The State Department told him that he should not have been granted citizenship at birth because his father was a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy. Photo: Instagram/@drssobhani

Siavash Sobhani is a doctor who was born, studied and worked all his life in the U.S. But recently, at the age of 61, a routine passport renewal changed his situation in the country overnight.

When he applied for a new passport in February, Sobhani was informed that he had lost his U.S. citizenship. He had previously renewed his passport without a hitch, so this time he had no reason to worry either, The Washington Post reported on Nov. 25.

In a letter, the State Department told him that he should not have been granted citizenship at the time of his birth, because his father was a diplomat at the Iranian Embassy. However, as of today, you have the right to apply for lawful permanent residency.

"It was a shock to me," admitted Sobhani, who specialized in internal medicine.

"I'm a doctor. I've been here my whole life. I've paid my taxes. I voted for presidents. I have served my community in Northern Virginia. During covid I was working, putting myself at risk, putting my family at risk. So when after 61 years they're like, 'Oh, there was a mistake, you're not a U.S. citizen anymore,' it's really shocking," he explained.

Sobhani had no choice but to apply for permanent residency as instructed, but he fears that the country's immigration system is moving too slowly.

He said he has already spent more than $40,000 on legal fees and still doesn't know when his case, which he describes as "disturbing," "frustrating" and "distressing," will be resolved.

"I'm waiting for an interview, but does that mean I'll have to wait another year for the interview?" she asks.

"Then another three years for the next step? And then another 10 years before I can travel out of the country?" he said.

A stateless person

The doctor explained that he can't imagine living in Iran and now he can only hope that "the impact that I have had on the care of our community of Virginians, their constituents, over the last 30 years will have some weight in influencing their decision to intervene on my behalf."

However, he does not know how long he will have to spend as a stateless person, as the letter informed that he lacked the right to be an American.

"As a member of his parents' family at the time of his birth, he also enjoyed full diplomatic immunity from the jurisdiction of the United States," the document reads.

"As such, he was born not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Therefore, you did not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth," the letter concludes.

"But I did it," insists Sobhani, who never had any problems renewing his passport during his life. "They gave it to me," he reiterates. Despite having publicly asked for help, he does not know if his appeals will bear any fruit. He hopes to be able to regain citizenship within six months, but he doesn't know if his expectations are realistic.

In the meantime, he doesn't know if he'll be able to attend his son's wedding in Portugal next year or if he'll be able to take trips with his wife anytime soon.

(With information from The Washington Post and RT en Español)