43 Years of Impactful Scholarship

Volume 42, Issue 5

The Right to Renounce Citizenship

Article 15(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”) proclaims that no one can be “denied the right to change his nationality.” Following the UDHR’s promulgation in 1948, the general right to have a citizenship, and thus to preclude statelessness, was developed substantially through several major international agreements. However, the right to renounce citizenship—implicit in the UDHR’s explicit promise of “the right to change” nationality— remained underdeveloped. This Note surveys the contemporary state of the norm. Despite broad recognition in national laws of a right to renounce citizenship, no international treaty defines the norm. Some countries impose conditions on renouncing citizenship, both procedural steps and substantive conditions such as continuing obligations to pay taxes and to perform compulsory military. This Note proposes that there is a customary international law core to the right to renounce citizenship, with reference to the state practice of certain lead jurisdictions: The United States, Singapore, India, European countries, Brazil, Russia, China, and Japan. This Note also touches upon the related topic of dual citizenship—a person’s “right to change” nationality by adding one or more nationalities to the one he or she presently holds. In concluding, this Note makes predictions and suggestions for the future. The right to renounce citizenship is particularly salient today, both in the United States specifically given drastic political polarization, and globally, as a wealthy class of transnational persons engage in citizenship forum-shopping for such reasons as avoidance of taxes and military service.

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Recommended Citation:

Savannah Price, The Right to Renounce Citizenship, 42 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1547 (2019). 
Available at: https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj/vol42/iss5/8