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Certificate Of Citizenship V. Certificate Of Naturalization

Author: U.S. Citizenship Attorney Alena Shautsova

Certificate of Naturalization is a goal of many who is seeking to immigrate to the United States. It is a document that proves that one was granted a US citizenship, took an oath of allegiance, and now is a citizen of the United States. Unlike, however, in the case of US born citizens, a person who received his/her citizenship through naturalization, may lose it. For this, the government would have to institute special denaturalization proceedings. See section 340 of the Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1451 (2012). Unlike other immigration proceedings that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services handles in an administrative setting, revocation of naturalization can only occur in Federal court. See Gorbach v. Reno, 219 F.3d 1087, 1093-1094, 1099 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). A person’s naturalization can be revoked either by a civil proceeding filed in Federal court pursuant to section 340(a) of the Act or by a criminal conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1425 (2012), which results in the automatic revocation of naturalization under section 340(e) of the Act. Whatever the route is, there will be proceedings during which a person whose citizenship the government is trying to take away, will have an opportunity to defend him/herself.

A Certificate of Citizenship, on the other hand, is a different story. Many do not have it all, even though persons may know they became citizens when their parents became citizens. It is not required for one to apply for a certificate of citizenship, and many choose to apply for a US passport instead. “A certificate of citizenship only provides documentation of United States citizenship for persons who claim to have obtained that status derivatively. See 8 C.F.R. §§ 341.1, 341.2(c) (2016). It does not confer United States citizenship but only furnishes recognition and evidence that the applicant has previously obtained such status derivatively, that is, upon the naturalization of a parent or parents. See Section 341(a) of the Act. Thus, the issuance of a certificate of citizenship, like a United States passport, only serves as indicia of citizenship. It is not a grant of United States citizenship.” See BIA Decision, 27 I&N Dec. 52 (BIA 2017). What happens next, is that when the government suspects that the certificate of citizenship was issued in error, they can simply revoke it, without the need of a Federal court to be involved. In some instances, such “errors” are based on fraud committed by the holder of the certificate; in some cases, the holder of the certificate is innocent it was USCIS’s error or parents’ fraud that led to the revocation. The point is because it is easy (or easier) to receive a certificate of citizenship, it is easier (or easy) to lose it. The District Director (the head of the CIS of the local office) has statutory authority to cancel a certificate of citizenship that was illegally or fraudulently obtained under section 342 of the INA.

In most cases, a person has no need to worry about a possible cancellation of a certificate of citizenship. However, it would be wise to at least consult with an Immigration attorney if there might be some questions regarding the derivative status between the parent and child who is planning on obtaining the certificate of naturalization; or there might be issues with a parent’s qualifications of citizenship in the first place. It seems that a person should choose naturalization proceedings if possible because naturalization provides greater protections for one who is seeking to build a stable and worry free life in the United States.

07 June 2017
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