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I recall reading that it is very difficult to lose U.S. citizenship. For example, that you can pledge alliance to another country and still remain a U.S. citizen. Is this true?

If this is the case, what are the circumstances in which a US Citizen can lose citizenship?

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    @ColleenV that is not correct. Since Afroyim v. Rusk in 1967, it has been virtually impossible for a US citizen to lose that citizenship voluntarily, and the US has no prohibition against its citizens having other citizenship.
    – phoog
    Jul 9 '15 at 21:19
  • Did you look online? The US state department has a pretty comprehensive page on this topic that is easily found in a web search.
    – phoog
    Jul 9 '15 at 21:20
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    @phoog I believe you meant "lose it involuntarily;" you can voluntarily lose it pretty easily (walk into a US embassy or consulate abroad and make an explicit declaration you are renouncing citizenship).
    – cpast
    Jul 9 '15 at 23:49
  • @cpast you are correct, I meant to type "involuntarily."
    – phoog
    Jul 10 '15 at 2:41
  • @Colleen. I knew a family that had citizenship in China, New Zealand, and the US. New Zealand was original, the other two acquired. I am confident there are people with more countries. Keeping track of the laws must be a challenge. Jul 6 at 16:40
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A list of potentially expatriating acts may be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/Advice-about-Possible-Loss-of-US-Nationality-Dual-Nationality.html

As the page explains, one will lose one's citizenship when performing one of these acts with the intention of losing one's US citizenship. In most cases, the presumption is that such intention does not exist.

One obvious exception is an explicit renunciation of citizenship before a consular officer. The others are accepting a "policy-level position" in a foreign government, serving in a foreign military engaged in hostilities with the US, and committing treason.

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    Even in some of the latter cases, you don't necessarily lose US citizenship. The current Mayor of London (Boris Johnson) was a US citizen until earlier this year, despite being the Mayor of London (which is certainly a policy-level position).
    – cpast
    Jul 10 '15 at 1:59
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    @cpast: "was a US citizen until earlier this year" Do you have evidence that he is not still a US citizen?
    – user102008
    Jul 13 '16 at 23:15
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    @cpast: It doesn't say he has actually renounced.
    – user102008
    Jul 14 '16 at 2:14
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    @cpast: He said he intended to renounce in 2006 too, and apparently didn't. So his own claims are not very trustworthy. The names of people who renounce are published in the Federal Register, and his name has not been found there so far.
    – user102008
    Jul 14 '16 at 8:40
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    @ohwilleke the mention of treason must have been in reference to 8 USC 1481(a)(7). The fact that treason can only be committed by a citizen is surely unimportant in the discussion of whether it can cause a loss of citizenship, because a loss of citizenship is also only possible for a citizen. In light of 8 USC 1481(a)(7), though, why does treason not give rise to a loss of citizenship?
    – phoog
    May 24 '18 at 17:58
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For a natural-born citizen, the only realistic way to lose your citizenship is through voluntary renunciation. To do that, the person must be over 18 years old, and must appear in person at a US consulate. It cannot be done on US soil, it cannot be done under duress, it cannot be done by anybody under 18, and it cannot be done by anybody but the person themself.

This is actually a problem for some children born on US soil to Indian parents who plan to return to India. India does not allow dual citizenship, and requires that the child renounce their US citizenship in order to retain Indian citizenship. But that is impossible to do under US law.

I believe there also are theoretical mechanisms that could be used in cases of treason or voluntarily working in a foreign government or enlistment in a foreign military, but in practice I don't think this ever happens. The Supreme Court made a series of decisions that basically threw out most, if not all, of these laws.

In real life, there are quite a few US citizen foreign dignitaries. Queen Noor of Jordan comes to mind. Also, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed became President of Somalia while still a US citizen (he later did renounce his US citizenship).

That doesn't mean that the US government hasn't tried extralegal means to strip somebody of US citizenship. During WW II, many Japanese-Americans had been pressured to renounce their US citizenship. Those renunciations were all later overturned. More recently, the Taliban member Yaser Esam Hamdi was born in Louisiana, and therefore a natural-born US citizen. The US government forced him to renounce his US citizenship. If he wanted to pursue that, that renunciation would be almost certainly be considered invalid, so he probably still is a US citizen. Of course, odds are that this case won't ever end up in any court. It might come up, for instance if he has children who claim derivative US citizenship.

For naturalized citizens, citizenship can also be revoked if the citizenship was obtained fraudulently. That is usually the process used for revoking the citizenship of former Nazis who had failed to disclose their background when they immigrated.

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  • As far as I understand the Indian situation, the dual national child born abroad may retain Indian nationality by never applying for a foreign passport. This could be a problem for those who plan to remain in the foreign country for several years but not permanently. In practice, it seems, most opt for the foreign citizenship and OCI, which ought to allow the child to regain Indian citizenship fairly easily, if desired, after turning 18.
    – phoog
    Jul 6 at 11:10
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    The supreme court did not throw out the laws that define various expatriating acts, but established that nobody may be involuntarily deprived of US nationality through such an act. It's still theoretically possible to lose US nationality by performing such an act and documenting one's intention to lose US nationality thereby. Also, while Nazis are the most prominent examples, there are certainly others who have been denaturalized after fraudulently obtaining US citizenship.
    – phoog
    Jul 6 at 11:11
  • @phoog Without knowing Indian law in detail, of course you may be right. That said, it would be unusual by international standards. Very often, people colloquially say "apply for XYZ password" when they really mean "apply for XYZ citizenship". In that case, "never applying" would be impossible because the child would have US citizenship from birth. In any case, not applying for a US passport would not change anything, because the child would then be unable to leave the US, and therefore even after age 18 unable to renounce US citizenship. The person cannot travel on an Indian passport alone. Jul 7 at 16:23
  • It certainly is unusual by international standards. And as far as I recall the Indian courts have established the precedent concerning the passport application, something like they won't hold your other citizenship from birth against you unless you actually take steps to exercise some right pertaining to that citizenship. I looked into this 11 years ago when my nephew was born (his father was an Indian citizen at the time). There are several questions and answers on the topic at Travel and/or Expatriates.
    – phoog
    Jul 7 at 16:28
  • Furthermore, in practice, a dual citizen of the US and another country has no trouble to leave the US without a US passport, so your assessment that the child would effectively be stuck in the US is incorrect. (Also, after turning 18, the child could lose US citizenship without leaving the US, though it would take some legal creativity.)
    – phoog
    Jul 7 at 16:33

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