While the current administration seems to be a never-ending Pandora’s box of nightmares for immigrants both documented and undocumented, one question that often comes up for those choosing to become U.S. citizens is whether or not newly gained naturalized citizenship can be lost. The answer is yes, but only in very specific situations - or at least, this was the case until the current administration came to power.
It is possible for any U.S. citizen to voluntarily declare they no longer want their citizenship. This is called renunciation, and it effectively gives up all rights and privileges associated with being a U.S. citizen, including the right to live in the country without requiring a visa. It must be done in front of a U.S. consular officer or other official at an embassy abroad, and it must be stated clearly that the oath to renounce is being sworn with the full intent of giving up citizenship - if it is not, it has no legal effect.
Unlike lawful permanent residents (‘green card’ holders), naturalized citizens do not run the risk of voluntarily abandoning their immigration status if they live abroad for a long time. Green card holders must reside continuously in the U.S. for at least five years prior to filing, and be physically present in the country for at least 30 months out of the most recent five years, or they will be deemed to have abandoned their claims. Naturalized citizens do not have this issue - unless they voluntarily renounce their citizenship or do something which comes with the effect of renunciation, citizenship is for life.
While it is possible to lose one’s U.S. citizenship, generally a person must affirmatively take some action in order to lose it. In recent months this seems to be less true, as reports in July 2018 identified the programs Operation Janus (an Obama-era initiative) and Operation Second Look as programs designed specifically to investigate potential fraud in immigration filings, with January 2018 seeing the first programmatic denaturalization (that is, denaturalization of a person targeted specifically on grounds of immigration fraud) in U.S. history.
This disturbing trend aside, most of the ways in which someone can involuntarily lose U.S. citizenship involve performing certain acts “with the intent to relinquish United States nationality” (which means that there may be room for interpretation, depending on the case). These acts include naturalizing in another country after the age of 18, joining another country’s military while that country is engaged in hostilities against the United States, or working for a foreign government. Committing treason, as one might imagine, may also lead to loss of citizenship.
Naturalization is a lofty goal that takes years to attain for most people, so it is understandable to want to ensure that you do not do anything to endanger it once you have gotten your citizenship. If you have any questions about citizenship or the naturalization process, contacting an experienced immigration lawyer is a good idea. The dedicated Chicago citizenship attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can sit down with you and try to guide you through the process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 630-932-9100.
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