Can Your Citizenship Be Taken Away?

The United States government began looking into fraudulent naturalization cases over 10 years ago, and in 2016, found that 315,000 fingerprint records had not been uploaded to a Department of Homeland Security database. This database is used to verify immigrants’ identities when they enter the country. The findings indicated that at least 800 immigrants that were ordered to deport did not leave the country and eventually became U.S. citizens under a different name.

As a result, the U.S. government will soon open a division to identify Americans who are suspected of cheating to get their citizenship. Once identified, through a legal process called denaturalization, the government will remove citizenship from these individuals. Those who have had their citizenship revoked will be expected to leave the country immediately.

However, the government crackdown on these citizens should not cause unrest for those who might be in the U.S. under a different legal name or those concerned that they may have made errors during the naturalization process.

U.S. Naturalization Process

Naturalization is the legal process by which a non-citizen can acquire citizenship of that country. In the U.S., citizenship will allow an immigrant the right to vote, serve on a jury, run for elected office, and obtain security clearance. In order to apply for citizenship in the United States, an applicant must first be qualified.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) states that applicants for naturalization must be:

  • A minimum of eighteen years old
  • A permanent resident of the United States
  • Resident of the United States for at least five years at the time of application
  • Of good moral character

Although not everyone will be required to go through the entire naturalization process to obtain citizenship, once qualified, an application must be completed. This is followed by fingerprinting and an interview. Once approved, citizenship candidates are then eligible to take the U.S. Citizenship Test.


Denaturalization, also called revocation of naturalization, occurs in federal court. Although very rare, denaturalization is the process of removing U.S. citizenship from a person who was not born in the U.S. Former citizens who have been found in violation of their citizenship status must leave the country and are subject to immediate deportation. Children granted citizenship based on their parent’s status may also lose their citizenship after that parent has been denaturalized.

It is not easy for the government to strip an individual of their rights to citizenship, and USCIS makes it very clear that to do so, there must be strong evidence proving that the individual was never eligible for naturalization in the first place or knowingly committed fraud through the application process.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Protect the Rights of Those Seeking Citizenship

If you are thinking about immigration naturalization in Philadelphia, or concerned about the possibility of denaturalization, contact an experienced immigration attorney to answer your questions. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. are ready to help. Call today at 215-925-4435 or contact us online to arrange your initial consultation with a dedicated and knowledgeable Philadelphia immigration lawyer in our Center City Philadelphia offices.