Although rare, it is possible for a naturalized U.S. citizen to have their 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, since birthright citizenship is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, but they may choose to renounce their citizenship on their own.
This article covers the grounds for having one's U.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 their 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 themselves at trial (or hire an immigration attorney). The defendant has 60 days to file an answer to the complaint, where they 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 and 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's sufficient evidence that this person knew the Communist Party engaged in such activities, he didn't conceal any relevant facts. However, failure to mention an association with Al Qaeda (or any other terrorist organization) is considered concealment of relevant information.
Questions About Your U.S. Citizenship Being Revoked? Talk to an Attorney
Maybe you're fed up with the political climate in the U.S. and want to renounce your citizenship or want to acquire citizenship in another country. Or maybe you're a naturalized citizen being threatened with deportation because the government claims that you're a member of a subversive group. Whatever your situation, it's best to contact a skilled immigration attorney to help you understand U.S. immigration laws and how they apply to your particular situation.
Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you with the citizenship process.