Cross-posted from Quora

I was born in Canada by an American mother, so am I an American citizen?

 
Answer by John Richardson , Lawyer (1982-present)

Anybody concerned with the answer to this question should (1) do the appropriate research and (2) get the appropriate advice.

Unless you live in the United States or want to live PERMANENTLY in the United States, you would NOT want U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizens are subject to U.S. taxation on ALL OF THEIR WORLDWIDE INCOME, even if they do NOT live in the United States. In fact U.S. citizens living outside the United States who are “tax residents” of other countries are always “subject(s)” (pun intended) to two tax systems.

The question is: “I was BORN IN CANADA to an AMERICAN mother, so am I an American citizen?” Note that if you were born in Canada you are born in another country where U.S. laws (as much as they would like them to) do NOT presumptively apply. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act is the statute that defines who is an American citizen and who is NOT an American citizen.

Here is my answer which is written in a way to encourage caution and to NOT just listen to the first “accountant” (what would an accountant know about this anyway?) or lawyer or immigration consultant.

The answer is “maybe”. It depends. Your approach to this question depends on whether you want to be a U.S. citizen or do not want to be a U.S. citizen.

For those born in Canada and who WANT to be U.S. citizens:

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act has specific rules that say under what circumstances a person born to an American mother outside the USA “shall” be a U.S. citizen. The answer is dependent on the mother having a certain number of years of actual physical presence in the United States. (The one year “continuous presence” test was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2017 decision of Morales-Santanya).

Therefore, if you want to be an American citizen you would have to establish the existence of specific facts and present those facts to the U.S. State Department and ask them to issue you a U.S. passport. Note that you are NOT entitled to a U.S. passport until those specific facts are proven to the satisfaction of the State Department.

For those born in Canada who do NOT want to be U.S. citizens:

There are some in the tax compliance industry (what do they know about citizenship law anyway?) who have marketed the idea that U.S. citizenship can be imposed on people born in Canada (and other countries) even if they have never considered themselves to be U.S. citizens.

Can the USA forcibly impose U.S. citizenship on people who were NOT “Born In The USA”? What if one was born to an American mother in China (a country that does NOT allow “dual citizenship”). Can the USA forcibly impose U.S. citizenship on that citizen of China?

If you have accepted that you are a U.S. citizen and have traveled on a U.S. passport (and that kind of stuff) then you would NOT be able to defend the accusation of U.S. citizenship. But, if you have done NONE of those things and just happened to have been born outside the United States to an American mother, then your situation is probably different. You are arguably in a position where you would have the “right” to U.S. citizenship (under U.S. law if you want) but NOT the obligation to accept U.S. citizenship (because you were born in a country where the USA does not have jurisdiction).

I am not aware of a single instance where a U.S. court has ruled that people born outside the United States are required to be U.S. citizens.

In any case, if you were NOT born in the USA, you do not have the objective characteristics that would raise the question of “U.S. citizenship” anyway.

This issue has been discussed at the Isaac Brock Society and other sites. The following post provides some of the “analytical tools” to consider the question.

Help: Can the United States IMPOSE US citizenship on those born outside the US?

If you have read this far you might find the following video of interest:

U.S. citizenship and the Government of Australia

The question of “dual citizenship” and whether somebody IS a “dual citizen” was of practical relevance in Australia in 2017. Basically, seven (at least) Australian politicians were accused of being “dual citizens” (making them ineligible to serve in Australia’s legislative body). This “farce” provides a real world example of why it would matter if somebody born outside the USA to an American other would be an American citizen. See the following:

Australian Greens Senator @LarissaWaters resigns because of her CANADIAN place of birth. Too bad she was born in Canada (with images, tweets) · expatriationlaw

From Quora

John Richardson, Lawyer (1982-present)
Answered Dec 5, 2017

Which country’s citizens enjoy more freedoms than Americans?

The short answer is: The citizens of many countries enjoy more freedoms than Americans.

The answer to this difficult and interesting question should be considered from at least 3 perspectives:

Perspective 1: Do American citizens have the right to leave the United States and to make a new life outside the United States?
 
Perspective 2: How do the freedoms of American citizens living in the United States compare to the freedoms of (for example) a Russian citizen living in Russia?
 
Perspective 3: How do the freedoms of American citizens compare to the freedom of the citizens of other countries from the perspective of international human rights instruments?
 


 
Perspective 1: Do American citizens have the right to leave the United States and to make a new life outside the United States?

There are presumably some countries that make it impossible to physically leave the country. Certainly the United States does not (except that U.S. law requires U.S. citizens to have a U.S. passport to leave the United States) prevent its citizens from leaving the United States. What the United States does do, is make it difficult for U.S. citizens to survive outside the United States.

As long as they remain U.S. citizens, Americans do NOT really have the freedom to leave the United States, settle in other countries and fully participate as residents of other countries.

The primary reason is because U.S. citizens who leave the United States are still (as long as they remain U.S. citizens) subject to U.S. tax and reporting requirements. These requirements are so onerous (FATCA, FBAR, PFIC, CBT, etc.) that more and more U.S. citizens are renouncing U.S. citizenship so that they have the freedom to live outside the United States. There is no other country in the world that attempts to impose domestic laws on its citizens after they leave the country.

For a particularly graphic description of how America treats its citizens who attempt to live abroad, read about the Nightmare of Mexican residents who have U.S. citizenship”.

Conclusion: From perspective 1, Americans are the LEAST free people in the world.
 
Perspective 2: How do the freedoms of American citizens living in the United States compare to the freedoms of (for example) a Russian citizen living in Russia?

I suspect that Americans living in the United States have more freedom than citizens of some countries and less freedom than the citizens of other countries. But again, it depends how freedom is defined. Is freedom objective or is it subjective? What are the areas of human activity that are relevant?

The United States has a Federal Government and 50 states AND is a “mature country”. The country necessarily has a large number of laws and regulations (many of which cannot be easily understood).

Americans in the United States are clearly much more free than North Koreans living in North Korea. But, for the reasons given in the answer by Sindhu Mahadevan (below), I suspect that Americans living in the United States are not more free (and possibly less free) than the citizens of other first world democracies.

Americans live in a constant state of fear. Fear of illness, fear of violence, fear of terrorism, etc., fear of not being able to pay for post-secondary education … This is a big problem.

Two possible additional considerations:

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
The United States does have a “death penalty”
 
Can a country that has the highest incarceration rate in the world really be considered to be a country with maximum freedoms?
 
Perspective 3: How do the freedoms of American citizens compare to the freedom of the citizens of other countries from the perspective of international human rights instruments?

Interestingly Americans have CONSTITUTIONAL rights that are enshrined in the U.S. constitution. They do NOT have many “human rights” as guaranteed by international human rights documents. In many cases, the rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution do NOT provide the protections afforded by international human rights documents. This may be surprising to Americans reading this. But, you might find the following to be of interest:

Human Rights and the United States

On the other hand, American systems do have access to a legal system and courts that can be used to enforce the CONSTITUTIONAL rights that they do have.