Dual Citizenship in the USA: Everything You Need to Know
What is Dual Citizenship?
Dual citizenship – formally known as dual nationality – means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time.
In the United States, there’s no law that mentions dual nationality, and its citizens are not required to choose just one nationality. But what about other countries? Do all countries allow dual citizenship, and what are the rules about calling two nations “home”?
This guide explains dual citizenship in the U.S. and other countries, as well as your rights and responsibilities if you decide to keep citizenship in your home country when you obtain it in the United States.
Guide to Dual Citizenship in the USA
As a U.S. citizen, you’re not prohibited from holding citizenship in another country. If you’re a naturalized citizen, there’s no requirement for you to renounce your citizenship from your home country, either – at least, not as far as the United States is concerned. Some countries forbid their citizens from holding dual citizenship. If your home country forbids dual citizenship, you’ll most likely be forced to withdraw your citizenship there before you can accept U.S. citizenship. That means you’re giving up your rights and responsibilities there, and you’re turning in your passport.
What About the U.S Oath Of Allegiance?
The United States’ Oath of Allegiance requires you to say that you “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen,” but that doesn’t explicitly address dual citizenship in the USA. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kawakita v. United States that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.”
Rights and Responsibilities for Those With Dual Citizenship in the USA
As a U.S. citizen, you’ll acquire certain rights and responsibilities. They may conflict with the rights and responsibilities you hold in your home country, as well. Here’s a quick run-down.
|Rights of U.S. Citizens||Responsibilities of U.S. Citizens|
|Freedom to express yourself||To support and defend the U.S. Constitution|
|Freedom to worship how, when and where you want||Stay informed of the issues affecting your community|
|Right to a prompt and fair trial by jury||Participate in the democratic process|
|Right to vote in elections for public officials||Respect and obey federal, state and local laws|
|Right to run for elected office||Respect the rights, beliefs and opinions of others|
|Freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness||Participate in your local community|
|Pay income and other taxes honestly, on time|
|Serve on a jury when called upon|
|Defend the country if the need arises|
Ways to Acquire Dual Nationality
You may already be a national of the United States and another country, even if you don’t know it, and even if you don’t accept the nationality or have a passport from that country. Sometimes people are dual nationals when they’re:
- Born in the United States to a parent who holds nationality in a country other than the U.S., based on that country’s citizenship laws
- Born outside the United States to a U.S. citizen parent
- Naturalizing in the U.S. without renouncing your citizenship in the other country
If you weren’t born or naturalized in one of these ways, you’ll have to apply for citizenship in the country where you want to acquire it. Every country has different rules and laws, but if you’re interested in gaining U.S. citizenship, you should speak to a Texas immigration attorney for help. Your immigration attorney can help you fill out and file the appropriate paperwork, answer your questions, and follow your petition through until you’re a naturalized U.S. citizen.
What Laws Do You Follow if You Have Dual Citizenship?
You’re required to follow the laws of both your countries if you hold dual citizenship. That means you may be placed in a situation where your obligations to one country conflict with the laws of the other country.
What About Consular Protection?
Maintaining dual citizenship in the United States and another country can make things complicated – such as when you want consular protection. Consular protection is the term that refers to help a country provides to its citizens who are living or traveling abroad. That help can range from finding copies of your travel documents or a lost passport to providing temporary refuge when you’re in danger.
It may be difficult for the United States to help you if you need consular protection when you’re a dual citizen – and that’s especially true if you’re in your home country. The U.S. may not be able to shield you or give you the physical protection you need if you’re also a citizen of the nation you’re in.
What Passport Do You Use if You Have Dual Citizenship?
As a dual national, you may be required to use your original country’s passport when you’re entering or leaving it. United States law allows for this (it doesn’t say anything against it), so you should check with your original country when you have planned travel. It doesn’t generally matter which passport you use to enter other, unrelated countries – though you may prefer to use one passport over the other for personal reasons. Additionally, some countries that allow travelers with U.S. passports sometimes don’t allow travelers using passports from other countries, and vice-versa; in a case such as that, you’d want to use the passport that enables you to enter the country you want to enter.
What is the U.S. Naturalization Timeline Like?
In order to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, you must first become a lawful permanent resident. Usually, you must remain a lawful permanent resident for three to five years.
Lawful permanent residents – commonly called green card holders – can apply for naturalization as soon as they have met the requirements. From that time, it can take a little over a year (and longer, in some cases) to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Dual Citizenship in the United States?
If you’re considering becoming a U.S. citizen, we can help. Call our office now to schedule a free consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable immigration attorney – we’ll answer your questions and give you the advice you need.