In most cases, a naturalized U.S. citizen will not lose their citizenship.
Contrary to popular belief, once you have become naturalized, you cannot lose your U.S. citizenship solely because you have lived outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time–this could only be a problem for those who are still considered green cardholders.
Generally, your citizenship will not be questioned after you have been naturalized.[i]
If you’ve been naturalized, you have:
- Filed a Form N-400
- Gone through the naturalization interview
- Had your Application for Naturalization approved
- Taken your Oath of Allegiance
However, there are a few cases in which it is possible to lose your citizenship. You can involuntarily lose your citizenship through a process known as denaturalization.
Denaturalization refers to the process by which the US government, and specifically USCIS and the US Department of State, would take to revoke your U.S. citizenship. This would occur only if you had gained your citizenship because of some illegal act in the first place.
Denaturalization proceedings can occur if you:
- Obtained your citizenship illegally
- Concealed or refused to reveal a material fact on your application or willfully misrepresented yourself during the naturalization proceedings
- Became involved with certain organizations
- Have been naturalized due to your experience and involvement in the military, then you can face denaturalization if you are dishonorably discharged, or released from duty for a less than honorable reason, prior to you having served honorably for at least five years
Illegal Procurement of Citizenship
When USCIS speaks to obtaining citizenship illegally, they mean that you were not originally eligible for citizenship. This can be due to factors including your physical presence, permanent resident status, good moral character, residence requirements, or loyalty to the ideals of the constitution.[ii]
If you did not fulfill these requirements at the time of your naturalization proceedings, then USCIS will consider your application has having been illegally procured. Unfortunately, it does not matter if you innocently misrepresented yourself or unintentionally deceived the U.S. government, you can still be subject to denaturalization.[iii]
You can also lose your citizenship if you hid a material fact, or intentionally misrepresented yourself, during your naturalization application process. Materiality speaks to whether or not the facts would have affected the outcome of your application.[iv]
It is important to note that it is not required that the information would have resulted in you being denied your citizenship, just that it may have had some affect on the final decision if the facts had been included.[v]
You can have your naturalized status revoked if you:
- Intentionally and willfully hid or misrepresented a fact;
- The facts were material; and
- You were able to gain your citizenship due to the fact that you misrepresented or hid this material facts
USCIS further indicates that in order to qualify for denaturalization in this context, your failure to include this information can count as well. Therefore, both an omission and an active attempt to hide this information can result in the revocation of your citizenship. [vi]
Affiliation with Organizations Opposed to the United States
You should be aware that your membership or affiliation with some organizations within five years of you being naturalized can also cause you to lose your citizen status.[vii]
If you have become involved with a Communist, totalitarian, or terrorist organization, USCIS will believe that because of your association with such, you cannot be loyal to the ideals of the U.S. Constitution and therefore are not happy with the U.S. [viii]
Further, your involvement will be read as you having concealed information that would have changed the outcome of your naturalization process, and therefore you could face denaturalization proceedings.
Dishonorable Discharge from Military Service
If you were able to gain citizenship through your service in the U.S. military, you should be aware that if you were discharged under anything but honorable circumstances prior to having honorably served for at least five years, you can also become subject to denaturalization. [ix]
It is important to note that those five years do not have to be served at the same time.
You should be aware that this process is not administrative, like your citizenship application process was. Instead, denaturalization is handled by federal court.[x] Therefore, your naturalized status can only be revoked once a final order from a judicial proceeding has been issued. [xi]
You will be given notice of the suit which is typically filed in the district court where you live. Once you have been served with this notice, you have 60 days to respond and argue why you believe these proceedings are incorrect.
Generally, the government must meet a high burden of proof to show that you deserve to have your citizenship revoked. Due to the severity of the consequences of having your citizenship revoked, you should contact an attorney.
Difference Between Revocation and Cancellation of Certificate
If you find that USCIS cancels your Certificate of Citizenship of Naturalization, don’t panic. In this case, it just means that the certificate itself is cancelled but should not affect your citizenship status in anyway.
USCIS will use this in cases where they believe that the certificate was fraudulently or illegally created. [xii]
Once you naturalize and become a United States citizen you should have no problem keeping your citizenship status.
Typically, you would only be at risk of losing your citizenship if you had lied on the original application or you act against the U.S. government shortly after becoming naturalized.
[i] See INA § 340(e).
[ii] See INA § 316.
[iii] See INA § 340(a).
[iv] See INA § 340(a); Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759, 767 (1988); United States v. Nunez-Garcia, 262 F. Supp.2d 1073 (C.D. Cal. 2003); United States v. Reve, 241 F. Supp.2d 470 (D. N.J. 2003); United States v. Ekpin, 241 F. Supp.2d 707 (S.D. Tex 2002); United States v. Tarango-Pena, 173 F. Supp.2d 588 (E.D. Tex. 2001).
[v] See Kungys v. United States, 485 U.S. 759, 767 (1988).
[vi] See id.
[vii] See INA § 313; INA § 340(c).
[viii]See INA § 316(a)(3).
[ix] See INA § 328(a); INA § 328(f); INA § 329(a); INA § 329(c).
[x] See INA § 340(a).
[xi] See INA § 340(a).
[xii] See INA § 342.