The Belgian Ambassador ( Van der Straten-Ponthoz ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1005

Mr. Secretary of State: I have the honor to advise Your Excellency that article 18, 4th, of the law on the acquisition, loss and recovery of Belgian nationality coordinated by Royal Order (Arrêté) of December 14, 1932, provides that the following lose their Belgian nationality: “the unemancipated minor children of a Belgian who has become a foreigner by application of this article and who exercises the right of custody over them if they acquired the foreign nationality at the same time as their author”.

Moreover, the first article of the Belgo-American convention of November 16, 1868, stipulates that Belgians who shall have been naturalized in the United States shall be considered by Belgium as citizens of the United States.

According to article 2172 of the revised laws of the United States8 “a child born outside the United States of foreign parents shall be presumed an American citizen by reason of the naturalization acquired by its author, provided such naturalization was acquired during the minority of the child, and with the full understanding that [Page 13] such nationality acquired by such minor shall begin only from the time when the said minor shall reside permanently in the United States.”

Article 18, 4th, of the Belgian law cannot be cited to deprive of his Belgian nationality a minor child who falls under the application of article 2172, above cited, the foreign nationality not having been acquired by him at the same time as by his author.

However, the question may arise of whether the first article of the above-mentioned convention is applicable to him. Is the child in question considered by the United States as a naturalized American in the meaning of the said article?

If so, he would lose his status as a Belgian native not by virtue of article 18, 4th, of the coordinated law of December 14, 1932, but by application of the first article of the convention of 1868.

To this end, and by order of the Belgian Government, I have the honor to resort to Your Excellency’s habitual courtesy, and I should be very grateful if you would inform me whether the Government of the United States considers such child as a naturalized American or as an individual who has become an American as a matter of right, but not by naturalization.

It seems that the word naturalization, which is used in the above cited convention, can apply only to a voluntary acquisition of nationality obtained upon a special request, which is not true in the case of a minor child of a Belgian naturalized American, such child becoming an American citizen, if he resides in the United States at the time of his father’s naturalization, without any expression of will on his part.

Thanking Your Excellency for the opinion you may be good enough to give, I avail myself [etc.]

R. v. Straten
  1. Rev. Stat. 2172.