Can You Lose Your US Citizenship?
By Masood Khan, Esq.

This column is of a general nature and is not to be construed as legal advice. Be sure to consult an attorney for your specific legal issues.
As an immigrant community in the United States, obtaining citizenship in the US for Pakistanis becomes extremely important for developing roots in this country. Once citizenship is acquired, one is free to avail himself of all the rights and privileges that this country offers. Although rarely done, it is important to know what acts may result in a US citizen become de-naturalized. Below I will discuss some of the bases upon which automatic loss of citizenship may take place as opposed to government act revoking a person’s citizenship.
Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, passed in the 1860s, “All persons born … in the United States” are citizens of the United States. That is, any person born in the US, regardless of his/her parents’ immigration status, or of the circumstances that led to his/her birth in the US, is a US citizen.
There are however, other laws dealing with the circumstances that could lead natural born citizens to lose their citizenship as well. There has been significant development in these laws over the years, but as it stands today under the law, a person must voluntarily engage in an affirmative expatriating act with the specific intention of relinquishing US citizenship in order to lose his or her US citizenship. The key element under the law is intent. Also, regardless of the law in effect at the time of the act or acts in question, that act must result in the loss of citizenship under the law currently in effect.
Currently under the law, there are seven acts that will result in the loss of citizenship. These are:
1. Being naturalized in a foreign country after age 18, upon the person’s own application;
2. Making an oath or other declaration of allegiance to a foreign country or division thereof, after reaching 18 years of age;
3. Serving in the armed forces of a foreign country if those armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the US, or if the person serves as an officer;
4. Working for the government of a foreign country if the person also obtains nationality in that country, or if to work in such a position an oath or other declaration of allegiance is required;
5.Making a formal renunciation of US citizenship before a US consular officer or diplomat in a foreign country;
6. Making a formal written statement of renunciation during a state of war, if the Attorney General approves the renunciation as not contrary to US national defense; and
7. Committing an act of treason against the US, or attempting by force or the use of arms to overthrow the government of the US. Renunciation by this means can be accomplished only after a court has found the person guilty.
Let’s discuss each of the items above in more detail:

Naturalization in a foreign country
Obtaining citizenship in a foreign country by an automatic act of law will not result in the loss of US citizenship. Citizenship will only be lost IF the person is required to renounce allegiance to the US, and does so with the intent of losing US citizenship. However, if the person makes such an oath believing that it will not impact his US citizenship, it is not a renunciating act. In those cases where the new country does not require a renunciation of loyalty to the country of original citizenship, it is very difficult to prove that a person has renounced his US citizenship.

Oath of allegiance to a foreign country
This situation is common when a US citizen serves in the military or government of a foreign country. In some cases, such an oath must be made to obtain a passport. As with all renunciating acts, mentioned above the oath must be made with the intention of renouncing US citizenship. For dual nationals exercising their rights as a national of a country other than the US, such as military service or obtaining a passport, making the oath will not be treated as a renunciating act. Without evidence to the contrary, making an oath of allegiance to another country will not be considered an effort to renounce US citizenship.

Service in the armed forces of a foreign country
Serving in a military training program or defense forces alone that must specially be called out for military service, by itself, is not considered a renunciating act, nor is service in an insurgent or revolutionary military group.

Working for the government of a foreign country
Generally, acceptance of only high political posts in a foreign government, along with intentional renunciation of US citizenship, will result in the loss of US citizenship as a result of employment in a foreign country. A simple oath that the person will obey the laws of a foreign country is not sufficient as evidence of renunciation.

Formal renunciation abroad
A formal renunciation of US citizenship is a clearly expatriating act and will result in loss of US citizenship. The main issue is whether the person making the renunciation understood the full impact of the renunciation, and their intent in making the renunciation. In essence, the purpose and intent must be to make oneself ineligible for all benefits of US citizenship.

Formal renunciation in the US
Formal renunciations of US citizenship may also be made within the US, but only when the US is engaged in a war. This was used against Japanese Americans to renounce US citizenship during World War Two. Most of these renunciations were ineffective because they were obtained under duress and were involuntary.

Treason remains a basis for the loss of US citizenship, while similar provisions dealing with military desertion and draft avoidance have been repealed.
If it is determined, in most cases by a diplomatic or consular officials abroad, that a person has in fact effectively renounced US citizenship, the official is to prepare a certificate of loss of citizenship and forward it to the State Department. The State Department thereafter makes an official determination. If it decides that citizenship does not exist, it forwards the certificate of loss of citizenship to the INS and sends a copy to the consular official to return to the person. After that, the person has one year in which to appeal the loss of citizenship. The person can also, at any point in the future, regain citizenship if there was no written declaration of the intent to renounce citizenship.
Masood Khan is an attorney with Khan & Associates. You can contact him at 888-542-6529 or via email at


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.