Does the USA Allow Dual Citizenship?
Is dual citizenship right for me?
Some people have families or careers that keep them committed to more than one country. It’s difficult to travel between two different countries and lead a consistent life across the planet if you don’t have full citizenship in both.
If you want the United States to be one of your homes, here’s what you need to know about pursuing dual citizenship in the USA and the answers to frequently asked questions about the topic.
What Is Dual Citizenship? Dual Citizenship Explained
Dual citizenship, sometimes called dual nationality, is a special status that allows someone to simultaneously be a full-fledged citizen of the U.S. and a foreign country.
Many types of citizenship require applicants to give up their right to citizenship in a different country, but dual citizenship creates an exception. According to U.S. law, you’ll have all the same rights, opportunities, and responsibilities in both countries of citizenship.
Dual citizenship isn’t always an option. It all depends on immigration and citizenship laws in both countries. Some countries have incompatible laws which will require the person pursuing new citizenship to give up their current citizenship.
Is Dual Citizenship Allowed in the U.S.?
Dual citizenship is allowed in the USA, but the process needs to work both ways. If dual citizenship isn’t allowed or recognized by the government of the other country, you can’t hold valid dual citizenship.
Some countries don’t recognize dual citizenship. China will not recognize dual citizenship with the USA. If you choose to become a naturalized citizen, you’re stripped of your Chinese citizenship by default by assuming U.S. nationality.
Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom recognize dual citizenship with the USA. People from those countries won’t experience conflict from either government if they choose to become dual citizens.
What About the Oath of Allegiance to the United States?
The Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States has some awkward wording pertaining to giving up certain titles or allegiances when you become a citizen of the United States:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”
This is the first sentence of the Oath of Allegiance, and it seems to suggest that dual citizenship would not be possible. If you have to renounce every country where you’ve ever been a citizen, how can you be a citizen of a foreign state and the U.S.?
The first sentence of the oath is regarded as symbolic, and it’s intended to mean that you’re swearing that you won’t act in the best interest of a foreign government in the United States. Simply put, you’re stating that you aren’t a spy or otherwise on a mission to harm the United States to benefit another country or government.
The oath doesn’t necessarily reflect the way U.S. immigration law was written, and the law is ultimately more enforceable than the oath.
While it’s undoubtedly illegal to act as a spy, it’s completely legal to hold two citizenships at the same time. Being a Canadian and an American isn’t harmful to anyone, as long as you work to respect and uphold the laws of the country you’re currently in.
What Role Does the Supreme Court Play?
The U.S. Supreme Court interprets immigration law in favor of dual citizenship. There are technically no official laws that state that someone needs to give up their citizenship of another country to become a U.S. citizen, or that U.S. citizens have to give up their birth citizenship if they want to become a citizen of another country.
The Supreme Court wants people to keep in mind that dual citizenship can affect how the United States can assist U.S. citizens while abroad.
If you’re in the country where you hold your other citizenship and you break the law, the U.S. can’t provide you with consular support. You’re a citizen of that country, and you’re treated as an equal to every other citizen of that country. The U.S. government can’t intervene.
The U.S. government requires dual citizens to use their U.S. passports to exit and enter the country at all times. You can’t use a foreign passport to travel back across the border. You need your U.S. passport for travel to prove your citizenship.
What Rights Do Dual Citizens Have?
Dual citizens have the same rights that all U.S. citizens have. Their right to work is slightly different and may be more encompassing than the rights of someone with single citizenship.
Many of these rights come with additional responsibilities, and it’s important to understand how to reconcile your rights with your responsibilities.
Freedom To Work in Other Countries
Dual citizens of the United States can legally work both in the United States and in the other country they hold citizenship. Many people who operate international businesses choose to pursue dual citizenship because of the career freedom it affords.
This freedom comes with the responsibility of keeping track of your income in both countries and maintaining two sets of finances. This is something you’ll want to keep in mind if you intend to be employed in two countries at the same time.
Dual citizens can vote in U.S. elections and elections in countries where they hold a second citizenship. You can mail in an absentee ballot if there’s an election while you’re in another country. All you need to do is maintain an active voter registration with your current information that matches the details on your state-issued identification card.
Get Green Cards for Your Family
Citizens of the United States are eligible to sponsor their relatives for green cards. Permanent residents can only apply for green cards for their unmarried children and spouses. U.S. citizens can sponsor more family members, including their parents, married sons and daughters, and siblings.
If you meet the sponsorship criteria (or are able to find a joint sponsor), there is no limit to the number of green card applications you can submit on behalf of your qualifying family members.
Although it’s possible to obtain green cards for your family members, it isn’t always easy. Wait times can be long due to limited visa availability. The U.S. government only issues so many immigrant visas a year.
You may want the help of a thorough immigration attorney when petitioning for a family member to obtain a green card. An immigration attorney can make sure that your paperwork is filled out and filed correctly, which can help to prevent delays in the process.
Access To Public Benefits
Becoming a citizen allows you access to social safety nets. You’ll be able to collect social security benefits upon retirement or if you become disabled and are unable to work.
You’ll have access to government-subsidized healthcare programs if you need assistance with medical insurance. You can also participate in relief programs like supplemental nutrition assistance and reemployment assistance should you encounter financial hardships.
In addition, you’ll be able to access similar benefits offered in your other country of origin at the same time. This is especially helpful for dual citizens who retire and want to split their golden years between the United States and their country of origin.
There’s no need to worry about the continuity of your senior benefits when you travel from country to country.
What Obligations Do Dual Citizens Have? Eligibility Requirements
Rights and freedoms come with certain responsibilities. Every American citizen is expected to participate actively in society and uphold the law. Your dual citizenship gives you the same rights and responsibilities as native-born U.S. citizens.
If you fail to meet your obligations, you’ll be treated the same way a natural-born American citizen will be treated. Dual citizens rarely face the consequences on their citizenship status when they encounter legal issues. You can’t be deported for things like failing to appear for jury duty or being late on your taxes.
Pay U.S. Taxes
Dual citizens are required to pay taxes in the United States on all of the income they earn from employment, as well as things like investment accounts.
If you only work in the United States, your tax situation won’t be much different from anyone else’s tax situation. It’s a fairly straightforward process, and your employer will provide you with all the documents you need to file and pay your U.S. taxes.
Tax responsibilities in two countries can lead to double taxation. The situation is complicated and nuanced.
You may need the help of a professional tax preparer or a tax attorney if you work in two countries or if your financial situation is complicated. It’s important to abide by tax laws exactly as they are written. There can be legal consequences for people who don’t follow tax laws correctly.
Disclose Your Legal Record
The U.S. government can’t offer you consular support if you’ve broken the law in your country of birth, especially if you’ve retained your citizenship there.
It’s very rare that the information you provide would lead to deportation, but the United States may require you to return to the country where you committed the crime to face legal consequences.
The United States Department of Justice has extradition treaties with many countries. You cannot return to the United States without facing the consequences of breaking the law in another country.
Serve on a Jury
Everyone in the United States who is a citizen must also participate in jury duty if they’re summoned by the court. The court will send notices to randomly selected people when a trial is going to take place. They’ll be interviewed for their potential candidacy to serve on a jury, which will work together to return a verdict for a person on trial.
If you’re summoned for jury duty, you have to appear in court. Not everyone who is summoned will ultimately serve on the jury, but it’s your responsibility to show up when the court requires you to do so. Jury duty is very uncommon. About 5% of American citizens will ultimately serve on a jury.
Sign Up for Military Service
Many males in the United States are required to sign up for selective service, which is a military draft. Selective service allows the government to conscript citizens into the military or require their assistance with military projects. Dual U.S. citizens who also have foreign citizenship also become a part of the selective service pool as criteria for American citizenship.
This may seem alarming, but statistics show that there isn’t much to be worried about. The United States has not used the selective service military draft in fifty years. The current U.S. military is composed entirely of volunteers who decide to join the armed forces. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll ever be called in for selective service.
The Bottom Line on U.S. Dual Citizenship
U.S. dual citizenship is possible whenever the second country acknowledges or allows for dual citizenship. Despite what the Oath of Allegiance suggests, the Supreme Court recognizes dual citizenship as valid.
Although dual citizenship can make life easier for people with deep roots in two countries, it can also pose some challenges. It’s best to work with an experienced immigration attorney if you need help navigating the process.
Cohen, Tucker, and Ades is a leading team of immigration lawyers with over 40 years of experience helping immigrants live their American dream. Contact us for a consultation on your dual citizenship immigration case if you need help navigating the process.