Although rare, it is possible for a naturalized U.S. citizen to have his or her citizenship stripped through a process called "denaturalization." Former citizens who are denaturalized are subject to removal (deportation) from the United States. Natural-born U.S. citizens may not have their citizenship revoked against their will, but may choose to renounce their citizenship on their own.
This article covers the grounds for having one's citizenship revoked, the basics of the denaturalization process, and defenses to denaturalization.
Grounds for Denaturalization
The Denaturalization Process
Denaturalization, in which a naturalized citizen is stripped of his or her citizenship, is a process that occurs in federal court (typically in the district court where the defendant last resided) and follows the standard rules of federal civil court cases. As such, it is not an immigration case even though it affects immigration status.
Naturalized citizens found to be in violation of the terms of citizenship must leave the country. Children granted citizenship based on their parent's status may also lose their citizenship after that parent has been denaturalized.
As with any other civil case, the denaturalization process begins with a formal complaint against the defendant, who may respond to the complaint and defend himself or herself at trial (or hire an immigration attorney). The defendant has 60 days to file an answer to the complaint, where he or she may claim the action is based on wrong information or that the statute of limitations has expired, for example.
The U.S. government has a high bar for proving a defendant meets the criteria for denaturalization (a heavier burden of proof than most civil cases, but not as great a burden as criminal cases), according to the USCIS Adjudicator's Field Manual:
"Because citizenship is such a precious right, it cannot be taken away unless the government is able to meet a high burden of proof... Accordingly, a case should only be referred for denaturalization where there is objective evidence to establish that the individual was not eligible for naturalization, or procured naturalization by willful concealment or material misrepresentation."
If your U.S. citizenship is revoked, you may be deported soon after the verdict is issued.
Appeals & Defenses
As with other types of court cases, individuals whose citizenship is revoked may appeal the decision if there is reason to believe the lower court made legal errors. Also, those facing denaturalization are not considered to be "concealing" relevant facts if there was no inquiry about them or if there is a lack of evidence pointing to an intentional concealment of relevant facts.
For example, a naturalized citizen belonging to the Communist Party was asked if he belonged to any organization advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government, answering "no." Unless there is sufficient evidence that this person knew the Communist Party engaged in such activities, he did not conceal any relevant facts. However, failure to mention an association with Al Qaeda (or any other terrorist organization) is considered concealment of relevant information.
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Maybe you are fed up with the U.S. and want to renounce your citizenship. Or maybe you are a naturalized citizen and being threatened with deportation because of some action the government is claiming you did such as being a member of an "Anti-American" political party. Whatever your situation, it is best to have an immigration attorney help you with the law and how it may apply to you. Learn more with a free attorney match today.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.