Can a naturalized citizen lose citizenship?

U.S. citizenship can be revoked to those who became naturalized citizens. Natural born citizens of the U.S. can be stripped of Citizenship only in extremely limited cases, but they can voluntarily give it up before a Consular officer.

There are many reasons why the citizenship of a naturalized U.S. citizen can be revoked. Below is a list of the most common causes.


You can be denaturalized or involuntarily be stripped of U.S. citizenship if you commit an act of treason against the United States. Treason is defined as waging a violent war against the United States in cooperation with a foreign country or an organized group. This can include helping such a country or organization abolish the US constitution. Such acts will not only lead to a revocation of your citizenship but also jail time.

Holding a Policy Level Position in another Country

If you are a naturalized citizen of the United States, you can lose your U.S. citizenship if you hold a policy level position in another country. This includes positions such as ambassador, cabinet minister, and so on, not lower ranking positions in the embassy or government.

Serving in the Army of Your Native Country When at War against the US

If you serve in the armed forces of your native country or any other country in any capacity while it is at war with the United States, your U.S. citizenship will be revoked. This means that you should not serve even in a civilian or advisory capacity in the armed forces of a country that is at war with the U.S. if you do not want to lose your U.S. citizenship.

Serving as an Officer in the Army of another Country

If you have dual citizenship and you serve as an officer or non-commissioned officer in the army of your native country, you may have your U.S. citizenship revoked even if that country is not at war with the United States.

Lying to the USCIS during the Naturalization interview

To obtain U.S. citizenship you need to apply for a Certificate of naturalization and take the oath of allegiance as well. If after you have obtained the certificate of naturalization, it comes to notice of USCIS or any other authority in the United States. that you willfully provided misleading or incorrect information during the Citizenship interview, you may be placed in denaturalization process, which is filed by the Attorney General in the U.S. District Court where the naturalized citizen resides. This is also the case when USCIS discover that permanent residence was obtained with fraud, or through a sham marriage.

Revocation of Certificate of Naturalization of Spouse or Parent

If your certificate of naturalization was obtained through your spouse or parent that had obtained a certificate of naturalization, then, if their U.S. citizenship is revoked, yours will be revoked as well.

Refusal to Testify before Congress

For ten years after you naturalize as a U.S. citizen, you cannot refuse to testify before Congress about your subversive activities against the United States. If you refuse to testify, your U.S. citizenship can be revoked. If you do testify, you are likely to be charged with treason and your citizenship will be revoked and you will also face time in prison.

Denaturalization process

There are two types of denaturalization proceedings: criminal denaturalization and civil denaturalization.

Criminal Denaturalization is regulated by 18 U.S.C. § 1425. A conviction for unlawful procurement of U.S. citizenship results in the automatic revocation of U.S. citizenship. Under 8 U.S.C. § 1451(e), upon conviction, the court in which the defendant was convicted must “revoke, set aside, and declare void the final order admitting such person to citizenship” and must “declare the certificate of naturalization of such person to be canceled.”

To obtain a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1425, the government must prove that:

  • the defendant obtained (or attempted to obtain) U.S. citizenship;
  • the defendant was not entitled to U.S. citizenship, and
  • the defendant knew that he or she was not entitled to U.S. citizenship.

Federal courts are divided as to whether materiality is an element in a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1425. Even though the statute does not specifically require it, the Ninth Circuit opined that 18 U.S.C. § 1425 requires that a misrepresentation be material in order to be unlawful. See United States v. Puerta, 982 F.2d 1297, 1301 (9th Cir. 1992).

Other courts have taken the view that materiality is not an element of 18 U.S.C. § 1425. See, e.g., United States v. Rogers, 898 F. Supp. 219, 220-21 (S.D.N.Y. 1995).

Courts in several circuits also have found a requirement of intent, or mens rea, for a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1425. See, e.g., United States v. Alameh, 341 F.3d 167, 175 (2d Cir. 2003).

However, a conviction for 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (false statements), does not require the court to automatically revoke citizenship, and the U.S. Government will have to institute separate denaturalization proceedings.

Criminal denaturalization is subject to a 10-year statute of limitation.

Civil Denaturalization is regulated by 8 U.S.C. § 1451(a). The U.S. Government can start a civil denaturalization action in federal court against a naturalized U.S. citizen based on either:

  • illegal procurement of naturalization, or
  • procurement of naturalization by willful concealment or misrepresentation of a material fact.

To prevail in a civil denaturalization action based on illegal procurement of naturalization, the Government must prove that the naturalized citizen lacked one or more of the statutory requirements for naturalization. There must be strict compliance with all congressionally-imposed prerequisites to the acquisition of citizenship. Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490, 506 (1981).

The basic prerequisites to naturalization are lawful admission for permanent residence, good moral character, and physical presence. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1427, 1429.

Often, the government brings denaturalization proceedings against someone that committed a crime before becoming a naturalized citizen but was convicted after being naturalized. The theory in these cases is that at the time of naturalization, he or she could not have proved “good moral character”.

Finally, an important requisite for naturalization is to have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence in accordance with all applicable provisions of the INA. See 8 U.S.C. § 1429. Therefore, any fraud or material misrepresentation made in conjunction to a Visa or Green Card application can be used as a basis for a denaturalization action.

A civil denaturalization case is not subject to any statute of limitation.