Can a Naturalized US Citizen Be Deported?


A US Citizen—whether he or she is born in the United States or a naturalized citizen—cannot be deported from the United States. After all, the United States is their home country, so it wouldn’t make sense to deport them to another country.

However, there are situations where a naturalized US citizen may be stripped of their citizenship. If that happens, he or she could be subject to deportation from the United States. This is rare, but it can happen when a naturalized citizen renunciates their US citizenship, is convicted of treason, or commits fraud during the naturalization process.

It’s also possible for an individual to be deported during the naturalization process. Until US citizenship is officially granted, the individual is still a legal resident and as such is subject to deportation in certain situations. Initiating the naturalization process isn’t enough to avoid deportation—you need to be granted US citizenship before the prospect of deportation is taken off the table.

There are a number of ways in which a naturalized US citizen could have their citizenship revoked by the federal government. It’s relatively rare, but it’s certainly possible. Some of the reasons for losing US citizenship can include:

  • Voluntarily renunciation of citizenship
  • Fraudulently obtaining naturalized citizenship
  • Being convicted of treason against the United States
  • Refusing to testify before Congress about subversive acts within 10 years of naturalization
  • Obtaining dual citizenship in a country that requires renunciation of US citizenship
  • Obtaining dual citizenship in a country with which the US requires renunciation of citizenship
  • Serving as an officer or non-commissioned officer with another nation’s armed forces
  • Serving in another nation’s armed forces when engaged in hostile acts against the US
  • Being elected to public office in a foreign state

Should any of these occur, the government can refer the case to federal court. Upon review of your case, a federal judge has the right to revoke your naturalized citizenship and reclassify you as a legal resident. At that point, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—may initiate the deportation process.

If you are a naturalized US citizen and you receive notice of proceedings to revoke your citizenship, you should consult with an immigration attorney as soon as possible. As a US citizen you are protected by the Constitutional right to due process, so you cannot have your citizenship revoked without the opportunity to defend yourself in court. A qualified, experienced immigration attorney can assess your case, advise on the best strategy to retain your citizenship or legal residency, and represent you in court.

The Deportation Process

Keep in mind that having your US citizenship revoked doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be automatically deported from the United States. There are still legal means to remain in the United States as a legal resident, and you may have the ability to reapply for naturalized citizenship in the future. Again, it would be wise to consult with an immigration attorney to assess your options and represent you through the complex process. 

Unless you qualify for expedited removal from the United States, the deportation process is typically a long, multi-year process involving ICE, immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and potentially the Circuit Court of Appeals. Some cases can wrap up in as little as a year, but most cases involving appeals take 2 – 3 years.

Following is a general overview of the deportation process:

  1. Arrest & Detainment – most deportation cases begin when local law enforcement arrests someone in conjunction with another crime, and share the arrest information with ICE. Local police can hold the individual for up to 48 hours before transferring custody to ICE. If the individual is released, ICE can make a separate arrest.
  2. Notice to Appear – when ICE initiates proceedings to deport you, you should receive a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings at least 10 days before the scheduled hearing. If you haven’t retained an immigration attorney yet, now is the time to do so.
  3. Bond Hearing – ICE will make a recommendation to the court whether you should be released with a bond. If you’re lucky (better yet, if you have a good attorney), you may be released without a bond on your own recognizance. If the court determines that a bond is required, you may be released as soon as you post the bond.
  4. Master Calendar Hearing – this is a short hearing in immigration court to determine how your case will proceed. The judge will list the charges, and the defendant will admit or deny each one. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will decide which defenses against deportation may be considered (asylum, married to a US citizen, cancellation of removal, etc.), and schedule the next hearing.
  5. Merits Hearing – at the merits hearing, the defendant will present his or her defense against deportation. Depending on the complexity of the case, the hearing could wrap up in a few hours, or it could take several days to evaluate the defense. At the conclusion, the judge will issue the court’s opinion.
  6. Order of Removal – if the defendant’s arguments for staying in the country are denied, the court will issue an order of removal. At this point, the defendant can either comply with the order or appeal the court’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. 
  7. Appeals – the initial appeal will be to the Board of Immigration Appeals. In some cases, the appeal can elevate to the Circuit Court of Appeals and ultimately the Supreme Court.
  8. Deportation – after all appeals have been exhausted and dismissed, ICE will execute the court’s order of removal. At this point, the deportation timeline depends on how quickly the agency can procure the necessary travel papers, and what the receiving country’s deportation policies are. Countries with a strong deportation relationship with the United States (like Mexico) can result in deportation in 1 – 2 weeks, while others could take up to 90 days. In rare cases where the individual cannot be deported after 90 days, he or she may petition the court for a cancellation of removal. 

Voluntary Departure

Note that in some cases, it may be advisable to voluntarily depart the US rather than exhaust your options in immigration court. If the court approves a voluntary departure, you will be given 2 – 4 months to settle your affairs before leaving the country, and you may have the opportunity to reapply for entry into the United States at a later date. In contrast, if you are deported then readmission to the US will likely be challenging.

The Deportation Process

Once a citizen has been stripped of their US citizenship, their legal status in the United States is in jeopardy. At this point, the task of deportation would fall to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. If ICE chooses to seek a removal order and deport the individual from the US, here’s what the expatriated individual can expect:

  1. Arrest and detainment – ICE or border patrol agents will arrest the individual and detain them in an ICE detention facility or a contracted federal prison.
  2. Notice to appear – the individual will receive a notice to appear in immigration court at least 10 days prior to the initial hearing.
  3. Bond hearing – if the individual presents a minimal flight risk, he or she may be released on their own recognizance. Otherwise, the court will set a bond requirement, and the individual may be released from detention once they post the bond.
  4. Master calendar hearing – this is the first official hearing in the standard removal process. At this hearing, the judge will read the charges, and the accused will affirm or deny the charges. The judge will outline what reliefs (aka defense against deportation) the individual can assert, and then schedule a formal hearing.
  5. Merits hearing – the merits hearing is where ICE presents its case against the accused individual, and he or she has the opportunity to present a valid defense as to why they should not be deported from the country. A merits hearing could wrap up in a few hours, or it could take days depending on the complexity of the case.
  6. Order of removal – if the judge accepts the defendant’s petition for relief, the case will be dismissed. If not, the judge will issue a removal order to deport the individual.
  7. Appeals – the individual may appeal the court’s decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. In some cases, they may also appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Supreme Court.
  8. Deportation – if the appeals courts refuses to hear the appeal or rules against the defendant, then he or she will be deported. Most deportations take place in as little as 2 weeks, though it depends on how quickly ICE can acquire the necessary travel documentation, arrange for travel, and reach an agreement with the receiving country.

Call our Immigration team at(480) 626-2388 to discuss your case today.

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