Dual citizenship means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time, having legal rights and obligations in connection with both countries. While dual citizenship gives certain advantages, such as easy residency in multiple countries and access to government programs, there are extra legal considerations that can make life more complicated. For example, the dual citizen may have tax obligations in more than one nation, or may need to fulfill residency requirements between two homelands. Following is a discussion of dual citizenship and related legal issues.
Acquiring Dual Citizenship
A person in the United States may acquire dual citizenship in one of several ways, including:
Being born in the United States to immigrant parents.
Being born outside the United States to one parent who is a U.S. citizen, and another parent who is a citizen of another country.
Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen while maintaining citizenship in another country.
Regaining citizenship in a country of origin after having become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
If you hold multiple passports, it is important to keep those documents current and to use them appropriately in each country. You should also keep yourself apprised of citizenship requirements, such as tax obligations. If you do not fulfill your duties as a citizen to each country, you may be legally liable for those omissions.
Recognition of Dual Citizenship in the U.S.
The United States does not formally recognize dual citizenship. However, it also has not taken any stand against it, either legally or politically. Typically, no American will forfeit his or her citizenship by undertaking the responsibilities of citizenship in another country. This is true even if the responsibilities include traveling with a foreign passport, voting in another country's election, or running for and/or serving in public office of another country. In most cases, it is unimportant to U.S. authorities whether another country also claims you as a citizen.
Loss of Citizenship Due to Dual Citizenship
The loss of U.S. citizenship can only occur if a person's actions demonstrate an intent to give up his or her citizenship. Such actions might include:
Serving in the armed forces of a country which is engaged in hostilities against the United States.
Formally renouncing one's U.S. citizenship in front of a duly authorized U.S. official.
Committing an act of treason against the United States, or attempting or conspiring to overthrow the U.S. Government.
Although it's rare, some countries will revoke a national's citizenship when citizenship is acquired elsewhere. Other countries require renunciation of any prior citizenships as a condition of naturalizations. It is important to carefully read all of the rules of citizenship for each country.
Dual Citizenship - Getting Legal Help
If you hold a dual citizenship with the United States and another country, it is important that you understand the legal rights and obligations that you may have as a result. To learn more, and to discuss the specifics of your situation, contact an experienced immigration attorney near you.