When you are ready to start your U.S. citizenship application or apply for a certificate of citizenship, you might end up becoming a citizen in two different countries. This is called dual citizenship, or dual nationality. This unique immigration status only happens in certain countries.
How can you apply for dual citizenship? It depends on your birthplace. Dual citizenship occurs because of how your birth and citizenship laws intersect. Obtaining citizenship in two countries can offer numerous benefits but also incur significant drawbacks.
What Is Dual Citizenship?
To have dual citizenship means that you are seen as a citizen of two countries. As a dual citizen, you have both the rights and the responsibilities for belonging to a citizen of those countries.
There are significant advantages and disadvantages to dual citizenship. Depending on your country of origin, you may or may not want to keep dual status. This is a deeply personal decision and should be done only after speaking with an immigration expert.
How to Get Dual Citizenship in the U.S.
Generally speaking, there is only one way to apply and get dual citizenship in the United States: by getting U.S. citizenship while holding citizenship in a different country. This is done in two different ways, birthright citizenship, and naturalization.
Birthright citizenship is the most common form of U.S. citizenship. You are granted birthright citizenship if you are born in the United States or if one or both of your parents are U.S. citizens. Birthright citizenship can be proven using a birth certificate or a citizenship certificate.
The other way is naturalization. This is when a permanent resident (green card holder) becomes a citizen by filing Form N-400, taking the requisite tests, and taking the Oath of Allegiance. The U.S. does not require you to renounce your former citizenship.
Benefits of Dual Citizenship
People apply for dual citizenship because they know it comes with advantages. But the benefits of dual citizenship vary depending on the countries that are claimed. U.S. citizens are given the following rights:
- The right to hold a U.S. passport and leave and enter the country at will
- The right to live and work in the U.S. without restrictions
- The right to vote in federal elections and hold public office
- The right to help parents, siblings, children and their spouse immigrate to the U.S.
- The right to access U.S. public like Social Security
- The right to own property.
- The right to attend U.S. schools and colleges without paying international tuition.
You will also have the same rights in your former country, depending on what they offer. This can greatly increase your advantages to get ahead in life.
For example, dual citizenship could let you access two social services systems. You may also be able to vote in both countries. You’ll also get to carry passports from both countries, with all the privileges those entail.
Disadvantages of Dual Citizenship
It’s not all roses. Sometimes the duties of a citizen in a foreign country may conflict with those in the U.S. For instance, if you have mandatory military service in another country, you could lose your U.S. citizenship if you’re forced to fight against the U.S.
More commonly, you’re subject to taxes in both countries. The U.S. imposes taxes on all U.S. citizens no matter where they live in the world. Depending on your country, you may have to pay taxes twice on the same income. However, certain treaties may help you avoid this.
Also, if you’re a naturalized citizen, you may be barred from certain forms of state or federal employment due to security clearance rules. Also, you are required to serve on a jury if you are summoned and you must disclose interactions with foreign law enforcement agencies.
Do All Countries Recognize Dual Citizenship?
No, not all countries will allow you to become a dual citizen. Some may allow it, but require documentation that you intend to stay a citizen, or impose other restrictions. It’s important to speak with an immigration lawyer about these issues.
Some notable countries that do not allow you to apply for dual citizenship include:
- Many Middle Eastern countries
This is not an exhaustive list and immigration rules are always open to change. Here is a longer list of countries that don’t recognize dual citizenship.
Must I Become a Dual Citizen?
No, you are not forced to become one. Your country of origin should have a way for you to “renounce” your previous citizenship once you become a naturalized citizen here in the U.S. The way to do this will vary from country to country.
Renouncing citizenship isn’t something to do lightly, nor is pursuing citizenship of another country. Before you apply for dual citizenship, be aware of what you will gain and lose when your citizenship status changes.
Will I Lose My U.S. Citizenship by Becoming a Citizen of a Second Country?
If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to naturalize in a foreign country, you don’t have to worry about losing your American citizenship. The U.S. allows dual nationality. However, as long as you are a U.S. citizen, you will be beholden to the laws of the United States and the second country, and owe allegiance to both countries.
When I Become a U.S. Citizen, Will I Lose My Home-Country Citizenship?
If you are a citizen of a foreign country and are acquiring U.S. citizenship, it’s possible that you may lose your foreign citizenship. Some countries do not allow their citizens to possess foreign citizenship.
Does Mexico Allow Dual Citizenship with the USA?
Yes! If you are a Mexican citizen, you may retain citizenship even if you naturalize in the U.S. and vice versa. In 2015 Mexico actually launched a campaign to promote dual citizenship to immigrants in the U.S. Check here to see if you meet the requirements to become a U.S. citizen or a Mexican citizen.
Does Canada Allow Dual Citizenship with the USA?
Yes! Both Canada and the U.S. allow their citizens to hold citizenship in a foreign country. Check here to see if you meet the requirements to become a U.S. citizen or a Canadian citizen.
Does the UK Allow Dual Citizenship with the USA?
Dual citizenship is allowed in the U.K. and the U.S., meaning it’s possible to hold citizenship in both countries. Check here to see if you meet the requirements to become a U.S. citizen or a UK citizen.
Does India Allow Dual Citizenship with the USA?
No. India does not allow its citizens to hold Indian citizenship and citizenship of a foreign country simultaneously. However, Indian nationals do have the option of registering as a Person of India Origin and obtaining an OCI card, which is essentially a lifelong visa.