understand why, in the latter case, provision has been made only for the disposition of the movable goods of such former Persian nationals, since the disposition of immovable property in such cases would appear to be a much more important question. Further clarification also on this feature of the proposed new Persian Nationality Law would be helpful to the Department.

With respect to your suggestion that a naturalization convention might be concluded between the United States and Persia defining the status of naturalized and native American citizens who are claimed as nationals by Persia, you are informed that it is the policy of this Government to conclude such treaties where necessary and possible and the Department would be pleased, when the negotiations are initiated for the conclusion with Persia of a treaty of friendship, commerce and establishment,2 to suggest to the competent Persian authorities the negotiation also of a naturalization convention if the Legation has reason to believe that such suggestion would be favorably received. It is of course understood that this Government would not be prepared to recognize, in such a treaty, the principle of inalienable allegiance.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
William R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not concluded; see Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. iii, pp. 682 ff., especially bracketed note, p. 745.