Immigration & Naturalization Law
Dual Nationality or Citizenship: Advantages and Disadvantages
“Dual national” or “dual citizen” means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. You will have legal rights and obligations with both countries.
While dual citizenship provides certain advantages, such as ease of residence in multiple countries and access to government programs, other legal considerations can make life difficult.
For example, the citizen with dual nationality may have tax obligations in more than one country or may need to meet the residency requirements in two countries. Read on for a discussion of dual citizenship and related legal issues.
- Residence in several countries: You can live in the national territory of the countries in which you are a national.
- Access to government programs: Many people choose to obtain second citizenship to access a better and/or free health or education system.
- Greater possibility of investments: Some countries limit investment possibilities to their citizens. For example, in Thailand, only nationals can buy property.
- Avoiding deportation: As a general rule, those with U.S. citizenship cannot be deported. However, there are exceptions to naturalized citizens being deported. One example is a conviction for treason or fraud in their naturalization.
- You have a plan B: Suppose the conditions in your country of residence are not good enough for you. This could include a political conflict, a natural disaster, or an economic debacle. In that case, there is always the possibility of residing in the land of the second nationality.
- Ease of travel: Many Latin Americans obtain Spanish nationality without necessarily having plans to move to Europe, but simply to travel with fewer complications entering other countries with their European passports.
- Taxes: This issue has advantages and disadvantages if there is dual citizenship. Living in another country for most of the year may mean not paying taxes in another or paying less. For example, the U.S. provides tax exemptions for Americans with foreign income, such as IRS Forms 1116 Foreign Tax Credit and Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE).
- Possibility of voting or holding public office: This privilege, in many cases, is exclusive to nationals of a country. With dual citizenship, there is the possibility of voting in two countries.
- Tax obligations in more than one country. It may be that the taxes are doubled if you have dual citizenship. U.S. citizens, even if they are outside the country, must continue to pay taxes from their country of origin and the country in which they are located. It is very difficult for U.S. citizens to be exempt from paying taxes. Fortunately, there are treaties with some countries to avoid the double tax burden.
- Complying with the residency requirements in two countries. For example, voting (in some countries it is an obligation) or fulfilling compulsory military service at 18 years of age can be a consequence of dual citizenship.
- The process of obtaining another citizenship can be arduous and lengthy: Perhaps you will have to deal with immigration, the Civil Registry, the general consulate, or the authentication of documents to obtain dual citizenship. Some procedures take years, are expensive, and gathering the necessary documentation is complicated. It is worth evaluating whether obtaining dual citizenship is really worth it before spending hours looking for that lost grandparent’s birth certificate.
A person in the United States can acquire dual citizenship in many ways, including:
- Be born outside of the United States but have a parent who is a U.S. citizen
- Become a naturalized U.S. citizen while maintaining citizenship in another country
- Regain citizenship in a country of origin after you have become a naturalized U.S. citizen
The United States does not formally recognize dual citizenship. Generally, no American will lose their citizenship by assuming the responsibilities of citizenship in a foreign land. In most cases, it is not important to the United States authorities if another country also claims you as a citizen.
Loss of U.S. citizenship can only occur if a person’s actions demonstrate an intention to renounce their citizenship.
Such actions can include:
- Serving in the armed forces or serving in the military in a country participating in hostilities against the U.S.
- Formally renouncing U.S. citizenship to an authorized U.S. official
- Committing an act of treason against the U.S. or attempting or conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government
Although rare, some countries will revoke the citizenship of one country when citizenship is acquired elsewhere. Other countries require giving up any previous citizenship as a condition of obtaining the certificate of naturalization.
It is important to study the nationality law of each country to see the consequences of dual citizenship before making a decision.
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