When Will a Crime Lead to Loss of Naturalization?

When Will a Crime Lead to Loss of Naturalization?

Losing your U.S. citizenship can be a terrifying prospect, especially for naturalized citizens who worked hard to earn their place in this country. But under certain circumstances, even naturalized citizens can have their citizenship revoked if they commit certain crimes. So when exactly might a crime lead to loss of naturalization?

Grounds for Revoking Naturalization

There are a few key grounds under which a naturalized U.S. citizen may have their citizenship revoked. These include:

  • Falsification or Concealment on Naturalization Application – If it’s found that you intentionally lied or hid important info on your citizenship application, your naturalization can be revoked. This is a big deal – don’t screw around with this process!
  • Refusal to Testify Before Congress – Believe it or not, refusing to testify in front of Congress about your involvement in subversive activities can also cost you your citizenship. Wild right? But it’s legit.
  • Membership in Subversive Groups – Membership in certain organizations, like the Communist Party, within 5 years of becoming a citizen is also grounds for revoking citizenship. This is some Cold War era stuff but it’s still applicable today apparently.

But the most common situation is…

Committing Crimes & Unethical Acts

Under U.S. law, naturalized citizens can have their citizenship revoked if they are convicted of certain crimes or unethical acts either before OR after obtaining U.S. citizenship.

This includes things like:

  • Murder, rape, theft, fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Making false statements under oath
  • Voter fraud
  • Desertion from the U.S. armed forces

Basically if you do sketchy illegal stuff as a naturalized citizen, you put your citizenship at risk. The key is being convicted of any of these acts in a criminal court. Just being charged isn’t enough – you have to actually be found guilty.

The Denaturalization Process

If the U.S. government believes a naturalized citizen got their citizenship through fraud or should have it revoked based on criminal acts, they’ll start what’s called the “denaturalization process”. This involves filing a civil case requesting that the citizen have their naturalization revoked.

The burden of proof is on the government to show clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence that citizenship should be revoked. If the case is successful, the citizen’s certificate of naturalization will be canceled and they may be subject to deportation.

Is Denaturalization Common?

Contrary to what some politicians might have you believe, denaturalization is actually pretty rare. According to Justice Department data, an average of only 16 Americans per year lost their citizenship between 1967 to 2016. And most of those cases involved war criminals who lied about their background to gain asylum in the U.S.

That said, some legal experts argue denaturalization may happen more often under the Trump administration, which has been focused on immigration and citizenship issues. But even so, we’re probably talking about just hundreds of denaturalization cases per year – not a huge percentage of naturalized citizens.

Protecting Your Citizenship Status

While denaturalization is rare statistically, having your citizenship revoked would still really suck. Here are some tips to keep it from happening:

  • Be honest on your citizenship application – no lies or omissions!
  • Steer clear of criminal activity, especially fraud, tax evasion, etc.
  • Consult an immigration attorney if you have questions or concerns about your status.

And if you do get that dreaded denaturalization notice from the U.S. government, don’t panic! Call a skilled immigration lawyer right away – you have rights and there still may be actions you can take to defend your case.

With some help from a legal eagle who knows this stuff inside out, you’ve got a fighting chance to keep your American citizenship.

The Bottom Line

Losing your naturalized U.S. citizenship is very serious but also pretty rare. You generally have to be convicted of a serious crime or found to have lied/hidden important info on your citizenship application. If you steer clear of sketchy stuff and are transparent in the naturalization process, you likely have nothing to worry about.

That said, if you do end up facing denaturalization for any reason down the road, lawyer up! An experienced immigration attorney can advise you of your options and legal rights to fight back against getting your citizenship revoked whenever possible.

Grounds for Denaturalization What It Means
Falsification/Concealment on Naturalization Application Lying or hiding important information when applying for U.S. citizenship
Refusal to Testify Before Congress Not cooperating with Congressional inquiries about subversive activities
Membership in Subversive Groups Joining organizations like Communist Party within 5 years of naturalization
Committing Serious Crimes Murder, rape, theft, fraud – conviction of serious crimes puts citizenship at risk

So in summary – don’t lie, don’t join sketchy groups, and don’t commit crimes…unless you wanna get deported! Just kidding. Kinda. 😅 But seriously, protect your hard-earned U.S. citizenship and consult a lawyer if it’s ever threatened.

Resources: