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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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