Can I Lose My US Citizenship if I Live Abroad?

Posted by Frank Gogol
Updated on May 16, 2022

Getting naturalized and accepted as an American citizen is a dream come true for many immigrants and non-immigrants. You’d have to spend years and fulfill inflexible criteria to even be eligible for consideration.

 But that doesn’t mean you cannot lose your American citizenship. In fact, some attorneys say losing US citizenship is far easier than obtaining one. In this article, we’ll explain how your abroad trips can affect your US Citizenship.

Can I Move Abroad After Becoming a Naturalized U.S. Citizen?

Among the many benefits that come with being naturalized is you do not have to face caps on travels made outside of the US.

In the case of permanent residents, any absence of more than six months of duration is likely to be scrutinized. In severe cases, your status will be revoked and you would face deportation. In such cases, the permanent resident is said to have abandoned his/her US Residence.

For naturalized citizens, none of such rules exists. So, you can’t solely lose your citizenship based on the ground of being absent from the US for a long time. Therefore, you can move abroad for a long period of time after becoming a Naturalized US citizen. However, you need to take care of certain things that could otherwise adversely impact you.

How to Lose Your US Citizenship

The American citizenship awarded to an immigrant is for life-long. He/she will remain a US citizen until certain events take place. In this section, we’ll explain those events in detail. As an immigrant or naturalized citizen, you should be aware of them.

Citizenship Revoked

Citizenship will rarely be revoked once it is awarded to a naturalized person. But it is still possible. This is referred to as denaturalization. Mostly, if USCIS finds cases of forgery, fraudulent, untruthful statements, willful misrepresentation, and illegal activities in your naturalization process, then it has all the rights to revoke it. This is in accordance with Section 340(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Even though the naturalization and citizenship process is extremely tedious, it is not tamper-proof. After all, it requires verification from a different country to which the US might not have full control.

In recent years, cases have spiked comparatively. To handle these types of cases, the Justice Department is setting up a separate department.

“Loss of Nationality” Statute

Section 349 of the Immigration and National Act describes the Loss of Nationality Statute. Under this act, a person can be stripped of his American citizenship if he/she indulges in certain activities, which we will discuss below.

But the point to note here is that his/her “motivation” is also taken into account. He will be deported if his actions were performed “to relinquish United States nationality.” How this is determined depends on the officers in charge and court judging the case. 

Here is the list of activities that fall under the US “loss of nationality” statute according to the Immigration and Nationality Act:

1. Taking Up The Citizenship Of Another Country After Turning 18 Years Old

Taking up American citizenship doesn’t refrain you from taking up citizenship of any other country. If you do so after 18 years of age, then you’ll be subject to the “loss of nationality” statute. But if you are a citizen of the country by birth and not by naturalization, then this will not be applicable in your case. Dual citizens are also exempted from this in certain cases. The intention element of the statute is also taken into consideration when deciding your case. But doing so after 18 years of age shows deliberateness.

2. Serving In The Military Of A Foreign Country

If the US government finds out about you serving in the military of any country other than America, which you are not authorized to, then you’ll most likely be losing your American citizenship. This is irrespective of ranks, region, or duration. Serving in the military is directly conclusive of your intention of relinquishing your US citizenship. Therefore, the element of intention does not play a much bigger role in here, if any at all.

3. Officially Serving In The Government Of A Foreign Country

Just like if you serve in the military of a foreign country, serving in the government too makes you a candidate for the “loss of nationality” statute. Not only for the government but any of its political subdivisions will attract similar attention. If you serve in the government, then either you have acquired their citizenship or taken an oath of allegiance, both of which means you have deliberately relinquished your American citizenship.

4. Any Actions Suggesting Attempt To Deliberately Give Up American Citizenship

Besides the above activities, any activity that gives the impression of you giving up American citizenship could result in loss of nationality. For example, some people file for a formal oath of renunciation of their American citizenship. This might be because they want to become a citizen of any other country that does not allow dual citizenship and settle there permanently. The request will proceed accordingly.

It has been seen off late that few wealthy people have been using the American citizenship renunciation route to avoid paying taxes to the government they owe. These cases are processed more stringently.

5. Committing Treason Or Related Activities Against The United States Government

This should be clear. Any attempts made or involved in wherein it risks the US government and its residents will result in loss of nationality. These attempts include, but are not limited to, conspiring to overthrow the current government, preparing on waging a war, bearing arms, and leaking sensitive information. Since these types of activities are considered as a national threat, chances are high that you may face charges.

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Unless you’re involved in any of the above-mentioned situations, your long absence from the United States shouldn’t pose a threat to your American citizenship. However, you should always communicate with the government wherever required. In case of any confusion, it is advised to get in touch with a registered attorney.

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