When a person has “dual citizenship,” it means that the person is a lawful citizen of two countries at the same time. There are several ways in which one can acquire dual citizenship status. In the United States, an individual who is born in the United States to immigrant parents, automatically confers citizenship. If a child is born outside of the U.S., to one parent who is a U.S. citizen and another who is a citizen of another nation, that person may acquire dual citizenship status.

Another method of obtaining dual citizenship is to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, while maintaining citizenship in the country from which a person has emigrated. To become a naturalized citizen, an individual must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States and meet federal legal requirements. An individual may also obtain dual citizenship by becoming a naturalized United States citizen, and then reacquiring citizenship in their country of birth.

An individual with dual citizenship enjoys legal rights in both countries for as long as they are a citizen of both countries. The individual is also subject to legal obligations that each country imposes upon its citizens. Certain countries permit dual citizenship, while others do not. Still others permit dual citizenship with some countries, but not others.

What Countries Allow Dual Citizenship?

Many countries permit dual citizenship. These include, to name a few, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, and the United Kingdom. Certain countries do not permit dual citizenship with any other country. These countries currently include China, Indonesia, and Japan, among others. Some countries permit dual citizenship with only specific other countries.

For example, Bangladesh allows dual citizenship only with non-resident Bangladeshis who are not previously citizens of Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Countries that allow dual citizenship with only some other countries, and not others, allow dual citizenship on what is called an exclusionary basis.

Whether a country allows or prohibits dual citizenship depends upon whether the country follows the principle of jus sanguinis or jus soli. Jus sanguinis is Latin for “law relating to blood.” Under the jus sanguinis principle, an individual is a citizen of the country in which their parents are citizens. Jus soli is Latin for “law of the soil.”

Under the principle of jus soli, an individual is the citizen of the nation in which they are born. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers citizenship at birth to almost all individuals born in the United States, based on the jus soli principle. Certain individuals born in the U.S., including children of foreign diplomats or sovereigns, are not eligible for jus soli citizenship.

What if I’m a Naturalized Citizen?

United States law does not require that naturalized United States citizens renounce the citizenship of their country of origins. The United States also permits naturalized citizens to adopt citizenship in another country. If a naturalized United States citizen wants to give up United States citizenship, that person must formally renounce United States citizenship.

Not all countries permit a naturalized United States citizen to remain a citizen of those countries. Some countries terminate citizenship status of individuals who become naturalized United States citizens. Other countries allow retention of citizenship, but only if an individual makes an application to maintain citizenship there before obtaining United States natural citizenship.

What Kind of Confusion Can Multiple Passports Generate?

A passport is a document that indicates an individual’s identity and citizenship. Holders of a passport may generally enter the country that issued the passport. Countries generally require that an individual display a passport to enter. Individuals with dual citizenship are generally issued passports by each country of citizenship. When an individual exits the United States, they must present their United States passport to immigration officials.

Before an individual can enter another country, that country’s immigration officials will inspect the individual’s citizenship or visa documents. If the documents are determined to be valid, the officials will stamp the passport. The stamp is an inked impression inside the passport, bearing the date on which the documents are presented. When an individual departs the country, immigration officials inspect the citizenship and visa documents, and then “stamp” the passport with the date of departure.

A passport therefore contains information as to when an individual has entered or exited a country. Most countries issue both exit and entry stamps. The United States is one of a few countries to issue a stamp only upon entry, and not upon exit.

Dual citizens with multiple passports (one of which is from the United States) may face obstacles to entering and exiting other countries. Many countries require that United States passport holders present a travel visa to enter those countries. Other countries, including most European countries, do not impose this requirement. Individuals who are citizens of a particular country need not present a travel visa when entering that country.

Travel visas must be presented to countries in which a person is not a citizen. An individual with a dual passport must still, when leaving the United States, bring evidence of citizenship in the other country with them. This evidence is the individual’s “second passport,” or passport issued by the non-United States country.

Dual citizens (one of which is from the United States ) may travel from the “other” country in which they are a citizen to the United States. If these individuals present the passport of the “other” country, an airline will ask them for an I-94 (temporary visa) document. Generally, this document is required for someone who is not a United States citizen. When a U.S. citizen is asked for the I-94 under these circumstances, they should be prepared to submit their U.S. passport, as proof that the I-94 is not required.

Can I Travel with Multiple Passports as a Dual Citizen?

Individuals who travel from the United States to their other country of citizenship should carry the passports of both of these countries with them. This will expedite the process of leaving the United States, since United States law requires one leaving the U.S. to have a U.S. passport. Carrying both passports will also help expedite return from the other country of citizenship to the United States.

Is it Possible to Lose U.S. Citizenship Status?

A United States citizen may lose citizenship status other than by formally renouncing citizenship. If the individual loses U.S. citizenship status, the person is no longer a dual citizen. An individual may lose individual citizenship if:

  • The person, under certain conditions, run for public office in a foreign country;
  • The person, under certain conditions, enters military service in a foreign country; or
  • The person commits an act of treason against the United States. The crime of treason consists of levying war against the United States, or adhering to its enemies by giving them “Aid and Comfort,” within the meaning of the United States Constitution.

Do I Need an Immigration Attorney?

If you have an issue with obtaining or maintaining dual citizenship, you should contact an immigration attorney. An experienced immigration lawyer near you can analyze the facts of your matter, and advise you of your rights and options. The immigration attorney can work with you to obtain your objective of obtaining or maintaining dual citizen status.