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decided: January 9, 1950.



Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Jackson, Burton, Clark, Minton, McGrath; Douglas took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Burton

[ 338 U.S. Page 492]

 MR. JUSTICE BURTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question is whether, under the special circumstances of this case, a native-born American citizen who became an Italian citizen in 1940, and lived in Italy with her Italian husband from 1941 to 1945, nevertheless retained her American citizenship. For the reasons hereinafter stated, we hold that she did not. The controlling statutes are § 2 of the Citizenship Act of 1907,*fn1 and §§ 401,

[ 338 U.S. Page 493403]

     and 104 of its successor, the Nationality Act of 1940.*fn2

The petitioner, Rosette Sorge Savorgnan, brought this action in the United States District Court for the Western

[ 338 U.S. Page 494]

     District of Wisconsin, under § 503 of the Nationality Act of 1940, 54 Stat. 1171, 8 U. S. C. § 903, for a judgment declaring her to be an American citizen. That court decided in her favor. 73 F.Supp. 109. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment and remanded the case with directions to dismiss the petition against the United States because it had not consented to be sued, and to enter judgment in favor of the other defendants in conformity with its opinion. 171 F.2d 155. Because of the importance of this decision in determining American citizenship, we granted certiorari. 337 U.S. 914.

Insofar as material, the undisputed facts and those found by the District Court are as follows:

The petitioner was born in Wisconsin in 1915 of native-born parents and resided in the United States until July, 1941. In March, 1940, her intended husband, Alessandro Savorgnan, was an Italian citizen, serving as Italian Vice Consul at St. Louis, Missouri. He informed her that, under Italian law, she would have to become an Italian citizen before he could obtain the necessary royal consent to their marriage. She applied for Italian citizenship. He prepared her application. It was in Italian which he understood, but which she did not understand. In August, the petitioner was granted Italian citizenship. In November, she appeared with Savorgnan at the Italian Consulate in Chicago, Illinois, and, in his presence, signed an instrument which contained an oath, in Italian, expressly renouncing her American citizenship and swearing her allegiance to the King of Italy.*fn3 No ceremony or formal administration of the oath accompanied her signature and apparently none was required. She and Savorgnan

[ 338 U.S. Page 495]

     understood that her signing of this instrument had to do with her citizenship and with securing the required royal consent for Savorgnan to marry her, but he did not translate the instrument or explain its contents to her. The District Court found as a fact that, at the time of signing each of the documents mentioned, the petitioner, although intending to obtain Italian citizenship, had no intention of endangering her American citizenship or of renouncing her allegiance to the United States.

December 26, 1940, the petitioner and Savorgnan were married. In July, 1941, when Italian diplomatic officials were required to leave the United States, an Italian diplomatic passport was issued to the petitioner, and she embarked for Italy with her husband. She remained in Italy until November, 1945, except for six months spent in Germany. While in Italy she lived with her husband and his family in Rome, where he worked in the Italian Foreign Ministry. In November, 1945, she returned to America on an Italian diplomatic passport and later requested the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to correct the records of his office to show that she was an American citizen at the time of her return to America. The request was denied and she instituted the present proceeding.

There is no evidence of her maintaining, at any time after her marriage, a residence, dwelling place or place of general abode apart from her husband. The District

[ 338 U.S. Page 496]

     Court, however, found that, at the times of signing her application for Italian citizenship and the instrument containing her oath of allegiance to the King of Italy, she did not intend to establish a "permanent residence" in any country other than the United States. It found also that when she left America for Italy, "she did so without any intention of establishing a permanent residence abroad or abandoning ...

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