The Ambassador in France (Bullitt) to the Secretary of State

No. 166

Sir: I have the honor to refer to instruction No. 1102 of October 31, 1935, directing the Embassy to endeavor to obtain (1) a clarification of the policy of the French authorities in the matter of the issuance of sauf-conduits to American citizens of French origin to enable them to visit France without encountering difficulties at the hands of the military authorities, and (2) an interpretation of certain sections of Article IX of the French Nationality Law of August 10, 1927.

Since the receipt of the above instruction, the Embassy has made repeated efforts, both formal and informal, to obtain the information sought by the Department. The Foreign Office replied to the Embassy’s representations by notes dated December 23 and 28, 1935. As however these notes were incomplete and not clear, aides-mémoires were left at the Foreign Office, followed by a third note dated April 27, 1936. This last note from the Embassy brought forth a reply dated October 13, a copy and translation of which are enclosed.88 Moreover, copies and translations of other pertinent communications on the subject are transmitted as enclosures88 to this despatch to complete [Page 135] the Department’s files. The substance of the Foreign Office communications to the Embassy in the matter is furnished below.


Sauf-conduits will in future be issued only to those French citizens, delinquent under the military law and residing abroad, who (1) have dual nationality independently of their volition, that is, those who ipso facto have acquired the nationality of the country of residence without any expression of their will, (2) who became delinquent before January 1, 1927, and (3) who have not been condemned by default by a military tribunal (see Foreign Office note of October 13, 1935). In other words, a sauf-conduit will not be issued in any given case unless the three aforementioned conditions are fulfilled.

Referring to (1) above, the Foreign Office in its note of December 28, 1935, states that it is disposed to give a liberal interpretation of the phrase “independently of their volition” in the case of children naturalized through the naturalization of their parents, but that the circumstances of each case will be taken into consideration in reaching a decision.

Decree-Law of October 30, 1935

The Embassy here invites the Department’s attention to the decree-law of October 30, 1935, enclosed herewith,89 from which it appears that those French citizens who proceeded for residence to countries outside of Europe and not bordering on the Mediterranean, before the commencement of the formalities incident to the calling of their class to the colors, are exempt from military service, provided there is no military unit sufficiently near to the place of residence into which such persons can be incorporated (Article I–c). The decree-law became effective October 31, 1935, the date of its promulgation. It appears from the text thereof that the United States is one of the areas in which the exemption is effective, and this presumption is confirmed by the Foreign Office statement (note of December 28) that “French citizens residing in the United States are no longer required, in time of peace, to perform their military service in France”.

Persons in this category “may be authorized” (Article II of the decree-law) to come to France for a period of three months each year, which period is cumulative not ordinarily to exceed one year. In reply to the Embassy’s inquiry (note of April 27, section I–b) as to the formalities which those in this class who are Americans as well as Frenchmen must fulfill in order to obtain the aforementioned authorization, the Foreign Office has replied (note of October 13) that it [Page 136] is not yet informed in this respect, but that the information sought has been requested of the Ministry of War and will be transmitted to the Embassy later. The Embassy will send this information to the Department promptly upon its receipt.

Article IX (1) of the Nationality Law of August 10, 1927

In an effort to obtain clarification of this provision of law, the Embassy put the following questions to the Foreign Office (note of April 27):

Does a French citizen who is naturalized in the United States after his 21st birthday, that is, pursuant to his formal application, ipso facto divest himself of French nationality, under French law, as a result of the mere running of the ten year period mentioned in Article IX (1) of the Nationality Law of August 10, 1927, provided he remains during that period in good standing with the French military authorities?
Does such a person divest himself of French nationality, under the above circumstances, if he does not remain during the aforementioned ten year period in good standing with the military authorities?

In reply to these questions, the Foreign Office in its note of October 13 states that a French citizen, naturalized abroad before the expiration of the ten year period, whether or not at the time in good standing with the military authorities, will not automatically lose French nationality as a result of the mere running of the aforementioned ten year period. Such a person will not lose his French citizenship until he is authorized by decree to retain the foreign nationality he has acquired.

Article IX (3) of the Nationality Law of August 10, 1927

Referring to this provision of law, the Foreign Office states (note of October 13) that a child born in the United States of French parents is of French nationality under French law, and that such a person can divest himself of French nationality only by means of a decree. The appropriate application can be made (1) by the interested person himself if he is over twenty-one years of age, (2) by the person concerned, with the permission of his legal representative, if he is less than twenty-one years old and over sixteen, and (3) by the legal representative of the interested minor in the latter’s name if he is less than sixteen.

It appears from the Foreign Office note of December 23 that the status of a person who has acquired American citizenship during minority as a result of the naturalization of his or her parents varies according as the naturalization of the parents was or was not authorized by the French Government. In other words, if in such a case the [Page 137] parents remain French under French law, the child likewise remains French. If on the other hand the French Government has granted its permission, the minor child follows the nationality of his or her parents and acquires American citizenship under French law.

The Foreign Office adds that the hypothetical case discussed in the preceding paragraph does not come within the purview of Article IX (3) “since the acquisition of a foreign nationality is not the effect of the law, but of the initiative of the parents.”

Article 99 of the French Recruiting Law of March 31, 1928

Reference is made in this general connection to the July 15, 1936, edition of the Notice to Bearers of Passports, subsection (a), concerning the military exemption accorded to persons born in the United States of French parents, by the Recruiting Law of March 31, 1928. Although it appears from the text of Article 99 of that law that the exemption is to be accorded “in time of peace” only, this qualification is not mentioned in the Notice to Bearers of Passports. This is being brought to the attention of the Department in the thought that it may wish to consider the possible advisability of inserting the phrase “in time of peace” in section B, subsection (a), of the Notice, for the information of American citizens in this class who plan to visit France.

A copy and translation of the text of Article 9990 are enclosed herewith for convenient reference.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Edwin C. Wilson

Counselor of Embassy
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