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What Is Dual Nationality?

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What Is a U.S. National?

According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), a U.S. National is:

  • A citizen of the U.S.; or
  • A person who owes permanent allegiance to the U.S. (not necessarily a citizen, such as a person born in American Samoa or Swains Island to non-citizen parents)

Thus, a U.S. national may or may not be a U.S. citizen. The term largely refers to the person’s allegiance and rights in relation to U.S. laws.

What Is Dual Nationality?

Dual nationality refers to situations where a person is a national of two countries. For instance, a person can sometimes be U.S. national while at the same time being a national of another country (such as Germany, Sudan, etc.) The term "dual nationality" is often used interchangeably with the term "dual citizenship," though there may be slight technical differences between the two terms.

A person with dual nationality will therefore be subject to the laws of both countries where they hold status as a national. U.S. nationals often acquire a second nationality in another country through many means, such as:

  • Marriage
  • Automatic granting by the second country
  • Voluntary request by the U.S. national

A U.S. national who was automatically granted nationality in another country will usually not lose their status as a U.S. national. However, if the person is requesting nationality in another country, it may be possible that they will be required to forfeit their U.S. nationality. This requires proof that the person intended to voluntarily renounce citizenship or nationality with the U.S. This intent may be proven through documents or inferred from conduct.

Are There Any Problems with Dual Nationality?

U.S. immigration officials recognize that dual nationality exists. However, dual nationality is not usually actively promoted because it can cause some legal issues. For instance, U.S. government assistance may be limited in situations where the person is abroad and is also subject to the laws of another country. For dual nationals, the country where they are physically located usually has a greater claim in terms of their allegiance.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Persons with dual nationality can often face some very unique legal issues. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you have any questions or concerns involving dual nationality or dual citizenship. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice on your rights, both domestically and internationally. Also, if you need to submit any forms or appear in a court of law, your lawyer can help you with those tasks as well.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 03-27-2014 04:12 PM PDT

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