Some American citizens may be at risk of having their U.S. citizenship revoked. The process is rare, leaving the individuals at risk wondering what would happen if they were to lose their rights as an American.

Do they have to leave the country or else be deported? Will they ever be able to visit again? What happens to their assets? Does the government take their American passport away, leaving them without one? This guide will clarify the circumstances in which someone may lose their U.S. citizenship and the ramifications.

When Can the Government Revoke Your Citizenship?

The State Department lists seven reasons why the U.S. may revoke your citizenship, whether you were born in the U.S. or naturalized. They are:

  1. Obtaining citizenship by naturalization (and not through birthright) in another country after the age of 18;
  2. Taking an oath or other type of formal declaration of allegiance or affirmation to another country after the age of 18;
  3. Enlisting and/or serving in another country’s military engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or serving as an officer in a foreign country’s armed forces;
  4. If older than 18, working or accepting employment with a foreign government as a national of the country or by taking an oath or declaring allegiance to qualify for the position;
  5. Officially renouncing U.S. nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer at an American consulate or embassy overseas;
  6. Officially renouncing U.S. nationality within the United States through The Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
  7. Being convicted for an act of treason for attempting to overthrow or bear arms against the United States government.

Can Naturalized Citizens Lose Their Citizenship?

Naturalized citizens have more reasons they can lose their citizenship than a citizen by birthright does. Besides the conditions above, President Trump gave the Department of Justice (DOJ) authority to expand on the conditions under which someone may be deported, as of February 2020. The DOJ has created a section dedicated solely to investigating and revoking naturalization for the following reasons:

  1. Becoming a U.S. citizen under false pretenses;
  2. Receiving military training in an enemy state;
  3. Associating with known terrorist organizations;
  4. Being convicted of terrorism;
  5. Providing funding to terrorists or terrorist organizations;
  6. Being convicted of war crimes or human rights violations;
  7. Being a convicted sexual offender;
  8. Being convicted of financial fraud.

What If I Made a Mistake on My Citizenship Application?

Application errors are a common concern. Mistakes can happen, but if they’re not corrected, or they appear as an attempt to omit or falsify information, it could lead to a revocation of an individual’s citizenship. If you’re worried about any errors on your application, contact an immigration lawyer to file your application or review your submission.

Here are ways to correct errors on your immigration record:

  • Immigration-related errors on Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card) or Form I-766 (Employment Authorization Document): Contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Other USCIS-related corrections: Submit a Privacy Act amendment request in writing to the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Office. Address the request to:

Privacy Act Amendment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

National Records Center

FOIA/PA Office

P.O. Box 648010

Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010.

The Consequences of Losing Your U.S. Citizenship

There are consequences to losing your citizenship. You’ll no longer enjoy the same rights other Americans have, including the right to vote and the right to work and live in the U.S. Once you lose your U.S. citizenship, you may become “stateless” unless you become a citizen of another country. Depending on the country you take citizenship with, you may need a visa to visit the U.S. in the future.

Will I Be Deported?

If you lose your citizenship, you may be deported. If your citizenship is revoked, your status will return to the nation where you were a citizen before becoming a U.S. citizen (a process known as denaturalization). You may be deported quickly without a hearing if you no longer have legal status in the country, although most people go through a longer process, including a trial, to be issued a deportation order.

If you were denaturalized because of a crime, you may have to serve your jail sentence first and/or be held in an ICE detention center while you wait for a deportation decision. If you’ve lost your rights as a U.S. citizen and don’t have criminal charges, you may voluntarily leave the country.

Loss of Rights

Once you lose your citizenship, you’ll lose your rights as an American citizen, including:

  • Voting rights;
  • The right to legally work and reside in the country;
  • Government protections while abroad;
  • Citizenship for children born outside the U.S.;
  • The right to work for U.S. federal employers;
  • The right to travel freely as a U.S. citizen;
  • The ability to serve in the U.S. military.

Tips to Follow When Your Citizenship May Be Revoked

The most common reason you may lose your citizenship is for suspicion of procuring your citizenship illegally. You should take immediate action if you feel your citizenship may be revoked. If there is a formal complaint against your citizenship status, you have two months to answer the demand.

Denaturalization can only occur via a federal court process. The government has a high burden of proof, and must include “clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence which does not leave the issue in doubt.” If the government has filed a formal complaint, you should expect that they’ve built a solid case against you. You may appeal, but should consider working with an attorney on the complex process.

Contact a Citizenship Lawyer

A citizenship lawyer with experience in immigration law is vital to ensure you avoid any issues on your journey to naturalization. You should consult with a citizenship lawyer:

  • If you have trouble understanding some of the questions in any phase of the immigration and naturalization process;
  • To ensure your application is error-free;
  • If you have other family members involved such as a spouse and natural or adopted children;
  • If you’re a victim of identity theft and in the middle of the naturalization process;
  • If your naturalization case is complicated;
  • If you’re worried you’ve made errors or omitted information on your application;
  • If you’ve received a denaturalization complaint from the federal government.
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