In December 2007, Fabio Dos Santos made history as the first foreign-born
athlete to obtain Vietnamese citizenship. Upon naturalization, Dos Santos adopted the name Phan Va˘n Santos, a tribute to two football players he admired. After Dos Santos, several football players followed suit. While each athlete approached the formulation of their new names differently, what is striking is the fact that the government required all of them to
hold, at a minimum, a Vietnamese surname. In Section 4 of Article XIX—a
peculiar provision in Vietnam’s Law on Nationality—the Vietnamese government states that naturalisation applicants “must” bear a Vietnamese name after receiving citizenship. Strangely, the government does not enforce Section 4 for all naturalisation applicants. But why have a surname requirement in the first place, particularly in twenty-first century, postcolonial Vietnam? Would not a citizen, by any other name, smell just as sweet? Why would a citizen by another name be considered “better”? What kinds of names are already good enough? This Note explores the motivation, history, and impacts behind Section 4
Thanh D. Nguyen, A citizen by any other name: Postcolonial cop out in Section 4, Article XIX of Vietnam’s Law on Nationality, Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, 2020.