Can my citizenship be revoked if I move out of the United States? - A Comprehensive Guide

Can my citizenship be revoked if I move out of the United States? - A Comprehensive Guide

1. Understanding Citizenship Revocation

Citizenship revocation is the process by which an individual’s citizenship status is legally terminated, stripping the person of the rights and privileges associated with being a naturalized citizen or one born in the country. This is typically done in cases where the individual obtained citizenship fraudulently, willingly renounces citizenship, or commits acts that endanger the nation or show disloyalty. A famous example is the case of terrorism-supporter Yaser Esam Hamdi, whose U.S. citizenship was revoked in 2004.

Scope of the Article

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of citizenship revocation in the context of moving out of the United States, so as to equip readers with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions about their citizenship status.

2. Background of U.S. Citizenship

Becoming a U.S. Citizen: Naturalization and Birthright

There are two primary ways to become a U.S. citizen:

  1. Birthright Citizenship: This refers to individuals who automatically gain U.S. citizenship due to being born in the United States or to parents who are U.S. citizens, regardless of being born on American soil.

  2. Naturalization: This is the process by which an individual voluntarily applies for and obtains U.S. citizenship after meeting specific eligibility criteria, such as residing in the country as a permanent resident for a given period, and successfully completing an interview and test.

Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens

As a citizen of the United States, there are certain rights and responsibilities associated with this status:


  • The right to vote and run for public office
  • The right to a U.S. passport and consular protection abroad
  • The right to work in any capacity and access government benefits
  • Protection from deportation


  • Pay federal, state, and local taxes
  • Serve on a jury when summoned
  • Register with the Selective Service if applicable (male citizens aged 18-25)
  • Uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States.


  1. Yaser Esam Hamdi - The New York Times
  2. Birthright Citizenship in the United States | American Immigration Council
  3. A Guide to Naturalization | USCIS
  4. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship |

3. Instances in Which Citizenship Can Be Revoked

Fraud and Misrepresentation During Naturalization

U.S. citizenship can be revoked if it is discovered that an individual has intentionally committed fraud or misrepresented material facts during their naturalization process. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, an individual’s citizenship may be revoked if it was “illegally procured” or “procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation”. In such cases, the government initiates a process called denaturalization, which can result in the loss of citizenship.

Membership in Subversive Groups

Citizenship can also be revoked if an individual becomes a member of a subversive organization or engages in activities that are detrimental to the United States. This includes joining or affiliating with terrorist groups, totalitarian organizations, or any group that advocates the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. The government reserves the right to strip citizenship from individuals who pose a threat to national security.

Dishonorable Military Discharge

Another circumstance that can lead to the revocation of U.S. citizenship is receiving a dishonorable discharge from the military. If an individual had naturalized based on their military service and subsequently received a dishonorable discharge, it could result in denaturalization. A dishonorable discharge is typically issued for serious offenses such as desertion, war crimes, or other misconduct.

Renunciation of Citizenship

U.S. citizens also have the right to voluntarily renounce their citizenship. This can be done by signing an oath of renunciation before a U.S. consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad or by committing an act that demonstrates the intent to relinqu[e] their U.S. nationality. It is important to note that the decision to renounce one’s citizenship is permanent and cannot be reversed.


  1. Immigration and Nationality Act | USCIS
  2. Loss of Nationality and Section 349 of the INA | U.S. Department of State
  3. Military Discharge and the Effects on Citizenship | Nobles & Yanez
  4. Renunciation of U.S. Nationality Abroad | U.S. Department of State

4. What Happens When You Move Abroad

Maintaining U.S. Citizenship While Living Overseas

U.S. citizens who move abroad can still maintain their citizenship, as living overseas does not automatically result in the loss of U.S. citizenship. It is essential for expatriates to stay informed of their rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens and remain in compliance with the laws and regulations pertaining to their status.

U.S. State Department’s Role in Protecting Citizens Abroad

The U.S. Department of State plays a significant role in assisting and protecting U.S. citizens living overseas. This includes offering passport services, providing consular assistance during emergencies, helping locate missing U.S. citizens, and assisting with legal and medical issues. U.S. embassies and consulates around the world serve as vital resources for American expatriates.

Requirements for U.S. Citizens Living Abroad

U.S. citizens living abroad must adhere to specific requirements:

Taxes: U.S. citizens residing overseas are still required to file and pay U.S. federal income taxes, even if they are also subject to taxation in their country of residence. U.S. tax laws apply to citizens worldwide, and failure to comply can lead to penalties, audits, and even criminal charges.

Passports: To maintain U.S. citizenship status, expatriates should keep their U.S. passports valid and up to date. Renewal can be done through the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Selective Service: Male U.S. citizens aged 18-25 who are living abroad may need to register for the Selective Service, even if they reside outside the United States. Failure to register may result in fines and other penalties.

Reporting Foreign Bank Accounts: U.S. citizens with foreign financial accounts are required to report this information to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network by filing a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) if the total value of the accounts exceeds $10,000.


  1. Living and Traveling Overseas | U.S. Department of State
  2. U.S. Citizen Services | U.S. Department of State
  3. International Taxpayers - Filing Requirements | IRS
  4. U.S. Passports - Apply for, Renew, or Report a Lost or Stolen Passport
  5. Selective Service System - Who Must Register
  6. Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) | IRS

5.Dual Citizenship and Potential Issues

Acquiring Dual Citizenship: Pros and Cons

Dual citizenship, also known as dual nationality, refers to an individual holding citizenship in two countries simultaneously. The process of acquiring dual citizenship may vary depending on the specific laws and regulations of each country involved. Some countries, like the United States, permit dual citizenship, while others may have restrictions or prohibit it entirely.


  • Access to the rights and benefits of both countries (e.g., education, healthcare, and work opportunities)
  • Ability to travel freely between the two countries without the need for a visa
  • Cultural and linguistic advantages


  • Potentially conflicting legal and tax obligations
  • Possible difficulties obtaining security clearances or holding certain government positions
  • Potential issues during political unrest or international disputes

Dual citizens are often subject to the tax and legal obligations of both countries. In the case of the United States, citizens (including dual citizens) are required to report their worldwide income and file federal income tax returns, even when living abroad. Additionally, dual citizens must also adhere to the tax laws of their other country of citizenship, which may lead to double taxation. However, some countries have tax treaties with the United States to mitigate the impact of double taxation.

Scenarios That May Cause Conflict Between Countries

While dual citizenship can be advantageous in many cases, it can also create conflicts or difficulties when the interests of the two countries collide. Examples of potential conflicts include:

  • Military service: Some countries may require mandatory military service for their citizens, resulting in a potential conflict for dual citizens who are also U.S. citizens. In these cases, U.S. law allows for citizens to lose their citizenship if they serve in a foreign military that is engaged in hostilities against the United States.
  • Political tensions: During times of political unrest or tension between the two countries, dual citizens may face difficulties when traveling or accessing consular services, as the protection available to them may be limited in certain situations.
  • Voting and political activities: Participation in political activities or voting in foreign elections may raise questions about a dual citizen’s allegiance to the United States and could potentially lead to loss of citizenship in extremely rare cases.


  1. Dual Nationality | U.S. Department of State
  2. Taxpayers Living Abroad | Internal Revenue Service
  3. United States Income Tax Treaties - A to Z | Internal Revenue Service
  4. Loss of Nationality and Section 349 of the INA | U.S. Department of State

6. Repercussions of Citizenship Revocation

Citizenship revocation, also known as denaturalization, is a serious matter that has significant consequences for the affected individual and potentially their family members. The repercussions of citizenship revocation can be life-altering, dismantling the foundation of a person’s life in the United States.

Loss of Rights and Benefits

Once an individual’s U.S. citizenship is revoked, they immediately lose the rights and benefits associated with being a U.S. citizen. These include:

  • The right to vote and participate in the democratic process
  • The right to hold a U.S. passport and travel freely as a U.S. citizen
  • The right to work in any capacity and access government benefits
  • Protection from deportation

Moreover, the loss of citizenship may severely impact an individual’s financial, social, and emotional well-being.

Deportation and Exclusion from the U.S.

One of the most significant consequences of citizenship revocation is the possibility of deportation. Once an individual is denaturalized, they revert to their previous non-citizen status, which usually means becoming subject to deportation proceedings. Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the revocation, the individual might also face exclusion from the U.S., barring them from re-entering the country in the future.

Stripping of Citizenship for Family Members

In some cases, the revocation of U.S. citizenship can also have repercussions for the individual’s family members. If an individual’s citizenship was acquired based on fraudulent information or misrepresentation, family members who gained their citizenship status through the denaturalized individual may also face the risk of losing their citizenship. Children born to the person before the denaturalization may keep their U.S. citizenship if they were under 18 at the time of the parent’s denaturalization.


  1. Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship |
  2. Deportation and Your Rights | American Civil Liberties Union
  3. Revoking Citizenship: What are the consequences for family members? | Fragomen
  4. Loss of Nationality and Section 349 of the INA | U.S. Department of State

7. Ways to Prevent Citizenship Revocation

Keep Updated on U.S. Citizenship Requirements and Obligations

To prevent the revocation of your citizenship, it is crucial to stay informed about the latest U.S. citizenship requirements and obligations. This can be accomplished by regularly visiting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website and subscribing to newsletters or alerts from reputable sources. By keeping yourself updated on U.S. policies and regulations, you reduce the risk of unintentionally violating any rules or procedures that could jeopardize your citizenship status.

If you are unsure about any citizenship-related issues, it is always advisable to seek legal advice from a competent immigration attorney. They can help clarify your rights, responsibilities, and possible risks associated with living abroad as a U.S. citizen. A qualified attorney can also guide you on how to maintain your citizenship while residing in a foreign country and address any concerns you might have regarding dual citizenship or other legal matters.

Avoid Activities That Could Question Your Allegiance

Engaging in activities that might call into question your allegiance or loyalty to the United States could lead to potential citizenship revocation. As a U.S. citizen, it is essential to avoid affiliating with subversive groups or organizations that seek to overthrow the U.S. government. Additionally, avoid committing criminal activities or other actions that would demonstrate disloyalty or bring dishonor to the country, such as espionage or treason.

8. Recap of Key Points

In conclusion, the revocation of U.S. citizenship generally occurs in instances of fraud or misrepresentation during naturalization, membership in subversive groups, dishonorable military discharge, or renunciation of citizenship. Maintaining your U.S. citizenship while living abroad is possible by adhering to the requirements and obligations of citizenship, seeking legal advice, and avoiding activities that could question your allegiance to the U.S.

Final Thoughts on Maintaining U.S. Citizenship While Living Abroad

As a U.S. citizen living abroad, your responsibility is not only to be aware of your rights but also to uphold your duties to the country. By demonstrating loyalty and compliance with U.S. laws, you can continue to benefit from the rights and privileges of your citizenship, regardless of your location.


  1. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website
  2. Loss of Nationality and Dual Nationality | Travel.State.Gov