Mr. Uhl to Mr. Runyon .

No. 238.]

Sir: Your No. 202, of the 13th ultimo, has been received. It relates to the contention of the Wurtemberg authorities that they may require German consular visés on foreign passports and proofs of five years’ residence in the United States in cases of naturalized citizens of German birth, as exemplified in the military case of Karl Friedrich Seifreid, at Heilbronn.

That case appears to have been disposed of according to the Wurtemberg claim, and Seifried having been bailed until evidence of residence should be obtained, was released after proof of naturalization and continued residence of thirteen years in the United States had been received from America and been submitted to the court. As this period embraced some five years subsequent to Seifried’s naturalization in 1889, it is clear that the evidence on that point was not wholly derived from the record of naturalization.

This Government has uniformly insisted that its passports shall be deemed prima facie evidence of lawful citizenship. In the great majority of cases five years’ residence is a statutory condition precedent to naturalization of an alien, and the certification of such a person’s citizenship by a passport necessarily comprises certification of the full legality of his acquisition of citizenship, including the required term of residence.

There are indeed some few exceptional cases, as of minors acquiring citizenship through the naturalization of the father, discharged soldiers, merchant seamen, and others (Revised Statutes, secs. 2166, 2168, 2172, and 2174), but these exceptions fall under the general rule which permits the fact certified by a passport to be traversed when reasonable ground to question it appears. In such cases this Government is ready to inquire whether the holder of a passport is lawfully entited to it and whether it may rightfully be used in a foreign country under the express stipulations of treaty. This Government can never consent to a course of action by a foreign government virtually amounting to a denial of the validity prima facie of our passports, nor to the recognition of a rule that the burden rests on their possessors to prove lawful possession and use. Such a proposition subverts the sound rules of international law and comity, as well as the elementary principles of municipal jurisprudence.

As Seifried’s case has been favorably terminated, it may not be necessary to supplement it by controversy upon the abstract points embraced therein, but it is deemed well to give you the Department’s views touching the general principle for your guidance in any future case. You are also referred to correspondence with the Austro-Hungarian Government in regard to the acceptance and recognition of United States passports, which you will find in late issues of the Foreign Relations volume.1

I am, etc.,

Edwin F. Uhl,
Acting Secretary.