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An immigrant couple finds out their U.S. citizenship is getting revoked.

Denaturalization: The Process of Revoking U.S. Citizenship After Naturalization

On this page, you will find information regarding the question “Can a naturalized citizen be deported?” 

If you became a U.S. citizen through naturalization, it is possible—although it’s very rare—for your citizenship to be removed through the denaturalization process.

Denaturalization: How Can U.S. Citizenship Be Revoked?

Denaturalization is the removal of your status as a United States citizen after you have gone through the naturalization process. Denaturalization is for individuals who have immigrated to the United States. Birthright citizens cannot be denaturalized since they have not gone through the naturalization process.

Can a Naturalized Citizen Be Deported?

Yes, a naturalized citizen can be deported and have their citizenship revoked when denaturalization has occurred. This process is rare, but does occur. Usually, when you obtain your United States citizenship, it is a status that you will keep forever. 

You do have the option to appeal a denaturalization decision. If the appeal does not go through, then deportation may be the next step.

If you are denaturalized, there is a chance that you will not be deported. You may just return to the same lawful permanent resident status (LPR) that you held before gaining citizenship. However, if the reason for your removal of citizenship is also grounds for deportation, then you will be deported. 

Reasons for Revoking U.S. Citizenship Through Denaturalization

We receive many questions about denaturalization, such as “Can you lose your citizenship if you commit a felony?” and “Are there three ways to lose citizenship?” But let’s focus on the most basic question:

How can you lose your citizenship?”

There are two main reasons for denaturalization:

  1. If the naturalization process included willful misrepresentation or concealment of material fact
  2. If the naturalization process was done illegally 

Denaturalization Because of Misrepresentation or Concealing Facts

Denaturalization can occur when you lie on your application or in your naturalization interview about prior or current affiliations. For example, if you ever were or currently are in a terrorist party (i.e., the Nazi Party or Al-Qaeda) and withheld that information, you would be denaturalized.

Denaturalization Because of Immigration Fraud 

If a person obtained their United States citizenship illegally, then that citizenship will be revoked because they were not eligible for naturalization in the first place.

Revoking U.S. Citizenship Through Denaturalization Meaning

When you are denaturalized, you have never actually been a U.S. citizen in the eyes of the court. Since your citizenship was illegal, your citizenship will be revoked and you will be considered to have never been a citizen in the first place.

Other Reasons for Denaturalization

If the naturalization process was done legally, there are two more reasons why someone could be denaturalized:

  1. Joining a terrorist group in the five years after gaining U.S. citizenship
  2. If you gained U.S. citizenship through your military service, you can be denaturalized by being dishonorably discharged after having  been in the military for less than five years

How to Avoid Denaturalization

Denaturalization is rare but does occur. Avoid the possibility of denaturalization by working with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration and naturalization attorney like the ones here at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C.

Naturalization is a legal process that requires time, commitment, attention to detail, and meeting certain criteria. Going through the naturalization process with an experienced attorney means that your path to citizenship is traveled correctly and legally, avoiding the possibility of denaturalization. 

Talk to your immigration attorney about moving towards citizenship today or if your citizenship is being revoked through denaturalization or for other reasons.

Denaturalization and Family

Unfortunately, if your family members have joined you in the United States based on a family visa and obtained citizenship that way, they too can be denaturalized. 

Can a Natural Born Citizen Lose Citizenship?

Individuals who are U.S. citizens not through naturalization—that is, they are natural-born U.S. citizens and maintain their citizenship through the 14th Amendment—cannot be denaturalized. They are guaranteed citizenship. They can, however, choose to renounce their citizenship. 

Losing U.S. Citizenship for Reasons Other Than Denaturalization

Denaturalization happens when a naturalized citizen loses their citizenship due to fraud or ineligibility, as previously discussed. However, there are reasons for the loss of both naturalization and birthright citizenship status. This is called renunciation.

Renunciation is considered an expatriating act. The actions taken to cause the removal of citizenship are voluntary, meaning the intention of the act is to renounce citizenship. 

If an expatriating act is committed without the intent of removing citizenship, the person who committed the act can defend themselves. 

Expatriating acts include:

  1. Being convicted of treason against the U.S. government
  2. Being in another country’s military and participating in hostile military activities against the U.S.
  3. Being an officer in another country’s military
  4. Renouncing your citizenship and nationality in a formal hearing at a consular’s office or with a U.S. diplomat
  5. If and when the United States is in a war, the citizen writes their renunciation and it is approved by the U.S. Department of Justice
  6. Obtaining naturalization in another country after the age of 18
  7. Making an affirmation, oath, or formal declaration of allegiance to another country
  8. Being a government official of another country after the age of 18 after gaining nationality there
  9. Being a government official of another country after the age of 18 when an allegiance to that country is required for the position

Renunciation can occur for all of these reasons, in addition to the primary causes/methods of denaturalization. The difference is that this list also includes reasons why native-born U.S. citizens could lose their citizenship.

Denaturalization vs. Renunciation

As a quick summary, denaturalization is having your citizenship removed involuntarily. Renunciation is having your citizenship removed voluntarily. 

How Can Citizenship Be Revoked: The Court Process

Revoking U.S. citizenship is a decision made by the federal court—usually at the local district court. Because of this, the process of denaturalization is actually not an immigration case. 

When denaturalization occurs, it is part of federal civil law. If denaturalization occurs, your immigration status will change, but the case itself remains a civil one. 

You can (and should) seek your immigration attorney’s assistance and representation. Immigration attorneys are the most qualified to represent you in a denaturalization case. You are allowed to represent yourself as a defendant, but both immigation and federal laws quickly become complicated, so it’s best to hire an experienced immigration attorney. 

Burden of Proof

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a lengthy process that holds a lot of weight. You have most likely strived and come far to obtain citizenship through naturalization. 

When you become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, the government recognizes this status and acts accordingly, offering you the same rights as every other U.S. citizen, regardless of whether citizenship status was obtained through birth or naturalization. The only difference is that denaturalization is possible.

Due to your rights as a U.S. citizen, the court system will expect the government to offer a high burden of proof in your denaturalization case. In other words, denaturalization is only possible if and only if you meet the strict standards for it. 

Appealing Denaturalization Decisions

If your citizenship is revoked, you can appeal the denaturalization decision made by the court. You should work with an immigration lawyer through this entire process. 

Successfully appealing a denaturalization decision requires a nuanced understanding of the law, and an immigration attorney will be able to see if any legal errors were made. Work with your immigration attorney for a chance to appeal the denaturalization decision. 

Contact an Immigration Attorney Today

The experienced attorneys at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. are here to represent you and answer any questions you may have about citizenship and denaturalization. With more than 70 years of combined experience in immigration law, we can and will help you with citizenship, naturalization, and denaturalization questions. Call us at 312.444.1940 or fill out an online contact form today.

Not ready for citizenship yet? Find out more information about a temporary I-551 stamp, green card replacement, and how to maintain lawful resident status by working with the immigration attorneys at our law office. We look forward to hearing from you!

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