( eks-pā′tri-ā′shən )
As a legal definition, it means the breaking of the bond of allegiance to a state either voluntarily or by act of the state itself.
A loss of citizenship of an individual, typically on a voluntary basis but sometimes imposed by the state. Under old English common law the rule of indelible allegiance prevailed which prohibits citizens from renouncing his or her national allegiance and citizenship without consent of the sovereign. The United States has always insisted on the basic right of any immigrant to forswear allegiance and acquire citizenship.
Due to contrary doctrines on expatriation the United States historically was embroiled in controversy with European nations. According to traditional European policies, the consent of the state was necessary for an individual to renounce their citizenship. It was based on this position that Great Britain seized American sailors after the American Revolution, with the British motto being, "once an Englishman, always an Englishman." Continuation of such policies by the English helped precipitate the War of 1812. Young men threatened with military service during 18th and 19th centuries sometimes attempted to use expatriation as a means of escape. Therefore, European nations insisted upon state consent for voluntary expatriation. The British policy of impressment of former British subjects was one of the major contentions in the War of 1812 (see Impressment).
The general consensus among early Americans was an individual has a right to expatriate with or without state consent. Since the early population of the U.S. was comprised of voluntary expatriates, this position was formally adopted. Congress enacted into law in 1868, declaring that "the right of expatriation is a natural and inherent right of all people," therefore all naturalized citizens were absolved from prior allegiance to their native country. James Buchanan, first as Secretary of State and then as President, was instrumental in the development of a policy on expatriation without formal consent of state. This was unilaterally pronounced by the United States but it is not a general rule of international law. The pronouncement of 1868 by a series of treaties with German states that are known as the Bancroft Treaties that gave reciprocal recognition to naturalization when supported by an uninterrupted residence of five years. Likewise in 1870, Great Britain changed policy to grant subjects the right to expatriate by naturalization. In 1907 the United States recognized expatriation of its own citizens by an act providing that Americans who were naturalized in foreign countries or who took a foreign oath of allegiance, lost their citizenship. Most countries follow this policy. Most nations recognize the right of its citizens to change allegiance from one to another country although the former USSR and France required the government of the native country to grant permission. According to U.S. law any citizen who becomes a citizen of a foreign nation or serves in such foreign military is automatically expatriated. An individual who has became naturalized as a citizen of the United States may be expatriated if he returns to live in his own native homeland for two years or lives outside the U.S. for five years.
Expatriation is typically associated with a voluntary change in allegiance there are some examples of the state involuntarily expatriating certain naturalized citizens. Totalitarian states such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union were notorious for expatriating great numbers of their citizens regarded as politically undesirable therefore rendering those individuals refugees. Sometimes states will use expatriation as a means to punish citizens for not fulfilling various obligations as citizens.