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Denaturalized Polish Jews expelled from Nuremberg during the Polenaktion in 1938 Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1984-092-26, Nurnberg, Ausweisung polnischer Juden.jpg
Denaturalized Polish Jews expelled from Nuremberg during the Polenaktion in 1938

Denaturalization (also revocation of citizenship) is the reverse of naturalization, namely a state depriving one of its citizens of his or her citizenship. From the point of view of the individual, denaturalization means the revocation of citizenship (involuntary loss of citizenship).


Denaturalization can be based on various legal justifications. The most severe form is the "stripping of citizenship" when denaturalization takes place as a penalty for actions considered criminal by the state, often only indirectly related to nationality, for instance for having served in a foreign military. In countries that enforce single citizenship, voluntary naturalization in another country will lead to an automatic loss of the original citizenship; the language of the law often refers to such cases as "giving up one's citizenship" or (implicit) renunciation of citizenship. In another case, affecting only foreign-born citizens, denaturalization can refer to the loss of citizenship by an annulment of naturalization, also known as "administrative denaturalization" where the original act of naturalization is found to be invalid, for instance due to an administrative error or if it had been based on fraud (including bribery).

Before World War I

In the United States, the Bancroft Treaties in the 19th century regulated legislation concerning denaturalization. Also there, the proposed but never ratified Titles of Nobility amendment of 1810 would revoke the American citizenship of anyone who would "accept, claim, receive or retain, any title of nobility" or who would receive any gifts or honors from a foreign power.

Between the World Wars

Sakharam Ganesh Pandit successfully lobbied against the United States' denaturalization of Indian-Americans Sakharam Ganesh Pandit.jpg
Sakharam Ganesh Pandit successfully lobbied against the United States' denaturalization of Indian-Americans

Before World War I, only a small number of countries had laws governing denaturalization that could be enforced against citizens guilty of "lacking patriotism". Such denaturalized citizens became stateless persons. During and after the war, most European countries passed amendments to revoke naturalization. [1]

In Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power or Bare Life (1998), philosopher Giorgio Agamben mentioned a number of denaturalization laws that were passed after World War I by most European countries:

It is important to note that starting with the period of World War I, many European states began to introduce laws which permitted their own citizens to be denaturalized and denationalized. The first was France, in 1915, with regard to naturalized citizens of "enemy" origins; in 1922 the example was followed by Belgium, which revoked the naturalization of citizens who had committed "anti-national" acts during the war; in 1926 the Fascist regime in Italy passed a similar law concerning citizens who had shown themselves to be "unworthy of Italian citizenship"; in 1933 it was Austria's turn, and so forth, until in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws divided German citizens into full citizens and citizens without political rights. These laws—and the mass statelessness that ensued—mark a decisive turning point in the life of the modern nation-state and its definitive emancipation from the naive notions of "people" and "citizen"

The 1915 French denaturalization law applied only to naturalized citizens with "enemy origins" who had kept their original nationality. Later under Raymond Poincaré's government, another law was passed in 1927 which entitled the government to denaturalize any new citizen who committed acts contrary to the national interest. In 1916, Portugal passed a law which automatically denaturalized all citizens born to a German father. In 1922, Belgium enacted a law revoking the naturalization of people accused of having committed "antinational acts" during the war; this was supplemented in 1934 by a new decree against people "in dereliction of their duties as Belgian citizens." After 1926 in Italy, people who were deemed not to deserve the Italian citizenship or who were considered to represent a threat to the public order could lose their naturalization.

In the United States, citizenship had long been restricted to free whites and those of African descent. A number of Indian emigrants gained American citizenship during the early 20th century by qualifying as white. However, the 1923 Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind found that Indians were legally non-white and could not be considered citizens. [2] [3] As a result, the US government moved to strip naturalized Indian-Americans of their citizenship, arguing that it had been "illegally procured." A number of denaturalization cases went forward, including against Thind's lawyer, a Californian named Sakharam Ganesh Pandit. However, Pandit successfully argued that he had reasonably relied upon his American citizenship and he would be unjustly harmed by its removal, winning his case in court. [4] The federal government subsequently dropped its denaturalization cases against other Indian-Americans. [5]

Egypt in 1926 and Turkey in 1928 enacted laws authorizing denaturalization of any person threatening the public order. Austria passed a similar law in 1933 by which it could denaturalize any citizen who participated in a hostile action against the state. Russia also passed several similar decrees after 1921. [1]

In 1933, Nazi Germany passed a law authorizing it to denaturalize any person "living abroad" and began restricting the citizenship rights of naturalized citizens of Jewish origin, followed in 1935 by citizens by birth on the basis of the Nuremberg laws.

During Vichy France, 15,000 people, mostly Jews, were denaturalized (between June 1940 and August 1944), following the setting up, in July 1940, of a Commission charged of revision of naturalizations since the 1927 reform of the nationality law. [6]

After World War II


Under Canadian citizenship law, citizenship can be revoked by an order from the federal cabinet if the naturalized Canadian is convicted of fraud in relation to their citizenship application or original admission to Canada as an immigrant [7]

In the past (pre-1977) there were more reasons for revoking citizenship were:

Anyone whose citizenship is revoked can appeal to the Federal Court of Canada.

South Africa

Map of the black homelands in South Africa at the end of Apartheid in 1994 Bantustans in South Africa.svg
Map of the black homelands in South Africa at the end of Apartheid in 1994

In Apartheid-era South Africa, the Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act, 1970, removed South African citizenship from Black South Africans, making them citizens of nominally-independent or self-governing tribal "homelands", the Bantustans — none of which achieved international recognition. In parallel with the creation of the homelands, South Africa's black population was subjected to a massive programme of forced relocation. It has been estimated that 3.5 million people were forced from their homes from the 1960s through the 1980s, many being resettled in the Bantustans.

With the demise of the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1994, the Bantustans were dismantled and their territory reincorporated into the Republic of South Africa. The drive to achieve this was spearheaded by the African National Congress as a central element of its programme of reform. The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act itself was repealed by the 1993 Interim Constitution, with all citizens being restored to their South African citizenship.

United Kingdom

Section 4 of the British Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 [8] gave power to the Home Secretary to ‘deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that the person has done anything seriously prejudicial to the vital interests’ of the United Kingdom etc., except in the case where such might render the person stateless. [9]

United States

Loss of U.S. citizenship was a consequence of foreign military service based on Section 349(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act until its provisions were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1967 in Afroyim v. Rusk . [10] [11]

Yaser Esam Hamdi was a U.S. citizen captured in Afghanistan in 2001. He was fighting against U.S. and Afghan Northern Alliance forces, siding with the Taliban. He was named by the Bush administration as an illegal enemy combatant, and militarily detained in the country for almost three years without receiving any charges. On September 23, 2004, the U.S. Justice Department agreed to release Hamdi to Saudi Arabia on the condition that he give up his U.S. citizenship, though since it was done under duress it is possible that he can later reclaim it.[ citation needed ]

In 2010, [12] the U.S. government launched a program (Operation Janus) “to prevent aliens who received a final removal order under a different identity from obtaining immigration benefits”. [13] In January 2018, for the first time, a denaturalization was performed as a result of this program, [14] and a further program (Operation Second Look) was initiated by the HSI specifically to address leads received from Operation Janus. In June 2018, UCSIS announced an increase of the efforts to detect fraudulent naturalization cases, aiming at the revocation of the citizenship of individuals who had applied under false pretense. [13]


In 2019, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in India introduced the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) which provides citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from the Indian subcontinent other than Muslims. It simultaneously revived the exercise of updating the National Population Register (NPR) which mandated providing documents proving genealogical descent. Construction of detention camps was started across the country to imprison those who failed to prove papers or qualify for 'refuge' under the CAA. This gave rise to widespread fear of the Muslim religious minority being unfairly denaturalised due to lack of documentation as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent organization of the BJP, has held since its inception that Muslims should be denied Indian citizenship. [15]

Widespread opposition to CAA and NPR was met with heavy police clampdown and led to the arrest of several well known democratic organizers. [16] The exercise to update the NPR was halted 'indefinitely' amid the COVID-19 lockdown due to nation-wide opposition. [17]

Related Research Articles


Naturalization is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen of a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. It may be done automatically by a statute, i.e., without any effort on the part of the individual, or it may involve an application or a motion and approval by legal authorities. The rules of naturalization vary from country to country but typically include a promise to obey and uphold that country's laws, taking and subscribing to an oath of allegiance, and may specify other requirements such as a minimum legal residency and adequate knowledge of the national dominant language or culture. To counter multiple citizenship, most countries require that applicants for naturalization renounce any other citizenship that they currently hold, but whether this renunciation actually causes loss of original citizenship, as seen by the host country and by the original country, will depend on the laws of the countries involved.

Canadian nationality law Canadian nationality

Canadian nationality is regulated by the Citizenship Act since 1977. The Act determines who is, or is eligible to be, a citizen of Canada. Having replaced the previous Canadian Citizenship Act in 1977, the Act has gone through four significant amendments, in 2007, 2009, 2015, and 2017.

In international law, a stateless person is someone who is "not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law". Some stateless people are also refugees. However, not all refugees are stateless, and many people who are stateless have never crossed an international border. On November 12, 2018, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated there are about 12 million stateless people in the world.

Bhagat Singh Thind Indian American writer and civil rights activist

Bhagat Singh Thind was an American writer and lecturer on spirituality who served in the United States Army during World War I and was involved in a Supreme Court case over the right of Indian people to obtain United States citizenship.

The Republic of South Africa rewrote its nationality law after the end of apartheid in 1994 and the establishment of majority rule in the country under the newly elected African National Congress. The 1995 South African Citizenship Act revoked the previous Union of South Africa Act of 1949 and apartheid-era 1970 Act, the 1970 Act had established separate bantustan citizenship to the country's African majority and inferior levels of citizenship to the country's Asian and coloured minorities.

Liberian nationality law

The Republic of Liberia was founded by freed African slaves from North America by the American Colonization Society and returned to establish a republic on African soil. Shortly after their arrival, they were met by the indigenous people that inhabited the land. The Nationality law is set forth in the Aliens and Nationality Law of 1973, based on its 1847 Constitution. Current citizenship laws explicitly state being Black as a prerequisite to citizenship. The first constitution allowed for women to transmit their nationality to their children, although multiple citizenship was not permitted nor is it permitted in revisions of the constitution.

History of British nationality law History of United Kingdom citizenship and related concepts

This article concerns the history of British nationality law.

Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act, 1970

The Bantu Homelands Citizenship Act, 1970 was a Self Determination or denaturalization law passed during the apartheid era of South Africa that allocated various tribes/nations of black South Africans as citizens of their traditional black tribal "homelands," or Bantustans.

German nationality law Legal membership of a natural person in the Federal Republic of Germany

German nationality law is the law governing the acquisition, transmission and loss of German citizenship. The law is based on a mixture of the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli. In other words, one usually acquires German citizenship if a parent is a German citizen, irrespective of place of birth, or by birth in Germany to parents with foreign nationality if certain requirements are fulfilled. Naturalization is also possible for foreign nationals after six to eight years of legal residence in Germany.

French nationality law Law of nationality in France

French nationality law is historically based on the principles of jus soli and jus sanguinis, according to Ernest Renan's definition, in opposition to the German definition of nationality, jus sanguinis, formalised by Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Dutch nationality law

Dutch nationality law is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis and is governed by the Kingdom Act on the Netherlands nationality, which was signed by the monarch on 19 December 1984 and officially promulgated on 27 December 1984. Thus citizenship is conferred primarily by birth to a Dutch parent, irrespective of place of birth. Children born in the Netherlands to two foreign parents do not acquire Dutch citizenship at birth, unless special criteria are met.

History of Canadian nationality law History of citizenship in Canada

Since 1977, Canadian nationality has been regulated by the Citizenship Act. Canada established its own nationality law in 1946 with the enactment of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946, which took effect on 1 January 1947. It was the second nation in the British Commonwealth to establish its own nationality law; the first was the Irish Free State in 1935.

Polish nationality law

Polish nationality law is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis. Children born to at least one Polish parent acquire Polish citizenship irrespective of place of birth. Besides other things, Polish citizenship entitled the person to a Polish passport.

Brazilian nationality law

Brazilian nationality law is based on both the principles of jus soli and of jus sanguinis. As a general rule, any person born in Brazil acquires Brazilian nationality at birth, irrespective of the status of parents. It may also be acquired by children born abroad of a Brazilian parent or by naturalization.

Japanese nationality law

Japanese nationality is a legal designation and set of rights granted to those people who have met the criteria for citizenship by parentage or by naturalisation. Nationality is in the jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice and is generally governed by the Nationality Law of 1950.

Turkish nationality law Law of nationality in Turkey

Turkish nationality law is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis. Children who are born to a Turkish mother or a Turkish father are Turkish citizens from birth. The intention to renounce Turkish citizenship is submitted in Turkey by a petition to the highest administrative official in the concerned person's place of residence, and when overseas to the Turkish consulate. Documents processed by these authorities are forwarded to the Ministry of Interior (Turkey) for appropriate action.

Ukrainian nationality law

Ukrainian nationality law is the law that governs the acquisition and loss of citizenship of Ukraine. This body of law includes the Constitution of Ukraine, the European Convention on Nationality, other treaties relating to citizenship, and the Law of Ukraine on Citizenship of Ukraine.

Citizenship Act (Slovakia)

Slovak nationality law is the law governing the acquisition, transmission and loss of Slovak citizenship. The Citizenship Act is a law enacted by the National Council of Slovakia in regard to the nationality law following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. In 2010, it was controversially amended, enacting loss of Slovak citizenship upon naturalization elsewhere. This was said to have affected the 2012 election to some degree.

Loss of citizenship

Loss of citizenship, also referred to as loss of nationality, is the event of ceasing to be a citizen of a country under the nationality law of that country. It is a blanket term covering both involuntary loss of citizenship, such as through denaturalization, as well as voluntary renunciation of citizenship.

Sakharam Ganesh Pandit Indian American civil rights lawyer

Sakharam Ganesh Pandit (1875–1959), also known as S. G. Pandit, was an Indian American lawyer and civil rights activist. Pandit immigrated to the United States in 1906 and became a citizen in 1914. In 1923, he represented Bhagat Singh Thind in the Supreme Court case United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, which found that Indians were ineligible for United States citizenship. However, Pandit successfully fought against a subsequent attempt to remove his own citizenship, and the federal government thereafter gave up its efforts to denaturalize Indian Americans. Pandit died in Los Angeles in 1959.


  1. 1 2 John Hope Simpson, The Refugee Problem, Institute of International Affairs, October 1939, quoted by Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), section 2 on Imperialism, last chapter
  2. Chakravorty, Sanjoy (2017). The other one percent : Indians in America. Kapur, Devesh, 1959-, Singh, Nirvikar. New York, NY. ISBN   978-0-19-064874-9. OCLC   965470087.
  3. Coulson, Doug, 1969- (October 2017). Race, nation, and refuge : the rhetoric of race in Asian American citizenship cases. Albany. ISBN   978-1-4384-6662-0. OCLC   962141092.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. Asian American history and culture. Volume One-Two : an encyclopedia. Ling, Huping, 1956-, Austin, Allan W.,, Adachi, Nobuko. London [England]. pp. 76–84. ISBN   978-1-315-70630-6. OCLC   908047319.CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. Rangaswamy, Padma (2007). Indian Americans. Johnston, Robert D. New York: Chelsea House. p. 27. ISBN   978-1-4381-0712-7. OCLC   228654847.
  6. François Masure, "Etat et identité nationale. Un rapport ambigu à propos des naturalisés, in Journal des anthropologues, hors-série 2007, pp. 39–49 (see p. 48) (in French).
  7. "Ottawa revoking citizenship of more than 3,000 after fraud investigation". The Globe and Mail .
  8. Part 1 Nationality, Office of Public Sector Information, at Web
  9. For a comparative analysis of modes of loss of citizenship of 30 European states, see De Groot, G.R. and M. Vink (2010). "Loss of Citizenship: Trends and Regulations in Europe" Archived 2012-03-02 at the Wayback Machine . Comparative Report RSCAS/EUDO-CIT-Comp. 2010/4. Florence: EUDO Citizenship Observatory, pp. 52.
  10. "Advice about Possible Loss of U.S. Citizenship and Foreign Military Service". United States Department of State . Archived from the original on February 2, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2019 via
  11. "The Sovereign Citizen | Patrick Weil". Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  12. Mark Rockwell (2018-01-12). "DHS pursues cases exploiting biometric data gaps". Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  13. 1 2 "Has the Trump Administration Launched an Immigrant 'Denaturalization' Task Force". 2018-07-12. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  14. Jeff Mordock (2018-01-09). "For first time, Justice Dept. yanks naturalized citizenship in new 'Operation Janus' crackdown". Washington Times. Retrieved 2018-08-31.
  15. Golwalkar, MS. Bunch of Thoughts.