As discussed earlier, U.S. citizenship may be acquired at birth or through the statutory process of naturalization. A U.S. citizen may lose citizenship in two ways. Loss of citizenship can occur when or if the citizen voluntarily relinquishes it through an act of expatriation. A person may also lose citizenship through the process of denaturalization or revocation of citizenship. Denaturalization may occur when an individual has failed to comply with all of the prerequisites for naturalization and, as a result, naturalization was improperly granted.
The general statutory requirements for naturalization require that an individual be eighteen years of age and a lawful permanent resident; meet the applicable continuous residence and physical presence requirements; demonstrate good moral character, attachment to the principles of the Constitution, and a favorable disposition to the good order and happiness of the United States; demonstrate understanding of English and U.S. government and history; and be not otherwise barred from naturalization. There are some exceptions to these general requirements identified in the statute and discussed generally elsewhere. Revocation of naturalization can occur if lawful permanent residence was improperly granted since one of the statutory grounds for naturalization requires that the individual possess the status of a lawful permanent resident.
The Immigration and Nationality Act identifies the grounds for denaturalization and the process for revocation of citizenship. Revocation of naturalization will occur if a person illegally procured citizenship or citizenship was obtained by concealment of a material fact or willful misrepresentation. The government bears the burden of proof and must establish by clear and convincing evidence that naturalization was improperly granted based on one of these grounds.
Revocation can only occur if the government can establish that the naturalized citizen intentionally concealed a material fact or intentionally made a material misrepresentation. The government must further prove that the naturalization was granted based on the material misrepresentation or concealment. Examples of material facts that can result in denaturalization if intentionally made include such facts as the length and location of residence in the United States, marital or family status, occupation, name or other facts of identity, and past criminal record.
Naturalization may be illegally procured if an individual failed to satisfy one of the statutory requirements for naturalization. As noted earlier, this ground for denaturalization can reach a naturalized citizen’s initial status as a lawful permanent resident and any prior immigration status in the United States as a noncitizen. There is some overlap between this ground for denaturalization and the intentional material misrepresentation or concealment ground; however, they are separately identified in the statute and viewed as separate grounds.
Denaturalization can occur at any time if naturalization was improperly granted based on misrepresentation or concealment, or if naturalization was illegally procured. The denaturalization process generally occurs through a judicial proceeding instituted by a U.S. attorney in a U.S. district court. The civil suit to revoke citizenship is filed in the judicial district where the naturalized citizen resides. A suit may only be filed if there is good cause indicating that there are grounds for denaturalization. The government will only prevail in the denaturalization lawsuit if it can present clear and convincing evidence of one of the two grounds for denaturalization. This significant burden on the government is designed to protect the status of citizenship.
References and Further Reading