Dual citizenship occurs when an individual has concurrent citizenship in two different countries. It allows more than one country to recognize an individual as an official citizen. Every country has different rules regarding this status, so before applying for citizenship to a second country, it is important to know what local rules may apply to you.
In the United States, dual citizenship is permitted if an individual is born within the country to parents who are immigrants. Being born outside of the U.S. with one person as a U.S. citizen is also permitted. Naturalized U.S. citizens are permitted to maintain their citizenship in another country as well.
The U.S. does not, however, formally recognize dual citizenship.
Here are the pros and cons of dual citizenship to consider if you’re thinking about maintaining this status.
List of the Pros of Dual Citizenship
1. It offers individuals an extend level of privileges and benefits.
People that hold a dual citizenship have the privileges and benefits which come with citizenship from two different countries. That means they can potentially vote in local elections, serve in office, or take advantage of the social systems of both nations. Travel restrictions are reduced, and work permits are not required to be employed in either nation. Individuals can even attend universities at domestic tuition rates.
2. It permits an individual to carry two passports.
Dual citizens are allowed to carry a passport from each qualifying county. That makes it easier to travel between those two countries because the customs and entry process is different. It guarantees a right-of-entry, something that even a long-stay visa or work permit may not allow.
3. It allows for property ownership in both nations.
Because individuals are a legalized citizen of both countries, they are permitted to own property according to local laws and regulations. Some countries restrict ownership rights to citizens only. That can be very useful for individuals who travel a lot between those two countries, as property ownership tends to be more economical than the costs of the hospitality industry.
4. It creates opportunities.
Diversity is what creates opportunity in today’s world. Being part of two distinct cultures gives you a unique experience that employers crave. It offers an opportunity to learn a new language or approach life in a different way. Some governments even promote the idea of having dual citizenship for those who qualify as it can enhance the perceived reputation of that country. Many who hold dual citizenship rate themselves as experiencing high levels of personal satisfaction because of these opportunities.
5. It allows for governments to create new revenue streams.
Several countries allow individuals to purchase citizenship that comes with a second passport. There are 7 countries that offer citizenship through investment, with 3 offering a “powerful” passport. Cyprus currently offers access to an eventual EU passport for as low as 2 million euros. Malta offers access for 650,000 euros. Belize has been known to allow for a citizenship investment for as little as $50,000. These revenue streams can help small nations stay afloat financially while opening new doors to individualized investments in the future.
6. It keeps families together.
Citizenship laws generally follow two basic principles: you’re a citizen of the country where you were born; and you can apply for citizenship to a nation where your parents are from if you were born overseas. This process keeps families together because it eliminates the requirement to be born on “national soil.” Imagine someone with U.S. parents, born in Spain, being refused entry as a newborn because they didn’t hold the proper immigration papers. Without dual citizenship, scenarios like that are a real possibility. 1
List of the Cons of Dual Citizenship
1. It creates multiple obligations.
In South Korea, there are military service requirements that come with citizenship for some individuals. If your dual citizenship was with the United States, you could lose your U.S. citizenship. Serving as an officer in a foreign military that is engaged in war or as a perceived threat strips someone of their citizenship. Similar obligations are on the U.S. side as well. That is why it is so important to understand what could happen within your unique circumstances.
2. It creates multiple tax obligations.
Earning an income in either country means paying taxes to both countries. If you hold dual citizenship, one of them being U.S., and you live abroad, then you can owe taxes to both countries on that income. There are some treaties in place that limit income tax liabilities in this circumstance to avoid double taxation, but these treaties can expire, and laws can change annually.
3. It can create security issues.
People who have obtained dual citizenship may find themselves excluded from serving in certain offices or roles in either government. Many nations have laws which restrict security clearances being issued to those who hold a dual citizenship. Although this issue won’t impact a majority of public or private employment opportunities, it can be a detriment to those who seek political office. In some instances, it has even forced individuals running for an elected office to give up their dual citizenship.
4. It is expensive.
Holding two passports means paying the cost of both passports. For those becoming a U.S. citizen for their dual citizenship, there is about $3,000 in total fees that must be paid during the citizenship application, without a guarantee of success. Many employ a lawyer to help them with the process, which drives the cost upwards even more. There are benefits which come from these expenses, though some may feel like the rewards may not be enough to pursue dual citizenship.
5. It can threaten the political identity of a country.
Some governments promote dual citizenship as a way to promote the benefits of their nation. Other governments are hesitant to approve dual citizenship as it can be a loophole that creates domestic security threats. Many countries identify themselves through a political process that is unique as well. If enough people from one region come into a country and achieve dual citizenship, it could change how the majority identifies themselves, which would then potentially change the structure of government.
6. It may not be permitted.
Dual citizenship may not be permitted by certain countries, depending on where the second citizenship is obtained. The U.S. does not restrict foreign citizenship. Countries like Saudi Arabia, India, Austria, and Singapore can disallow dual citizenships, which leads to an automatic loss of domestic citizenship when a new one is obtained. Before pursuing a second passport, it is important to understand what revocation requirements might be in place should the process be finalized.
7. It may include specific passport obligations.
In the United States, anyone who is classified as a “national,” which means they are either a citizen or someone who owes permanent allegiance to the country, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the country. That may make it difficult for some travelers to enter another country, as they may be required to have shown they used their other passport for travel purposes. That is why it is necessary to have all passport obligations reviewed with a legal professional before pursuing a dual citizenship.
8. It can be a lengthy process.
Most countries do not offer a citizenship investment program. That means individuals must legally immigrate or obtain a permanent resident status and hold it for a specific time period before being allowed to apply for citizenship. That means several years may pass before the dual citizenship can be obtained. In the United States, a waiting period of 3-5 years in permanent resident status is required before such an application can be made. Some countries push out the waiting period to 10+ years.
9. It could violate a person’s oath of allegiance.
Every naturalized citizen is encouraged to absolutely and entirely renounced any fidelity they may have to a foreign government. This process is slightly different for each country, though the end result is still the same. Holding onto a second passport does not quite qualify for “absolutely” and “entirely” renouncing one’s commitment to a second government. Some critics compare the process of dual citizenship as an individual trying to be loyal to two religions or two spouses.
10. It may change access as politics change within a country.
The Philippines has seen several changes occur to its citizenship process over time that has made access difficult for some individuals. As politics change within a country, the ability to hold dual citizenship can also change. You may be asked to renounce one nation or the other. You may be restricted from traveling. You may be prevented from accessing all rights within a country because you hold two citizenships instead of one. There is always a political risk involved with this status, even if both nations are politically stable.
The pros and cons of dual citizenship are fairly clear. Individuals with this status are able to access double the benefits and resources of someone with singular citizenship. There are fewer restrictions in travel between those two countries as well. At the same time, there are certain financial and legal obligations that must be carefully considered before finalizing any arrangement.