This is a follow-up to similar question on Expatriates SE, based on an answer I got there.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration can revoke previously issued naturalizations, if they were based on fraud. It turns out that Norway is not the only country that can do this. Other nations may also revoke naturalizations, for example the US, Canada and Finland. I am sure others can as well.

Now, this got me thinking. I know that having a citizenship is a human right, so that leads me to assume that only dual nationals can have their naturalizations revoked. Otherwise, revocation would render the person stateless.

So, let's say someone was under investigation for something serious enough to potentially lose them their naturalized citizenship. Could they then hurry up and renounce their native citizenship? This would then leave them with only one citizenship, the naturalized one. I figure that would make it impossible for the government to revoke it, because it would render them stateless, making revocation a violation of international human rights law. Is that correct?

  • 2
    As the answer given suggests, while statelessness is rare, there are isolated circumstances where it can happen. The practical issue for the country that revokes your naturalization if you have lost your prior citizenship is where a deporting state would be able to deport you to as a practical matter. You might be left roaming an airport for decades until some random country grants you citizenship, or at least a visa, out of the kindness of its heart. To use a sillier example, suppose you were still a citizen of Tonga and while abroad Tonga sunk under the ocean. Where could they deport you to?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 23:01
  • A better link on the situation in Norway is from UDI, udi.no/en/word-definitions/losing-your-norwegian-citizenship/…
    – user6726
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 4:26
  • @user6726 Thank you, I replaced the one in the question with it.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 21:46
  • 1
    @ohwilleke Like in the movie The Terminal.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 21:47
  • @Tevetahw Exactly.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


There are two approaches to determining citizenship: where you are born (jus soli – this holds in the US), and who you were born to (jus sanguinis – the case in India). There are mixes of these systems, such as where a person born to an American but not in the US is still an American citizen (e.g. Ted Cruz). Canada allows Canadian citizenship to be inherited outside Canada by 1 generation, so a child born outside Canada to Canadian parent born in Canada is a Canadian citizen. A child born outside Canada to Canadians born outside Canada is not a Canadian citizen. If that child is born in India and the parents do not have dual citizenship, the child is stateless because at least one parent has to be Indian to acquire Indian citizenship at birth.

There are various exceptions to the generalization about only revoking citizenship with dual nationals. In 1962, about 20% of the Kurdish population in Syria had its citizenship revoked. Albert Einstein was stateless for 5 years, after he renounced his (German) Baaden-Württemberg citizenship. There is no law in the US that prevents you from renouncing your citizenship, there is simply a particular formality that has to be followed. Wikipedia names a half-dozen US citizens who relinquished their US citizenship and had no other citizenship (thus were stateless).

The Japanese Nationality Law limits dual citizenship and requires children to make a decision at age 22. Iran, however, prohibits renunciation of citizenship to the offspring of an Iranian male (it is automatically assigned to the child). A Japanese-Iranian child born (in Japan) to an Iranian father would might seem to have to become Iranian; but apparently Japan requires you to perform the act of renouncing, and does not require that the other country recognize the renunciation. The point is that renouncing citizenship involves the laws of two countries: the country that you renounce may or may not accept the renunciation, and the country that you renounce in favor of may or may not accept the renunciation.

Section 10 of the Norwegian Nationality Law exemplifies a further variation in concepts of renunciation as part of gaining Norwegian citizenship, and statutorily acknowledges the problem or countries not allowing citizens to renounce citizenship. There is a requirement of naturalization that "the applicant must be released from any other nationality before the application may be granted", which also allows that it's okay if you can be so released after being granted Norwegian citizenship: or, ultimately, "An exemption may be granted from the requirement regarding release if release is deemed to be legally or practically impossible or for other reasons seems to be unreasonable". (The law in Norwegian is here: a Norwegian lawyer would be better able to comment on the interpretation of the text, but my reading of the law, especially the requirement to be "løst fra annet statsborgerskap", specifies the realized result of being released, and not the act of renunciation, hence "release" in the translation).

If a person has dual US-Ukrainian citizenship, they might symbolically renounce their Ukrainian citizenship to avoid an expected revocation of US citizenship and deportation to Ukraine. But the US has no law that says that it must recognize the renunciation of a foreign citizenship. Canada and Australia do not allow you to renounce your citizenship if it would result in statelessness, but not all countries have such a requirement. See for instance sect. 9 of the Citizenship Act of Canada:

Subject to subsection (2.1), a citizen may, on application, renounce his citizenship if he (a) is a citizen of a country other than Canada or, if his application is accepted, will become a citizen of a country other than Canada...

There is, however, no specific law that compels Canada to recognize a person's renunciation of some other country.

So whether the described strategy would have any effect depends on the extent to which the "retained" state is compelled to recognize a renunciation of a foreign citizenship.


You seem to be asking this question under the assumption that there is a worldwide legal framework that effectively prevents statelessness, but, despite attempts to put one in place, there is no such framework. The framework that exists has exceptions for cases of fraud, anyway, so if someone tried your approach it would likely fail: the fraud would trump the protections it provides. The general answer to your question is therefore no, but there might be some countries with nationality laws that would protect such people from becoming stateless.

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    Are you referring to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness? I think this answer would be improved by some citations. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 18:56
  • 2
    @NateEldredge yes. I plan to expand it, probably tomorrow, after having a chance to do a bit more research.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 19:20

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