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Denaturalization Efforts by USCIS

Based on the policy of the USCIS Policy Manual:

A person is subject to revocation of naturalization if:

A) A person is subject to revocation of naturalization if he or she procured naturalization illegally. Procuring naturalization illegally simply means that the person was not eligible for naturalization in the first place. Accordingly, any eligibility requirement for naturalization that was not met can form the basis for an action to revoke the naturalization of a person. This includes the requirements of residence, physical presence, lawful admission for permanent residence, good moral character, and attachment to the U.S. Constitution.


B) A person is subject to revocation of naturalization if there is deliberate deceit on the part of the person in misrepresenting or failing to disclose a material fact or facts on his or her naturalization application and subsequent examination.

In general, a person is subject to revocation of naturalization on this basis if:

  • The naturalized U.S. citizen misrepresented or concealed some fact;

  • The misrepresentation or concealment was willful;

  • The misrepresented or concealed fact or facts were material; and

  • The naturalized U.S. citizen procured citizenship as a result of misrepresentation or concealment.

This ground of revocation includes omissions as well as affirmative misrepresentations. The misrepresentations can be oral testimony provided during the naturalization interview or can include information contained on the application submitted by the applicant. The courts determine whether the misrepresented or concealed fact or facts were material. The test for materiality is whether the misrepresentations or concealment had a tendency to affect the decision. It is not necessary that the information if disclosed would have precluded naturalization.

C) A person is subject to revocation of naturalization if the person becomes a member of, or affiliated with, the Communist party, another totalitarian party, or terrorist organization within five years of his or her naturalization. In general, a person who is involved with such organizations cannot establish the naturalization requirements of having an attachment to the Constitution and of being well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.

The fact that a person becomes involved with such an organization within five years after the date of naturalization is prima facie evidence that he or she concealed or willfully misrepresented material evidence that would have prevented the person’s naturalization.

D) Other than Honorable Discharge before Five Years of Honorable Service after Naturalization

A person is subject to revocation of naturalization if:

  • The person became a U.S. citizen through naturalization on the basis of honorable service in the U.S. armed forces;

  • The person subsequently separates from the U.S. armed forces under other than honorable conditions; and

  • The other than honorable discharge occurs before the person has served honorably for a period or periods aggregating at least five years.

  1. For many years, the DOJ focused its efforts to strip immigrants of their citizenship on suspected war criminals who lied on their immigration paperwork, most notably former Nazis. And, USCIS and DOJ pursued cases as they arose, but not through a coordinated effort.

  2. In February 2020, DOJ announced the creation of a section dedicated to denaturalization cases. Noting that, “While the Office of Immigration Litigation already has achieved great success in the denaturalization cases it has brought, winning 95 percent of the time, the growing number of referrals anticipated from law enforcement agencies motivated the creation of a standalone section dedicated to this important work.”

  3. According to the New York Times, “denaturalizations have ramped up under the Trump administration: Of the 228 denaturalization cases that the department has filed since 2008, about 40 percent of them were filed since 2017, according to official department numbers. And over the past three years, denaturalization case referrals to the department have increased 600 percent.”

  4. In a budget request for FY2019, the administration asked for $207.6 million to investigate 887 additional leads it expects to get into American citizens who may be vulnerable to denaturalization and to review another 700,000 immigrant files.

  5. The Trump administration launched an office that focuses on identifying immigrants who are suspected of cheating to get their green cards or citizenship and seek to denaturalize these individuals. In 2018, USCIS Director Cissna stated that “he hopes the agency’s new office in Los Angeles will be running by next year but added that investigating and referring cases for prosecution will likely take longer.”

  6. In September 2016, the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report finding that USCIS granted U.S. citizenship to at least 858 individuals ordered deported or removed under another identity when, during the naturalization process, their digital fingerprint records were not available. OIG recommends that ICE finish uploading into the digital repository the fingerprints it identified and that DHS resolve these cases of naturalized citizens who may have been ineligible. Further, the report found that fingerprint records were missing from hundreds of thousands of cases for a variety of reasons.

Additional Resources

Government Announcements and Resources

Denaturalization Efforts by the Government

Denaturalization Resources for AILA

  • Session at the 2019 Annual Conference: Naturalization: To File or Not to File

    • A transgression outside of the statutory period may not affect your client's eligibility for citizenship, but still may make your client removable. Panelists on this intermediate-level session will look at the recent case law regarding N-400 eligibility in removal proceedings and explore the strategic considerations in determining whether to file for naturalization when there is a risk of removal.

Media Coverage

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