Siavash Sobhani, a doctor in North Virginia who has been living in the US since his birth, lost his citizenship at the age of 61. He told The Washington Post that after he applied for a new passport in February, he received a letter from the US State Department saying he should not have been granted citizenship at the time of his birth because his father was a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy.
According to the letter, those born in the US to parents who have diplomatic immunity do not acquire American citizenship at birth. It said Sobhani enjoyed diplomatic immunity from the jurisdiction of the US at the time of his birth and so he did not acquire citizenship.
However, for Sobhani who has practiced medicine for more than 30 years, this is the first time he has encountered this issue. Throughout his life, the US State Department has reconfirmed he was an American citizen over and over again every time his passport was renewed.
Siavash Sobhani recently turned 62 and had started to think about retirement. He and his wife had planned to spend the year exploring other countries in hopes of finding a community where they could buy a home.
Now he has to follow the instructions given by the State Department and apply for lawful permanent residence.
He told The Washington Post that he has already spent more than USD 40,000 on legal fees and has no idea as to when his case might be resolved.
“I’m waiting for an interview, but does that mean I wait another year for an interview? Then another three years for the next step? Then another 10 years before I can travel outside of the country?” he told the Post.
He has also written to his Congressional representative and the Virginia Senator requesting their help. Following Sobhani's letter, Gerald Edward Connolly, the representative for Virginia's 11th congressional district, wrote to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the doctor's behalf.
The future ahead is unclear for Siavash Sobhani as he cannot safely live in Iran because he has spoken out against the government. He is also unsure whether he will have a passport in time to attend his son’s wedding in Portugal next year.
The doctor cannot even visit his father-in-law, who lives in Lebanon and is seriously ill.
As he deals with the "shocking" news, Sobhani told The Washington Post that he hopes his citizenship will be restored within six months.