VIDEO: Can the government take away my citizenship?

What does the government have to do in order to take away someone’s citizenship? Hi, I am Jim Hacking, immigration attorney, here in St. Louis, Missouri. People call our office sometimes, wondering if the government can take away their citizenship. Now for someone who is a natural-born citizen that is someone who has not gone through the naturalization process, the US government cannot revoke your citizenship.

There is no mechanism under federal law to allow the government to strip someone of their citizenship, if they’ve been born in the country. Now if you’ve gone through the naturalization process, there is a method by which you can be, what’s called denaturalized. That is that you get your citizenship revoked.

Really the only way that can happen is if you committed some kind of fraud during the naturalization process. For instance, let’s say that you naturalized as John Smith, but in reality your name was George Jones. In that kind of a situation, if the Immigration Service can show that you commit fraud during the actual naturalization process, not that you committed some kind of bank fraud or other fraud, but specifically within the naturalization process, then there’s a chance that you could get denaturalized. It is a very high standard.

Now the way that it works is the federal government has to bring a lawsuit in federal court, challenging your naturalization and demonstrating by clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence that you committed fraud.

It’s the government’s burden to strip someone of their citizenship and it’s a very high burden indeed. We’ve been contacted by a couple of people, where the US attorney or the Immigration Service has threatened to do it, but so far we haven’t encountered any of these cases. We’d be very interested in fighting out one of these cases, but so far we haven’t had the opportunity.

With that high burden and with the fact that the government has to go to federal court and convince a federal judge who is non-elected and who’s not beholden to the Department of Justice, we think there’s a good chance that in such a case, it’d be very difficult for the government to meet this very high burden.

Now back in 1996, Congress changed the law to allow the Attorney General to denaturalized people through an administrative process, but there was a large challenge brought to that law and the law was struck down as it was applied by the Immigration Service. The court concluded that the regulations promulgated by the Immigration Service were not sufficiently tied to the statute and that the only way that you can denaturalize someone is through this federal court mechanism. That is the government’s going to have to go through that lawsuit and prove by clear, convincing and unequivocal evidence that the alien who was naturalized commit that fraud.

If you have any questions about this, if you’re worried about your citizenship or if you’ve been nationalized and you’re hearing rumblings that someone’s going to come after your citizenship, you should feel fairly confident that that’s going to be hard for the government to pull off, but if you want to ask us any questions about it or talk through the process with us, give us a call (314) 961-8200, thanks.