What are the Limits to Denaturalization?
April 11th, 2019
Denaturalization can only occur by a judicial order either through civil proceedings or a criminal conviction for naturalization fraud. USCIS refers cases for civil and criminal denaturalization to the DOJ when there is “sufficient evidence” that an individual is subject to one of the grounds of denaturalization. The DOJ’s U.S. Attorney’s Office must then file revocation of naturalization actions (for civil denaturalization cases) or criminal charges (for criminal denaturalization cases) in federal district court. Moreover, the burden of proof that the government must meet is high.
For civil denaturalization, the government must show “clear, convincing, and unequivocal evidence which does not leave the issue in doubt” that the individual procured naturalization illegally and/or concealed or willfully misrepresented a material fact during the naturalization process. There is no statute of limitations for pursuing a civil denaturalization case.
For a criminal conviction, the federal government must show “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that the individual knowingly obtained or attempted to obtain naturalization through fraud for him- or herself or for another individual. Denaturalization as a result of a criminal conviction is subject to a 10-year statute of limitation.
An individual whose U.S. citizenship is revoked returns to the immigration status he or she had before becoming a U.S. citizen. That individual may be deported if she does not have lawful immigration status after denaturalized and/or can serve jail time if U.S. citizenship was revoked because of a criminal conviction.