American Citizenship and Dual Citizenship

If you have been a dual citizen from birth or childhood, or else became a citizen of another country after already having American citizenship, and the other country in question does not have any laws or regulations requiring you to formally renounce your U.S. citizenship before U.S. consular officials, then current U.S. law unambiguously assures your right to keep both citizenships for life.

Dual citizenship or dual nationality is simply being a citizen of two countries. The United States allows dual citizenship.

For example, if you were born in Italy you are a native-born Italian. If you move to the United States and become a naturalized US citizen, you now have dual citizenship. Dual citizens can carry two passports and essentially live, work, and travel freely within their native and naturalized countries.
Some dual citizens also enjoy the privilege of voting in both countries, owning property in both countries, and having government health care in both countries.

The United States applies a strict rule of jus soli, under which all children born in the territorial United States (save those of diplomats) are extended citizenship at birth. Most countries, however, have adopted descent by the rule of jus sanguinis. Thus, for example, the child borne of Italian citizens in the United States will be a birthright dual Italian-American citizen.

As mentioned previously, the United States government does allow dual citizenship. Naturalized citizens are not legally obligated to give up their citizenship of their native country.

Traditionally, naturalization elsewhere resulted in expatriation; that is, the forfeiture of U.S. citizenship.

Beginning with its 1967 decision in Afroyim v. Rusk, however, the Supreme Court has increasingly limited the circumstances in which native-born citizens can be deprived of their nationality. Today, an individual will almost never lose his or her American citizenship without specifically intending that result. A citizen who naturalizes elsewhere is presumed to retain American citizenship, not to abandon it.

Some countries do not allow dual citizenship. For instance, if you were born in South Korea and become a US citizen, you will most likely lose your Korean citizenship if the Korean government finds out about it. But an increasing number of these countries that prohibit dual citizenship are not enforcing their laws regarding dual citizenship. So, you may informally have dual citizenship if your native country does not take away your citizenship after you become a US citizen.

In recent years, however, several states have amended their nationality laws to allow individuals to retain their citizenship even when they naturalize in another country. Thus, applicants from such major “sending” states as the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ireland, and Italy will not necessarily lose their original citizenship upon naturalization in the United States.

As a general rule, dual citizens are not entitled to any sort of special treatment by their two countries of citizenship. Each country will usually consider the person as if he were a citizen of that country alone.

Citizenship frequently carries with it legal obligations relating to taxes, military service, and/or travel restrictions.

Again, since countries usually insist on dealing with their citizens without regard to any other citizenships they might hold, and tend to frame their laws regarding citizenship obligations without regard for the laws of the other countries, a dual citizen could possibly find that a country which considers him a citizen, but in which  he does not live, expects him to:

  • pay taxes (possibly in addiction to taxes he is already paying in his country of residence);
  • considers him liable to be drafted into its army (even if he has already served or is currently serving in the other country’s army); and
  • may forbid him to travel to certain countries, including possibly his other country of citizenship.