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Public Law 19-91’s Rebuttable Presumption of Renouncing FSM Dual Citizenship

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On June 14, 2016, FSM Vice President Yosiwo P. George on behalf of President Peter Christian signed Public Law 19-91 into law. The purpose of this law is to create a way to renounce dual citizenship for those persons that hold FSM citizenship in addition to citizenship of another country. Can the law do such a thing? The answer isn’t so clear. We realize that this is the typical lawyer answer. Let’s explore further.

FSM Constitution/FSM Code 

Article III, section 3 of the FSM Constitution states that, in order to remain a FSM citizen, a person who is a FSM citizen and also a citizen of another country must:

  1. Register her intent to remain a FSM Citizen;
  2. Renounce her citizenship of another nation;
  3. Do #1 and #2 from the above by the age of 21.

Many people have asked if the FSM Constitution allows dual citizenship for FSM citizens under the age of 21. It does appear that dual citizenship is allowed before the age of 21. However, if the above three elements are not met by the age of 21, a FSM citizen becomes a FSM national. What’s the difference between a FSM citizen and FSM national? A future blog will explain.

The FSM Code, Title 7, section 203 states that a FSM citizen must register her intent with the President or his designee to remain a FSM citizen by the age of 21. How does one register her intent to remain a FSM citizen through the President’s office?  What happens if someone fails to renounce her citizenship of another nation by the age of 21?

It is not clear how to register one’s intent to remain a FSM Citizen. There is no regulation that identifies the procedures.

As for renunciation it is clear that one must do so by the age of 21. What is not clear is what exactly is required to renounce.   If formal renunciation is required, then how many FSM citizens that are also citizens of another country can afford to pay the often exorbitant fees associated with doing so? Currently, the fee for renouncing U.S. citizenship is $2,350.00! What about the many FSM citizens born in another country but have always used a FSM passport all of their lives or adult lives? Is the act of obtaining only a FSM passport considered “renouncing?”

That is where Public Law 19-91 comes in. It adds in Title 7 of the code, section 203, the following language, “[a] citizen who holds a FSM passport that has been renewed twice in a row is entitled to a rebuttable presumption that he has renounced the citizenship of another nation and that he is solely a FSM citizen.”

Our interpretation is that the FSM Government may provide renewal of a FSM passport if one has had two FSM passports in a row; however, the FSM Government may rebut the presumption by asking someone who notes in the passport application having been born outside of the FSM to show proof of renunciation. If proof cannot be provided, a passport will not be issued even having had two FSM passports in a row.

FSM Supreme Court on Public Law 19-91

In a recent case, the court dealt with Public Law 19-91. In Fritz Edward Hartmann v. Department of Justice, FSM Government, Civil Action 2016, 1001, the FSM Supreme Court issued an order on September 19, 2016, stating, “[a]fter hearing the parties’ presentations, the court requested further briefing on the effect of FSM Public Law No. 19-91….”

The facts of this case are simple. Mr. Hartmann’s father is a FSM citizen but he was born in U.S. He is 32 years old and has never had a U.S. passport. His last issued FSM passport was October 30, 2007 and expired on October 29, 2012.   On January 12, 2016, Hartmann filed an application for a new FSM passport. FSM Department of Justice rejected his application on the grounds that he was born in Guam and failed to register his intent to remain a FSM citizen by the age of 21.   He was considered a FSM national by FSM Immigration.   Hartmann sought a declaration by the court that he is a FSM citizen.

Ultimately, the FSM Supreme Court ruled that Hartmann is not entitled to the presumption in Public Law 19-91 because he has only applied for a FSM Passport once since turning 21, not twice as required by the law. The court also ruled that since Hartmann admitted that he had not “formally renounced” his U.S. citizenship, any presumption he may have been entitled to under the law would be rebutted.   The FSM Department of Justice recommended that Hartmann go through the naturalization process. This process allows for one to become a FSM citizen even after the age of 21 after meeting certain elements like showing proof of renunciation. Naturalization will also be a part of future blog.

Interestingly, the court noted the danger in Hartmann (or anyone else) renouncing U.S. citizenship, applying for naturalization, and being rejected by the FSM Government to become a naturalized citizen. If that were to happen, Hartmann would be a FSM national with no passport to travel. That would interfere with his right to travel. The court suggested that if passports are issued to FSM nationals to allow for travel, it should clearly be marked that it is only for travel purposes so that FSM nationals do not use the passport to exercise rights reserved only to FSM citizens (e.g. right to own land).

This case is still ongoing. The remaining issue is whether a FSM national has a right to a FSM passport.

Conclusion

Our leaders are aware that our nation needs to deal with the issues surrounding dual citizenship. The difficulty, or some would say blessing, is that dual citizenship can only be accomplished through a constitutional amendment. The FSM Constitution, Article XIV, section 1, states in part that, “[a]n amendment to this Constitution may be proposed by a constitutional convention, popular initiative, or Congress in a manner provided by law. A proposed amendment shall become a part of the Constitution when approved by 3/4 of the votes cast on that amendment in each of 3/4 of the states.”

There is information coming out of Palikir that dual citizenship will be on the referendum during the next Congressional session in March.

In the end, Public Law 19-91’s attempt to create a way to renounce dual citizenship remains unclear and likely will complicate this issue as we move forward.



DISCLAIMER: This blog is made available by the R&M Law Firm for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. It is not to provide you with legal advice. By using our blog you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the firm.