Dual Citizenship Explained

Dual citizenship, also known as dual nationality, means an individual is a citizen of two countries at the same time. The individual shares the rights and responsibilities of the citizens in each country, such as the right to live and work in both countries. Here’s everything you need to know about dual citizenship.

How Do You Obtain Dual Nationality?

There are two main scenarios that can make you a dual citizen. Here’s a quick look at each one of them.

Dual Citizenship By Birth

If you were born in a foreign country to one parent who is a US citizen, you may be considered a dual citizen by default. The dual citizenship status derives from the fact that you are a citizen of two counties; your country of birth by default, and also the citizen of the United States, the country of your parent’s origin.

Dual Citizenship By Naturalization

If you obtain American citizenship by naturalization, you may be considered a dual citizen. This derives from being a citizen of your original country of birth and your newly-acquired American citizenship. For example, if you were born in another country, and then you immigrated to the United States and became a citizen by naturalization, you may be considered to be a dual national.

However, you also need to keep in mind that there are some countries that do not allow dual citizenship. We will discuss this in detail below.

United States Law Allows Dual Citizenship

U.S. law does not mention whether or not a person should become a citizen of two countries or choose one country over the other. However, countries like Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bahamas, Botswana, Belarus, China, Malaysia, and Oman do not allow dual nationality. In countries like Djibouti, Cuba, Ethiopia, Congo, India, and Haiti, one automatically loses citizenship when they obtain citizenship in another country. Therefore, if you’d wish to keep the citizenship of your country, it is advisable to understand the laws about dual nationals in your country of origin before becoming a citizen of the United States, given that such laws vary between different countries.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Dual Citizenship

Now that you know what dual nationality is, and you are still unsure if it is the right choice for you, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages that it comes with. This will give you a better understanding of what to expect when you chose to become a dual citizen.

Advantages Of Dual Nationality

Choosing dual citizenship comes with its own advantages. Here are some notable few.

Dual Benefits And Privileges

If you have dual citizenship, you may enjoy the benefits and privileges offered to the citizens of the two countries. For example, if you are a U.S. citizen and the citizen of another country, you may vote in both countries, access their social services, also be eligible to run for office in either country, but only if the law allows. You may also visit both countries without needing a visa, and enjoy services such as schooling with the same tuition rates offered to citizens.

Dual Property Ownership

Some countries may not allow foreigners to own land within their borders; however, with dual citizenship, you may be eligible to own property in both countries, unless the law states otherwise. This is particularly beneficial if you are a business person, precisely an investor, with business interests in both countries.

Two Passports

Another advantage of dual citizenship is the acquisition of passports from both countries. When you have two passports from the two countries of your dual citizenship, you can always travel freely between them without having to answer questions about your reasons for travel or needing a visa. This works best if you visit both countries frequently to see your family in your home country, or conduct other personal businesses.

According to the U.S. Department of State, both dual citizens and American citizens may only use a U.S. passport when leaving or entering the United States. Dual citizens may also be required by their country of origin to use their passport to enter or leave that country. Given that U.S. law allows dual citizenship, it is not illegal for American citizens to use passports of another country to enter or leave that country.

Dual Cultural Identity

One of the major advantages of dual citizenship is the chance to learn from different cultures, and possibly identify as a multicultural person. For example, if you are a naturalized American but you were born outside of the United States, you may identify with the culture of your country of birth, and also the American culture. This gives gives you the chance to expand your knowledge of different cultures, learn the history of both countries, and use such knowledge to lead the kind of life you desire.

Disadvantages Of Dual Nationality

Every good thing has its bad side and the same case applies to dual citizenship, unfortunately. Here are some of the most common disadvantages of dual citizenship.

Double Taxation

Even though dual citizenship gives you the chance to own property in two countries, you will also be taxed – twice. Double taxation could be expensive and quite discouraging, especially if you have business ambitions that suit both countries. Another important thing to note is the fact that the US government taxes its citizens for income earned anywhere in the world. So if you are a US citizen and you run a business in your other country of citizenship, you will owe double taxes; one to the country where the business is located, and the other to the US government.

Dual Responsibilities

Every country has its own laws that need to be obeyed by its citizens. For example, some countries have mandatory military service for their citizens. However, in the event that you have dual nationality and your foreign country is at war with the United States, you may lose your US citizenship if you enroll to fight against the U.S.

Also, according to the U.S. Department of State, you may lose your US citizenship if you are enlisted to serve in the military of your second country if the enrollment occurred in the United States. However, if you travel outside of the United States for the sole purpose of serving the military of your second country and the enemy country is not the United States, you do not risk losing your US citizenship.

Some countries that have mandatory military service may impose this law immediately upon the arrival of dual citizens into the country, or when attempting to depart. This may be inconveniencing especially when there’s no prior notice served to the dual national. Although the dual citizen may not be detained, preventing them from leaving the country, a strategy commonly known as exit ban, is meant to coerce them into cooperating with that country.

Complex Processes

The process of obtaining dual citizenship is not the easiest; it could take up to years and involve some huge expenses. Firstly, you must find out if the laws of the country in question recognize dual citizenship. Secondly, you must abide by their terms and conditions of dual citizenship while at the same time ensuring that you do not indulge in any activity that could risk your US citizenship. Also, some countries may have longer than normal processing times for dual citizens, which could be quite frustrating for applicants.

Limited Opportunities

There are certain job opportunities that may not be available to dual citizens. In the United States, for example, certain high ranking positions may require security screening and clearing before an individual is allowed to hold such an office. In such scenarios, a dual citizen may have a rough time getting security clearance regardless of their qualifications. On the other hand, a naturalized citizen who achieved this status by default and did not actively seek dual citizenship may have an easier time getting security clearance for such high ranking positions.

How To Obtain Dual Citizenship In The United States?

To file for dual citizenship in the United States, you simply need to fill out your application for naturalization and be approved to become a US citizen. There is no specific government form meant for applicants who want to become dual citizens.

However, even before you decide to file for dual citizenship, it is advisable to contact the embassy of your country of origin to find out more about the country’s laws regarding dual citizens. As mentioned earlier, some country’s do not allow dual citizenship, meaning that if you go ahead to become a US citizen, you may not be considered a citizen of the country you were born in.

Once you have established that you want to obtain US citizenship, consequently becoming a dual citizen or possibly losing the citizenship of your country of origin, here are the steps to follow to file your application.

Meeting The Eligibility Requirements

To obtain US citizenship, make sure to meet all the eligibility requirements. Some general requirements include being a lawful permanent resident of the United States for the past three or five years, at least 18 years of age, able to read, speak and write in English, and take an Oath of Allegiance. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website provides a full list of eligibility requirements that must be met before applying to become an American citizen.

Filing The Application

Once you have met all the requirements, the next step is to fill out the application. To do this, go to the USCIS website, and file Form N-400, also known as Application For Naturalization. You will be required to submit supporting documents such as a copy of your green card, marriage certificate, proof of payment, among others.

You can file your application to become an American citizen either by mail or online. To file online, click on the File Online button on the N-400 page of the USCIS website. You will be required to sign up for an account where you can track the progress of your application, and receive updates from USCIS.

Submitting The Application

If you choose to file form N-400 online, you can easily submit it just by a click of a button when done filling out the required fields. Submitting by mail, on the other hand, is a completely different process. Firstly, you need to get the right mailing address. To do this, click on the Where To File tab on the N-400 page of the USCIS website. You will see a list of mailing addresses based on the location you are filing from.

USCIS Verdict

Upon receiving your application, the USCIS will send you a Form I-797C, also known as Notice of Action. This form lets you know that USCIS has either received your application, rejected, transferred, reopened, or set up a fingerprint appointment. After the fingerprint appointment, you will be informed about your interview date, and then take an Oath of Allegiance at a Naturalization Ceremony if you pass the interview. If you are already a citizen of another country and you also obtain United States citizenship, you will be considered a dual citizen by default. Also, when you become a US citizen, your permanent resident card, also known as a green card, will be revoked by the government.

Is Dual Nationality Good Or Bad?

Not every eligible person decides to pursue dual citizenship; some choose to pledge their allegiance to one country despite being dual citizens by default. As mentioned earlier, dual citizenship works best for individuals who have certain interests in both countries, such as business, culture, family, and so on. For this reason, some eligible persons may be put off by the drawbacks of dual nationality.

To sum up, the question of whether dual citizenship is good or bad depends on the preferences of the eligible person. Remember, if in doubt, talking to a qualified immigration lawyer is always a great idea. A professional immigration attorney should be able to help you weigh the pros and cons of pursuing dual citizenship and make the best conclusion for your specific situation.