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CADC on Expatriation, APA: Farrell v. Blinken

July 14, 2021 (1 min read)

Farrell v. Blinken

"While United States citizenship is one of the most sought after in the world, American citizens sometimes choose to relinquish this privilege and place their allegiance elsewhere. Congress has specified the actions that will result in expatriation and also vested authority in the Secretary of State to recognize the loss of nationality. Before recognizing a person’s expatriation, the Department of State (the “Department”) requires citizens to comply with various procedures. If it is satisfied that expatriation has occurred, the Department will issue a certificate of loss of nationality (“CLN”). This case involves a challenge to the procedures for obtaining a CLN. Gerald Farrell claims that he has performed an expatriating act by naturalizing as a Swiss citizen with the intent to relinquish his United States citizenship. The Department denied Farrell’s request for a CLN because he has not appeared at a consulate abroad to fill out forms that, according to the Department, must be completed in person to obtain a CLN. Farrell challenges this “in-person requirement,” arguing that it is contrary to law, ultra vires, and arbitrary and capricious. The district court upheld the in-person requirement. We first explain the basis of Farrell’s standing and our jurisdiction to decide this case. On the merits, we agree with the district court that the Department has statutory authority to impose an in-person requirement; however, we hold the Department acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Farrell a CLN. In a series of letter responses to Farrell’s request for a CLN, the Department offered conflicting and ever-evolving reasons for denying the CLN and failed to explain what tasks Farrell was required to complete in person. We thus reverse and remand to the district court with instructions to remand to the Department to reconsider Farrell’s request for a CLN."

[Hats off to Brad Banias!]