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Differences Between a Certificate of Citizenship and a Certificate of Naturalization

Naturalization is one way in which a person born in a country outside the United States can acquire U.S. citizenship. A foreign born individual can become a naturalized citizen by marrying a U.S. citizen and being a lawful permanent resident for three years, being a lawful permanent resident for five years through means other than marriage, by having qualifying military service, or by being a qualifying child of a U.S. citizen. A person can also become a U.S. citizen by acquiring derivative citizenship.

Once a person becomes naturalized, he or she receives a certificate of naturalization to show that the person has become a U.S. citizen after meeting the necessary requirements. A certificate of naturalization should not be confused with a certificate of citizenship.

A certificate of citizenship is given to a foreign born individual who acquires derived citizenship through a U.S. citizen parent or parents, whether the parent is a birth parent or an adoptive parent. The child who obtains this kind of derivative citizenship usually must be under the age of 18. A certificate of citizenship is used as proof of citizenship, but does not confer citizenship status.

After a person becomes a naturalized citizen, the status cannot be revoked or the certificate of naturalization cancelled, without a hearing before a federal judge. On the other hand, a certificate of citizenship can be revoked without a hearing as an administrative matter if the underlying derivative citizenship is shown to be fraudulent or invalid. For example, a person lies about being the natural or adopted child of a U.S. citizen, and provides fraudulent documents to prove this, and is issued a certificate of citizenship based on this information. The certificate of citizenship can be cancelled as soon as it is discovered that the person provided false information.

The cancellation of the certificate of citizenship does not cancel or revoke a person’s otherwise valid citizenship. If the person can prove derivative U.S. citizenship another way, he or she may do so.

This administrative procedure for cancelling a person’s certificate of citizenship is not applicable to naturalized citizens. The process of revoking a person’s naturalization is more complicated. There are some situations in which an immigrant’s naturalization can be revoked, and the immigrant can lose his or her status as a U.S. citizen. This usually happens if there is a problem with the person’s initial qualification for naturalization. If the person did not meet the criteria for citizenship, whether fraudulently or through a mistake, the person’s citizenship through naturalization can be revoked.

However, the United States Supreme Court has held that if the basis of revoking a person’s naturalization is misstatements on a person’s naturalization application, the misstatements have to be material. The government has the burden of proving that the misstatement was material to the granting of citizenship. Therefore, minor misstatements cannot be the basis of stripping someone of U.S. citizenship.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you in a proceeding to revoke your naturalization, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.


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