Depending on our backgrounds, we tend to think of U.S. citizenship either as something we worked hard to attain or as something to take for granted. Either way, we do not like to think that citizenship is something that can be lost, and yet it is. The circumstances do not occur routinely, but it is very possible that you may do or not do something that can make it inappropriate for you to continue to have U.S. citizenship.
The Constitution, while not doing so explicitly, has been held to bar involuntarily stripping a U.S. citizen of that citizenship. Case law is solidly on the side of the individual, with the landmark case being Afroyim v. Rusk (1967), where the Supreme Court held that it was a Fourteenth Amendment violation to strip someone of their citizenship. Essentially, Afroyim held that the only way for a U.S. citizen to lose his or her citizenship is to engage in a behavior that either renounces citizenship, or can be reasonably believed to renounce it.
The Constitution hints, and federal lays out explicitly, that there are a certain number of actions, referred to as ‘expatriating acts,’ which will lead the U.S. government to believe that you have renounced (or intend to renounce) your citizenship. These include:
Any of these actions are usually proof enough for the federal government to believe you have the inclination to renounce your citizenship, and they will take appropriate steps.
It is easier for naturalized U.S. citizens to lose his or her status. However, most often, this occurs due to fraud on one's application or during the process. Technically, this is not classified as losing citizenship, since it was never lawfully possessed in the first place.
Presumption of Retainer
It is possible to renounce your U.S. citizenship. The most common method of doing so is to leave the United States and swear an Oath of Renunciation at an embassy, before an officer of the United States government. However, Section 349 of the Immigration & Naturalization Act (INA) also lists actions that will result in a loss of citizenship if you undertake them with the specific intent of abrogating your U.S. nationality. The most common of these is when one is naturalized in another state, by one’s own volition, after he or she reaches the age of majority.
It is important to note, however, that contrary to what one might believe, the standard of evidence that must be met before the government can assume that a citizen wishes to lose his or her U.S. nationality is quite high. Generally, unless you provide explicit evidence as to the nature of a potentially expatriating act, the government will presume that you wish to remain a U.S. citizen. For example, if you are a naturalized Mexican citizen, but due to an outbreak of civil war you go to Mexico and join the Mexican army, you are presumed to wish to remain a U.S. citizen because you would not be part of an army engaged in hostilities against the United States.
Contact an Immigration Attorney
It is important to understand the law behind citizenship, especially if you are a naturalized citizen who worked hard to get to where you are. If you have any further questions, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable immigration attorney. The skilled DuPage County citizenship and immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC have many years of experience handling such matters, and would be happy to discuss yours with you. Contact our offices for a free initial consultation.
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