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Before I start, I want to say that I am asking this out of pure curiosity and interest. I am not in this situation, and I do not know anyone in this situation.

I read that the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration can revoke previously issued citizenships (in some extreme cases). It turns out that Norway is not the only country that can do this. Other nations may also revoke the citizenships of naturalized citizens, for example the US, Canada and Finland. I am sure there are others 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 one of their citizenships 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?

Related (Law SE): Could one become stateless by first renouncing one's native citizenship, and then having one's naturalization revoked?

  • Not all countries recognize the possession of citizenship as a legal right. Some countries have laws that allow for the revocation of citizenship without regard to the possibility of rendering someone stateless. The US is an example. Furthermore, all countries can revoke anyone's citizenship, it's just that there may be some who would have to change their laws before doing so. – phoog Aug 11 '17 at 18:25
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Such a scenario is indeed possible. For example, I know several countries where the law allows the authorities to strip a recently naturalised citizen of their citizenship if they have been found guilty of a terrorism-related offense but do require that the person still has another citizenship.

At the same time, it does not mean that renouncing other citizenship would necessarily protect you in all cases. Having a citizenship is indeed broadly regarded as a human right (cf. article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) but human rights law has little teeth and you can easily find examples of loopholes or countries just ignoring this principle.

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First of all, we need to clarify what you mean by "revoke" here. Several of countries that you claimed can "revoke" the citizenship of naturalized citizens, including the US and Canada, actually cannot involuntarily (i.e. without the person's intent) take away citizenship of naturalized citizens at all (in fact, for the US, it's constitutionally forbidden). What sometimes people mean when they talk about taking away citizenship of naturalized citizens is a finding of fraudulent naturalization, i.e. the person was not eligible for naturalization at the time of naturalization. In this case, it is technically not "revoking" of citizenship, as the naturalization was invalid, and so the person was technically never a citizen at all. It seems that the article regarding Norwegian citizenship you linked to is also about fraud in naturalization.

I don't think any country limits its ability to invalidate naturalization for reasons of fraud, based on whether the person will become stateless, because no benefits should be obtained through fraud. There is a Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which not many countries are party to, but even for those countries that are party to it, the convention itself specifically allows for deprivation of citizenship if it was obtained by misrepresentation or fraud (see convention text, Article 8(2)(b)).

As to actual revocation of citizenship that was properly obtained (not fraudulent), renouncing all other nationalities would prevent such revocation for countries that are party to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. (However, most countries in the world are not party to this convention.) For example, in the UK (which is a party to the Convention), the Home Secretary has the ability to revoke British citizenship for certain terrorism crimes, but only if the person is a dual national. However, situations like this are extremely rare.

  • +1, thank you for the answer. If somoene did this, they could actually end up stateless? – Revetahw Aug 11 '17 at 17:32
  • I posted a follow-up question on Law SE. – Revetahw Aug 11 '17 at 18:15
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    @Revetahw yes. It's even possible to become stateless more simply: US citizens can become stateless simply by renouncing their citizenship. There is someone who did this living in the Czech Republic or maybe Slovakia, I don't remember which. – phoog Aug 11 '17 at 18:30
  • @phoog Ah, yes! I remember reading about that. – Revetahw Aug 11 '17 at 18:30

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