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How can naturalized citizens lose their citizenship?

You've gone through the long, arduous process of obtaining your U.S. citizenship. No one can take it away from you, right? That's not a guarantee.

Although it's rare for the U.S. government to "denaturalize" a citizen, there are grounds for it. These include:

  • Dishonorable discharge from the military: The person must have been court-martialed and served less than five years to be denaturalized for this reason.
  • Membership in a "subversive" group within five years of becoming a citizen: Such groups include Al Qaeda and the Nazi Party.
  • Hiding relevant information or providing false information during the application process: This includes things like not disclosing criminal convictions or falsifying your true identity.

The denaturalization process begins with a complaint being filed against someone. That person has 60 days to respond. If the U.S. government proves its case for denaturalization, the person may be deported. Children who were granted citizenship because their parent was a naturalized citizen may lose their citizenship if their parent is denaturalized.

It may not be surprising, given the current administration's efforts to find and remove illegal immigrants, that efforts are being stepped up to find people who may have used false information or identities to gain citizenship. The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), L. Francis Cissna, recently announced that the agency is starting an office, staffed with immigration officers and attorneys, to review the cases of people with suspected activity. He says he believes that there are "potentially a few thousand cases."

If you are facing potential denaturalization, it's essential to find out what your potential defenses and appeals options are. For example, you may not have knowingly provided false information. You may not have realized that a group with which you have been associated is considered subversive. An experienced immigration attorney can provide guidance as you go through the justice system.

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