What Is Dual Citizenship?

A person with dual citizenship is a citizen of two different countries at the same time. As you might imagine, this can expand your world view and increase your travel opportunities, but the process isn’t without its legal complications.

Are you a citizen of a particular country and wondering if you should add another? If so, then it helps to know which steps you’ll need to take, and whether it’s the right move for you.

What is dual citizenship and what elements should you consider? Today, we’re sharing everything you need to know.

Dual Citizenship in the U.S.

Until 1967, dual citizenship was forbidden within the United States. This changed the landmark Afroyim v. Rusk case, which determined that a U.S. citizen could not lose their citizenship for any reason unless they willingly surrender it. Today, the U.S. does allow dual citizenship, but it does not condone it.

However, there is one caveat. The U.S. follows what’s known as the “Master Nationality” rule. In short, this means that the U.S. has the right to treat someone carrying multiple citizenships as strictly a U.S. citizen when they are in the country.

This includes the right to obligate a service member to military service. Some countries that also enact this rule will require citizens to obtain an exit permit before leaving the country. 

Let’s review a few of the ways that this process can work in the United States.

Natural Dual Citizenship

In some cases, dual citizenship happens naturally and automatically. For instance, if a child is born in the United States to two foreign parents, then that child is a dual citizen of this country and their parents’ country of residence. The only exception would be if the parents were foreign diplomats living in the United States. 

Though it isn’t always the case, a child of U.S. citizens who is born in a foreign state may become a dual citizen of the United States and the country of their birth. However, these regulations differ among countries. For multi-nationality to occur, that country must also allow dual citizenship.

Legal Dual Citizenship

Apart from being born in a foreign country, how can someone obtain dual citizenship in the United States? The answer is through the courts.

For instance, if a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen, then that person could legally become a U.S. citizen if they meet certain requirements, including:

  • Living in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least three years
  • Living in a marital union with a spouse who is a U.S. citizen during those years
  • Being physically present in the U.S. for at least 18 months out of those years

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office explains the process of naturalization in this helpful guide.

Currently, the U.S. law maintains that a citizen of this country can hold dual nationality in another country. If you go this route and receive citizenship in a foreign state, then you are not required to denounce your U.S. citizenship. However, you may do so on your own accord.

Keep in mind that if you are not currently a U.S. citizen, but become one through a legal process, then your home country could denounce your citizenship there depending on their laws.

Dual Citizenship vs. Green Card

A green card is a document that allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. In many ways, it can work similarly to dual citizenship, though your rights and obligations will be a little different.

For example, you can travel to a different country with a green card. However, you may need to apply for a re-entry permit to get back into the United States if you’ll be gone for longer than one year. If you’re interested in pursuing a green card, then you can find an application form online.

Benefits of Securing Dual Citizenship

Given the number of legal complications that could possibly occur, why would someone want to obtain dual citizenship? Whether you’re currently a U.S. citizen or not, there are a few different reasons why this process would work to your advantage. Let’s take a look at a few below.

Benefits of Both Places

If you have two citizenships that permit you access to different countries, then you’ll be able to enjoy all of the perks of living in those places!

This means that you’ll have access to two social service systems. You can also vote in each country, as well as run for office, although some countries have their own restrictions. If you’re looking to expand your political reach, then this can be a smart move.

In addition, you can live and work in each country with ease. You won’t have to obtain a special work visa, and you won’t be required to pay out-of-country tuition rates for higher education. This can grant you access to prestigious opportunities that might have been too costly to pursue from a foreign perspective.

Access to Land Ownership

In some countries, you can only own land if you’re a legal citizen. With dual citizenship, this isn’t an issue. This means you can own a few acres in the United States, as well as a farm in Mexico.

If you find that you’re frequently traveling to another country for work, then it can be helpful to own a home in both places. This can save on rental costs and ensure that you always have a place to stay.

Easier to Travel Between Countries

You will have a citizen’s passport for each country you claim citizenship. This can make the travel process much easier. Without one, you would have to acquire special documentation, such as a long-stay visa, to spend a substantial amount of time in another country. 

In addition, you’d be required to answer a litany of questions at the airport concerning why you’re traveling to that place, and the nature of your visit.

The customs process can be intricate and complicated, but it becomes easier when you share your citizen’s passport. You have a clear right of entry into the country in question, so you can travel back and forth with ease.

Expand Your Cultural Horizons

Lastly, being a citizen of two different countries can make your life much more culturally rich! You will have the unique opportunity to be immersed in different lifestyles, try new foods, and experience special landscapes that are nothing like home.

For this reason, some country governments actively promote dual citizenship. They believe that it encourages outside visitors to come to their country and experience it firsthand. Whether you want to learn a new language or dive deeply into history, you can do it all.

Drawbacks of Dual Citizenship

When you secure dual citizenship, you’re bound by obligations on both sides. For instance, in the U.S., you must serve a jury summons and answer a call to required military service, regardless of your citizenship elsewhere. Some people may view this as a disadvantage.

Let’s take a look at a few other reasons why you may want to give a second thought to this process. 

Taxes

If you’re a U.S. citizen, then you’re required to file and pay U.S. taxes for your lifetime. This includes taxes on any money that you make outside of the country. To avoid double taxation, some countries have treaties with the U.S. that will reduce your overall tax liability. 

Unless that treaty is in place, you could wind up paying taxes on the same income through both the IRS and the tax office of your other country of residence. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re eyeing dual citizenship for work-related purposes.

Employment Restrictions

Some companies will not mind hiring employees who are dual citizens. However, if your job requires access to top-secret information, or if you have to secure a Secret Clearance, then your dual citizenship may not allow it.

If you work in a public sector industry, ask your employer about these restrictions before moving forward.

Long Process

Finally, you might be deterred from pursuing dual citizenship simply because the process can be long and time-consuming.

If you are applying for citizenship in the U.S., for example, then you’ll need to complete the naturalization process first. This process usually happens around three to five years after getting your green card, and can take more than one year to complete. 

If the waiting sounds too long or the paperwork seems too overwhelming, then there are counselors and experts who can walk you through the process. 

What Is Dual Citizenship? Now You Know!

What is dual citizenship and why should you look into it? This process can expand your professional and recreational world, and allow you access to opportunities that you might have otherwise missed.

However, it can also be a lengthy and complicated process. Plus, being a dual citizen can expand your duties and obligations. Take the time to weigh the pros and cons of this decision to determine if it’s the right step for you and your family.

In the meantime, we’re happy to share the informative guides you need on everything from health to real estate. Check back often for more tips you can use!

By Malik

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