What Is Dual Citizenship?
What are the Pros and Cons?
If you intend to become a citizen of the United States, you might be wondering what happens to your previous citizenship in the event that you decide to build a life and a permanent home in the United States.
In many cases, a citizen of another country is able to retain their previous citizenship and simply add the United States to the list of countries they call home. Here are some FAQs regarding how dual citizenship works in the USA.
What Is Dual Citizenship in the United States?
Dual citizenship or dual nationality means that someone has full citizenship in two countries. Some people choose to hold onto their original citizenship in a foreign country when they become naturalized citizens of the United States.
Rather than replacing their native citizenship with a U.S. citizenship, they’re adding U.S. citizenship to their current citizenship.
How Does Dual Citizenship Work?
Dual citizenship works just like singular citizenship. It doesn’t come with any additional rules or exceptions. It simply means that you have full citizenship rights and responsibilities in at least two countries, and you’re expected to fulfill them in accordance with each country’s requirements.
You’re expected to follow the laws and responsibilities of citizenship in each country. You may have to pay taxes in both countries if you generate an income in both places. This can lead to a situation called “double taxation” if the two countries don’t have a double taxation avoidance agreement in place.
Dual citizens can come and go between countries where they hold citizenship. Citizens will not need a visa or special travel permissions to move freely between their home countries.
Dual citizenship doesn’t offer citizens any special protections. If you encounter legal problems in one country, the other country won’t act as a safe haven except for in cases of political, religious, or social persecution that may be dangerous.
Can You Have More Than Two Citizenships?
There are no limits to the amount of citizenships one person can hold. As long as every country in which that person holds a citizenship will recognize and honor multiple citizenships, all of those citizenships are valid.
Although it’s somewhat uncommon, there are American citizens who hold triple or even quadruple citizenships around the world. Some foreign nationals acquire citizenship through their parents in one country and obtain citizenship around the world through their career or quest for higher education. However, some countries like Australia and France no longer grant unconditional birthright citizenship in an attempt to stop “birth tourism.”
Does the United States Allow Dual Citizenship?
The U.S. Department of State will honor dual citizenship if the non-U.S. citizenship country’s law allows or honors a second citizenship, such as Italy, Canada, Spain, or Mexico.
Dual citizenship is the default assumption when you become a citizen of the United States.
If you didn’t arrive in the United States as a refugee or an asylum seeker, it’s automatically assumed that you’d like to maintain your former citizenship when you become a naturalized U.S. citizen. You don’t have to take any extra steps or make any special requests.
The Oath of Allegiance, a sworn promise made at the time of naturalization, may cause some confusion about dual citizenship. People obtaining their United States citizenship agree to forfeit allegiance and titles to other countries. This means that you won’t hold royal or government titles in your home country, like princess or lord. It also means that you won’t act on behalf of another country’s government or military while in the United States.
It does not mean that you aren’t allowed to return to your country of origin or call that country your home after you complete the naturalization process. You’re free to come and go between both countries at your leisure once you’ve obtained United States citizenship. Citizenship eliminates the travel limitations that come with a permanent resident card. If you stay in a different country for over a year, your citizenship status in the United States won’t be challenged.
You don’t have to forfeit citizenship in your home country to become a citizen of the United States. You’re allowed to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship in both countries. You can vote and participate in socialized programs (like social security or state-sponsored medical insurance) in both countries.
Does Every Country Allow Dual Citizenship?
Not all countries allow dual citizenship. China is the most relevant example. China does not recognize dual citizenship, either for people who are born Chinese citizens and seek citizenship in another country or for people from other countries who want to become Chinese citizens.
If you were born outside of China and you’d like to become a Chinese citizen, you have to meet a rigorous list of criteria and pass a series of verification steps implemented by the Chinese government. If you are granted Chinese citizenship, you’re forced to forfeit citizenship in your country of origin.
If you hold Chinese citizenship and successfully obtain citizenship in another country, the Chinese government will automatically revoke your Chinese citizenship. It doesn’t matter if you were born in China to Chinese citizens or if you still have strong ties to the country. They refuse to recognize dual citizenship.
Similarly, countries like India won’t recognize your American citizenship while on their soil. Others, like the Philippines, only let you retain or reacquire your citizenship under certain situations.
If you live in a country that doesn’t recognize dual citizenship and you intend to pursue citizenship in another country, it’s important to carefully consider the implications of doing so. You may have to make a sacrifice. You need to be sure that sacrificing citizenship is worth it to you.
What Are the Responsibilities of Dual U.S. Citizens?
U.S. nationality provides many rights, but these rights come with responsibilities. Citizens are expected to play an active role in maintaining American society.
U.S. citizens must pay income tax. If you work for a U.S. company and your job is your only source of income, most of your taxes will be deducted from your paycheck before you receive it. If you have multiple sources of income, you’ll need to report all of your income and pay a specified percentage to the federal government.
Registering for the Selective Service
The Selective Service is a military draft system that requires most men in the United States to sign up for military service in the event that the country goes to war and runs out of volunteer military personnel. The draft system hasn’t been used in about fifty years, and it’s very unlikely it will be used again in the near future. The draft is more of a sign of faith in the United States military and allegiance to the country.
Abiding by the Law
Dual citizens are required to abide by U.S. law and the laws of countries where they have a foreign citizenship. It’s most important that dual citizens avoid legal trouble in both countries where they hold citizenship. Legal trouble can jeopardize your dual citizenship status.
Appearing for Jury Duty
All American adults are required to appear for jury duty if summoned. If someone is being charged with an offense in criminal court, they have the option to explain their case in front of a jury of their peers.
The jury decides whether or not the person is guilty. Jury selection is random to assure fairness. If you’re randomly selected for jury duty, you need to appear in court and help them reach a verdict.
What Rights Do Dual U.S. Citizens Have?
Citizens of the United States through naturalization have almost all of the same rights as born citizens of the United States. The only thing dual citizens cannot do that natural-born citizens can do is run for president of the United States.
Voting in U.S. Elections
In the United States, voting is considered an important civic duty. One of the greatest parts of American government is the way leaders are democratically elected by the people.
As a citizen, you’ll be able to add your voice into the conversation during local, state, and national elections. You have the freedom to choose candidates whose values, plans, and policies you feel will benefit the entire country.
Helping Your Family Come To the United States
Green card holders can petition for certain immediate family members to come to the United States, but requests made by green card holders aren’t as high on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) priority list as requests made by U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens are able to petition for both immediate and extended family members.
Using Public Services and Benefits
U.S. citizens are entitled to collect social security benefits upon reaching retirement age. They’re also entitled to certain emergency safety nets in the event that they unexpectedly lose their job or encounter financial hardship.
Access To Education
U.S. citizens can enroll in United States educational institutions without paying international student tuition. They can also enroll in local community colleges and receive financial aid or local scholarships to subsidize the cost of their education.
Freedom To Travel
U.S. citizens enjoy the benefits of one of the strongest passports on the planet compared to foreign passports. Some people become U.S. citizens because they’re interested in obtaining the coveted U.S. passport. If you desire to become a world traveler, the passport will be worth its weight in gold.
Are There Any Disadvantages To Becoming a U.S. Dual Citizen?
Every choice you make will have pros and cons. It’s the right choice for you if the pros outweigh the cons. Many people find that seeking dual citizenship in the United States is worth some of the downsides. Others will find that the potential disadvantages don’t even apply to their situation.
Forfeiting Foreign Titles
You don’t have to forfeit your citizenship in your home country, but you do need to release certain privileges that come with that citizenship. If you hold an important foreign title, you must forfeit that title when you become a citizen of the United States.
This topic was famously discussed in the news when England’s Prince Harry and Princess Meghan voluntarily cut ties with the royal family and moved to the United States. Prince Harry has elected not to pursue United States citizenship because he would formally lose his title of Prince.
This situation will rarely apply to people seeking dual citizenship in the United States, but it may be worth considering if you come from a noteworthy or noble family in your home country.
Losing the Ability To Work in Some Government Jobs
It can be difficult to get a job working within certain United States government agencies. Most people who work for the federal government will need to obtain some sort of security clearance, especially if they can potentially obtain access to confidential or classified information.
If you hold dual citizenship with the United States and another country, this can prevent you from working in a position where you would have access to confidential or sensitive information. You haven’t completely forfeited your allegiance to your home country, and clearance authorities may see your dual citizenship as a risk to national security.
Lifelong U.S. Tax Liabilities
As a United States citizen, you are expected to pay taxes on all of your income. This includes income you make in other countries. If you’re a citizen of two countries, your home country may have the same expectation. In some cases, this means you will have to pay double the amount of taxes on every dollar you make for the rest of your life.
Some countries have tax treaties with the United States to help dual citizens avoid double taxation. Certain tax forms designed to report foreign income or request foreign tax credits can help to reduce your additional tax liability. Just keep in mind that your annual taxes will be a lot more complicated than the annual taxes of someone with a single citizenship.
Do You Need Legal Assistance With Your Dual Citizenship?
In most cases, obtaining dual citizenship is as simple as applying for naturalization in the United States while holding valid citizenship in another country. If you have any questions or concerns about pursuing dual citizenship or navigating the responsibilities of dual citizenship, the experienced legal team at Cohen, Tucker + Ades has answers.
Contact us for a consultation regarding your dual citizenship application or naturalization case. We’ll review the details of your situation and provide you with the legal assistance you need.