Ways to Lose Citizenship

By Erin Flanigan - Updated January 29, 2018
Hands holding American flag

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution declares that a person is a citizen of the United States if he is "born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." Many people from all over the world choose to become U.S. citizens every year. However, citizenship isn't always permanent. Although exceedingly rare, it is possible for individuals to lose or renounce their American citizenship.


U.S. citizens can give up their citizenship voluntarily by becoming the naturalized citizen of another country. They can also be stripped of citizenship where it was wrongfully gained.

Lying on Your Application

Foreign-born residents must complete an application process to become citizens of the United States. Applicants must tell the complete truth on their applications. Any deliberate lie, whether you are telling a falsehood or withholding the truth, can disqualify you from citizenship. For example, among other criteria, an immigrant must live in the United States for five continuous years before becoming a citizen. If you lie about your term of residency and the government finds out, your citizenship will be disqualified because you never should have been a citizen in the first place.

Owing Allegiance to Another Country

You cannot lose citizenship simply by living abroad for a long time. You can, however, be stripped of citizenship if the government feels that you have abandoned your U.S. residence. This happens if you demonstrate your voluntary allegiance to another country. For example, you might become a naturalized citizen of another country with the intent of renouncing U.S. citizenship. You could also lose your citizenship by swearing an oath of allegiance to another country, such as if you are working for the government of a foreign nation or voluntarily serving in the military of a foreign country if that country is at war with the United States.

Committing Treason

Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines treason as "levying war" against the United States or giving "aid and comfort" to the enemies of the United States. A person must confess in court to the crime or be convicted on the testimony of two eyewitnesses. Treason includes making war or helping a foreign power make war against the United States and also includes trying to overthrow the U.S. government or Constitution. Committing treason is a sure-fire way to lose your citizenship and serve time in prison.

Renouncing Citizenship

A final way to lose your citizenship is to give it up. Giving up your U.S. citizenship is almost always a permanent decision, unless you renounced your citizenship as a minor and decide within six months of turning 18 that you wish to have it reinstated. To renounce your citizenship, you must first travel to a foreign country. You must stand before a U.S. diplomatic official at a U.S. embassy or consulate and sign an oath renouncing your citizenship. Upon doing so, you will lose all the rights and privileges of citizenship in the United States.

About the Author

Erin Flanigan has been writing professionally since 2011. She is currently a high school English and social studies teacher. She also has years of experience in bicycle sales and repair. Erin earned her Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Arizona.

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