Dual citizenship, or dual nationality, means that a person is a citizen of two countries simultaneously. It is also possible to simultaneously be a citizen of three or more countries. Dual citizenship occurs when an individual becomes a citizen of another country, in addition to his or her birth country. Generally, countries define citizenship based upon one’s place of birth, descent, marriage or naturalization process.
A foreign citizen does not lose his or her citizenship when becoming a naturalized United States citizen. Nevertheless, some countries do not recognize dual citizenship, so it is important to consider the factors carefully before applying for citizenship in the U.S. or abroad.
Dual citizenship can also occur by automatic operation of laws for some individuals, such as a child born abroad to parents who are U.S. citizens, or a child born in the U.S. to non-citizen parents.
An individual who is automatically granted citizenship in another country does not risk losing his or her U.S. citizenship. On the other hand, a U.S. citizen who applies for and is granted foreign citizenship may lose his or her U.S. citizenship, provided the application was made voluntarily and with the intent to relinquish United States citizenship. Such intent can be shown by the person’s conduct or statements.
Each country has its own laws regarding dual citizenship. The United States recognizes dual citizenship, and does not require an individual to choose one citizenship over another. However, the U.S. government does not endorse dual citizenship as a matter of policy because of the problems it can cause.
Dual citizens owe allegiance to both countries and are required to abide by the laws of both countries. For example, citizenship often comes with legal obligations relating to taxes, military service and travel restrictions. There could be a conflict between the laws governing the two countries, which may cause problems for the dual national. In addition, dual citizenship may limit the U.S. government’s efforts to assist U.S. citizens abroad, because the country where the dual citizen is located generally has a stronger claim to that individual’s allegiance. Dual nationality also has its advantages. For example, dual citizenship affords an individual with a greater degree of flexibility in choosing where to live and work.
U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a United States passport to enter and leave the U.S. Dual citizens may also be required by the foreign country to use that country’s passport when entering and leaving that country.
Most countries permit their nationals to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship. Americans can renounce their United States citizenship at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad; and information on giving up foreign citizenship is available from that country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S.
If you are in a dual citizenship situation, or are contemplating such a move, it is important to discuss your intentions and goals with an attorney who is knowledgeable in this particular aspect of immigration law to help weigh the pros and cons and avoid the pitfalls that may accompany dual citizenship.