Just as U.S. citizenship can be granted, it can also be revoked. The process, called denaturalization, only applies to naturalized citizens, as natural-born U.S. citizens cannot have their citizenship revoked against their will. Denaturalization can be a frightening experience, as former citizens who have been denaturalized can be subject to deportation.

So why can a person be denaturalized? And how does the denaturalization process work?

Reasons for Denaturalization

The grounds for denaturalization generally fall into one of three categories:

  • Falsifying or Concealing Relevant Facts During Naturalization: If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) discovers you were not absolutely truthful during the naturalization application process, the agency may file a denaturalization action against you, even if it is years or decades later and even after citizenship has been granted.
  • Membership in Subversive Groups: Your citizenship could be revoked if the U.S. government can prove that you joined a subversive organization (like the Nazi Party or Al Qaeda) within five years of becoming a naturalized citizen. Your citizenship may also be revoked if you refuse to testify before a U.S. congressional committee whose job it is to investigate your alleged involvement with subversive groups or in subversive acts. (Though the requirement to testify expires after 10 years of citizenship.)
  • Being Dishonorably Discharged From the Military: While serving in the U.S. military can grant you U.S. citizenship, that citizenship may be revoked if you are dishonorably discharged before serving five years.

Process of Denaturalization

Denaturalization proceedings must occur in federal court, prompted either by a civil proceeding or pursuant to a criminal conviction. For civil denaturalization, the United States Attorney’s Office must file the revocation of naturalization actions in Federal District Court and prove the allegations by clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence. For criminal denaturalization, criminal charges are filed, and the burden of proof is the same as for every other criminal case: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is possible to appeal a denaturalization order, if there is reason to believe the lower court made legal errors. If your citizenship has been revoked, or if denaturalization proceedings have been instituted against you, you’ll need the help of an experienced immigration attorney. Contact one in your area today.

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